Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're Running Out Of August!

That went fast.. September, here we come. The French call their back to school season 'la rentrée' - the re-entry, a sign of their prolonged August vacations and a happily altered summer state of mind.
It's also a cultural 're-entry,' both here and there, as fall brings new movies, plays, music, museum exhibits, etc, etc, etc... This probably doesn't happen on the Mekong Delta (pictured below).

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Not Me Now

I am one intensely busy dude since I started my new gig.
But a scant three weeks ago I was a carefree spirit swinging on a hammock in the Mekong delta, celebrating my extraordinary right foot!

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Sia In Another Life

Our Australia-fest continues this week, in honor of our lovely traveling companions from down under. This week's infectious stomper, 'You've Changed' is the latest work by Sia Kate Isobelle Furler of Adelaide, a soulful jazz-styled pop singer-songwriter who goes by 'Sia.' This lady's vocals are very distinctive and memorable, and she's won wide acclaim not just for her own well-crafted album but for her memorable guest vocals for UK chill-out combo Zero 7.

Sia is in one breath conventional - torch songs, pop stylings - and unconventional - a gay, vegetarian, pets-rights activist with a gift for whimsical song titles such as 'Death By Chocolate,' 'The Church of What's Happening Now, ' 'Electric Bird,' and 'The Girl You Lost To Cocaine...'

The title of today's song, 'You've Changed,' confounds expectations, as it turns out to be about a romantic partner who's changed for the better....

The 'You've Changed' video is quite endearing and amusing..

A musical walk through Sia's career highlights begins with 'The Girl You Lost To Cocaine,' another fun video with serious subject matter...

Here's Sia on Letterman belting out the midtempo 'Soon We'll Be Found...'

Let's not neglect Sia's brilliant work with Zero 7, the highpoint of which is 'Destiny,' rendered here live...

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Be Loved

The lovely and one-of-a-kind Gilda Incantalupo was thoroughly surprised by an 80th birthday bash today at the Terrace (formerly Crab House) in Long Island City.
Gilda celebrated this milestone surrounded by loving family and friends, with much fanfare and good cheer, but only intermittent air conditioning, on a scorching 93F day in the Apple.. As a tribute to Gilda's youthful and feisty spirit, the party was envisioned as a Sweet Sixteen - times five....

Here's Gilda with 11 of her 12 grandchildren!
There was much music (provided by a singing MC bravely stretching his range) and dancing, the wine flowed, the cake was cut, the pasta dishes glistened...

Gilda and her six children.. Her youngest son, our good friend David (far left), made, specially for this event, a film-footage-and-photo montage of Gilda's life with friends and family through the decades...

Finally, Gilda with just some of her vast 'adopted family,'
which for the last two decades has included my partner JP (second from left) and, now, I'm pleased and honored to say, me...

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Saturday, August 28, 2010


We spend 25%-35% of our lives asleep, and some of this in the bizarre, charged, and ultimately fragile world of dreams.

Though dreams are sketchy and their logic collapses in the cold light of morning, we 'buy in' while we're dreaming, usually unaware that it's a dream. When we do become aware, we quickly awaken, as if someone 'up there' pressed an 'eject' button.

Kudos to 'Inception' and its director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan for realizing that dreams are a fertile, unexplored territory for science fiction and filmmaking. Hats off to the 'Memento' visionary for creating a memorable work that engages the brain while acknowledging that dreams are built from the complex code of images and emotions, references and psychodynamics. In other words, ends will be worn loosely and subject to interpretation, with no neat little packages in sight... Miraculously, the film remains accessible on many levels and to the whole spectrum of IQ and EQ ranges currently populating the American Cineplex... Even with five levels of reality, you're never completely lost, though never completely defined... extraordinary...

Arguably, what's dreamiest about this masterwork is the acting 'dream team' ensemble Nolan has assembled. Leonardo DiCaprio adds another complex, tortured, and compelling figure acid-etched into our consciousness, a worthy followup to his triumphs in 'Revolutionary Road' and the under-appreciated Shutter Island.

Ellen Page is luminous as a gifted young 'dream architect' learning the ropes. The impossibly beautiful and pained Cillian Murphy is arresting as the 'dream-ee,' the target industrial heir into whose brain the team is trying to plant the idea to disband his father's empire.

And Joseph Gordon-Leavitt might be the chameleon of his generation, whose confident and skeptical team coordinator is light years away from his turns as hapless romantic nerd (500 Days of Summer), high-school Sam Spade (Brick), adorable alien kid (Third Rock), and troubled male hustler (Mysterious Skin).

Below, the trailer in case you haven't seen it, and some comments by director Christopher Nolan...

And finally, the Architect...

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Friday, August 27, 2010

1,095 Days and Nights

There's nothing quite like the rapture of a child opening birthday presents.

Jedi Knight Bruno Bencsko turned three on Sunday amidst a sea of adoring family and friends. August 22 is also my parents' anniversary, and Bruno's dad Andrew, born a week (and 38 years) earlier, shares his August 15 birthday with my late, great Aunt Lena, who would have turned 110 this summer...

Bruno's Mom whipped up a scrumptious, rich, lip-smacking chocolate cake with home-made frosting. I must learn more about my camera settings, as Bruno's eyes are certainly not demon-spawn red....

Let's sing Happy Birthday and usher in a fourth year in Brunoland...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Holy Trinity

I adore this photo by NHgirl I found on Flickr Explore
Interestingness, a daily slideshow of interesting member photos.. For those squinting at the fine print, it says ' the sexiest parts of my body are my brain, my spine, and my guts..'
Inside Front

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pink Colonial

It's pouring, our fourth consecutive rainy day, but the 5-day forecast through Monday looks splendid. Below, Saigon's ornate, French-era post office...

The inside reminds me of foreign post offices I saw as a kid in Israel and Chile... echoes of another era. That's Uncle Ho (Chi Minh) hanging on the wall...

Detail, front façade... I'm a sucker for good moulding...

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pogo Man

Karl clocked 341 jumps on his pogo stick on Sunday.
That's about 341 more than I could do! We've been waiting forever for bicycle storage slots in our building - maybe it would just be easier to buy pogo sticks! They're certainly easier to store, and I guess we could 'ride' them in all those new bicycle lanes Mr. Bloomberg has created... In the background: Karl's brother Bruno, the birthday boy, watering plants ahead of a thundershower...

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Double Decade Bridge

This week's delicious new song, 'Where I'm Going', is a tantalizing step forward for Australian dance-pop-new wave quartet Cut Copy, as they extend their bridge to the 80s two decades further back to the 60s. In a far-advance taste an album we won't see until January, Cut Copy spikes its crisp 80s production and grooves with Beach Boys harmonics and a Beatles-on-acid mid-section punctuated by Who-esque organ riffs. Utterly, totally, envigorating and irresistible!

Cut Copy grabbed my attention in early 2008 when, channeling the eurodisco visionaries of yore, they delivered album-long symphony in which the each piece was not only a stand-alone song but a mixed-in part of the longer work.Cut Copy's 'In Ghost Colors' album has 17 songs, and though the genre is similar, each songs shines like a jewel in patterned necklace. Cut Copy are not DJs, they're a real pop-rock band with chops and atmosphere to spare... To be sure, singer/producer Dan Whitford was a Melbourne-based DJ and graphic designer when he recruited some bandmates and hit the road back in 2003...

Anyway, here's the delightful 'Where I'm Going,' live at Lollapalooza..

Here's the rain-drenched 'Hearts on Fire' video, finally found one copy not disabled by their record company...

Finally, a fan video for the group's ebullient 'Far Away..'

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prize Suprise

We were in Floral Park Fruday night at the surprise 50th birthday party for Gilda, daughter of our friend Gilda. It was a total success as both a surprise and a party, with much eating, drinking, being merry, and cutting the rug. And that wasn't a typo, they are indeed both Gilda (pronounced 'Jill-da'), part of a large, boisterous and enviably close-knit clan...

These are the real New Yorkers, the kind I sat next to in homeroom (would have been literally in this case, since I'm an 'H' and they are 'I's...

How to really surprise your birthday party honoree: schedule it well in advance of the actual birthday, and get the person busy planning a different event for someone else. Sheer genius. (Today would have been my parents' 51st anniversary, btw, and is the third birthday of our beloved Bruno, we are headed out to New Jersey later, more on that to come...)

Retro Future

Our long ride to Floral Park through Friday night traffic was retro and futuristic in the same breath. The SUV carrying the seven of us featured in-flight entertainment, on-screen I Love Lucy episodes, a joy not only for the wee set but for we adults who get edgy in dense traffic.

Ah, Lucy, so classic, so universal, and yet so far from reality, even back then... We saw two episode going there and two coming back - vintage 1954 ecapism involving talent scouts, a Hollywood screen test, a live breakfast show in the Ricardo's apartment, and a visit from Ricky's non-English-speaking mother.. I later read up on Lucy, Desi, and company on Wikipedia... more to follow...

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rebalancing Act

Week one of my new gig came and went; it was rewarding, but with longer hours, I'm still figuring out the best time to blog from the standpoint of both peace-and-quiet and inspiration..

Pictured left, the crystal clusters of a young friend's science project..

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Friday, August 20, 2010

She and Him

On Sunday JP & I saw the 1951 classic 'The African Queen,' surprisingly unavailable until recently, in which Katherine Hepburn's missionary woman is thrown into an adventure with Humphrey Bogart's goofy, laid-back engineer.
It's interesting to see Bogart play a soft-hearted and lonely soul, brilliant casting against type that won him a Best Actor Oscar. Here's the trailer... Hard to believe the trailer actually calls Africa 'the dark continent...' 'Filmed in the treacherous wilds of Africa...' We've come a long way, baby...

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Double-Edged Sword

An engrossing job is very rewarding, but very absorbing, and one must struggle to balance. One of many modern dilemmas. Energy is finite. JP is reading a very interesting book, 'Hamlet's Blackberry, ' about efforts to live a good life in the digital age, and what exactly that would mean these days...Maybe I'll get the audio version...


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adventures In Food

I'm having a happy, if exhausting, first week at my new job... I've shed the extra kilo or two I gained on my Asian vacation...
Vietnamese food is among Asia's healthier cuisines, if you skip the endless deep-fried spring rolls (which we didn't)! Over 18 days and dozens of memorable meals hundreds of blog-worthy food pictures. Here are a few from Bangkok... Simple can be scrumptious. Case in point: This lunch of noodles, broth, vegetables, and a tad of meat:

A little coconut goes a long way. These appetizers are simultaneously sweet, salty, gummy, and delightful... I swear!

I'm not a fan of crushed ice, less so when it looks like it's been scraped from a refrigerator. But mixing in an assortment of stewed, sweet tasty fruits certainly sweetens the deal...

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Patience Of Two Buddhist Monks

Off to a great start in my new job, but it's always a steep climb to get all systems go! And time is suddenly scarcer...
I must think orange saffron robes and incense... Here, our Thai guide stops to chat with two Chinese Buddhist monks in Bangkok's Chinatown in the courtyard of a school/monastery..

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Crept Up On Me

I'm back from Vietnam, and the songs keep rolling. Today's selection, 'In A Dream' by Arizona-based indie pop quintet Skybox, crept up on me gradually since it arrived in March buried in an avalanche of new singles by new bands.

Its main charms are its perky, airy retro-80s new wave beat and melody and its Prince-like falsetto vocal.

Formed in 2005 by lead singer/songwriter Tim Ellis, Skybox is deeply influenced by music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, mostly from before they were born.. The band scrapes by touring small venues - often using costumes, confetti, snack cakes and the occasional chicken suit. They have recorded two enjoyable and diverse albums. In their own words: 'In an age dripping with irony, Skybox has a refreshing sincerity that reminds us that great pop songs can mean what they say..'

The band's 'In A Dream' video is wrapped in a monster movie-themed frame...

Here's 'Morning After Cuts,' the title track of their new album...

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marilyn, Down Under, Made From Lattes

While I was exploring Vietnam with a lovely group of mostly Aussies & Kiwis,
my friend Christi actually travelled to both Australia and New Zealand on business! While in Sydney, she happened upon this brilliant installation at the annual Australian Aroma Festival.. It's the Marilyn Monroe poster from 'Some Like It Hot,' assembled from highly unusual material......

Look closer, and you can see that the picture
was reconstructed with 5,200 of cups of latte, flat white cappuccino, and long black espresso! All of the milk had reached its use-by date, we are informed... The previous year's festival created the Mona Lisa from similar material...

This awesome video u
ses stop motion to 'speed up' the creation of this coffee art masterpiece from several hours to less than 3 minutes. Highly entertaining...

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Hail Selma Anne...

Yesterday was the naming ceremony for Selma Anne Rosenbloom, born June 25 to my friends Bevan & Cheryl.

The lovely reception lunch, like the service, was at the Park Avenue Synagogue (pictured left) on E 87th St in between Madison & Park.

It was a spectacular, crystal-clear day with a clement 80F temperature, so after the luncheon we wound our way through Central Park for an hour or two to soak in the resplendent views..

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fanny... Taste The Difference

Such is the slogan of Fanny's, Saigon's favorite ice cream chain...
With dozens of delicious flavors to choose from, why did I compliment by coconut with durian, of all flavors. The odorific but sweet durian fruit is said to approximate the sensory effect of eating a Linzer tart in an outhouse.. That's only slightly exaggerated... I prefer the jackfruit, the durian's sweeter-smelling cousin...

By the way, we are informed that, in Australia and New Zealand, 'fanny' does not refer to the hind quarters,
but to some real estate on the other side of the human building.. I must commend the Fanny's knack for presenting their creations... straw hats, cookie wafers, glasses and sweet flowers. Alas, I knocked over the glasses trying to remove some schmutz from JP's visage... I did make sure to tip generously...

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Friday, August 13, 2010

My Big Fat Vietnamese Hat

As we navigated the watery by-ways of Vietnam's Mekong Delta,
I donned a straw hat to really get into the spirit of things!

JP, also in straw headgear, helped me figure out
which side the pink ribbon goes on and how it is used to harness my head to the hat..

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Biting The Dragon

Southeast Asia's many delights include a cornucopia of tropical fruit, which added much sweetness, refreshment, and delight to our 18-day odyssey in Vietnam and (briefly) Thailand. Case in point: the dragon fruit, pinkish red on the outside, pulpy white with black dots on the inside, a texture similar to wiki but without a hint of citrus...

And here's the dragon fruit growing on a tree, in Vietnam's Mekong Delta..
The Wiki-wizards inform me that the Hylocereus family is native to Latin America (where I've never encountered it) but was transplanted with great success to Southeast Asia and China.. So many fruits in the world, and so little time.. I miss the fresh fruit, but it is nice to be home...

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Monday, August 09, 2010

The Sweet Hereafter

It's another great song for the Beach, the plunky, playful 'The Afterlife' by YACHT, aka Jonathan 'Jona' Bechtolt, a Portland-based electronic musician and multimedia artist, accompanied by vocalist Claire Evans.

The surreal, deadpan delivery recalls Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. Like Talking Heads, Bechtolt has strong art connections. His debut performance was at MOMA's PS 1..

Sit back and enjoy the pleasures of 'The Afterlife':

If you enjoyed 'The Afterlife,' you'll love 'Psychic City..'

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Walking On A Dream

Today I have for you 'Norway' by American 'dream pop'/indie rock duo Beach House, a dreamy affair that often sounds like the record is warped - in a good way! Beach House was formed by Baltimoron Alex Scally and French-born Victoria Legrand in 2004, and their three albums have met with widespread critical acclaim.

I, however, chose this selection because it's so summery, a great companion for lying on sand with the lapping of waves in the distance and not a cloud in the sky...

Here's 'Norway,' after which we'll video-walk through earlier Beach House work...

From 2007, the lovely 'Heart of Chambers,' beautifully filmed by Legrand's father.

From their 2004 debut, 'Master of None...'

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