28 February 2005

Roeper's remedial bachelor tips

What? No floral spray of tampons? Writes Richard: "Listen up, bachelors of all ages. In the past, I have advised you on certain items you should always have in your apartment. (Examples: Toilet paper. Lots and lots of quality toilet paper. Also, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine, each three-quarters full, because when offered a glass of wine, 99 out of 100 women will say, Only if you have something open.) You must now add tea to the list. Not regular Lipton tea, though I still say that makes the best iced tea ever, but some black tea, some green tea, some Darjeeling tea, some whatever tea. Say your mom or sister got it for you. As someone who knows these things said to me recently, tea is the new coffee. If you look around, you'll see interesting and attractive women everywhere, and you know what they're doing? They're drinking tea."

As if I'm some bunny rabbit that can't stop spitting out these little bunnies: Francine Prose

Francine Prose has a follow-up novel, finally, to Blue Angel, and talks about her career to New York magazine: "Critics sometimes responded by intimating that Prose, her byline gracing not just Harper's but People and O magazines, was stretched too thin. She responds that she would stick to novels and essays if she could. "When my kids were small, I wrote endless pieces about how to make vegetables... I get these reviews that say, 'Oh, she’s so prolific,' as if I’m some bunny rabbit that can't stop spitting out these little bunnies. There's something I'm not getting. They must have trust funds or rich spouses." Prose has another pet peeve with critics. "Anytime anyone says that I'm writing satire, it makes my blood run cold... I like the characters, and I want the best for them. They’re all trying to be good in that way that people in 19th century novels were trying to be good. On the other hand, they live in our culture, in our city. And everybody is just scamming everybody else a mile a minute."

27 February 2005

404 411

It's just not here.

Something open and oxygenated, an expansive social activity: Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer is about to publish his new, post-9/11 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the Times magazine does some sniffery-pokery: "His office occupies a small rented room within walking distance of his home. The place is furnished sparsely, with little besides a long work table, a set of Ikea bookshelves and an oversize canvas dog bed reserved for a female creature named George, apparently a Great Dane mix. A curious object—a carpenter's hacksaw —hangs on an otherwise blank wall above the desk. (''You never know when you'll have a bad day,'' Foer explained.) ... Oddly enough, the room lacks a telephone, a detail that might lead you to envisage the author hunkered down in silent, undisturbed concentration. But the image is a total sham. Foer, as I later learned, didn't compose his new novel in this office... A kind of poet-wanderer, he does his writing all over town: in public libraries, in coffee shops and even in the homes of friends. The process of writing has traditionally been romanticized... as an act of self-imposed isolation, but Foer redefines it as something more open and oxygenated, an expansive social activity best undertaken amid the clamor of life. Of course, all of this prompts the question of why he needs an office in the first place. ''I need an office,'' he explained, a bit enigmatically, ''so I can have a place where I don't write.''

26 February 2005

Just the fax, ma'am: Paul Auster

The Believer launches its website with snippets of stuff, like Paul Auster chatting with Jonathan Lethem: In 'The Book of Illusions,' which is set in the late eighties, there’s a fax machine. Something very important happens through a fax machine. So, I’m not, per se, against talking about technology. In the book I’m working on now, there’s a reference to email. Also to cell phones. I’m one of the few people left without a computer, Mr. Brooklyn claims. I don’t write on a word processor, and I don’t have email and I’m not really tempted to get it. I’m very happy with my pen and my old portable typewriter, but I’m not against talking about anything, actually. I think the glory of the novel is that you‘re open to everything and anything that exists or has existed in the world. I don’t have any proscriptions. I don’t say, “This is not allowed because…”

He was always stuffing something into his mouth

Paul Theroux has a lengthy, colorful recollection of his friend, Hunter S. Thompson, in the Guardian: "He was always stuffing something into his mouth, and his chainsmoking wasn't even half of it. I wonder if I ever saw him sober? He wasn't an alcoholic, but he was certainly a drunkard; and though he could be compulsive, I don't think he was a drug addict—not an obsessed and needy user of addictive drugs, at any rate, but what is generally known as a stoner and a sniffer. An addict is helpless, but drug-taking was for him a decision. Not shy but strangely timid (he never travelled alone, he was innocent of the practical details of travel), Hunter at his most extroverted could be almost psychotic. He was deaf and distracted in the way serious drug takers become, even when they are sober, either shouting or whispering. I have no idea how he managed to write a word, but he wrote a dozen memorable books. He hardly slept, and he kept the strangest hours. Any friend of Hunter's can recount the phone ringing at 3am and the low conspiratorial growl, 'It's 'Unner!'"

25 February 2005

I'm just going to keep writing until it makes sense

Lucian K. Truscott IV remembers Hunter Stockton Thompson in the Times: One night a year or so after I had left Aspen, I was visiting Hunter and Sandy, staying in the guest room across from a basement office he called his "war room." I came back to the house around 1am and wandered into Hunter's office. He was perched at his I.B.M. Selectric pounding away. I asked him what he was working on. He handed me a stack of pages, kept writing, and I went across the hall to read. When I returned a few minutes later, he asked me what I thought. I told him I thought it was great, and asked what it was. "I don't know," he said. "I'm just going to keep writing until it makes sense." It was the first chapter of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," the result of two failed writing assignments for other magazines. After it was finally published in Rolling Stone, publishers came calling, Hollywood beckoned, and Hunter's search for a home as a writer was over.

I thought maybe the Rapture had begun

Bill Moyers, at 70, wastes no grief: I don’t waste any time, energy, or grief over the reality of a world saturated with celebrity. I mean, the BBC—which I listen to every morning—led yesterday with the announcement that Prince Charles is going to marry Camilla what’s-her-name. As did the New York Times. This is a startling announcement? I thought maybe the Rapture had begun... I never took [Bush] as a compassionate conservative. I’m a Texan. I saw what he had done to Texas and I knew he would do to the nation what he had done to Texas. And by God he’s done it. He’s turned the environment over to the polluters, he’s turned the courts over to big business, and he’s turned the schools over to the religious right. I was not fooled by his prevarications and his camouflage and his deceits.

24 February 2005

Encompassing half the creatures of the sea

As long ledes go, you could do worse than this one by Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly: "As bouillabaisse is the specialty of Marseilles and paella the most famous dish of Valencia, jalea is the great specialty of Lima’s industrial port suburb Callao, a fry-up reinforced with tubers and oniony salsa that seems to encompass half the creatures of the sea. In Gardena, at the Peruvian restaurant El Rocoto, the jalea is an enormous thing, an acre and a half of fish and shrimp, squid and octopus, scallops and clams, potatoes and chunked yuca, brown and sizzling, piled halfway to the ceiling, still smoking from its bath of hot oil. You’ve had fried shellfish before, but the clams and scallops in this jalea are dipped in batter and fried still in their shells, which are almost impossible to prise open without burning your fingers. You’ve had fried yuca too, probably at a Caribbean restaurant, but this yuca is especially appealing, frazzled to a deep crunch on the outside and almost molten inside. There is a sprinkling of chancho on top, toasted kernels of oversized Peruvian corn, and an intensely tart salsa criolla. made with shaved red onions, chiles and fresh lime juice."

23 February 2005

The one you used to crush my heart

Lyric for the day from The Aluminum Group's "Paperback", vocal by Tallulah's Amy Warren :
I want to know everything about your life,
but I'm waiting for the paperback
I want to read all about how I survived
but I know that you won't mention that
I'll read about the person in the restaurant,
the one you used to crush my heart
so put it in in the pages of your bestseller
and pass it off... as art

Blade runner

Visiting with Italian knifemakers in south London: Visiting with Italian knifemakers in south London: Marco, a tall, wiry man, holds up his hands, which are covered in diagonal scars. "Every knife sharpener is covered in these," he says. "They're the scars of the trade." Modesto's hands are also rough and calloused, with deep crevasses. "His hands are so hard, when he cuts himself they don't bleed," says Marco. Modesto takes a vicious-looking four-edged mincing blade and puts one of its edges to the grindstone. As a shower of sparks flies up, his fingers look perilously close to the searing metal edge. Marco recalls the time he tripped in the back of the van and put his foot on a knife. "I learnt a lot of respect for knives after that," he says.

22 February 2005

A great, bloody theatre of mortality

In the Guardian, Adrian Searle reaches out to Caravaggio: The best things about this painting are the bundlings of red, the drapery and sleeves, the flashes and slicks of light on armour, on foreheads and cheeks, in the otherwise almost unvarying gloom. The open mouths of her assailants are even darker and more vacuous, gasps sucking all the air from the painting. So much of Caravaggio is a great, bloody theatre of mortality (he was, we should remember, a contemporary of Shakespeare and Cervantes). Lazarus is raised, but at our eye level we are confronted by naked feet clattering among human bones. Light falls with equal clarity and purity on a beautifully executed sleeve, on a pitcher or a skull. But it is always measured against blood, dirt, violence, corruption, darkness. You can't even look at Portrait of a Knight of Malta, his chest emblazoned with a Templar's cross, one hand clasping his sword, the other fingering a rosary, without thinking about what's going on behind that implacable face, that stark white cross that pins him to the centre of the painting.

21 February 2005

I mean, I really, really hate TV

The Gothamist catches up with uber-critic Kent Jones:
I do have cable now, but all I watch is TCM—occasionally I’ll turn on 'Charlie Rose.' I mean, I really, really hate TV—the commercials, the handheld camera, the music, the personalities of the newscasters. I’ve given things like 'Six Feet Under' and 'The Sopranos' a try, and I see their merits but they seem like canned art to me—stuff that’s already been carefully digested (the non-functional American family, the odd juxtaposition of the macabre and the everyday) and then sold as cutting edge: how else could it get on TV? Having said that, I love old TV: 'The Honeymooners,' 'The Outer Limits,' 'The Twilight Zone,' which I’m watching a lot of right now with my sons.

19 February 2005

Mr Bean

London chef Rowley Leigh stews and brews: We British are the prime suckers for this particular piece of Americanisation. In true flattery, we have produced our own home-bred rivals in mediocrity to Starbucks. It is a bit harder to sell froth under the name of coffee in countries that actually like the taste and, in equal measure, the stimulating effects of the real thing. Although Starbucks have made a clutch of sites in Barcelona and Madrid, they are almost entirely unrepresented in France, Portugal (inheritors of a fierce coffee culture) or, needless to say, Italy. The country that bequeathed espresso, cappuccino and even latte to the world has not succumbed to the frappuccino or the double decaf macchiato and yet the Italian method of coffee making could be held responsible for this whole sorry business.

18 February 2005

Writing: what goes on in a kebab shop

Novelist Justin Cartwright writes in the Guardian about writerly inspiration: The other day an Argentinian woman asked me how I get my inspiration. The implication of the question was that basically all you need to write a book is some inspiration, by which she meant a marketable idea. It was impossible to say that actually the process of writing a book is similar to what goes on in a kebab shop: you carve bits of yourself away and present them in envelopes of pitta. The lettuce and the tomato and the hot sauce are style. This simile is—clearly—not going very far, but the point is that writing is not about a Great Idea which writes itself. Writing is, as Philip Roth put it, self mining.

17 February 2005

Out of Order

Out of Order
Originally uploaded by raypride.
Rest in pieces.

Michael Medved is an idiot

I love it when the clown police pile out of the little clown car and pile onto the deserving: "Michael Medved is an idiot. Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Tell me something... I don't already know." But some things can't be reiterated enough. Such as: Michael Medved is an idiot. He has a wet sock for brain. A thumbless grasp of the issues and a propensity for lachrymose whimpering when he doesn't get his way... [In today's Wall Street Journal] "he blinks like a mole with minor astonishment that the fuss over Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby has "improbably and irrationally focused on...me." Medved being such a shy maiden and all... Medved, of course, has been in the whining vanguard of the moral conservative campaign against [it], deploring what he calls its "sympathetic treatment of [DELETED].' The movie is much more sophisticated than that, too sophisticated for Medved's reductive, nursery-lesson mind. The movie tells a story, the story deepens and darkens, and the dilemma the characters face is dramatized as a wrenching quandary, a mortal decision; like most tragic stories, it carries the pall of the irrevocable. [But] according to Box Office Mojo, 72% of those who saw Million Dollar Baby graded it an A. Of those who saw Aviator, only 54% gave it an A. The People have spoken, Medved. They find Million Dollar Baby guilty of being excellent. So quit pretending that Hollywood is "out of touch" with the audience, when it is you and your mustache who no speaka their language."

Gray pride

Gray day at its very end

Lovin' his Liz

In the ancient Chicago Reader tradition of "Bob Watch," keeping tabs on involuntarily retired Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene and "Siskel Watch," on the many factual errors made by late televisualist Gene Siskel, a blogger's taken up his nightstick to regularly whack at Reader writer Liz Armstrong's "Chicago Antisocial" column: Everyone I know in the city complains about Liz Armstrong, but they still read her: to see if they are in her column, or the party they were just at, because they need something to read on the can, because they enjoy making fun of her (it's simple AND fun), or, like me, because they can't stop. From this point on, I will read her column so that they don't have to...but they probably will anyway... It seems like the only reason someone is mentioned in the column is to raise up all that is Liz, who, is herself all that is Bohemia. Outside of names dropped from Valhalla like hipster manna, people exist only to be inferior.

Fufu love

In LA Weekly, Jonathan Gold explains: Fufu, of course, is the mandatory West African starch: white yam, cassava, plantains, maize or whatever, -pounded and cooked and gathered into dense, glutinous blobs from which you pinch off marble-size globules to swish through a stew. West African stews are fabulous; fufu, not so much. In the United States, fufu is often fortified with Bisquick or instant-mashed-potato buds, which doesn’t improve things, I can assure you. But in Cuba, fufu evolved into the wondrous dish known as fufu de plátanos, and at the venerable North Hollywood restaurant Las Palmas, it takes the form of a compact beige mound constructed of fried pigskin, garlic and green plantains, oozing oil and melted lard, fragrant enough to make the table of construction workers across the room look up from their picadillo when the waitress brings it to your table.

16 February 2005

Beware of flash

Beware of flash
Originally uploaded by raypride.
The Magic Alley, Chicago, am. See also here.

14 February 2005

February bluster

Wind's whipping at Western & Chicago.

13 February 2005

You run a stupid coffee shop day!

It was always your dream to have your own coffee shop. Well now you have it, and after a year and a half of operation, it's apparent that your coffee shop sucks. The chairs are uncomfortable, the tables are just an inch too high or too low, the "local art" on the wall is not only dull and unskilled, it also manages to irritate people... More...

Mamet & Mr. Miller

Mamet recalls Miller: The good drama survives because it appeals not to the fashion of the moment, but to the problems both universal and eternal, as they are insoluble. To find beauty in the sad, hope in the midst of loss, and dignity in failure is great poetic art.

12 February 2005

Late night tea party

Originally uploaded by raypride.

Some Mad Hatter already appropriated the kitchen table.

Telling your syrah from your shiraz

Lessons from New Zealand's Listener: "They say that the name Syrah is a French version of Shiraz, the town in ancient Persia where the famous grape variety is said to have originated. If so, then the Australians' name for the variety, Shiraz, is in fact the original. And it is appropriate that the name Shiraz is used on Australian wines made from this grape, as they are so unlike the wines produced from syrah in the French Rhône Valley that it would have been nothing but a misnomer to give them the name Syrah.

Changing of the hours

The closing times for UK pubs are going to change, Granta's Ian Jack notes: "The argument in Scotland used to be that its moralistic view of alcohol, exemplified by its restrictive licensing laws, was to blame. It was ludicrous... that you couldn't get a coffee in a pub, that children were barred (and in one or two places women too, until the sexual equality legislation), that every pub began calling closing-time at 10 to 10, that on Sundays the only places licensed to sell alcohol were hotels, which until the 1960s kept registers that obliged drinkers to declare themselves "bona-fide travellers", who had travelled at least three miles. If drink were let out of its closet and undemonised, then alcohol might find the place it occupied on the café tables of continental Europe, where people didn't drink to get drunk."

Talking OCD in the movies, OCD in the movies, OCD in the movies

From the Independent: "In the latest movies to hit our screens, the way OCD is perceived has, once again, changed. It's now being used as an incidental shorthand to highlight the quirkiness of characters and, with some reports claiming that up to three per cent of Americans have some form of OCD, Hollywood appears to have deemed that it is now "cool" to have the condition."

08 February 2005

Making wok hay

Wokking overtime in the Times: "When Grace Young's family went to restaurants, her father always insisted that they sit right next to the swinging door to the kitchen. A liquor salesman who felt at home in every restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, her father said food had to be eaten just moments out of the wok, while it is still fresh, hot and exuding wok hay, a Cantonese term, unknown in other parts of China, that translates loosely as "wok energy" or "wok breath." Wok hay is what happens when excellent ingredients—like ginger, noodles, shrimp, walnuts or Chinese chives—meet a wok crackling with heat. It is both a taste and aroma and something else, too, a lively freshness that prickles your nose and makes you impatient for that first taste, like the smell of steak just off the grill or a tomato right off the vine in August. Food with wok hay tastes intensely of itself."

07 February 2005

Drinking a shadow

The LA Times' S. Irene Virbila reminisces about Venice while reviewing L'Ombretta, a new restaurant in Santa Barbara: "My Venetian friends introduced me to an old custom: Whenever you run into a friend, the tradition is to duck into the nearest bar to bere un'ombra or ombretta. Literally, it means to drink a "shadow," a small glass of wine, together. Most bars also have a selection of cicchetti (chee-KEHT-tee), the Venetian equivalent of tapas. It can be anything from a bite or two of mozzarella or other cheese to a splendid array of cubed baby octopus, marinated anchovies, cured meats and more, all spread out on the bar. Sometimes the wine is a bit rough, but the really serious wine bars offer a beautiful selection of wines from the Veneto."

06 February 2005

With Turner, dying in his Chelsea house, being absorbed in the rush of light

On the occasion of Tate Britain's "Turner Whistler Monet" show, the great, clotted prose master Iain Sinclair goes to the waters: "The Thames is the great London referent: metaphor and fact. Without the khaki, sediment-heavy river, our city would have no soul. Much of the original London, the riverside settlement, has been overbuilt, stacked, crammed, warped, twisted—until light is corkscrewed, bounced off dirty windows: a rare epiphany, a dole of pleasure. The memory is still present, of streets as sewers, floating sluggishly after rain; or, shocked by sunshine, baked into fissured mud. The surface of JMW Turner's massive oils, when you get close to them in their Tate Britain bunker, are a bouillabaisse of steaming reds and yellows, stewed light, linseed and gristle. They duplicate the condition of a dried riverbed: a network of hairline cracks—like a vision, from the edge of the troposphere, of the Thames Estuary fracturing into a mantilla of tributaries... Here begins the work of poets and painters, their argument and co-dependence; treacherous depths, imported narratives, shows of light. Here begins the difficulty with representing a force that resists representation. Here begins the substance out of which London's dreaming is made. The Thames floods, ebbs: a seductive surface, active, dirty, copywritten by Eliot, Pope, Spenser, Conrad, Céline... Art plunder, sanctified by public display, confers virtue on its keepers. A notable show diverts attention from the grubby realpolitik of the river. Tactfully hung apartments are what we require, walls with radiant windows. We file through, nudged by prompt cards, in money-laid-out reverence. While outside, en plein air, the Embankment is deserted. Sharky cruisers, defaced by a rash of expectorated Damien Hirst Smarties, shuttle between the ex-power station (Tate Modern) and the former prison (Tate Britain). The true exhibition, I decided, would involve knocking down that wall, letting the river in. Go with the flow. With Turner, dying in his Chelsea house, being absorbed in the rush of light; calling on his god, the sun."

05 February 2005

Bookslut: I'm no good at being an internet celebrity

The Guardian coerces Bookslut's Jessa Crispin to keep a journal about how her site works and what's like to work at home in jammies: "I've been recognised before from various articles about blogging. I always handle it badly. I feel myself blushing furiously, and whatever comes out of my mouth next is nonsensical. "This must be very exciting for you," the woman in red says. "Yeah, well, you know, it's, uh, yeah." I'm now trying to add up my balance while feeling incredibly awkward. I avoid eye contact and the moment fades clumsily. I take my bank statement and race out of the door. On my way to the bus stop, I of course figure out exactly how I could have handled that gracefully. I'm no good at being an internet celebrity."

02 February 2005

Bohemian New York

Inigo Thomas is circumnavigating Manhattan: "Willem de Kooning, the Abstract Expressionist painter and Dutch-born New Yorker, whose Woman I at the Museum of Modern Art is the most disturbing depiction of the female form ever painted, was a night walker. Prone to depressions, as Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan's recent biography 'De Kooning: An American Master' relays, the painter would attempt to walk off his gloom, heading south to Battery Park from his studio in Chelsea, sometimes in the company of his friend the painter Arshile Gorky, often alone."

01 February 2005

Eat and get out!

The New York Times surveys websites for peeved waitstaff: "Grievances, including friction between kitchen and dining room staff, rapacious management and near-universal bitterness over tipping, are being revealed with gusto on the Internet by restaurant staff members. As a customer, to read Web sites like Bitter Waitress, Waiter Rant and Web Food Pros is to wonder nervously, "Could they be talking about me?" Each month, Stained Apron publishes a new extreme example of customer obnoxiousness. (One forum is titled "Keep Your Brats at Home!") On bitterwaitress.com, the most popular page is an annotated database of people who give bad tips (defined on the site as "any gratuity under 17 percent for service which one's peers would judge as adequate or better"). Anyone can add a name to the database, along with the location, restaurant, amount of the check, amount of the tip and any details, most of which cannot be printed in a family newspaper. (A disclaimer reads: "We are not responsible for submissions. Uh-uh, no way, not in the least.") There are almost 700 entries."