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


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.