Sunday, August 30, 2009

Neil Young does Greensleeves

In this mood of late summer wistfulness, looking at homes lost, why not play a small early gem by Neil Young - his version of Greensleeves? I love this, and wonder if it was the "heart of gold" inspiration.


As it's my birthday, I have to slip in a picture of the house where I was born. It's a pretty recent picture & as such, doesn't really represent the house of my childhood. Three other owners have had it since I was there, so there have been plenty of changes. For a start, the name, Grove House, & that sign on the wall. In this picture, the garden is very bare, but in our time, the place was full of flowers, with fuschias flanking the front door, & a witch elm in front of the house. Though you can't see the back of the house, there were old stable buildings around a flagstone yard, pretty run down in our time, but fun to play in, and a big old barn. All converted to functional looking flat and office space. We had an orchard & a big vegetable garden, but now it's a smooth empty space with a swimming pool. Recently sold, more additions to the house are planned. I have an unabashed love for this place, & to me the alterations are completely out of keeping with the its spirit, leaving it bare and out of context. But it's still amazing to me, & I'm so far removed from it now that I'm tempted to think it's just a figment of my imagination.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A History of Food

"The true gourmet is he who is not disgusted by an undercooked hare."
This is my late summer reading choice. Originally published in the US in 1990, the second edition came out this year. This is quite a hefty book, densely packed with information. It's in translation, so that may account for the slightly choppy, at times disconnected prose style, though I think that may just be a consequence of Toussaint-Samat having so much to say. So far I've got through Collecting Honey & The History of Gathering, and I've just started Hunting. This is probably a book to tackle quite slowly, as there's a lot to (sorry) digest, but it's very entertaining, & great if you like to irritate people by regaling them with obscure food facts. It's a really impressive feat of scholarship, though I have minor quibbles. Is basement mushroom growing in the US really in fashion, as she states? Perhaps it was in the 1980's, when the first edition hit the press in France. I have a sense that even this updated version may be a little outdated on historical developments of the last twenty to thirty years, given the rapidly shifting trends in eating habits and food production in recent years, but this may well be a premature judgement - I've only read about seventy pages. It's still incredibly comprehensive -required reading if you want to get a solid grounding in food history & an important addition to a cooking/food book collection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obama Mural, Bushwick

Eddie Izzard & Noah's Ark

Here's a bit of fluffy fun - an Eddie Izzard monologue about the story of Noah's Ark - illustrated by one 43alley, who must spend a lot of time doing this sort of thing, because there are tons of his videos on youtube. This particular one posted on one good move.

Friday, August 21, 2009


This summer the sounds of construction drill themselves into my head OVER & OVER & OVER. Front & back of my place, mediocre buildings rise above their frame & rowhouse neighbors, & over the treeline of the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cold Souls

This is a clever, thoughtful movie. It's easy to enjoy the premise of soul storage (and soul trafficking), and the film becomes a meditation on personal and national identity. I love the watery parallels of Brighton Beach and St. Petersburg, and the very real, lined & expressive faces of the central characters. Emily Watson, in particular, has an alert, honest beauty utterly lacking in the average, cosmetically treated Hollywood star. The cinematographer, Andrij Parekh, who also worked on Half Nelson, does a beautiful job here, and though this film is a comedy (albeit a dark one) it shares with Half Nelson a lyrical & hypnotic sense of despair. Seeing it on a hot New York summer day made me want to be far away, walking on a wintry city street, the light turning the snow an odd dreamy blue. Somewhere far north.

"Nice Small Sleeping Pajamas"

I like the helpful description of contents on this very small white paper bag, seen hanging on a fence. The pajamas must be very small indeed.

Barney Frank at a healthcare town meeting.

Well at least Barney has the right stuff when dealing with yet another extremist/ plant/ nut job at a townhall meeting in Dartmouth, MA. Thanks to The Dish.

Death Panels?

Conor Clarke at the Daily Dish looks at the findings of a recent NBC poll on healthcare & finds that 45% of those polled believe Obama will create death panels. Sad & scary stuff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


This Greenwood doorway has a secretive allure.

Brooklyn Garden.

This is some garden growing in Ditmas Park. I don't think I have enough sun (or nearly enough skill) to pull this off, but it's a really impressive demonstration of what's possible in a typical size backyard. I'd actually like to figure out how many hours of sun my backyard gets, but never seem to be around for a whole day to work this out ...This was posted on Serious Eats NY.

NYC's Cool New Backyard Farms: Growing More Than Just Produce from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fanny Cradock

With the unexciting Julie/Julia film still hanging around in a corner of my brain, I suddenly remembered Fanny Cradock, a British television cook popular in the 50's and 60's, and still hanging on until the mid 70's. Fanny Craddock was really the antithesis of Elizabeth David. Dressed to the nines for her cooking performances (think evening dress & tiara) & wearing vast amounts of make-up (a cross between Elizabeth I & a drag queen), Cradock was a brash, publicity mad, vaudevillean creature. Both ED & Cradock could be elitist and severe, but ED tended to be understated and sparely stylish in her approach to food, whereas Cradock had a showy, snobbish, social climber's meanness. Her food mirrored her own sartorial style - mind trippingly gaudy "French" food helped along with lots of cream and food colouring. Fanny was the star of every performance, but she worked with a retinue of helpers, notably her partner Johnny, a monocled fallguy, and also a succession of mute & rather timid looking kitchen helpers to whom she was appallingly rude. British audiences lapped her up, and though her food really looks HORRIBLE today (I was too young to have any thoughts about it at the time) she probably did contribute to changing tastes & habits in those grim post-war years. My mother found her very entertaining, though I can't remember any Fanny style French recipes in our resolutely English kitchen. Except perhaps a boeuf bourguignon-ish dish (very good)that sometimes appeared on special occasions. Did Fanny have some influence here? We also had a Fanny Cradock's Christmas book in the house, but none of the recipes ever made it onto our kitchen table. Really she was an early TV celebrity, a bit of a Dame Edna prototype. She's even become quite trendy in recent times, with Gordon Ramsay & Amy Winehouse paying tribute. Youtube has a treasure trove of Fanny videos, where you can catch a glimpse of her schtick, & her dyed blue hard boiled eggs decorated with anchovy and piped mayonnaise. Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas - Christmas Bird Part 1 is especially weird. But the most excruciatingly embarassing viewing experience, Fanny-wise, may be the one that finished off her BBC cooking career. Here she is, at around 70 or so, her nastiness so pronounced as she lambasts a sweet amateur cook, that it brought about an onslaught of protest letters from outraged British housewives. That was the end of the show.

101 Beard Street

Curbed has a Destructoporn report today on the demolition of 101 Beard Street, now well underway. The photograph is heartbreaking. Here's a picture from back in January, when the grand old building still had a certain stark majesty.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The NYC Mayoral Conundrum

The prospect of voting for our next mayor does not fill me with excitement. Generally, I enjoy voting, but I can't for the life of me figure out who to go for this time around. I can't vote for Bloomberg, what with his changing of term limits, lousy urban development record, obscene campaign spending, and use of our frustrations with public transportation as a campaign tool (the F train will probably go express anyway in several years - though nothing can happen until the Culver Viaduct is fixed - whether Bloomberg is mayor or not). Sadly, I can't whip up much enthusiasm for William Thompson, though I feel I should vote for him just to try to unseat Bloomberg (who will probably make it back in, no?). Dutiful luke warm voting is a depressing prospect. Other choices? The Naked Cowboy is out (I do have some standards), and I have to use my vote some way or other, so I may just protest the main two candidates & go Green this year, with a "yes" for the Reverend Billy (of The Church of No Shopping). Actually, I'm not sure if he'll get on the ballot (he only has a few more days to collect enough signatures)but if he does he may well be my man.

Friday, August 14, 2009


If you support the EPA proposal to declare the Gowanus a Superfund site, now is the time to contact our governor, who initially requested such a move but now suggests the EPA "carefully review" Mayor Bloomberg's alternate clean-up plan. The EPA will decide whether to go ahead with the Superfund clean-up this fall, so time is of the essence in making your voice heard. This decision will critically affect the restoration of the Gowanus waterway and the pace and degree to which private investment changes the neighbourhood..

Please call now and ask that the Governor support the DEC commission's request for an EPA Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus!

David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224


For further information on local support for the Superfund clean-up, go to the Superfund Gowanus site.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Remote Area Medical Clinic in LA

This week the Remote Area Medical Clinic has set up camp in LA, offering free treatment to thousands of southern California residents unable to afford healthcare. RAM was originally created to serve the needs of the poor in developing nations, but now 65% of its work takes place in the wealthiest country in the world.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Secret Water

If, as I did, you grew up familiar with the Arthur Ransome chidren's stories, written in the 1930's and 40's - satisfyingly detailed narratives in which groups of children enjoyed independent nautical & camping adventures - you might be interested in an upcoming biography of Ransome, due out this month. Ransome is yet another of those nineteenth and early twentieth century writers whose writing for children was only one aspect of a complicated & unconventional life, a life which gave that writing its own vivid & unique signature. The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome, by Roland Chambers, explores the complexity of Ransome's life as writer, traveller, journalist, Bolshevik sympathizer & double agent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The smoked ham turned out well, but the summer pudding stole the show - not too sweet, bursting with fruit, it emerged from its bowl intact. Definitely worth the suspense.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blue Diamond Morning

Mr. Putin's Holiday

Vladimir Putin's been spending some leisure time in Siberia recently - here's some very enjoyable footage of his stay. I particularly like the clips of a bare chested Putin on horseback, & a rather tense looking meal. If, like me, you're inspired by this short video to go to Youtube & see what other Putin material is there, you'll be gratified to discover heaps of Putin videos: Putin singing, Putin giving judo demonstrations, Putin refusing candy, and, one of my favorites, Putin saving a TV crew from a Siberian tiger in 2008.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blurry Animals of the Day

These are very poorly shot photos, but I like the subject matter so much that damn it, out they go. The bull is behind the tapas counter at Despana, a beautiful Spanish grocery store on Broome (between Lafayette & Cleveland) & he's pretty magnificent. The pig is trapped behind bars on 9th Street, near the canal, in the window of a store that seems to have closed down. He looks fairly sanguine though, considering his tenuous (& frankly rather shabby) housing situation, and his long empty days spent gazing at an endless succession of F trains passing overhead. I'd adopt him in a heartbeat.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Antony and the Johnsons

The Mental Health Break at The Daily Dish today is an Anthony performance of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love". I like it a lot.

Prayer Station at Commonwealth

This group seems to be an annual summer visitor to the South Slope, setting up posts at Sleepy's both last year and this, and today spotted in a group huddle outside Commonwealth. Is there something especially iniquitous about this stretch of Fifth? A bar is a good spot for chastisement, but there are plenty of those around. I'm guessing the bar/OTB combination makes this corner a particular nexus of sinfulness. They don't ever set up next to the punters though - I imagine they're kept away by management - which is why they're often incongruously camped out next to the mattresses. Unless those innersprings and latex foams are themselves an incitement to lustfulness and general debauchery?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Musical Interlude

This is a good distraction from the rain. This is an astonishing video, but I don't know anything about it. It looks as if it was shot in the 70's (?) and there are several related videos on Youtube, with the same group of performers. These are really the most soulful child performances I've ever seen. I love flamenco, but wish I had a guide to give me a basic acquaintance with key artists I should know about.

Lincolnshire Rain

"My Lady Dedlock has been down at what she
calls, in familiar conversation, her "place" in Lincolnshire.
The waters are out in Lincolnshire. An arch of the bridge in
the park has been sapped and sopped away. The adjacent
low-lying ground for half a mile in breadth is a stagnant
river with melancholy trees for islands in it and a surface
punctured all over, all day long, with falling rain.
My Lady Dedlock's place has been extremely dreary. The weather
for many a day and night has been so wet that the trees seem
wet through, and the soft loppings and prunings of the woodman's
axe can make no crash or crackle as they fall. The deer,
looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass.
The shot of a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air, and
its smoke moves in a tardy little cloud towards the green rise,
coppice-topped, that makes a background for the falling rain.
The view from my Lady Dedlock's own windows is alternately a
lead-coloured view and a view in Indian ink. The vases on the
stone terrace in the foreground catch the rain all day; and the
heavy drops fall--drip, drip, drip--upon the broad flagged
pavement, called from old time the Ghost's Walk, all night.
On Sundays the little church in the park is mouldy; the oaken
pulpit breaks out into a cold sweat; and there is a general smell
and taste as of the ancient Dedlocks in their graves."

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

From Pier 44