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

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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.