Friday, December 29, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I took a photography class one summer while I was in college and one of the many wise things my professor said was that if you're lucky, you'll get one good photo in a roll. This was one reason why he said it was important to take a picture every day - I think the idea was producing many, many bad pictures is the only way to get a really respectable quantity of decent ones.

If I had to pick one picture from this evening, and toss the rest, it would without a doubt be this one:

I don't really understand teenage boys, blood relatives or not, but this photo is delightful. A seething blur of incomprehensible violence - and Sean's crystal clear expression of utter horror.
I hear ya, man. I really do.

For the rest of the photos, check out my flickr account.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My job was to bring dessert

Christmas Eve dinner with the family up in LA. We were charged with bringing dessert, so I made two things.

1. Chocolate Cherry Heering Truffles. I figure everybody would want a little truffle with coffee after dinner, and I've never tried to make them before. It was easy, but very hands-on:

2. A lemon mascarpone tart with an almond lavender crust. The lemons are from my grandparents tree, and the lavender is from my parents garden. Doughs and crusts are a challenge for me, but I think this one turned out ok.

I'm about to put on my party dress and hit the road. I hope everybody is having a wonderful holiday!

Friday, December 22, 2006

So excited

It's official: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

What could it mean? Other than that the book is really going to come out next year?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

am I in the target demographic, or not?

You know that Dunkin Donuts commercial with the hipster song about how hard it is to place an order at fancy coffee shops? The customers in the commerical look at the menu and the song goes "is it French, or is it Italian? Perhaps Fritalian."

Every time I watch that commercial I laugh, because right after "perhaps Fritalian" the ad switches to advertising seasonal latte flavors, and cappucinos. I laugh because - ha ha - those are Italian words.

nb: I decided to write this down while I was ordering a latte at Dunkin Donuts.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

silver screen

Some movie reviews.

off the black

I went to see this because a friend of Prue's directed it - it was the opening weekend and the director was hoping to up his sales figures however he could. Also, it really is exciting and inspiring to see people my age (not that I'm very young anymore - I turn 26 in two weeks) and people who I'm only a couple of degrees of separation away from accomplish something so huge.

The movie is good - not just good for a first movie, or good for his age, or whatever, legitimately good. Good scene setting and atmosphere, good dialogue, well acted. The story is as old as the hills - an unlikely friendship develops between a boy on the cusp of manhood and a man with one foot in the grave. Life lessons are doled out generously. It's the sort of story that bears retelling, if it's done well, and it is here.

I will say, however - it's definitely a guy movie. Not just the whole sacred masculine friendship thing. There's a lot of baseball. Playing baseball, dreaming about baseball, reminiscing about baseball. And if you're going to go see the movie, you've got to be prepared for a soundtrack of Nick Nolte's inarticulate grunts and groans. He grunts when he sits, he grunts when he stands, he grunts when he ruminates, he grunts in order to express primitive, sub-verbal thoughts and feelings. Phlegmy, rumbling, straight-from-the-gut grunting. As Nick Nolte would say: ugh.


I went alone, because I know by now that nobody else is interested...and for once, the naysayers were right. It was deeply, almost miraculously, atrocious. In order to be bad this movie had to squander:

(a) a story about boy hero and his dragon - if you are the target demographic for this plot, you will be inclined to like it no matter how mediocre the execution. I know I certainly was.

(b) Jeremy Irons! He has a huge role and he is, as always, reliably magnificent. It was tragic, really, to see him on screen, so gorgeous, so capable, giving all his horrible lines such grace and dignity. His perfection only highlighted the awfulness around him - he really made the dopey blond lunk playing Eragon look pathetic.

(c) John Malkovich! Who usually makes a fantastic over-the-top villain, and should have been able to phone this one in with flying colors...and yet he's awful! Wooden and awkward and buried under his massive costume and silly throne. What happened, John Malkovich?

(d) Rachel Weisz! Who does the voice of the dragon. She sounds as though she's speaking through a tin can and delivers all of her lines with truly painful sincerity and gusto.

The movie was unsalvageable, even by a trio of fantastic actors whose agents must be really upset about their clients not getting roles in the Harry Potter series. There's a boy, and all this cool stuff just drops right into his lap. A dragon! A dashing mentor! A daring escape! A girlfriend! A big red sword! Magic powers! A fabulous suit of armor! An epic battle! And then respected elders congratulate him as though he'd worked hard to obtain these things. Eragon is more like a sword-and-sorcery wet dream than an epic journey or heroic quest.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rice to Riches

A couple of days ago I went to a rice pudding shop, Rice to Riches. All they sell is rice pudding. And coffee. I really like rice pudding, and I like the idea of a store that sells only rice pudding because it is kind of absurd. It turns out I also like their brand identity, because the store is papered all over with slogans like

"We sell rice pudding, if you don't want that, you can have rice pudding, and if you don't want that, you can have rice pudding."


"I'll diet when the earth runs out of food"


"eating three sensible, balanced meals a day will only spoil your appetite for rice pudding"


"all calories consumed here are yours to keep"


"eat all you want... you're already fat"

For some reason, I found it very cheering to read these little slogans while eating rum and raisin rice pudding off of a translucent yellow paddle (offered in lieu of a spoon). Also, the rice pudding was good.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


This book was the perfect antidote to Michael Chabon, who has been plaguing me for the past week. Snappy narrative non-fiction about - as the subtitle reads - "the curious lives of human cadavers." The author, Mary Roach, seemed to make it her goal to write a book about the most macabre and disgusting subject possible in a way that is matter-of-fact or, preferably, funny. The book is light, quick-reading, self-consciously quirky.

Roach's tone suits the subject matter. It's very stern and serious - this is science, after all - and yet some of the scenes she describes border on the absurd. The few pages that open the book, about forty plastic surgeons practicing face-lifts on forty decapitated human heads, is a good example.

I actually would recommend that almost anyone read this book, because it's legitimately helpful if you're wondering how you want to dispose of your own remains. One section is a day-by-day walkthrough of the decomposition process (there is an institute in Texas dedicated to the study of human decomposition, and the author got to see and then describe in some detail various corpses at various stages of their return to the earth), there's an eye-witness account of cremation, desscriptions of various uses of human bodies and parts in medical schools or research institutes, and organ donation. There's even a section about converting your body to compost.

It definitely gave me a much less favorable view of both burial and cremation.

And did you know that the blood of the dead can't be taken for use in transfusions, even though if the body is fresh the blood is perfectly good? This seems like such a waste to me.

Friday, December 8, 2006

One sentence (or less) reviews

David Sedaris, Barrel Fever: Petty

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: Nicholas Sparks in fancy clothes

Ernest Hemingway, The Moveable Feast: Brilliant, but not self-aware and a lot of obvious anger towards women.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

my great-grandfather's WWI draft card

Carnegie Hall

Yesterday I went to Carnegie Hall for the first time. I also went to see Denise's boyfriend Alistair perform for the first time. You can see his name on the poster to the right if you squint.

The concert was in Zenkler hall, the newer, underground theater. Apparently it has the best acoustics; you can also hear the subways rumbling by. During the first piece, at least, this was kind of atmospheric because the music was generally unnerving and terrifying. I liked the other two pieces - the ones involving Alistair - better.

The interesting thing about seeing concerts for me is that I go in feeling the way I imagine the average museum-goer feels in a museum - interested, curious, open, but also kind of frustrated and mystified. I know that there's so much more to understand that I don't. But I enjoyed the music and I enjoyed watching the performers.

This one is (almost) a close up of Alistair, in the blue collared shirt, second from the right:

I liked that Alistair had a very focused, controlled, kind of still way of playing. Some of the other cellists were squirming and flopping like a baby on a changing table.

I got to meet some of Denise's friends - not surprisingly, they are lovely and vivacious and smart - and afterwards, I tagged along to the afterparty with the other cellists. First of all, this involved a very brief and frankly kind of uneventful but nonetheless thrilling jaunt backstage. Backstage! At Carnegie Hall! All I really saw was a tray of cookies that didn't look very edible, and the cellists that still looked pretty much exactly the way they did onstage. We went to a restaurant around the corner, and I had yet another insufficiently peaty scotch (why is it so hard to find scotch that tastes like dirt? doesn't everybody want their scotch to taste like dirt?) and everybody else mostly drank beer. The other musicians were also pretty interesting people, full of good stories.

I was especially excited about the concert because yesterday was Ariana's book-launch party (unfortunately, yet typically, I missed the reading because I went to the wrong location, realized my mistake, recouped, and then went to the right location and got there too late). So that makes two days in a row when I see friends of mine in the midst of major accomplishments, and it really makes me feel excited and happy and proud and lucky to know them.

Monday, December 4, 2006

laundry list

Things I did today:

- receieved word from the Brooklyn chapter of the DAR that they'd received my application and a request to fill out a worksheet describing my lineage. I paid $10 to get a copy of my grandmother's DAR application sent from the national archives in Washington D.C., so I know they have this information, but at least it didn't take very long to copy it out into the new worksheet and fax it in. I even got confirmation that the fax had been received. The New York DAR people are way more helpful than the Boston DAR people were. Boston never fails to disappoint.

- Mailed the antique lamps that I bought at an antique show in San Francisco for $5 (if that), and which my father mailed to me in Boston last year, and which I moved with me to New York, back to Boston so that my management company can hire an electrician to install them in the kitchen of my Boston apartment. My tenants have complained several times that the current kitchen fixture is plastic, and has a crack in it. Luckily, I wanted to change the lights anyhow.

- Ordered new contact lenses, obtained glasses prescription so that I can order new glasses in the city tomorrow.

- Called The Economist to make sure they have my new address.

- Finished a book of job search advice, which I think was pretty useful.

- assorted everyday tasks like dishwashing and emailing and food preparation. I've also been working on my book of book reviews and scrapbooking and planning another hand-binding project.

It amazes me that I can be so busy, even though I'm unemployed. Nevertheless, I would still rather be employed.

This is Claire, Melinda's sister, at Japonais yesterday. Hopefully she's moving to New York soon. I had a big pile of asparagus for dinner, and then an apple crumble cooked in a clay pot. It sizzled.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

back from the dead

I got back from California a few days ago. I was glad to see my family, I always am, but it was a stressful weekend. Mostly because my grandmother has been very ill; I was in the hospital visiting with her for most of Sunday.

On the other hand, I did go to Disneyland with my cousin Galen and his fiancee Lindsay. It's the most time I've spent with Galen in a while, and the most time I've spent with Lindsay ever. It was good company, so the tromping around and the waiting didn't bother me - that's the secret to a good day at Disneyland, good company (or to any other day, really). This is Galen and Lindsay on Splash Mountain:

We got stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean for about twenty minutes, in the room with the big fire where all the pirates are singing Yo-Ho-Yo-Ho, A Pirates Life For Me. I think it drove Galen and Lindsay a little crazy but I was in heaven. I couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried. We were right in front of my favorite robot, which is the drunk pirate sitting on the bridge with a very dirty foot.

They've changed the ride around a bit to fit the plot of the movie, and there are Johnny Depp robots hiding in nooks and crannies. I don't mind the changes (I think seeing the different formats intertwine is pretty interesting) but it really screws with the overall narrative of the ride. It used to be a heavy-handed, greed-will-lead-to-death-and-destruction message; now, all of a sudden, all the other pirates die in a haze of booze and chaos while Johnny Depp gets away with the treasure.

(only, if you connect the final tableau of Johnny Depp alone in a room full of gold, there's a direct parallel to the first scenes in the ride, where lonely skeletons clutch at their treasure, suggesting to the viewer that they have achieved an empty victory indeed...)

Anyhow. I also went to Fashion Island with my parents:

(my mother's expression here is absolutely perfect - she makes this face at least ten times a day, or some multiple thereof)

and the beach:

I'm putting in lots of pictures, I think, because I've been inspired the pictures of China over at Miscellany Inc.. They're really extraordinary, and now I'm carrying around my camera for the first time in...ages. I still don't use my digital camera that well, I think I just need practice.

Moving along, there's also the plane ride back to New York:

And a few days ago Melinda and I spent the day together. We went out for brunch at the NoHo Star; I had a butternut squash ravioli that was really good - the sauce was very thin, very buttery, and very lemony. The rich-tart flavor was the perfect counterpoint to the very squashy ravioli, and I have to say it's probably the best execution I've ever tasted of a dish that I order semi-regularly.

Melinda at the NoHo Star:

We went to the Natural History Museum. I wanted to look at the hall of human evolution but it was closed, so we lingered a bit in the hall of south american peoples instead. Pretty spicy, I tell you. But I don't have any pictures. I do, however, have a picture of the seats of the movie theater from when we wandered over to Lincoln Center to see For Your Consideration, which is a nice, kooky dark comedy making fun of Hollywood with a ton of great character actors. To wit:

We got there kind of early and I had time to spare.

OK, that's all for now. Coming up reviews of Ernest Hemingway, David Sedaris, and Michael Chabon.

P.S.: there is a comments feature, hint hint.