Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Fashion Scene in 1663

Velvet is in again right now & in 1663 it is also a hot item. Samuel Pepys (that dedicated follower of fashion) wears his velvet lined cloak to church on this day, 1663, along with a new hat, a spiffy suit & black "silk knit canons" (?). He's pretty peeved to see Lady Batten dressed in a velvet gown, & wishes Mrs Pepys had beaten her to it. Stinginess, however, stifles his desire to outfit his wife in that luxurious fabric too, even though he has the nerve to discuss Lady B's frock with her when he gets home. Later, he criticizes her cooking (the boeuf a la mode not up to scratch) & reflects on his excellent economic situation & the "good many" fine clothes in his possession. Cheap bastard...

Obama's Record So Far

To counter those Obama naysayers, Jacob Weisburg, at Slate, argues that Barack Obama has had the most accomplished first year in office of any president since FDR.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Safran Foer

It seems to be the week to give Park Slope writers a good dressing down. The Dish links to a piece by Betsy Phillips, on book marketing. She starts with her reaction to Jonathan Safran Foer's promotional video for his newest book, Eating Animals:

A novelist establishes that he lives in Park Slope, in Brooklyn, and that he is a douche who French-kisses his dog. He has a grandma and thus decided to write a book about meat, which is not really about meat; it's about family. The video literally starts out, "Oh, hello," like we've all for some reason decided to go to Jonathan Safran Foer's house and startle him in his study. It is a trailer that will make you want to immediately go to the bookstore and punch his book, on principle.

It is pretty annoying...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Auster Considered

At the New Yorker, James Wood is spot on in his review of Paul Auster's work. Savage stuff (too savage perhaps?), but true, true, true ...

Regular Updates

The brouhaha at Cafe Regular & its northern relative is still a lively topic online. Only the Blog ... & Grub Street have both been reporting on the reasons for Martin & Richard's departure & the planned "updates" for the original cafe. Frankly, I can't see why uniforms (?) & computers would improve business at this small haven. Just what new customers are these changes aimed at? I think they're more likely to drive people away, & I certainly plan to avoid the place. Du Nord looked beautiful when it opened & seemed like a promising spot(side street cafes have a pleasant air of seclusion lacking on the avenue), but the last couple of times I was there (& I'm not there that often) the staff seemed pretty fed up & the atmosphere wasn't the best.
Enough whining from me about this, I think. Perhaps the loyal supporters of C.R.can develop some radical plans of their own. Any suggestions?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Martha on Sarah

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Martha. I like her barely concealed condescension for her audience & that air of snotty snippy camp far more than Oprah's faux oneness with her viewers. And the poncho knitting in jail was quite appealing. Anyway, here's Martha on Sarah P. (found via The Dish):

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Fine Shade of Red

Not the Same at Regular Any More

I was running late for work on Friday, so was around when Martin, at Cafe Regular, was opening up shop. He said that it would be his last day - something about a disagreement with his sister. What a loss for the neighborhood. Even though the cafe will remain open, it will be a diminished place without his dry, ironic presence. I remember going in there six years ago, when the place first opened, on a bitterly cold day nothing like today's, & feeling so glad that such a civilised refuge (good coffee, warm cocoon of a space, eclectic periodicals, Martin's gloomy wit)was just around the corner from my house. I liked all the photographs decorating the place, including a younger, seated, smirking M., & a pig trotting up a ramp into an airplane. He gathered a devoted crowd of customers around him & will be missed horribly. And what's he planning next? Some plans to travel, it seems - he claims to be off to Sweden to live on welfare. Yes, well ... Let's hope he's back with a business venture soon.
Footnote: What about Cafe Regular du Nord, run by his brother? Is this separate from the deal on Eleventh?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hitch on Continetti/Palin

Hitch on Matthew Continetti's new book The Persecution of Sarah Palin & the "Palin problem". Via The Dish, where Andrew Sullivan has been closely following her appearance on today's Oprah. I must say that Oprah's decision to have her on the show, though not surprising, really reduces my already very limited respect for La Winfrey.

Flatbush Ave.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sixth Street

I like this doorway on Sixth St., just off Fifth. It has plenty of attitude - it's damned if it's going to let you see what's going on inside - & likes acting tough. There's a vague, Francis Bacon-esque brutishness. I see a lot of people nipping in & out of here & am tantalised.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ground Grippers

I had to make a quick stop at the Mid Manhattan Library late this afternoon. Heading downtown afterwards, with the weather wet and gusty, I was happy to come across this shoestore(39th between 5th & Madison). If it hadn't been so windy, and if I hadn't been made slightly self conscious by the palm reader sitting just out of the picture, I would have tried to take better photographs. Side streets offer up treasures.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yes, I know this is an old video (been around for almost a year) but it still makes me laugh, & I declare it a classic. It's a good lighthearted antidote to that middle of the week malaise, & is quite an interesting contrast to the Bushwick video. It seems to be a bit erratic on youtube, so I hope this will keep working.

Devil's Rebels

Gothamist finds a period piece, a 1976 NBC story on The Devil's Rebels gang in Bushwick, with a young Brian Ross reporting.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Here are the Holbein paintings of the main protagonists in Wolf Hall (two of which you can see at The Frick). Hans himself pops in and out of the novel. I finished the book yesterday, & feel a bit bereft. Apparently there's going to be a sequel, but I fear it might be a disappointment.

Intelligence Squared Debate

Finally up on youtube! Here's Part 3, with Widdecombe & Stephen Fry. Hurrah for Stephen Fry. Hitchens is always a guilty pleasure, but Fry is beyond reproach.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wolf Hall

This is a marvel. Mantel has a fine, clear, prose style, rich in sensuous detail. You read slowly (a relief from your tendency to race through novels), because you want to make every word last, & because you want to linger for as long as possible in the Tudor England she conjurs into being. The novel is pitch perfect. It's the kind of novel I will re-read almost immediately. At the heart of it, I think, are memory pictures, & the novel itself is a collection of sharp, resonant images. along with peripheral, half glimpsed ones that haunt the spaces at the edge of your vision. Yes, yes, I enjoyed Byatt's novel,& her ninteenth century novelistic tradition, but there is a sort of narrative clunkiness with her work that you have to overlook, or develop an affection for. No allowances necessary with Mantel - she's in a different league altogether. How a couple of weeks changes things.

Madison Ave.