Monday, June 30, 2008

All this week, videos from NYC Pridefest, where I represented Sundance Outdoor....

Secretive Sally

Sally Shapiro doesn't sound like the name of a disco singer... It evokes the names of fourth-grade classmates at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), where I spent grade 4 and 5... But this Sally, the psuedonym of a VERY anonymous Swedish singer, is all glitter balls and day-glo attire..

I would have missed the charming, barbie-doll delivery of 'He Keeps Me Alive,' today's Song of the Week, had it not landed on Rolling Stone magazine's Top Singles of 2007.

You'll recall I spent the last days of 2007 grounded with an ear infection, so all I had was time, and I listened to all the songs I hadn't heard.

That endeavor unearthed many goodies, including this and MGMT...

There's no official video for 'He Keeps Me Alive,' so we'll begin with 'Jackie Jackie,' which does have a clip...

Here's a good pastiche fan video of 'He Keeps Me Alive,' which is oddly sped up a bit, like a 33 record on 38, for those of you old enough to get that reference....

Cartoon du Jour:

Engrish du Jour: Now let's not exaggerate this Asian work ethic thing...

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Today is NYC Gay Pride Day! I'm at NYC Pridefest all day today, representing Sundance Outdoor, the fabulous LGBT outdoor activities club...

(Near) East Is (Near) East, West Is West

Two weeks ago David and I saw 'Edge of Heaven,' a German movie about immigrant Turks and native Germans that's the follow-up to Fatih Akin's similarly-themed, popular 'Head On.' It's a good and engaging film, if not a great one, and it piques one's curiosity about the characters and the setting (Germany and Turkey). It's been a while since I've attempted film review or the five parameters... Here goes...

1. Four Words That Encapsule: 'Cross-Cultural Crossed Paths, Detours'

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
'comfort, freedom, hope...
First World Man takes for granted..
hard to win, then lose...'

3. Oblique Commentary: a) The original title is 'On the Other Side' - how did they ever come up with 'Edge of Heaven' for English-speaking markets; b) I always find it cute that Europeans, particularly Germans, raised in the 'socialist paradise,' actually expect life - and society - to try and be fair, and react with child-like disbelief, even tantrums, when outrageous fortune sends slings and arrows their way.

They see the state as mommy and daddy, bound to take care of its children. It's kind of sad, pathetic, but also somewhat touching. We Americans are far more accustomed to life's randomness and inequities - that's something we have in common with the third world... I remember asking some Argentines how they were in the early 1990s, when the government reacted to an economic crisis by freezing (ie, stealing) middle class bank deposits. I asked how they were, they answered 'really screwed, but used to it...'

c) Veteran German actress Hanna Schygulla (above, left) gives an excellent supporting performance as the mother of a young lesbian college student who falls for a Turkish refugee and takes substantial risks to save the woman she loves...

4. Insight. a) Very early in the movie we see an 'out of sequence' scene of a driver stopping at a gas station in the Turkish countryside and making small talk with the convenience store cashier - this scene is repeated about 3/4 through the movie, but the scene is not pivotal in any way and the use of this device, frankly, puzzles me; b) The irony of illegal immigration is how the outsider is willing to risk everything, sacrifice, and live in uncertainty and fear for the slimmest shot at what the insider takes for granted and often, frankly, wastes.. That's is certaintly not the point of this movie - the immigrants here are not unambiguously noble, but the long arm of immigration law can punish and destroy, and the risk precarious status and ruinous consequences. Why do they come here? The old man, for comfort and work. The young rebel woman, to avoid imprisonment for guerrilla activities. The aging prostitute, to escape the emotional emptiness of widowhood and economic want, an act of self-obliteration. But do I even remember these details clearly after two weeks?

5. Link. Metacritic Review Summary. Score of 84 based on 20 reviews - that's an 'A' grade - I'd probably give it an 'A-' or even a 'B+,' which is still a solid recommendation to see it.

Here's the cast relaxing, in their normal clothes...

and here's the trailer for 'Edge of Heaven...'

Cartoon du Jour:

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Food Journey: Wanata

Not every journey is worth the effort. :-) But good company like Karen and Donna can make an interesting but just OK meal kind of special. Soaked to the bone by heavy rainfall after baking 10 hours in the sun of Brooklyn Pridefest, any Thai restaurant was good in a storm. That restaurant was Wanata, in Park Slope... The only really great dish we ate was the mango salad.

I went with the Tofu in Ginger Sauce, but whatever ginger might once have been in this dish apparently boiled away...

Donna had a Tofu Curry, pictured here over glutinous rice..

The glutinous rice was served in a plastic pouch, inside a bamboo basket.. Extracting it from the pouch is a bit of an art...

Cartoons du Jour:

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Drop Your Buckets

That's an expression I first heard as a Vassar freshman, way back when.

I was with a group of students protesting the school's investments in companies that did business with in Apartheid-era South Africa. Vassar's Board of Trustees agreed to meet with us, and the board's sole African-American member told the protestors to 'drop their buckets,' and work on improving race relations right there at Vassar.

Whatever the merits of this viewpoint, the expression stuck with me... Drop your buckets. Drop your buckets... That has nothing whatsoever to do with the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City, where I photographed these paint buckets and landscape shots last summer...


Night falls on Mexico City....

Cartoons du Jour:

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Return to Jackson Heights: Every Store Has A Story

Back in my old hood for Queens Pridefest four weeks back, I checked out my old haunts. Here's El Chivito D'Oro, a good place to savor an Argentine/Uruguayan 'parrillada,' or mixed grill. I ate here with Andres a few times, and later with other friends, most recently in 2004 with Denis and Thomas during the former's visit.. They also sell local specialties like 'matambre' (layered baked coldcuts), 'empanadas' (every country has its own) and 'ensalada rusa' (potato salad's Argentine cousin).

One could say that the above eatery serves 'River Plate' cuisine, since Buenos Aires, Argentina faces off against Uruguay over the 70-mile-wide river mouth known as Rio de la Plata... This laundromat makes me sad. It was run by an Argentine, Don José, and his wife...Sadly, two years later he was gunned down while on the job, a real shock for the normally peaceful neighborhood. Later, it was sold to a Russian family with whom I used to practice Russian...

'Tierras Colombianas' will always remind me of a poorly-planned Latin night out with the women from my office, circa 1986. They rode the mighty 7 train with me for a Colombian dinner followed by salsa dancing at a local nightspot. The problem is, Colombian food is so HEAVY - several kinds of meats, three, count 'em, three starches - rice, potato, and yucca. Needless to say, everyone overate so badly that we felt like lead. No dancing for us, I had to roll my colleagues home....

Cartoons du Jour:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Life And Flowers

Fresh flowers from Friday. Avoid asinine alliteration :-)

First, side profiles... I've been working very long hours on an intense deal we have in the market, a Brazilian rice company... Today I had to work those hours in a suit and tie! I attended a roadshow luncheon at 21 but passed on the food.. I made sure to eat lunch before at the cafeteria, where I treated myself to a delicious bowl of... what else? ... rice!

Then, the aerial view... All flash-photographed in pitch blackness.. Rice is by far my absolute favorite starch. Pasta's a distant second. And if I never seen another potato in my life, I wouldn't shed a tear.... bo-ring! Rice is awesome - it absorbs flavor beautifully and just has the most wonderful texture... Andres, born in the Paraguayan countryside, believes that Uncle Ben ruins rice.... I wouldn't go that far, but there's a whole rice world out there beyond Uncle Ben's... I should have rice festival or something. Did I mention that I love biryani? I should start getting ready for bed (I'm writing this last night, of course...)

Cartoons du Jour:

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breathless: A Commuting Adventure

On Friday my colleague Bevan and I made the trek to the RBS building in Greenwich, CT, where many of our colleagues have relocated. It's far, man! Minimum 1 1/2 hours each way, but in can turn into 2 hours pretty easily. Well, we walked from our current office on East 52nd (between Park and Madison) to Grand Central Station, with Bevan 'navigating' our way through a remote northern entrance and a tunnel network.

We rushed down the stairs just in time... to see the caboose disappear into the distance. Next train: 35 minutes later. We boarded it, and the train began its hour-long hop through Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, the Westchester Coast, and a swath of Southwestern Connecticut.

At least, mid-morning, we were able to get seats and I got some work audio-reading done on my laptop.. We arrived at Greenwich Station, only to realize our journey was far from over..

RBS headquarters is on the water. How nice for the Greenwich crowd.. For commuters, that means a 10-minute walk, minimum...

So we walked...

..and walked...

..and walked... We did get there, and took pictures, but that's another post....

Cartoons du Jour:

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Shake It, Sister

No, that's not a coded message to Deena. :-) It's applause for Santogold, aka Santi White, a 32-year-old artist from Philadelphia who's a triple threat: singer, songwriter, and producer. Santogold, whose stage name is her nickname, channels an astonishing array of influences, mixing rock, punk, ska, reggae, and experimentalism into hooky but unpredictable songs. She strident, confident, and dislikes being considered r&b or rap, just because she's black. She provides today's Song of the Week, the lilting, midtempo 'I'm A Lady.'

She could almost be an American M.I.A., more tuneful and minus the politics. Her influences run the gamut from James Brown to Fela Kuti to the Pixies. I even hear the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Tegan & Sara in there...

Santogold has a resumé! She double-majored in Music and African-American studies at Wesleyan, and actually worked for Epic records as an A&R representative. A&R stands for 'artists and repertoire,' the division of a record label responsible for finding and developing talent. She spent 2003-2007 as lead singer of rock/ska band, Stiffed.

And now, I'll let the music speak for itself. There's no clip for 'I'm A Lady,' since it's not a single. Enjoy instead her breaktrhough song, 'L.E.S. Artistes.'

Her other single is the off-beat slow stomp of 'Creator,' which includes - sorry, Santogold, r&b and rap... :-) Here Santogold shakes it live at FADER....

Cartoons du Jour:

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Food Journey: Brooklyn Pridefest Street Food

How my Dad use to love the San Gennaro festival, with all sorts of cheap, delicious comfort food, like Italian sausages and zeppole. I was reminded of him last week as I surveyed the food vendors at Brooklyn Pridefest and took photos of food in various stages of preparation. The corn on the cob stand is my favorite:

These Ylandji Dolmas, or Grape Leaves Stuffed Rice, were drippingly greasy with olive oil...

The sausage vendor wanted to know how much I'd pay him for this photo. I then reminded him I'd paid $5 for one of his wretched corn dogs, my breakfast at 9am...

Mexican tacos the way they should be.... Viva el camión de tacos! (the taco truck)... I think I had a 'taco al pastor,' with chopped seasoned pork loin..

I've eaten junky food in my time, but not this - way too over the top and kind of gross, I think...

Cartoons du Jour:

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