Tuesday, December 19, 2006

went a little overboard on the eggnog...

danceoff.jpeg


and now my hands don't work.

I know. I've been gone awhile. I suck. And my two readers are probably on vacation from work or school so are not procrastinating and thus are not reading this right now. Look at that chain of logic! Fourteen-carat please. So elegant.

Gotta love a Charlie Brown Christmas. And gotta love Scrubs-dubbed Charlie Brown Christmas. The show's been hit-or-miss for me, but this is hit-hit. My fav is Eliot as Sally. And I don't know how to do that embedding the youtube thing, so whatever.

When Schulz's Christmas special first came out, CBS was like: What? Jazz? at Christmas?. Silly rabbits. Alls I know is life wouldn't be complete without a little linus & lucy dancin'. Jeopardy über-champ weighs in on those Peanuts' crazy dance moves and deems Linus would be the winner in the event of a dance-off.

And that's my Peanuts-themed entry for the year. Sigh. I feel like Charlie Brown. Except with more hair.

Friday, December 01, 2006

seeing red

Support World AIDS Day


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Thursday, November 16, 2006

grab a kazoo, let's have a duel

News flash: Dems crazy in the coconut!
Mr. Fowler sighed before letting out: “We’re nuts! We’re all nuts!”

Ah, a moving flash of insight into the human condition. Like microwaves.

At least, he was more coherent than this other dude: "Bah-bah-bah-bah, let me go to the first question,” Mr. Greenberg said haltingly..."

Conversation between Greenberg and Chan Marshall:
"Bah-bah-bah-bah"
"Oh, rarararar."

Yes, I love it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Checking in, but not really, vanillaface.

Hi. You know what I'm missing? Lyricism, Crispness, and spicey-sweet desserts. That means I'm just a wet, rotting leaf that floated onto mediocre skim milky rice pudding instead of that warm pumpkin scone. It's enough to struggle halfheartedly with my leafy, limp hands.

Now I'm going to link to stuff.

I enjoyed this profile of Harry Reid, who is "the Man in the News," which is the title of this NYT news section. That seems like a rather silly title for a section, as if there being a man in the news is some sort of unnatural occurrence. I vote for "the Man in the Yellow Hat in the News" instead. Now that would turn heads. Anyways, Harry Reid, the next Senate Majority leader, sounds like great fun. For example, when you hang out with him, you can gossip about Britney Spears, do yoga, ask him questions about being Mormon, have a boxing match, and call each other on the phone just to say, I love you. I especially like the part about him and Chuck Schumer "whacking each other like kids." Now that I've given most of the profile away, you should read it. Or you can, like, totally check out his blog.

Defective Yeti is reading Moby Dick, a novel that doesn't sound like, ahem, smooth sailing. But he's also very funny: "Today Bush attended a a study group; next week he'll be going to Vietnam. Maybe he's having a midlife crisis or something, and frantically trying to do all those things he didn't do as a youth." Zing! Made me laugh. And say "zing!" outloud, so that you could tell it was italicized.

I've found that I've been looking for epiphanies in all the wrong places. All you have to do is take the 6 to Park and 23rd and walk a couple blocks and BAM! Epiphany! I've now twice just spelled that word of illumination with two ph's. Yeah, Ephiph and Tiff and Brit, and like, Skylar and Dylan, we're like totally going to the mall now, 'kay Mom?

Do kids hang out at the mall still? I don't even know. I mean, there's still nowhere else to hang out in suburbia. I mean, that is the definition of suburbia, "nowhere cool to hang out, really."

Then there's this excerpt by Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune from How I Learned to Cook...", a collection of anecdotes from zillions of cheffy chefs. (I like the colors of the cover. Classy!) A woman! who's a chef! who writes! Bourdain likes her a lot, I know, and she's supposed to be coming out with a book soon. I'm supposed to be eating at her restaurant soon. Epiph told me on her way to the mall. (Prune is one of those places I've always really wanted to go to but never have. Because I'm po'. And now I live in the wilds of suburbia. See above.)

Sober Cat Power sounds like she'd be fun to talk to too. Errr. She'd be someone with whom it would be fun to talk. Or as she says, "Oh rarararar."

I haven't had much time to delve into new music lately...been listening to my ladies instead. Lots of Cat and Regina and Billie and Neko along with some Portuguese and Brazilian sorts of stuff. Oh and these Swedish fellows. Any recs? Point the way. Light the light. Take the 6 train.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'm all lost in the supermarket



Sometimes I'm still in NY-mode whilst in NJ. I found myself getting some groceries yesterday at A&P and tiring from the sheer size of the supermarket. You're screwed if you forget tomatoes if you've already gotten to the milk. In NY, sometimes those stores are so small that you'll find your juice next to the Drain-o. The dairy and produce sections in suburban groceries are like two different continents, separated by oceans of potato chips and Chunky soups and sacks of pet food and bright lights. But it's like that most everywhere in America I suppose. I'm just lazy.

I don't mind the effort, of course, if the grocery is nice and interesting, like Wegmans or Whole Foods or farmer's markets and such. Because I'm snooty like that. So, it was great visiting the grocery stores in Germany. Even though when people think of Germany, it's all beer and wursts and potatoes, they do much more, in all food-tastic respects.

Checking out grocery stores in another countries is fun because you get an idea of, well, how other people live. Like in Frankfurt, the jam sections are amazing, the dairy case a treasure trove of creamy delights. There just seemed to be more variety and higher quality stuff in smaller spaces. Snoot snoot snoot.

One crazy 'grocery' we stopped at was at the huge department store in Berlin, the KaDeWe, which is short of something, but I'm too lazy to look up right now. It's two floors of sheer beauty. Yeah you might get tired walking around, but who cares when you're looking at baskets of eggs?! Some of them still had feathers on them, which freaked out my friend who hates birds. I mean, can you just imagine??? You go to your local Krogers or Pathmark or whatever and the eggs still have feathers on them?

sugar mines


KaDaWe really had some fancy shmancy stuff. You name it, it's there. I did sort of mentally faint, however, when I saw their little bottles of Monin syrups and these sugar boxes. So pretty!!

OK, I'm feeling flat and trite, like day old soda. Time to stop reminiscing about amazing foodstores.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

overheard at penn station

A woman and a man have just gone up the stairs at Penn Station from their train. Both have some degree of eye blindness (they have those walking stick things - I don't know what they're called). One of those periodic safety announcements comes on over the speaker. The woman half-smiles and says to the man, "Hey Jim, if you see something, say something, okay?"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

happy halloween



Peace is possible in a pumpkin patch. Get on the alliteration train! Happy Halloween everybody. What's your costume? Mine's an awake person.

Friday, October 20, 2006

ugh - can't even depend on the tv

Yesterday's episode of Grey's was the worst I've ever seen. In every single aspect.

Disappointed. Well, that's life. Should I repeat this catch phrase a few hundred times and then introduce impossible plot points that aren't followed through with development or doses of -gasp- reality or depth of feeling? Or should I just go and make a bad tv show and waste everybody's time?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Commuting Perks



There are few commuting perks. Commuting on NJ Transit is actually a jerk, a bitch, and not enough sleep all rolled up into one ugly wound of life. Anyway, recently I've been coming in early thanks to different getting-dropped-off-at-the-train-station arrangements. This thrilling detail was no way my idea. I basically have the capabilities of a drunk three year old until I've had some caffeine and am safely seated or enveloped by breakfast fumes and basically by then it's lunchtime.

So since this little lazy piggy doesn't always want to arrive at work an hour early, I've been a-wandering now and again, doing some croissant investigative analysis (CIA!) (not as extensive as the wandering eater's cia) at Patisserie Claude, La Bergamote and Petrossian Café, and yesterday I was going to the union square greenmarket when my sleepy eyes spied a flag at Max Brenner's: $1 special of chocolate waffle and coffee. !!!!! A chocolatey imaginary bell rang as I remembered reading about such arrangements at lovescool.

Surprisingly, I'd never eaten anything at Max Brenner's chocolate factory. I did go in to look around the day it opened but got intimidated by the interior somehow and ran away. I don't know why. Perhaps because the place is so large? Who knows. There's a coffee/pastry bar type area for takeaway with a smattering of tables, a spacious restaurant dining area, and then a store full of pretty and pretty penny chocolate packages. Not to mention the tubes and whirley machines and crates of chilis and such. The decor is definitely chocolate chic. Coming to a Pottery Barn near you!

Back to the best deal ever, especially because the 'coffee' can be either a latte or cappuccino. The surly lady who took my order slapped a waffle out of a tub onto one of those rolling toaster thingies and a nicer guy made me a pretty good cappuccino and a less nicer guy put the waffle on a piece of cardboard (cardboard chic! coming to an urban outfitters near you!), shook some powdered sugar on it, and went to a cauldron of chocolate and ladled some on the waffle. I ate with relish (and pickles... kiddingggg!) whilst reading depressing news about the world. The waffle itself was alright, probably rather forgettable by itself (like me!) but with the yummy accompaniments, it certainly hits a sweet spot.

I don't know how long this is lasting. Either 'til friday or the end of the month. But conclusion: Best $1 deal ever. If Max were closer to my work, I'd be fattening up on those babies every morning. Good thing it isn't, so that if a cannibalistic witch lures me to her gingerbread house, I won't be able to fit in to the oven. Man, Hansel and Gretel is kind of a horrifying story isn't it?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hallo Frankfurt, part 2: why aren't you waving back at me?

fairytale frankfurt


Sorry I've been sucking at life again. My last entry seems like many moons ago. But let me tell you, it's a tough job, sucking at life, and it's really tiring somehow, not doing anything and not wanting to do anything and explaining the lack-of-happenings with more lacks. Call me Lackadaisy! Plus you have to contend with the waning insecurities and the intense sublimation of all bad feelings to food. My favorite part is the snacking. No lack o' snacks! Wheee.

ANYWAYS, I'm going to continue trundling down the path of remembrances of vacation past. Because I already put up these pictures on flickr. And you know me, I'm all about efficiency, like the German rail system. Ho, ho, moving on.

So those dollhouse-like things up there make up the square in Frankfurt's Altstadt or Old Town. It's very pretty but looks rather Disney-esque without the scary singing mechanical children. The whole historic district was heavily bombed during WWII and the buildings were reconstructed afterwards, so perhaps the singing robot children slipped their minds.

<Kuchen


Britain has tea time. Germany has kaffee und kuchen, or coffee and cake time. America has ... what? How come we don't have treats at four or five o' clock? Stupid Puritans. Strangely enough, we never had cake on this trip, no sachertorte, no black forest cake, but I did take a picture of an enticing window. What was wrong with us????? Cakelessness is a poor state of being indeed.

macchiato

I certainly did not go coffeeless, however. Every few hours, we'd sit down somewhere and order something to drink. The milchkaffee is very popular, and I believe it's the same thing as a café au lait - so that's coffee and hot/steamed milk. The latte macchiato seems very popular as well - made with espresso instead of coffee - and that's like the Italian caffè latte but with fancy layering. And the thing in the picture is an espresso macchiato, which in this case looks like a mini latte macchiato, with the layering, but less milk. Confused much? Now my flexible mind is ready to learn how to play cricket with Gumby.
Quark

Finally, there's Quark. No, not those particle thingies. Quark is ... curd cheese. That doesn't sound too appetizing does it? But it's yogurty and lovely with some honey and berries and I could eat it alllllll dayyyyyy.
'Quark' is also not a shabby scrabble word. Now the more important issue is, if you were a quark, the fundamental particle kind, would you rather be Strange, and Charm?
The end.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hallo Frankfurt!

beer!


Oh, it was too long ago, my little trip to the land of meat and beers. Now I am listless and without good cheers.

So a good friend o' mine, Caroline, was taking a bit of break from the grind that is our turbulent, undecided lives, by staying with her relatives who live in Frankfurt. My then-vacation-less ears perked up with her offer for free housing. I found a pretty reasonable airfare. So off I went.

I was a bit apprehensive about not knowing any German. I even borrowed my friend's rosetta stone cd-rom thingies, which isn't exactly German for tourists, so I never got to say, "The horse jumps over the old white car," to anybody. But eventually I became slightly less terrified of umlauts and most everybody there speaks decent to excellent English and made me feel like a lesser person because we in America don't ever learn anything.

I got in late Saturday morning. Carol's relatives live on the edge of Frankfurt, on the end of one of the metro lines. Things are smaller, quieter and there are bike-riders galore. My first meal, kindly prepared by Carol's aunt, consisted of the city's namesake sausage - frankfurter! Hohoho. Somehow it's a little funny. And there was mustard from a tube, pickled beets, and glorious mashed potatoes. Evidently, in Germany, the starch-tastic tuber is a health food and carb-tastic bread is naturally part of meals. I like that.

We went into Frankfurt proper later in the day to walk around. There were lots of people just hanging out in the cafés and bars, having coffees and drinks outside. Carol and I decided that if our town in NJ had like 10% of these establishments, it would be a 100% cooler and less depression-inducing. All it takes is some decent caffeine and a beer or two. Our needs are simple and peasantlike.

Frankfurt-am-Main - that's the full name of the city, it's on the Main river - is the financial center of Germany so there are some tall buildings and such. We went up to the top of one of them, the Commerzbank I think, to take in the view and heard Paris Hilton's "Stars Go Blind" in the elevator. Frankfurter ho, ho. Go figure.

Then we somehow hit up most of Frankfurt's culinary specialties in one evening. We stopped and had some apfelwein, which is hard apple cider that tastes mostly of sweet-tart and yummy apples. The table behind us had a big jug of it and were very loud and boisterously drunk. Some dude nearby asked Carol's cousin if she spoke Chinese and she got mad at him because she's totally German. She gets that a lot, she says, which is understandably maddening. Point one for America - we get less of that here.

And now, the feasting and the dancing! We were led to a restaurant with a big moose head on the wall whose irony-or-not I wasn't able to fathom. But we were joined by Cousin's friends and ate outside and good times were had.

grüne sosse


This is grüne sosse, which pretty much translates to Green Sauce. The green comes from the many different herbs used, and though it's mayo based, the sauce is actually very light and slightly tangy, which goes perfectly with hard-boiled eggs and potatoes.


We also had this pork and mushroom dish with spätzle that I don't remember the name of. But it was might tasty and surprisingly, was the only time I had spätzle during my stay. In fact, I'm feeling a little sad and spätzle-less right now. Or maybe it's just a fun word to say, covered in butter.
flammkuchen

In the background here is basically pizza ... but not! It's called flammkuchen and though it isn't a specialty of Frankfurt or Germany-proper but Alsace, the dish abounded at many of the restaurants in Frankfurt and Berlin. It has very thin and crispy crust and the main difference from what we're used to is the crème fraîche instead of gobs of cheese. I think the traditional flammkuchen has the crème, onions and bacon, but ours was covered in a shower of arugula. Fun!
Then Carol's cousin ordered us some handkäse mit musik, another Frankfurt specialty. "Käse" is cheese and this one is a bit smelly though the taste wasn't pungent at all and it had a slightly rubbery texture. I wouldn't exactly embrace this cheese again... not that you should go around hugging cheeses. Handkäse is served with chopped onions and the "mit musik" or "with music" refers to the farts afterward! Hahahaha! Hohohoho!
Since it was cold, we moved inside and had some wine and talked about American TV - Lost, 24 and Grey's are big there, but dubbed and a season or two behind - and how your career is pretty much set when you're young and this and that. It was a lovely first day.
May the Musik be Mit you. Momomomomomo!

Friday, September 22, 2006

emo mountain

Revisiting the idea of blue notes and what music, if any, you listen to when you're down... just wanted to share John Darnielle's words from an interview:

"I mean, it's a real honor, maybe the highest honor, to write something that might give somebody a moment of comfort on a sad day, even if that comfort amounts to just helping them go even deeper into that sad place, which is how I use music for comfort. This is gonna make me sound like The Man Who Lived On Emo Mountain, but my favorite music is stuff that makes me cry uncontrollably."

Speaking of Emo Mountain, Grey's Anatomy, though it is set in this "Seattle" place, pretty much takes over that magical mountain kingdom. And I'm happy to report that the show still makes me cry when I'm watching it alone, so my friends can continue to make fun of me. And the season premiere didn't suck like I was afraid it would, so let's hope it stays that way. And I hope the writers get it into their heads that their audience doesn't need to be beat over the head with their themes.

And speaking of sad music and Grey's, I noticed they used some Emiliana Torrini music again last night. She's an artist whose latest album, Fisherman's Woman, is definitely on my bluemusic list (there's a really sad story behind that album too). Somebody over there must really like her... but she's a good fit, and that's that.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

buzzbuzzbuzz



So instead of stealing one of these babies, I took a picture of them. I like the red one. Vroom vroom!

Illy is doing some sort of "journey of the senses" promotion thing at the Time Warner Center with events and displays and such. The best thing? Free espresso. Until October 9th. Vroom vroom!



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

to sleep, perchance to dream, but not in that death way

NYT Magazine profiles Michel Gondry, who almost doesn't sound real. My eyes might turn to goggley hearts, after reading this and of course with the whole lovelyquirky Eternal Sunshine etc. etc.. I wonder if he gets tiring in person though? Who knows. Dream a little dream. etc. etc. I don't know why I'm talking like this.

Anyways, I can't wait for his new movie, The Science of Sleep. Sounds right up my snoozy alley, no?

Friday, September 08, 2006

see ya!

Time Out does a short Q&A with Sandra Oh, and she's on the cover! Yay for her.

If I were around this weekend, I would've loved to check out Devotchka at the Spiegeltent. FYI, some of Devotchka's songs were used for the soundtrack of Little Miss Sunshine. Don't you know everything's more fun in a spiegeltent?

And soon, I'll be off to Germany for a week, to drink many beers and eat many wursts. As my skinny twin Heidi Klum (I'm the fat, korean one) says, "auf wiedersehn!"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blue Notes



I'm curious. What do you listen to, if anything, when you are sad and blue? I'm glad that's not a crayola color. Periwinkle. Navy. Aquamarine. Sad.

Finding or chancing upon just the right thing to listen to, does it color us in, or squeeze us out until there isn't a chord to strike anymore?

I'd be a poorer girl without my metaphors, quality or not.

In any case, if you're all for achey breaky, this is Cinderella's shoe for rainy days and the blues, from sky to midnight.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

grub burg, part tres

TAPAS TIME!

You can't be unhappy at tapas time. There are all these yummy little plates vying for your attention. With bread in one hand and a glass of sangria in another, all's right in your dining kingdom. Sure, I am substituting food for other holes in my life, but at least I could have an imaginary tiara made out of olives. On with the final installment of Grub Burg.

7. Praise be to paella!! La Nacional in Chelsea has wonderful paella, served in an epic platter. The challenge is how one is to partake of this platter of ricey goodness after enjoying tapas time and awesome sangria times. Yeah, I lead a tough life.

Unfortunately, since it's been a few weeks, my pea-sized brain's not doing too well with the specifics of the tapas. The table was hectic with seven or eight people of meat-eating and vegetarian variety snarfing down over half the tapas menu. Definite recs: shrimp in garlic sauce and either/both red and white sangrias.

The is-this-a-restaurant first impression makes it easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. La Nacional is in the basement of the Spanish Benevolent Society and you might encounter futbol playing on the tube, old men drinking wine at the bar, and merriment in the cosy dark of the dining room. Sometimes, as we did, you will hear the rhythmic thud of flamenco dancers through the ceiling. We didn't go check it out though, since eight little piggies were nursing our very full stomachs, squealing all the way home. Truly a sexy bunch.
8. Oliva on the lower east side seems to have garnered great thumbs ups for their food as well as disappointments with their service. Well, at 6:30 on a Tuesday, the food was excellent, the service attentive, and with rain spitting outside on a gray and chilly fall-approaching day, you'll toast your table-mates with more glasses of sangria and thank the tapas goddesses (with all sorts of olive tiaras at their disposal) that you stumbled upon this place.
Starting out with a perfectly fine but few slices of manchego cheese platter tricked us because the six or seven plates that paraded triumphantly out afterwards were not only tasty but hearty, good-sized portions. Standouts: steamed mussels, which nature custom made for humans to sop up their steamed garlicky juices with never ending bread, fried calamari reminiscent of that of La Nacional, very lightly battered and perfectly accompanied with aioli, and 'txangurro' crabs breaded in panko with pepper and tarragon. The menu didn't ring exactly as 'authentic' as La Nacional, nor was the sangria up to their awesomeness, but this seems like a really fun place to while away some eating and drinking time when the restaurant's not too busy. Biggest con: advertising that they take amex and then telling us the machine was down when it came time to pay.

9. Cupcakes!! Last but not least in this batch of food entries is a visit to the lower east side's Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery. I'm not really part of the cupcake-crazed, but these lovely creations at $1.50 a pop pleased me well, even leading me to trade in my olive crown for ... more cupcakes, especially with names like Ooey Gooey and Sexy Red Velvet. Sugar Sweet Sunshine is a cosy café, and when I say cosy, be careful of the charmingly, old looking chairs.
And speaking of Olives and Sunshine, go see Little Miss Sunshine. Because I love it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

grub burg cont'd, savory village

No sweets-talk today guys. Sad but true.

But there will be EELS! Nothing can go wrong. Unless they start playing xylophones. If there's nothing scarier, it's grilled, saucy eels playing some saucy tunes with mallets. They have no hands!!



5. Falafel discs! I walked gracefully (translation: hobbled in new heel-y shoes) over to Azuri Cafe in Hell's Kitchen to sample their falafel goods. Why? Because it's on that NY Mag Cheap Eats List (translation: interpret 'cheap' as you will). And you know us. We are slaves to lists. This entry itself is a list. It's really hopeless when you think about it. Play, strange eels with hands, play a diverting melodious song!

Anyways, I was filled with a bit of trepidation because I had read that the dude there is supposed to be gruff and mean, but maybe he wasn't there, because my dude was not giving me hugs or anything, but nice enough. I think Azuri is an Israeli food place, as opposed to a 'generic middle eastern', with dishes like shakshuka and Israeli bottle drinks in the fridge. I got a mango one, and the falafel small plate. The small plate was very filling, so I'll leave you hungry bears to get the large plates. The falafel were very tasty, and if I remember correctly, herby. Herbacious! But, as you can see, they were flattish, like discs, which is a first in my falafel experience. What was actually the best was that the platter comes chock full of different salads and dips - hummus, eggplant, white beans, and more - which, frankly makes everything more exciting. Everything was fresh and yummy and if I worked closer, I'd go all the time. Alas, I dont.

6. EELS. If you are a fan of japanese style grilled eel with that sauce that might include crack it's so tasty PLUS korean style bibimbap in a stone pot, you will LOVE the 'mix eel rice', or hitsuma bushi, at Chikubu in midtown. This dish is only served on monday through thursday, cuz friday is RAMEN DAY (I hear this is excellent as well. Must return!). The foods, even with a lunch menu, are a bit pricey here, but japanese food tends to be pricey, and dammit, everything was so quality and unstingy. The mix eel rice is basically an unagi-don but a-crackling in a hot stone pot. The entree came with a few pickley things, miso soup, and a little kettle of either hot water or light stock. Basically you eat a lot of the rice, then pour in the water, and voila! A tasty soup-type thing with crackly rice bits!! My friends had excellent noodles and sushi. And if I had more money, I'd go all the time. Alas, I don't. Oh the emerging themes.

Okay, there will have to be one or two more installments of Grub Burg. Because that's just how we roll there. Like sushi.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Franzen is Kakutani'd

I often check out of the NYT book reviews and head to the crossword instead, to fill out three letter words. I have also never read any of Jonathan Franzen's work. Nor do I feel inclined, even in the waiting room of hell, to pick up his new memoir, which the infamous Michiko calls, "an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass". Ouch! But, there are plenty of other things to read, no?

Monday, August 28, 2006

grub burg

lime thing tart


You poor sillies. You had to read a bunch of rot in my previous entry, yeah? But whatever, aren't you used to it by now?? 'Rot', by the way, was an answer in today's nyt crossword puzzle. I know, I know. I'm such a help. It's a good word.

So did you know 'grub' backwards is 'burg'? So mathematically speaking, that means 'burger' backwards is 'regrub'!!! Brilliant! Where's my Genius Award? burger=eatmorefood!

So you know how I haven't updated regularly in, like, forever? That means, you get a whirlwind tour of notable past grub. Why? Why is there a world? Flummox flummox.

In no particular order:

1. Lime tart thing (above) from newishly opened Tisserie on the northwest corner of Union Square, a nice addition to the Square of Togetherness. This tart was tart and sweet. Tart+Sweet=Trweet. As I was eating the tart, it finally dawned on me that 'tisserie' is short for 'patisserie'. Beams of light ensued. I mean, did the Enlightenment Age have lots of pastries? Sure, society might need that contract, Jean-Jacques, but did you take a close look at your desserts? Sweets=peace!

2. Strawberry tart at Fauchon: one of the prettiest, et oui, tastiest things ever. Strawberries standing at attention in a lightly sweet glaze on some custard in this perfectly crumbly tart shell with a sprinkling of syrupized pistachio pieces. My contribution to the world was eating it. Don't go too late in the day for the fruit tarts here. They run away into people's mouths pretty quickly.

3. From the cuisine of France to that of North Africa to Nomad, in the east village. Sietsema's linked review talks modestly about the couscous, but I thought it was excellent — fluffy, light, and duh, couscous-y, nothing like that instant stuff you make from the box. The entrée comes with everything under the sun, wonderful merguez sausages, really tender lamb and chicken, and lovely veggies and is enough to feed you for roughly half a week. I liked it more than the couscous I've had at Cafe Mogador (another wonderful place). Nomad has a cosy ambience (with a lovely bathroom, might I add), if a bit dark, with friendly service. I want to go again soon (hint, hint.. to who? I dunno).
egg

4. And now for something different, let's zoom back to the good ol' South for breakfast. Before I moved out of Williamsburg, I went twice to Egg, which shares a space with a hot dog restaurant, Sparky's. Breakfast by morning, hot dogs by after noon. Logical, no? I had to go twice, because the first time was so damn good. It was dog-day hot outside, even though it wasn't August, and the AC made faint attempts, humming alongside the rumbling tunes of Johnny Cash. That first time, I got this hunky breakfastwich - golden buttermilk biscuit with melted Grafton cheddar, this delicious rich, salty ham, with a bit of fig jam - served with perfect Anson Mills grits and a personal french press coffee. You can see the lovely butter tracks on the plate, if you squint a bit. Can breakfast get any better? No. Am I going to order bags of Anson Mills grits? Yes. (You have to order a minimum of four bags... anyone in?) Do I curse people who don't work during the day and can eat here a lot? Resounding yes.
Why, in my four years, in North Carolina, I never had good grits, I will blame on college cafeteria grit preemption. I was like, what is this crap?? (Shaking head) Oh, the lost opportunities of beautiful grit-dom.
Okay, second installment to come. In the whirlwind tour of GRUB BURG!!!!! We have a lot of ground to cover.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Where I ramble some more and you excuse me because of the late hour



I'm going to take that red exit up to the lantern-stars and orbit around a disco ball mysteriously, imperiously, a trajectory majestic and true.

No, I will crane my neck and look far up at the floatey lights and small various bugs will burn and die and fall into my mouth. And I will choke from that crispy protean protein.

Okay. "Free-writing" time is over. Put away your crayons and let's take a nap, kiddies. I seem to remember an anecdote of my friend's sweet sixteen, which I wasn't at, because I was wasting away the extravagance of youth on Saturdays. I've never been to a sweet sixteen (don't PITY me!!) but apparently there's that candle-lighting thing and I got a dedication that went something like, blahblahblah janet, who will be so successful if she doesn't fall asleep first.

Haha. Who's the joke on nowwwwwwww...... errrr...

I am tired and sleepy and plumpisizing. For some reason, this makes me think of pincushions. I guess I am sort of on pincushions. If my dreams were to be reflecting my current state, I'd suppose it would take shape as a chase. And I am lost. in the wood/I know I could/always be good and late great jazz singers would be running behind me scatting and I'd be scooting. And former dead bugs would pass me by, waving to me with their little feet and laughing.

It's the night folks. And I'm sleepy. And I don't know what to do. And I'm losing attention, to give and perhaps to take, of myself and those around me (translation: I'm being a supreme and indecisive BORE. My manners are rather intact. I am not being a BOAR.) Why is it two steps forward and twenty steps back? Doesn't that mean there is something wrong with my shoes?

I greedily? want to be on a path but in flight at the same time. Orbit. Launched. Balanced. Not crashing to earth, my wings all burnt, the Icarus of Weariness comes Tumbling Down and Jill came Tumbling After.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

the personal and the political

So Anthony Bourdain is home safe. Perhaps this is only news of note to certain kinds of food-lovers and tv-watchers out there. Because who cares about people you don't know? What is larger news than Bourdain's actual return (as wonderful as that is) is his reach as a public figure.

Here is this man dubbed celebrity chef who has turned into public world traveller, a human medium bringing not only the world of food but the world itself to us at home, so that we may get a taste of the possibilities. When he tells a personal story of being stuck in Beirut while shooting a No Reservations episode and finally getting safely back States-side, people sit up and pay attention in a way that they wouldn't to their evening news and newspapers. He brings it home, especially in this great article for Salon, Watching Beirut Die, giving us a taste of the tragedy of shut down possibilities. It's an example of some of Bourdain's best writing, which comes with the depth of perspective. He is waiting to be evacuated but knows that there are people with far scarier concerns, far less comfortable conditions. He knows that, as Americans, "In the end we are among the lucky ones. The privileged, the fortunate, the relatively untouched." They get to leave. To go home.

Out of sight, out of mind: I mean, it's nothing new (hello, chaos in all the world, genocide, wars, poverty, natural disasters, disease, death and doom, but really, how should I cut my hair? and where is my life going? and can you believe what happened on Project Runway today?). There's the news, and there's your life. How do the twain meet?

By the by, Mazen Kerbaj's blog, Kerblog, has his amazing drawings about daily life and Beirut. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

suffering, with accent aigu

paté


I've been away, head like a kite, a bit distant and rather stand-offish and fickle to the wind, with pretty red bows on a string, and, to tell you the truth, I'm all domestic, washing a lot of dishes, and using lots of commas in my imaginary epistolary ramblings of frustration to my soulllllll. Dear Soul, please stop just lying about. Maybe, at least, take out the garbage or something...PS Your commas are way out of control.

Whatever.

I want to take a vacation and do nothing. How sad does that sound? It sounds like remnants of day-old oatmeal at the bottom of a bowl. Chip it away man, soak it in hot water.

Let's do the update thing:
I'm moving out of Williamsburg in a week. They kicked me out because I'm not hip enough. I was on probation for awhile and was really careful about my music listening habits and the asymmetry of style and practiced scoffing and scowling 3-5 times a day, but to no avail. I'm out. There's nothing I can do join in the fun party called the L train is not running this weekend again. I am also too pleasantly plump. That's right, pleasant.

Actually, I've liked my time here well enough and I think the neighborhood is fun and exciting (I mean, graffiti about paté? how much more exciting can you get?? if paté is ever banned in nyc, that stuff is like, rebellious, man!) and flux-ing and all that good and bad stuff. I'm usually staying in and watching tv anyways. Remember my big vacation plans? The real reason is, I'm chasing rainbows, I'm following me lucky charms, I'm going to be keeping most of my paycheck, and trying not to go insane in nj. Maybe I'll become closer to my mother and she'll be my best friend à la Gilmore Girls despite all our troubles and we'll speak in witty bantering rapid-fire korean to each other. Yes, that's it. Or we'll just try not to kill each other, in a bantering respectively halting languagey way.

Is that enough? I've eaten at a few good places lately, got a saucy haircut, and have been eating lots of peaches. They are the fruit of the gods. You know, because when I was in elementary school, learning about the greek gods and how they love their ambrosia, I would always imagine it to be the best and loveliest peaches. And later, I learn, that there's actually a fruit salad dish or something called ambrosia, which involves like oranges and coconut or something not as lovely. Well, that's life.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

what's it worth

"This has become a war much bigger than us," he said. " Haram : It's a shame. How do you keep looking at all this? The tears, the cries for help. I can't even breathe anymore. The stress. Everything inside me is just worn out."

The Post hosts an online discussion with David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and its readers about the latest developments in Lebanon and Israel.

The Motel extends its stay in NY

The Motel plays July 21-25 at the ImaginAsian Theater before it's off to like, LA, and Pasadena July 28.

Previous related entries:
I wanna be happy! too
The Motel

Saturday, July 15, 2006

bourdain in beirut

Many people, meaning like 5, have come here searching for news of Anthony Bourdain and his No Reservation crew stuck in Beirut, only to find old posts about a talk at a library and some indie-tastic balkan brass influenced band. Check over at Jason Perlow's blog:offthebroiler for updates. The latest news is a message from Bourdain saying that they're all safe and sound and that they "have nothing to complain about. Particularly compared to the locals who are having an atrocious time of it. This is a great city--filled with many lovely, proud and generous people and it's heartbreaking missing so much of it. Worse seeing all that pride and hope and tolerance turn overnight to grim resignation. Hope to return to shoot here someday and finish what we started."

What happened this week? The world is falling apart at its very loose seams.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

maximum city, maximum heart

Some moving accounts of and reactions to the Mumbai train bombings, the first of which made me sort of emotional reading on the subway this morning. Subways are not made for emotion.

On India's indomitable spirit: India's Indestructible Heart.

Dilip D'Souza's beautiful, heartbreaking words on the aftermath at Salon


The first-class compartment in the middle of the train looks like someone buckled down to work on it with a blunt can opener. It's just twisted metal now, but I flinch on merely looking at it. Suketu Mehta wrote once, famously, of hands unfurling like petals from a packed Bombay train compartment, reaching out to whisk just that one more commuter onboard. From this train stopped and dark in Mahim, the metal of the train itself unfurls like grotesque petals.

I see no hands.


and also at Salon, New Yorker Manish Vij writes about why he loves riding the Mumbai trains.

(salon links via sepiamutiny)

Monday, July 10, 2006

the mostly pies edition



Friend and I went to check up on the buzz on Pies n Thighs a little over a week ago. It's certainly not the prettiest place to get your hush puppies and pulled pork, but who ever said that Williamsburg is pretty? (My neighborhood however is festooned, yes festooned, in Italia flags, but I digress.)

We ordered some sweet tea, mac n cheese and baked beans, fried chicken and a pulled pork sandwich. The fried chicken was quite nice, crispy and moist, and the biscuit, oooooh the biscuit, was buttery, crumbly biscuity heaven.

I'm afraid I didn't have the palate for the pulled pork, meaning that I can't drink straight shots of vinegar and then crush you like a bug. I mean, I do like my pulled pork sort of vinegary, like a spirited spinster, but I really couldn't eat much of it. It hurted. My friend seemed unfazed though. The beans were tasty and the mac n cheese was slightly spicy, an idea which I like in theory, but I couldn't stop the slightly disturbing thought that I was eating the macaroni form of cheese nips somehow. That didn't stop me from eating more. And every time thinking, cheese nips! cheese nips!

We finished our meal with a slice of excellent rhubarb pie, the filling tart and the crust tender and flaky and everything all meldy in the mouth. The pies are worth the trip. The menu, like most, depends on your tastes.

Last week, another friend and I went to Empanada Mama before hitting up the singularly named play, Millicent Scowlworthy. Thankfully, the empanadas were very smileworthy. Harharhar. Perfect little pockets of $2 fried goodness. I had a pork one which was thankfully sans vinegar and instead tender and spicy. We split a spinach and cheese one, and my friend got the fun pizza! filled one. We had to split for the play so that's all we tried. Otherwise, I could have stayed all night, eating empanadas up to my ears and drinking yummy looking fruit smoothie drinks, and then you could roll me out like Violet, except I'd be all greasy and angular instead of blue and round.
And lastly, over the weekend, I made this cherry cobbler with the sour cherries I got at Union Square. Sour cherries are a new food for me; I didn't really know they existed before this year, or I didn't match up that the cherries in baked goods I've had taste nothing like the sweet cherries you eat in the summer. But they are lovely. This cobbler is suuuuuper easy to make - after pitting (I found that it's easy to do this with those wooden kabob skewers), you just syrupize the cherries a tiny bit and then make a really easy dough and plop that on top and then bake. The cherries mellow out and taste tart and sweet and the dough becomes biscuit-y, light and golden on top. Go eat some!

I wanna be happy! too

Okay, so there's only two days left for New Yorkers to see The Motel. Hopefully this does really well, and then before you know it, there will be another asian-am. villain with maybe one line on the big screen's next comic book hero flick next to Kal Penn. Presto, progress!

But really, I'm glad that The Motel was good, because I was shilling for it only after reading a bit about it and watching the trailer. So, as my friend told me this weekend after showing me her newly purchased boots, I have a good eye! This movie works, whether you go casual or dressy!

So hooray to my peeps (helloooo Koreans!) and all that good stuff. The story isn't this narrow little experience of an awkward Chinese-American kid going through puberty, splashed in red and gold with squiggly dragons and demure engrish-speaking geishas in a restaurant where it rains fortune cookies. Since the characters are drawn with care and depth, they could have been any race and with a few tweaks, the film would have worked just as well. Or, as director Michael Kang is Korean, he could have very easily chosen to usurp the loose basis of the novel Waylaid to turn the family Korean too. In fact, what was nice was that everybody wasn't all one ethnicity, which differs, obviously, from most other times you see asian actors on the screen, in movies from other countries, or as 'tokens', or in works focusing on a particular ethnic community. Here, the characters who are thrown together are not just eclectic in type, but in roots as well. And they just want to be happy.

Kang draws great acting out of the kids, even in rather uncomfortable puberty stuff, and Jade Wu is spectacular in her portrayal of Ernest's strict mother. There is this wonderfully poignant silent moment which concludes the movie between her and Ernest, and I thought this ending was great, even though a few people I know felt that it was really abrupt. But I felt that the story had finished its gentle arc, addressed a whole lot of stuff in less than 90 minutes without it seeming like a whole lot of stuff, and that a sort of understanding or realization grows out of a silent shared moment seems different and wonderful.

The Motel also goes to LA July 28th. Support this hilarious and honest independent movie, and my next post will not be about this movie. It will be about food.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

the motel - review

The Motel got a great review in the Times. Yay!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Motel



The Motel (not a cartoon) is opening at Film Forum for only two weeks in its theatrical premiere. YOU can decide the fate of this movie! Go watch it so that your cousin in Kansas can maybe see it. And then your cousin won't have to go rummaging around the garbage to look for ruby red slippers to escape the doldrums that is the plains of Kansas. Okay. I don't know anything about Kansas. No offense, Fair Square State!

What is The Motel about? Well, funny you should ask and that I should have this cut and paste function on my computer:
"Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin lives and works at a sleazy hourly-rate motel on a strip of desolate suburban bi-way. Misunderstood by his family and blindly careening into puberty, Ernest befriends Sam Kim, a self-destructive yet charismatic Korean American man who has checked in. Sam teaches the fatherless boy all the rites of manhood."


The movie is directed by Michael Kang, who says the movie is rooted in a fascination for rites of passage in America and counts as influences for this work the movies My Life as a Dog and the great 400 Blows, and also stars Sung Kang who was in Better Luck Tomorrow. The Motel won a bunch of awards including special prizes from Sundance.

More info about the movie at its site.

Watch the trailer and go watch the movie. You will laugh.

Monday, June 26, 2006

more foodstuffs

Finally! Chowhound is redesigned and doesn't take years off lives while loading!

More Bourdain love:
at Salon and Bookslut

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Heat. Food. Good.



Those food men are the size of that guy's head!

I wish that big square behind them was actually a block of chocolate!

So, I'm not good at captions. Nor do I know how to tap dance. Your entertainment, I'm afraid, will be sorely lacking today. Plus, I would never win one of those New Yorker caption writing contests. Sometimes they're not all that funny anyhow. That guy's head above in the picture is hiding the refreshing bucket of beers for the three. That has little to do with anything. I just wanted to say Bucket of beers. (The alliteration of bees is getting a bit out of hand now. Bzzzzzz.)

This past Wednesday, I went to one of those handy talks at the library, with foodie extraordinaire Robyn, to see the current food world's three B's, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, and Bill Buford. Not, of course, without a little creepy walking, not stalking, mind you, on the way in.

Bill Buford has just come out with a fantastic book called HEAT: (an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany), so the event was tied to that as well as Bourdain's latest release of collected writings, The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, and Batali's general empire of restaurants and own celebrity chefdom.

Robyn has a bit of recap of the conversation that went down, the insults to Rachael Ray, etc. Buford repeatedly recycled bits/anecdotes from his book, which Batali called him out on. I forgive him because he pretty much said everything he wanted to say in the book and that's the whole point, no? Throughout, Batali's energy and passion for his work, his mini-empire, was evident and Bourdain was consistently well-spoken, funny, snarky, irreverent, etc., moderating the discussion until the Q&A with the audience, which was actually interesting and not disastrously self-involved people coming up to the mike just to hear themselves talk. Did I mention I heart Bourdain? (Man, I hope I don't continue this heart-ing business in every entry. But I know I have one more coming up soon...)
Even with the recycled bits of information, from all parties involved, it was very interesting, especially the discussion about celebrity chefs and food trends and the public perception of those and how that's all related. Buford makes the point in his book too, that many of us just don't think about what we eat. It's not really the American way. Think megamarkets, costcos, fast foods, chains, ready-made, ready-packed, gogogogo, gogurt... And this isn't the case in most other parts of the world. (One good thing about growing up in an immigrant household, at least mine, is a deviation from that. No TV dinners. All homecooked Mom-food and you can't get better than that.)
I mean, when you think about it, the US has some pretty weird, divergent attitudes about food. We're fat monsters because our portions are Texas sized and so we go to the gym to look like people on TV and we get eating disorders, we count calories, we only eat meat, we only eat vegetables, and our whole strange Puritanical roots as a country combined with our love for size has yielded this ironic guilt about the substance that we need in order to live. Everything tasty is bad for you - sugar, salt, dairy, fat, bread — so instead of gorging on them, people stay away from them like they're riddled with plague. Mmmm plague.
Anyway, go read Buford's book, if you in any way enjoy eating food. Like some friends of mine can't remember whether they've eaten meals or they just think of food as a nuisance sometimes (sad! I know). This book is not for them. Because it is about obsession, sheer obsession, with food and the making of it. Buford had an impressive career as writer and editor for both the New Yorker and Granta and he quit his desk job to cook, and with every next page of the book, he goes deeper and deeper into food mania. He works in the Babbo kitchen, travels to Italy to learn how to make pasta and carve up a cow. He hauls a whole pig home to his New York apartment on his Vespa and uses most of the parts. A whole pig. Along the way, the book touches on an extraordinary range of topics, not limited to fascinating portraits of Batali and other chefs that Buford meets, a real look in the hot kitchen at a hot NY restaurant and how that is different from being a home cook, the kitchen's attitudes toward their diners, and food history focusing on Italian cuisine and the enigma of when the egg was first introduced to pasta. The love for food is great. The writing is fascinating. Gush gush gush. Heart heart heart.
I don't think I'll be bringing whole animals to my tiny underequipped kitchen any time soon, but I've been noticing myself becoming more involved with food, thinking more about it, trying more recipes, reading more books and cookbooks and blogs. The Dining section of the Times is the highlight of my sad, empty week. I eye those brightly colored Kitchen Aid mixers and those heavy Le Creuset cookwares with lusty glances. I mean, I'm thinking about purchasing an ice-cream maker. Who the hell needs an ice cream maker? It's a slippery slope, I tell you.
Bourdain's book is just what it is, a collection of his previous writings, a bit disjointed. His other books are more engaging, I think, though the best part of Nasty Bits is the Commentary section, the book equivalent to the commentary extra feature on a DVD. The thing that I admire about Bourdain that he owns up to change. He admits his mistakes and is good at that whole perspective thing. It might be, as he puts it, him becoming a wuss being out of the kitchen and all that, but I think the whole travelling thing has really worked out for him. He also turned fifty last week.
Okay this entry has to stop.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

ok, we get it, i like beirut



I'm so glad Beirut exceeded the expectations I had carved out (with my expectations knife) for their live act. Because while I really enjoyed the album, Gulag Orkestar, I had a sneaking suspicion that it had to be better live. Because of the brass. Because of the Balkan gypsy thing.

When you've got multiple people on stage kinda going nuts on crazy instruments, when it works, it really works (ie. broken social scene, arcade fire, other bands I'm forgetting) and the show is a real show, the music transformed before your ears, with push and pull, different arrangements, the interaction between the members — everything that makes live music so great. And Beirut has a brass section, clarinets, violins, cello (yay!), accordion, keyboards, ukulele and particularly lovely moments when a big burly guy plays the xylophone. And Zach Condon's voice that is another instrument too. We love Zach Condon.

I first encountered the sort of Balkan gypsy musical tradition when I watched Emir Kusturica's movie Underground, where among other crazy, surreal events, there's a brass band running around on screen, following the characters. Kind of like an insane musical Greek chorus plus trombone.

Soon after, I started noticing Balkan brass everywhere (like they were following me! oompah, oompah!) — its roots in other kinds of music and specifically the highly entertaining and talented Brooklyn-based Hungry March Band, the movie Everything is Illuminated (Liev Schreiber counts Kusturica as a big influence), Kusturica's own group the No Smoking Orchestra... Obviously Kusturica and his movies, and the people who work on the music in them like Goran Bregovic, seem to pop up, weirdly, again and again in my life.
I haven't delved too deeply into the style and other groups, but I'm curious to learn more, says the dilettante. The quick affinity that I felt is a bit puzzling, I think, unless you want to go the "music is universal" route, but I always have a tough time pinpointing the reasons why I like music (as do most people). ryspace has some live clips from a show Beirut did not too long ago, with a similar set to the Northsix show I went to. One of the songs is Siki Siki Baba... How fucking awesome is this song???
Aaannd interestingly, here is a more traditional (as far as I know) take by Kocani Orkestar, a big influence on Condon. In fact, Condon is a guest blogger at Said the Gramophone, and he talks about his influences and gives a brief brief trajectory/history of Balkan gypsy music.
Ok, I think I'm done gushing about things I don't really know much about now and linking to five million things.
(Photo by the fabulously up-to-date brooklynvegan)

regina spektor - begin to hope

Regina Spektor's new album Begin to Hope is the latest review.

Any longtime reader of this rag and older rags knows I'm a big fan. Perhaps this is why I had such a hard time writing this review. Or I'm just a dunderheaded block of cheese.

In any case, the album's lovely and the most consistent thing she's released. The other ones were perfect for that i-pod single song thing, and this, I feel, is an album.

(Thanks to whc, who likes pretty girls, for the confidence boosting readthrough.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

slothdom

Look at me! I almost made it through June without updating again. I was being internet-environment friendly! (less trash!) I was living life to the fullest! (all lies!) I got tired of talking to myself. (dingdingding!). I logged into the old movable type thing and saw a half-finished entry on a movie I saw ages ago and it looked sad and droopy, like a balloon with no air, which that bird over there is choking on.

AnyWAY, gotta .. umm .. air up. Air out, I mean. So I have to catch up with y'all. And maybe finish that movie entry. And talk about all the food books I've been reading and all this other stuff!! But not right now because I want to go to sleep. And that bird will puff up with air and be a bird balloon, like in Shrek, though I think that was a frog. Now you understand why I got tired of talking to myself.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

strawberry bliss



That sounds like a lip gloss flavor. Strawberry bliss.

I finally made it to the Union Square greenmarket the other day. This means waking up a little early. Otherwise, I don't have much chance of making it there because of the whole working hours thing. Waking up, for me, is when I turn into somebody not myself, no reasoning skills, no logic, no inner strength, or outer for that matter. I pay no attention to alarms going off left and right. I will convince myself that I do not need to get up. If you call, I will lie to you. Hi my name is Janet and I'm a sleepaholic.

This has caused many a late entry into the office (frowned upon) and sadly, no time to putz around the apartment settling into the day with some coffee and carb o' choice. And no going to the greenmarket. But ah, yes, I finally made it. And it was the most beautiful thing.

I didn't even get that much stuff. But how could I pass up these gorgeous strawberries? Tis the season. I really shouldn't go back to those supermarket ones ummmm that are out of season and shipped from across the country, all no taste and big and disguised in their deep red colors when they're not ripe at all. Forget you.



And so, I ate some, and put some in a bowl with some ciao bella gelato (fragola, of course) and it was good. Life should be so good, more of the time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ms. John Soda - Notes and the Like

Ms John Soda's - Notes and the Like: Reviewing that indie stuff. Beep Boop Beep.

linkstime - growing up, journeys, books

Peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time... woo-ahhhhh. Nooo, it's LINKSTIME, and it's so much neater than dealing with sausage casing. Ho ho ho.

I am kind of excited about two upcoming movies, though they're not out for awhile yet. The movie adaptation for Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, directed by who else but Mira Nair, and starring Kal Penn (whee!). I remember not being too crazy about the book but I think it might make a good movie and the trailer made me realize I should read the book again and reassess, especially with my swiss cheese memory. Mmmm. Good in sandwiches. That's out this fall and here's Kal's (we're on a first name basis) admittedly not very interesting blog for the movie, though I didn't look at the video clips. The comments on the most recent entry are funny, as they are direct messages to him. Like all forms of, I think you're the bestest actor...e-mail me!!!!

The other movie is an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel/memoir of growing up in Iran, Persepolis, which comes out in 2007. Exciting!!!!

Youngna has an interesting photojournal of her time in the Dominican Republic. I spent a few weeks in the DR in my youth and this is where I developed my severe dislike of swarming ants (because otherwise, they're just so lovable and cuddly) and tasted my first sugarcane.

Here, you can find two tracks off the upcoming solo effort by Thom Yorke, The Eraser. And I'm not really feeling it. Much like ants, Thom Yorke is not exactly lovable and cuddly. But he does dance pretty crazy. Yorke 1. Ants 0.

The NYT says unpaid internships are evil! Maybe they are! It's like those things you find on Idealist where you PAY to VOLUNTEER. What's with that? And I didn't learn anything much from my internships (and they were paid, albeit small amounts) except expert fluency with office equipment and how to check e-mail sneakily. Surely this is why I (my parents) paid lots of money for college. It probably depends on the organization which you're interning for (there's isn't no grammar here), but bluh, what's the point. Get out there and do something, yeah? I should have followed my future advice.

And finally, popmatters responds to the stupid NYT best works of fiction in the last 25 years, by calling out the oldwhitemen and discounting the win by Toni Morrison's Beloved as the best work as compensation for oldwhitemen guilt. The writer asks, where are the minority, the fringe (you know, everybody else besides oldwhitemen)? and suggests they look to the future of the word in "the Alexies, the Chabons, the Wallaces." So, Toni Morrison's work is unable to stand on its own, simply because she is both black and a woman (GASP)? I mean, the popmatters guy, and he is a guy, is making, what seems to me, an obvious point about the wonderbread nature of the booklist, but then undercuts it by making both an unclear argument about Morrison (she's doomed because she's on the inside, she's doomed because she's regarded as an outsider) and a suggestion for young white men (plus one native american man in Alexie, whom I've never come across before?) as a solution. I don't buy that Morrison is regarded as an outsider in literature; I buy that there is scant consciousness about women or minority work on the general/popular radar, especially originating from the U.S., besides chick-lit and perhaps the This American Life/NPR crowd, David Sedaris/Sarah Vowell/David Rakoff (and even then).

Bookslut is compiling an alternate list. Make your suggestions for "The Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years That Will Not Bore the Living Shit out of You" at (har har, so funny) whiteliberalguilt@gmail.com. Of course, I can't come up with anything. Typical cheesebrain. Typical. Can you?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

beirut - gulag orkestar

Reviewed the talk of the blogosphere (at least a couple weeks ago) Beirut's Gulag Orkestar at kevchino. I had a tough time with this one, because how does one describe a feeling of strong affinity with music that is rooted in a style that has nothing to do with your history? I've realized that I've felt this way about Balkan brass music every time I hear it (more than a few times, interesting enough). The stuff just makes sense to me. So I called it kind of a home, and I don't know if that makes sense in the review, or even in real life. (can you imagine if your lives were reviewed like albums??? hahaha, horrible.) Oh well.

Monday, May 29, 2006

where troubles melt like lemon drops

skyframe.jpg


I had been feeling one of those "what am I doing with my life/why am i here" posts coming on, like a common cold or something, but then laziness sort of shuffled in sleepily and suggested, "why don't you take a nap?" And I don't know about you, but I will listen to laziness. I have a soft spot for it. It's called my bed.

So part of me is jealous that some of my good friends are gallivanting around the world, in Hong Kong and China and India and Uganda and Guyana, and I am here, where I was the day before, even the year before, passing the big two year mark at the first job ... And that's all I have to say for now. Part of me is chomping at the bit to go somewhere new, geographically or not, and the other part is like, well, your brain doesn't work and you just used figurative language comparing yourself to a horse. You know, when I was little, I never wanted a pony. I did read Misty of Chincoteague (wow, there's a foundation!)

I think if there were a game called Tangents or Unnecessary Metaphors (age 9 to 99!), I'd be really good, maybe even a .. WINNER!

So there's my apology for being all discursive. And to continue doing so, let me just say, the season finale for The Office was so squeeeee. Do you have to look up squeee? I don't even know where you'd do that. Ah. Wikipedia. In any case, Jim Halpert/John Krasinski, because you know - the character you play is so much like yourself and it's not like there's anything to acting or whatnot... hello! new tv-land boyfriend.

Y'all are being reminded of so much today. Coherency is not currency in Janetland. Janetland also hopes to build a secret tunnel to tv-land.

This pitter-patter entry is dedicated to one KP, who "reads all the blogs" and is thusly, cool.

[Photo above of the sky in India, stolen from my friends on the ground in india.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse



A couple days ago, I got to one of my lonely Netflix dvd's (sometimes they can sit cold and alone, waiting by the dvd player with naught but a paper sleeve for warmth, for up to a month, cancelling out all economic sense) and watched Agnès Varda's documentary Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse (in the US, The Gleaners and I). Now, I suppose, as with nonfiction books, I don't delve into the documentaries so much. I'm not sure what it is, perhaps the series of heads talking at you, the slightly off-putting feeling that you should be learning something interesting, like about bears or conspiracies or bear conspiracies. Or maybe I find that for whatever reason, the story, because real life is a story too, both overarching or individually per character, often fades away. Though the last couple documentaries I've seen, I've enjoyed. Soooo I dunno.

Glaneurs, though, was sort of touching. It's still, for the most part, a bunch of people talking to a camera, but there's a real personal quality to it, maybe because it's filmed with a handheld digital camera or that we're sort of following Varda on a road trip of sorts and witnessing her personal explorations of aging along with the glaneurs, that bring it more within an emotion.

The project was sparked by an interest in glaneurs, or in English, gleaners. In older times, they harvested stuff, like the painting above. Gleaners pick things off the ground mostly; there's a different term for those who pick off the trees, like fruits. Varda makes a connection between these glaneurs and the ones today – those who glean from the streets in the city, from the garbage or the debris at the end of the day of a food market, and in the country, the fields after the machines harvest crops. A lot of perfectly good produce lies to rot in fields either because they don't meet 'industry'/goldilocks standards (too big, too small, whatever) or just because it's too expensive to hire people to go after the machines.

These gleaners collect food for different reasons; sometimes even fun, some to protest the incredible waste of food, some simply because it's free. Varda gleans some potatoes that look like hearts and takes fondly to them. That she puts herself into the film and yet lets the characters she talks to completely have their own space provides for a good mix. The gleaners are not all picking up food; others are collecting things to make art or use in their homes or what have you. And Varda (the "Glaneuse" of the title) is a gleaner too. She gleans to make her films; it's an interesting comparison, the whole project mainly going back to the idea that somebody's trash really is somebody else's treasure.
I think this interview gets at why I enjoyed Glaneurs, because I feel like I'm being boring and blah and nonexpressive, like watery lettuce. Varda sees films as "cine-writing," putting together the whole package of a work, and this is evident in Glaneurs. I've seen and enjoyed her Cleo 5 à 7 but I think I'm going to queue up some more of her stuff and maybe be a bit more careful about food-buying and throwing out habits.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

tony kushner!!

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to interview Tony Kushner about a children's opera,Brundibar, which is playing in New York right now. The opera was composed by a Czech composer for an orphanage and there's this whole horrible backstory to it — it was performed a number of times at Terezin, which was a "model" concentration camp that the Nazis showed off to visiting dignitaries. Krasa, the orphans, and most of the children who took part in the operas were eventually sent to their deaths at Auschwitz. Kushner collaborated with Maurice Sendak (of Wild Things fame) to bring this opera back on its own terms and back into opera houses, also creating a children's book. He was extremely nice and speaks practically in paragraphs. If there's one thing I cannot do, it's speak in paragraphs, though that doesn't have much to do with anything at all. And with that, read the Q&A, Found in Translation, if you like.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Minar & NJ

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The title makes it sound as if this entry is about some character (whimsical yet pensive) and his pal NJ, who smokes and is really dirty and love tomatoes. But no.

This past weekend was not only Mother's Day, it was Celebrate Hometown Day, an entirely made-up holiday strictly observed by going to eat Indian food, randomly running into many people from high school throughout the day, and discovering that part of the movie School of Rock was filmed in the ol' Hometown. (I've googled to no avail; I don't know what the connection is? Why Edison, Jack Black? Why?)

Edison and neighboring Iselin is always mentioned when the New York Times talks about any Indian food. It's got a huge south asian population, and there's a stretch of road that will spark recognition in knowing eyes all over the country. In a funny twist, it's been rare for me to actually go out to eat Indian food here. Indian food was always mom-made (let's face it, the best kind, especially tea) at friends' houses. So saturday, Mr. D, as his school-kids call him, or maybe I've made that all up as a wild inventor of lies, took us to Minar. They have restaurants in New York (more than one?) and just recently opened this one.

We started with a platter of vegetable appetizers. Samosas and things which I don't know the names for but basically, they're all the same: Fried Goodness. And I had a yummy mango lassi, something, like emails, that I can rarely turn down given the chance.

We talked about the Future, with a capital F, whether we were finally going to get cars that float and all that. And how those weird east asians are the only cultures not to have bread in their meals. Actually I don't even remember, besides a trip down Kaavya Lane. (Incidentally, she is from NJ, though not from our stomping grounds. And plus Mr. D should, like, totally ask her out. Doesn't he understand her pain?? He's nodding, I know he is.)
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And then our main stuff arrived like a party. Garlic naan! Saag paneer! Some other paneer! I'm blanking out on it. Matar? I don't even know how to spell these things, but then, I can't really be wrong can I? with this whole transliteration thing? And my glorious lamb curry. The saag paneer was a little bland but everything else was quite tasty. Try to hold in your enthusiasm over my brilliantly descriptive words. Tasty, yes, TASTY.
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Mr. D also let us in on the onions secret. As in eat them. I've never been served a plate of (raw? pickled?) onion pieces at Indian restaurants before. But they sort of, in a weird way, freshen up your palate for the strongly-flavored food at hand. So it sparked up the curry.
And dessert! Again, the failings of the brain translate to the err.. more failings. My friend got rasmalai, which was good and sweet and pistachio-y. And I had some sort of ice cream concoction that was very melty and had all sorts of things on top. Wooo! Brilliant! And that's all the details you'll get out of me today. Until floaty cars fly by next to pigs with wings.
So yeah, my corner of NJ has the culinary ups of a really diverse population and the downs of blah-yawn-suburbia (chains, indeed). And right now because it's super late and I've been talking about food, all of sudden, I'm craving some Grease trucks. I haven't had one in years.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gribouille: Best French Toast Ev-er

I've been away a long time again. The sea-faring life is tough, but still, I return. Pour vous. Yes, you. Feel special. Feel special while you put off what you are supposed to be doing and coming here instead. It's ok! We like you.

I wanted to talk about some french toast and things I had over the weekend. The sad thing is, though, I have no pictures. How will you see this beautiful food? Ah, now there, we use the imagination, the mind's eye. Or eyes. Can your mind have more than one eye? Welllll sure! So get those brain-eyes ready and some charming accordian-y amelie music in your brain-ears.

Saturday morning, I strolled over to a new-ish French café in the neighborhood called Gribouille. Originally, I was going to breeze in, say "Bonjour"...in my head ... and get some coffee and a croissant. Simple pleasures. But noooo. I walked into a charming, cosy sunlit café and ended up ordering a full-blown multi-course brunch.

Gribouille was opened by a French ex-pat, so French is in the air and the service is lovely and friendly. The cappuccino is just how I like it: strong and creamy. It's served with sugar cubes wrapped in paper with little sayings printed on them. I unwrap one and read, "Vous êtes seul dans la vie?" (Are you alone in life?) and underneath there are two boxes, oui and non. I mentally check, Oui, but am too distracted by the packaging to care. I've turned down a carrot-ginger soup for a salad of baby greens, and they are green and baby and lightly dressed in a sweet-ish balsamic vinaigrette. It is, admittedly, a bit strange with coffee.
People come in to take away a pastry or two, or sit down to brunch. It is not really crowded and the whiffing of conversation is pleasant. I hear someone mention strawberry juice and make a mental note, must get strawberry juice next time. I mean, juice? made out of strawberries?????
The french toast arrives. It's not one of those hulking platters of french toast, throwing up with french toast ornaments like whipped cream and fruit or what have you. I dare say, it doesn't even look very impressive. But I take a bite, and can't help idiotically smiling a big food-makes-me-happy smile.
See, the french toast is made out of brioche, so it's all soft and light on the inside, with just the right amount of crisp from the eggy mixture coating and lightly sweetened from a drizzle of syrup. The balance is perfect. The accompanying strawberries are sweet. The crème fraîche (I think it was crème fraîche - my memory is blanking) is buttery and slightly tangy and rich and melting all over the toast. PERFECTTTTTTTTTT. By now, I'm just sort of pretending to read the newspaper.
Now and again, a guy (maybe the owner?) asks if it is good. I am all giddy and giggly and incomprehensible in the English language (or any other language). He maybe thinks I am an insane person and collector of sugar wrappers, but at least I am enjoying my food.
And then, as I had opted out of ice cream and for the mini-eclairs, I receive a plate with three things. Two mini-eclairs, about two inches in length - one chocolate and one caramel with dollops of chocolate and caramel sauces - and a lemon square, about one and a half inches. I order a coffee, because I had finished my cappuccino, duh. The eclairs are light as air, and this lemon thing. Seriously. Best inch of food you will ever eat. It's just a perfect balance of flavors - the crust, this lemon part, so tart but sweet at the same time, and strips of candied ginger on top.
By the time I walk out of Gribouille, I am walking on air and vow to become a regular and also be a food-nerd and bring a camera next time. I do like a nice café.
I have no clue why that was all in present tense.


Gribouille has a puzzling name and little mascot. He looks like a cross between keroppi and a cyclops. A cooking cyclops. And I had to look up 'gribouille' in my big french dictionary from college just now and according to that, it means 'short-sighted idiot' or 'rash fool', an interesting name for a café. Maybe this is why he has one eye? And maybe our mind's eye is singular, not plural, like the gribouille. Short-sighted fools are we. Who love french toast and pastries. And brandish whisks.

Friday, April 28, 2006

magneta lane

Sorry I've been away again. I've been sick. There was this confusion between allergies vs cold or whatever. In any case, I'm happier when I'm all drugged up full of over-the-counter medications.

In other news, here's the latest INDIEROCK review:

Magneta Lane - Dancing With Daggers

Friday, April 21, 2006

getting colder

Overheard at a pizza place today:

Girl who looks like Bratz doll on the cellie:
"Oh my god did you look at those hot pictures of the party? They are so hot. We looked so hot."

What is socially acceptable in such a situation? Instead of meekly receiving my pizza slice and muttering like a crazy person, could I have, to the applause and cheers of the other diners, thrown crushed red pepper into her eyes and said, "No! That's hot!"??

mosto mangiare

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The other night was springey and breezey, like a good fabric softener. Clunk! Anyways, it was time to dine by a large window or outdoors, as is common springtime in the city. So whilst strolling in the east village, the restaurant was chosen by such criteria: Window! Check. Evening air? Check. And lo and behold and nevertheless, the food was quite good! (SUPPLIES!!!!!, they shouted with glee.)

(I had trouble remembering the name of the restaurant when I got home. I kept thinking "Mongo" but you go try searching on the interweb with "Mongo" and "italian restaurant" and see how far you get. It doesn't even sound Italian. It sounds like a silly British word, a cross between bongo and mung bean or something rather ridiculous. But it was easy to find the right name ==> MOSTO. Which according to my handy translating widget thing means MUST in Italian and makes much more sense. Because who the hell would name a restaurant Mongo. Yes, maybe me.)


The Mosto Osteria (osteria is the equivalent of French bistro?) is airy with varied lightings to suit your moods, and it transports you a bit out of New York. Or maybe I'm projecting. But the waitstaff speaks Italian, and they serve tap water in bottles and have wine available in half-liter carafes and play euro-hip thumpy music which, while not really my cup of tea, keeps up a sort of energetic vibe.
We opted to skip the appetizer and instead went for a pasta each and a shared entrée, so we got that real multi-course sort of feel. I suppose I wasn't expecting much because Italian food in the city, it can go this way or that. But I was very pleasantly surprised with my spaghetti alle vongole. The pasta was firm and the dish well balanced, not too oily or garlicky. And ... so many clams!!! Don't they look happy all empty of their meats? My face was just as happy and bright too, especially after sopping up the lovely juices with some crusty bread.
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Continuing our delight with containers, Mosh was taken with the fact that the parmesan came in a big mug. Her penne all'arrabbiata was also top-notch, the sauce being all robust and kicky. Our shared entrée was Gamberoni Grigliati con Crostino (at least according to menupages), which the dude made me say once more (with feeling!) because I was being all tentative with the Italian. The grilled shrimp (prawn? what's the difference?) were seasoned well and served with these fabulous tomatoes over toasted bread, which made for nice textures. They were just super tomato-ey. Mosh and I spent a good few minutes discussing whether they were treated with some sort of tomato sauce or something because I couldn't conceive of these as just really good fresh tomatoes (because where do they get them and I want some). I hope they were...But I suspect not... On the side, a lightly dressed salad of greens and a buttery dome of basil couscous and yum!
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After that, we were stuffed like gobble-gobble so we had to say no to dessert even though the server was pressing the panna cotta. This means I'll have to go back soon to try their desserts, because you see, desserts and me, we have a relationship. The prices were pretty decent for the quality/quantity, especially if you stick to one main dish. Hoo-ray for eating! And Hoo-ray for chancing upon places to eat! I'm putting Mosto on my imaginary list of places to go back to and Mongo on my imaginary list of idiosyncratic restaurant names.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

merits of music

I did a Q&A with Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, and many other groups, a little while ago about the release of "Showtunes," a compilation of his songs from the three musical theater works that he did in collaboration with director Chen Shi-Zheng. He has an interesting theory about climate and instruments. Doesn't that just pique your interest and tickle your fancy? Anyways, that's that.

Some clips from Showtunes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

plus ça change, c'est la même chose? or where I pretend to know math

... continuing the theme of self-absorption...mmmm spongey!

I've been thinking a lot about change lately. And why my life has been pretty much same old same old (plus la même), while my pretty li'l heart beats itself to a pulp (but not grovestand!) drowsily dreaming about change. New places, new faces, green eggs and ham on a bus, on a train on a plane, that sort of thing.

Life has been relatively stable. If it were a graph, it would be pretty much a line. The kind of line you learn about in whatever grade when you first start to plot points and connect the dots, without having learned about variations or anything weird yet. Straight-forwardly horizontal. Well, not much forward about it.

Because after college, there was this almost-surprise!! job!!! thing. And then I moved, I guess, though not very far. And the points plodded along and here I've been thinking for awhilewhilewhile along this x-axis (where x=t=time!), it's T for something else.

I guess I've never really been one for drastic changes. Like any homebody, I'm fond of familiarity. And baking cookies. And seeing dearest friends, which of course are my only friends. But I've never really felt so much before that I was closing myself off to some possibilities than I do now (perhaps I wasn't). I'm neither the kind of person that has a plan nor the kind that jumps around with wild spontaneity. I don't think I've experienced, nor can I sit around waiting for, that life-changing illumination. I can never answer those stupid questions, what book, experience, event CHANGED you and why? Please refer to my graph, I write down neatly. Or have I? And just do not approach memories in that manner? In any case, as of late, and less late, I feel in a bind. I'm not crossing the street with brio or staying on the sidewalk with caution. I'm sort of waveringly, most dangerously, in that do-i-cross? mode where the hesitation lands you in front of an oncoming car and I wave a goodbye as my plodding life flashes horizontally before my eyes to the dear friends who are, frankly, scattered about and scattered themselves.

Am I just afraid of oncoming cars? (Well, if so, I am in the wrong city.)
But why, then, is this desire for change a mirage? I think I want it, and I sort of get there, and it disappears. And I'm just left thirsty.
Is it fear? Is part of me afraid of change and not willing to admit it? Does part of my brain not want to speak to the rest of me? Is my amygdala a little hermit, sitting there eating its cookies and speaking to no one? Something doesn't make sense. Something is not quite adding up.
I know a lot of it is inertia and that one must, sigh, Make things happen. Life is, despite my sometimes doom n' gloom attitudes, okay. Not excellent, but certainly not bad. But does this mean that I need such a heavy weight to pull me out of my currently plodding, line-plotting trajectory? Though all around me are these little gadfly weights, my peers, who are starting different things, plotting changes, on the cusp, about to take steps, taking steps.
If I am the tortoise, going slow and steady, what am I doing if there is no finish line. Am I going along this line, with little to no slope, gaining or even losing anything at all? Or this a sort of life that is flat-lining?
This is also exactly the type of thinking out-loud that I often find tiresome in other people. I'm tiresome too! Bring on the cookies, amygy, ol' pal.