Thursday, October 29, 2009

Collision Update

I just found out that the film's appearance at Village East yesterday was a one night only event. I hope that it will reappear in some cinema or other in the near future. Otherwise, there's always the DVD to track down.

Rite Aid

Quite a fancy setting for this particular Rite Aid,on Broadway in Astoria.


My trusty source for food in Astoria gave me delicious samples of feta & lamb sausage today & directed me to Euro Market on 31st Street. Having loved the samples, & being pressed for time & overwhelmed by the vast array of sausages & smoked meats, I bought more of the same. The Hungarian Double Cream Feta is a rich, subtle cheese, quite unlike any feta I've had before, & the Lamb Sudzuk (not pictured here) is dry & spicy. New favorites. I'll have to go back & try some more of the mysterious charcuterie. The store is an intriguing place. It has a huge assortment of groceries including foreign (Euro) jams, honey, pickles, soups, condiments, beer, etc. & a beautiful display of olives. Comfort food from Mostar to Manchester.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Onward with Reading

With The Children's Book completed (& still nothing said about it here) it was time to return to A History of Food. I'm proud to say that I've almost finished Part V: Luxury Food, and at page 387, in the middle of a section about foie gras, I am over HALFWAY through the book. It's painfully slow going though, & to delay things even more, I nipped out & got Mandel's Wolf Hall. Relief!
The Children's Book seems to have got scant attention here, though I'm annoyed to have missed the author appearing at The Strand tonight (damn). Couldn't make it. She's very discursive, very nineteenth century in scope, & at first you find the movement of the novel ponderous & even irritating in its didactic tone. Soon though, you get sucked into the lives of the central characters, & learn to love Byatt's steady paced account of their era. It's a really interesting examination of the cult of childhood in late Victorian & Edwardian England, particularly as reflected in the kinds of children's literature being written then. The ending of the novel is devastating - the whole pace & tone of the book shifts when she reaches the Great War. Just as the lives of the characters are upturned, lost & disfigured by war, so you, as reader, are disoriented & breathtaken by the sudden narrative change, and the rapid disintegration of the world she has shown us with such painstaking attention. It's one mighty emotional punch.

Going Out to See a Film

This is a nice Guardian piece, about going to the pictures (to see An Education), for the first time in almost 40 years. I'm too young for newsreels at the cinema (!) but I do remember films divided into two sections (or am I imagining this???) & I did like the small tubs of vanilla ice cream on sale from a vendor in the theater itself (no popcorn, soda or food counters) & the flat wooden paddle like eating utensils. A real treat.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hitchens & Fry vs. Widdecombe & Onaiyekan

A review of my old favorites,the often inebriated Hitch, & Stephen Fry, doing their thing in a recent debate on the Catholic Church, at Methodist Central Hall in London. Even though I know that many have heard more than enough from CH on this matter, I can never resist the opportunity to hear one of his cutting performances (I saw him thriving in the presence of a jeering audience at Ethical Culture a few years ago), & with the kinder but equally urbane Fry there too, the very thought of this splendid tag team in action again is delicious to contemplate. I hope that there'll be a video of this posted soon. For those of you that want more Hitch, this site puts together a bunch of clips, & if you feel like a trip to the cinema this week there's a newly released documentary, Collision, documenting his US debate tour with Doug Wilson. I, for one, will be at Village East ASAP. The film opens tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Phyllo pastry parcels, containing roast peppers, portabello mushrooms & feta. Brushed with beaten egg & baked until golden. Vegetable soup (parsnip/carrot/onion/sweet potato/chicken stock/parsley/) & green salad.


I'm very fond of second hand/thrift/charity shop/resale/"vintage" clothing stores, & will go out of my way to find interesting food establishments, but there are other kinds of retail places I'm happy to spend time in too. I like stationary stores. Not the boutique kinds with $10 birthday cards & craft supplies, or the Staples model, with endless aisles of garish unattractive nastiness. I like overcrowded office stationers, with stacks of lined office pads in unusual sizes, small but indispensable notebooks in sober colors, serviceable pencil sharpeners (usually German)& perhaps some interesting plain artists' sketchpads. I like boxes of dusty goods that look as though they might have been sitting around since the 1950's. Above all, I like my stationary to have a slightly dreary seriousness of purpose. This makes my purchases seem important. I'm also very fond of neighborhood hardware stores, with their peculiarly distinct odor of fertilizer, paint & cardboard. The best ones always have a selection of sensible kitchen equipment (Corning ware, cast iron pans, coffee pots & salt shakers) & a large collection of seed packets. Bliss. The fact that I'm completely un-handy matters not at all. I like the goods themselves (though most of them are mysterious to me), & the whole business of people buying modest but important products. Leopoldi's is an excellent hardware store in every respect, run by exceptionally kind & friendly people. I always leave there in a good mood.

Hoyt Street

I like the swirly, upbeat quality of the "travel" here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Drumming Song

Haven't listened to Florence & The Machine before, but the sound is pretty interesting. I like this one - with its ecclesiastical tones - best right now. Some of the videos have a serious retro trippy thing going on.

Sunday Morning

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vanishing Daylight

It's only October, but still dark when I leave for work in the morning & there are only a couple of hours after work before darkness draws in again. It's very confining to be locked into such a routine, when really I'm desperate to be aimlessly loafing around on the streets, taking photographs & so forth. I may have to devise a plan. Perhaps, rather than heading home, I need to take the train to different neighborhoods at least once a week, to take in an wintery hour of fading light outside my own neighborhood. There's definitely a need for a visual jolt to the M-F grind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sendak tells parents to "go to hell."

Maurice Sendak has not lost his curmudgeonly disdain for those who prissify children's culture. Good man.
For those that haven't seen the Wild Things film yet, here's the preview. I liked it a lot, but agree with those critics who feel it is too long. An hour would have been a perfect length & would have made the emotional traumas on the island less drawn out. It's probably best for those 8 & up, NOT because it's too scary (I'm all for dark tales for little ones!), but because of its length, & emotional complexity. An eight or nine year old could find it very satisfying fare indeed.
As I watched the film, I did get a bit distracted by Tony Soprano/Wild Thing parallels (James Gandolfini plays the central Thing) - I'm sure there had to be an element of calculated effect in the casting here. And of course the film made me think of the kids I work with at a residential school, of their rages, their destruction, & their desperate sense of abandonment. Wild things, every one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Night Music

It's the beginning of the week, and time for a flamenco break. What a tense scene here. I was hoping that intimidating woman to the right of the singer would break into song, but alas, it was not to be. Flamenco, flamenco, perhaps the best music of all. And for someone who has (sadly) little appreciation for dance, flamenco is magnificent. But that will have to wait for another time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Education

For A.O. Scott, this film deals too lightly with the serious implications of its subject matter - a schoolgirl (& her parents) seduced by a married wheeler & dealer in 60's London. But perhaps he's disregarding the film's message that this is no ordinary teenager, & however reprehensible the deeds in the film are (& they are, deeds that could scar a typical teenager for life), she has a strength of spirit to overcome their damage, & grow from her experiences. Yes, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is lured in by the suave & duplicitous David (Peter Sarsgaard), but she's a very high spirited, bold sixteen year old, who sees in David a glimpse of liberation. Her immaturity makes her easy prey, but she has a knowingness & joie de vivre that makes her weigh the odds (predictability, safety, suburban mores, the prospect of a future as apparently drab as that of her schoolteachers, vs sensuality, speed of movement, bright light,joyfulness, abandon) & take a calculated risk. She finds she's intellectually sharper than her new companions, and has serious qualms about their shady business deals, but is intoxicated by their elan, & the glamour of the world in which they operate. She wants a piece of it. Ultimately, she is badly burned by the discovery that her fiance is a married man, and that she is just the latest in a string of young conquests, but she's a born survivor, stronger & more ambitious than her peers, & remarkably, able to take her experience, with its exploitations & its pleasures, and profit from it.
Carey Mulligan is terrific as Jenny, a vivid screen presence, with a face brimming with energy. Sarsgaard does a great job too. He manages the accent, & has a soft, silky voice, but really, it's all in those small, intensely expressive eyes. I could watch him in any role. Great supporting cast, especially Rosamond Pike as the dimwitted blonde, Helen, & Olivia Williams (Miss Stubs), looking very different from her other teaching role in Rushmore. Also an excellent soundtrack. Stay for the credits, to hear No Smoke Without Fire, by Duffy. Not very keen on this youtube video of the song, but the sound has a good, period appropriate vibe.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today's NY Times has an article on Mitch Epstein's upcoming book, American Power. Here's a photograph taken in Raymond, West Virginia.

Late afternoon, Red Hook

Bloomberg in the Square

The Bloomberg circus was at Union Square today. Our mayor, surrounded by a knot of placard waving, pin wearing, suit clad minions, did a meet & greet, against a background of apples & pumpkins. He was going for the pumpkin look himself, it seems. There was a little quiet muttering in the crowd, but no overt criticism, only one lone shout of support for the Reverend Billy. How passively we watch our democratic principles evaporate.

Meanwhile, our Brooklyn Borough Huckster, Mr Markowitz, has officially declared his endorsement for Bloomberg. Well there's a surprise.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Guy Ritchie, Man of the People?

Marina Hyde reads an Esquire interview with Guy Ritchie , is less than impressed, & questions his working class street cred.
Try this:
"The great thing about Gypsies is they keep you smart," Guy pronounces, before disproving his thesis in jaw-dropping style. "They will steal, you can bet on it. But they know things. They teach you lessons. About steam engines, about coursing dogs, folk music. They give great currency to language . . . "
and this
"What you've got with marmalade is fucking bitter and sweet," Guy explains. "Now, the marmalade at [the place they had breakfast], that's an accessible marmalade. And my sensibility is accessible. My nature is, I like accessible shit."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bagel Victory

Good taste has triumphed. The Bagel Hole, my local bagel store for twenty plus years, has been declared the winner in the Serious Eats taste test. Check out the analysis here.

Booker Prize Winner

This year's Booker Prize winner is Hilary Mantel, with Wolf Hall, a fictionalised life of Thomas Cromwell. This sounds tempting. A.S.Byatt, with The Children's Book, was a runner up. As I write, the Byatt novel is winging its way to me via UPS & Lord knows, I'm ready to take a break from The History Of Food. I'm not really a consistent Byatt fan (I liked her early, autobiographical novels, but was never very excited by Possession) but somehow the Nesbit subject matter in the hands of a good writer is an irresistable prospect...

Bad Music Video

One enters dangerous territory exploring the Land of Bad Videos, but this one (via The Dish) is truly horrid & might be an amusing distraction (or a vile nightmare) in the middle of the workweek.

Also at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan continues to follow Bree Palin, a blog dedicating to the Sarah Palin baby mystery. Readers of The Dish may remember that AS was questioning her pregnancy throughout the campaign. I have to admit I thought it seemed a bit fishy too, but stopped thinking about it much last November. Bree Palin certainly isn't letting go.