Friday, July 31, 2009


More Rain

Yes, I know it's not NYC rain, but this gives the general feel of the city this summer. This is a very pleasant site to play around on.

"...from the first grey wakening we have found
No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain"

This isn't New York rain either, but instead, the Welsh poet Alun Lewis describing rain falling on soldiers camped on the moors during World War II.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bill Moyers & Wendell Potter

I picked this up on onegoodmove - part of a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Potter, the former head of public relations at CIGNA, one of the big US health insurance companies, who resigned to speak out against the health insurance industry. In this segment, he refers to documents drafted by America's Health Insurance Plans in advance of Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko.

This really should be sent out to anyone you know, whether sympathetic to health care reform or not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Waiting for Autumn (or even Winter)

Well I'm not really, but there are two books that I'm eager to read, & they won't be published until then. One is A.S.Byatt's "The Children's Book", set in Edwardian England, with a central character based on the children's author E. Nesbit, and described by Sam Leith in The Guardian as her "Middlemarch". The other is "Family Britain, 1951-1957" by David Kynaston, the second volume of his social history of Britain from the end of World War II to the election of Margaret Thatcher. The first volume, "Austerity Britain", was the best thing I've read in a long time - brilliantly informative & entertaining - a perfect layman's history. They're both nice, hefty volumes too - 600-700 pages apiece.
If you see any photographs of Byatt these days, you'll see that she seems to look slightly like Francis Bacon. Or am I imagining things?

Shatner Reads Palin's Farewell

Who doesn't love a William Shatner performance? His version of Common People is just as good as Jarvis Cocker's (& I'm a big fan of Pulp).

Here he is, on last night's Conan show, reading a piece from Sarah Palin's bizarre gubernatorial farewell speech. Poetry indeed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Urban Walker

"The art of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statements uttered."
Michel de Certeau - "The Practice of Everyday Life"
There. As a city walker, I feel more important already.

Ghost Town

Thinking about Shane Meadows soundtracks reminded me of a classic Specials number:

Somers Town

Somers Town is playing at Film Forum right now. It's directed by Shane Meadows, who was responsible for This is England, which explored skinhead culture in Thatcher era Britain (& not incidentally, had one of the best soundtracks of any film in recent years). Somers Town brings back Thomas Turgoose (the central character in This is England) as a runaway from the midlands, & explores his relationship with Marek, an immigrant Polish teen. It's a slighter film than This is England, with a lighter, milder, plot, but it delivers a small finely drawn slice of contemporary London life, & the two central characters give fine, naturalistic performances. Turgoose has a great, pudgy, expressive face and Marek (Piotr Jagiello) has an awkward adolescent presence, moving from unaffected kindnesses to scolding reprimands and darting sideways glances. My favorite British directors are the great Ken Loach (see Kes, if nothing else) and Mike Leigh, and Meadows is following in their footstpes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Geo Greeting

If you haven't tried it already, this is a very enjoyable way to send someone a message. Your typeface will be composed of aerial photographs from all over the world ...

Harry Patch

Just one week after the death of World War I veteran Henry Allingham at 113, Britain's last survivor of the Great War, Harry Patch, died today in Somerset, aged 111. For a obituary, read here. And if Harry Patch isn't a resonant English name (you could think of him at Agincourt), I don't know what is.

Here's a poem by Edward Thomas, who was killed in the Battle of Arras, in 1917.


As the team's head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed an angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,
And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed
Once more.
The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker's round hole,
The ploughman said. "When will they take it away?"
"When the war's over." So the talk began--
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
"Have you been out?" "No." "And don't want
to, perhaps?"
"If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm. I shouldn't want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more. . . . Have many gone
From here?" "Yes." "Many lost?" "Yes:
good few.
Only two teams work on the farm this year.
One of my mates is dead. The second day
In France they killed him. It was back in March,
The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if
He had stayed here we should have moved the tree."
"And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world." "Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all all might seem good." Then
The lovers came out of the wood again:
The horses started and for the last time
I watched the clods crumble and topple over
After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Anthony Blunt's Memoir Released

More tangentially related art news this week. The memoirs of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, & Soviet spy, were recently released by the British Library after 25 years in storage. Today's Times story on this has a rather nice picture of Blunt and HRH. And of course the story couldn't help but remind you of Alan Bennett's play about Blunt, A Question of Attribution, with James Fox as Sir Anthony and Prunella Scales (giving a stellar performance) as Elizabeth. I think I'll have to dig it out to watch again.

Down and Out at The Met

Rebecca Mead, writing in The New Yorker about the new director of the Met, Thomas Campbell, describes some of the cutbacks necessary during these difficult times:

"Barabara Fleischman, the chairman of the visiting committee of the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture ... told me about a fund-raising lunch that was held for the ongoing renovation of the galleries. "We sat at tables with no real tablecloths, and there were these tins - like workers' lunch pails - each containing a sandwich and a cookie and a fruit cup," she recalled. "It was darling."

Party Space

I've often wondered about parties here. Perhaps I could outdo those dumpster swimming pool events with some good times at the VFW?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swimming in Dumpsters

" "The water's amazingly fresh, for swimming in a dumpster," said Alexis Bloom, a documentary filmmaker from Tribeca, after doing a few laps.
No. Please. No. Remove this horribly depressing vision of hipster purgatory from my thoughts forever.

Williamsburg Bank Building

Saturday, July 18, 2009


The Beaches of Agnes

Go to see The Beaches of Agnes if you can.

It's a collage of autobiographical reflections - tender, playful & alert - & at 81, Varda is still brimming with creative energy. I have to admit I haven't seen much of her work, but I did see The Gleaners & I, which was released in 2001. In that film she looks at gleaning both in a literal & historical sense - whether a search for leftover grain in harvested fields, or for scraps of food on city streets - and as a way of valuing & paying tribute to the apparently trivial or overlooked crumbs of experience around us.
Seeing The Beaches, I was reminded that I really ought to see of much of her work as I can. I'll start with Cleo From 5 to 7


Thursday, July 16, 2009


A few months back, I spoke to the owner of Garry Jeweler's. The store had been closed for a while because of his ill health, and, just as he was getting back on his feet, his mother became ill. I've seen no sign of activity since then, and am guessing it may be permanently shut down. This will be a real shame - it's a 1950's gem of a store, inside and out, and the store's proprietors were always friendly and helpful. When you went in, it seemed cavernous, with the shelves far too empty for comfort. I wish I had known it in busier days.

City Summer

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Language

While we're on the subject of language, we have to include this Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie classic. However much I admire the cringe-inducing, lunatic bravery of a Sacha Baron Cohen performance, these two are really more my pace.


What with all the Bruno hoopla, let's look back at an early Baron Cohen piece ... Ali G interviewing Noam Chomsky. This is quite a pairing.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Seltzer Man

I was very happy to run into Eli Miller today, & even more happy to learn that - yes! - he would be able to deliver seltzer to my house! We only talked for a few minutes, but he gave me his card & a lot more information to write down on the back of it. He showed me some of the seltzer bottles & drew my attention to the blue ones, made in the Czechoslovakia in the 1930's. It was a real pleasure to meet him. For an essay on Miller:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Connie Converse

How did I miss this earlier in the year? Just caught a rerun of WNYC's Spinning On Air show on Connie Converse, who wrote a number of beautiful & little known songs in the 1950's, while living in New York. Though respected by her peers, she was not taken up by any record companies. In 1974, at the age of 50, she left goodbye letters, packed up her VW Bug, & was never heard of again.
Converse was recently "rediscovered" & a CD of her work How Sad, How Lovely, is now available.

You can get more information at & catch this haunting 1954 song:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"The Most Revolting Dish Ever Devised"

If I had to name a culinary heroine, it would be Elizabeth David. Hers were the first 'serious' cooking books I read, in my early twenties, & I immediately fell under the spell of her tart, vivid, authoritarian style. I have almost all her books, a couple of biographies about her, even a novel based on her relationship with Norman Douglas. Her writing about food stands the test of time (still better than anyone else, I think), and I still find myself wondering "What would Elizabeth David think of this?" as I put together a meal, or even scan the contents of my fridge. This may be a bit pathetic sounding, but it's actually quite helpful. That ED was beautiful, difficult, private & rather discontented just makes her even more fabulous. This week Tim Hayward, writing in The Guardian, describes a visit to the London Guildhall library to look at her annotated collection of cookery books. Good stuff.

Starting Out

I've wasted enough time already getting this thing up and running. Fretting over a blog name, held back by my complete lack of blogging know how. Really, it's time to begin.

Though there are a number of blogs I visit regularly, many of them New York based, none of them mean as much to me as Bob Guskind's did. Really there's a hole in my day that Gowanus Lounge once filled, and this blog is in some way a sort of amateurish tribute. I can't believe how much I miss GL, & the only way to fill the space is to try & be a little more active myself. I don't have any particular slant, but do care about city life, various food matters, books, music, film, etc. I will post photographs, including the occasional abandoned couch. RIP Robert Guskind.