Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Thomas! and Vagner!

And a happy, happy birthday to my good friend Thomas who lives down in Buenos Aires..  And tomorrow, Feliz Aniversario / Feliz Cumpleaños / Happy Birthday to Vagner, the other half of this happy couple...

Vagner is sweet, lively, and adventurous (he left Brazil to join Thomas in mi Buenos Aires querido). Thomas is an inspiring person and photographer.   To salute him on his special day, a selection of amazing photos taken from his wonderful blogs, www.buenosairesphotographer.com, and www.thomaslockehobbs.com

Favela vs Luxury Towers - São Paulo


Tipa blooms - Buenos Aires

Jacaranda blooms

Ochava - Thomas loves these angles & shadows

Rain shot from their window

Iguazu Falls reflected in Vagner's shades

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Introducing Our Star Reporter, Dan Neilson!

My awesome nephew is
now officially on board to report on entertainment and anything else he finds interesting!
"Duplicity Review" - by DAN NEILSON

Hello everybody! It's your favorite movie critic from the BIG AZ! Last week I had
the great pleasure of seeing 'Duplicity'. It was such an awesome movie. Clive Owen
and Julia Roberts played the best couple and partners in crime I've seen in a
long time.

I would highly recommend this movie to any espionage fan. But, also, this
movie has a lot of suspense, action, and some romance for those who
enjoy a good love story. Me, personally, I love comedy, and entangled with all the
suspense is comedy that will make you fall out of your seat.   So, anyway...
Just go see it.  You'll love it.
See you next time!
Love, peace, and chicken grease from the BIG AZ!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Sing Out Spring Out

Every year, this time of year, there's usually one new song that makes me feels it's unmistakably springtime. 

This year's burst of April showers and May flowers accompanies the welcome return of Norway's wonderful Röyksopp, makers of pretty, perky and playful electronica-pop, whose albums are always worth the three-year wait. 

Just one listen their lead-off single, 'Happy Up Here,' is enough to cheer up any day, or at least de-thaw it somewhat. It's a midtempo delight, more an irresistible funky and melodic riff than an actual song..

Named for a rare Norwegian mushroom, Röyksopp is the duo of Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge, who hail from the world's northernmost sizeable city, Tromsø, easily the largest city inside of the Arctic Circle.  Trmosø is home to the Arctic Cathedral.   The twosome settled way down south in
Bergen, Norway's second largest city and gateway to the fjords.  

Watch and listen to the geometric joy of the official 'Happy Up Here' clip.  After which, we walk through some of Röyksopp's best moments..

Röyksopp's debut single, 2001's Eple, is a darn-near perkily perfect instrumental..
Christi and I saw the group perform this song among many others at Webster Hall in 2006.  Since then, I've used 'Eple' as Christi's personalized ringtone on my iPhone.

From 2006, the hugely popular and very song-structured "Only This Moment" from the group's sophomore album, 'The Understanding.'

My personal Röyksopp favorite, 'Poor Leno,' has nothing to do with the late night talk show host - I thought it was about a lost nine year old boy, but from this animated clip it's actually an ode to a lonely zoo cub...

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Below is my review of 'Duplicity!'... Very soon, you'll have my nephew Dan's impressions, as well...

Been There Seen That - No You Haven't

Rarely has a trailer made an unpredictable film look so predictable.
Those of you who saw the trailer for 'Duplciity' multiple times during the movie industry's pre-Oscar 'high season' are in for a very pleasant surprise, unless you've already heard the reviews, in which you case you know it's an instant classic. First, let's re-watch the preview:

It's spy movie! It's a sly romance! It's a spry corporate satire! Not just something for everyone, because these ingredients mix and react and flow like a brilliant three-toned river. 

The story plays out with flashbacks over a five year period, and you'll assemble the puzzle, with a few brilliant fake-outs.  You'll never, never see the ending coming.  Never.  I love surprises, and I love films that traffic in them.

Don't let Julia Roberts scare you if you're not a big fan of her - this is more her idiosyncratic side, seen in the nasty 'Closer' and the satiric 'Charlie Wilson's War.' Clive Owen is strong lead for all occasions, and holds the banner high for forty-something sexiness and wit.

Alongside two sizzling but nuanced lead performances is a fireworks display of character acting from an impressive ensemble led by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson as warring corporate megalomaniac CEOs, with Wilkinson as cool as ice and Giamatti raging like fire. I particularly like Kathleen Chalfant as a corporate espionage expert (pictured below with fellow operatives Dan Dialy and Oleg Stefan)

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Holy 109!

from Aaron's favorite program circa 1966

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I'm addicted to rice cakes. 50 calories each, no fat. I also like oranges and grapefruits!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Celia!

A big, warm happy birthday to a very special friend, way way down, in a land of sunflowers and innards, of cobblestones and culture. 

I've known Celia, wow, for over 20 years, when I was working in Buenos Aires in the same office, and we became close friends. Celia knows so many interesting things, about Argentina and the world. It was like working with a wonderful walking treasure chest. : - )

 Celia sent me some wonderful pictures of her - but request that I not post them! So, instead, some pictures of Alfonsina Storni, an Argentine poet and free thinker from the 20s and 30s, a national jewel, that, sadly, ended like Virginia Wolff...

Alfonsina was actually born in the Italian section of Switzerland, daughter of an Argentine beer producer; when the beer went bust, the family resurfaced in Rosario, a charming university town about 5-6 hours north of Buenos Aires. 

In her late teens she got her teaching degree and acted with a traveling theater company. She had a child out of wedlock. She began to write, and win prizes and acclaim. 

But, in her 40s, depressed, lonely, and stricken with cancer, she ended her life by walking into the ocean... Hours before, she wrote her last poem, 'I'm going to sleep'

Here's that poem, my own translation, in honor of Celia's birthday:

'Flower petals, film of dew, hands of grass, you, my fine wet nurse, lent me your earthy savannahs and their quilt of moss.  I'm going to sleep, my wet nurse, put me to bed.  Put a lamp at my night table, a constellation, any one you like - they are all good, dim the lamp a bit.  leave me alone, you the buds breaking, you're molded by a celestial foot from above, and a bird traces you some rhythms so you may forget.   Thank you.. Oh, one favor - if he phones again, tell him to stop insisting, tell him that I've left.'

Below, a sad ballad she inspired, 'Alfonsina and the Ocean,' sung by legendary Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa...

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Car Siberia

DUMBO... where your car goes when you defy 'absolutely no standing at any time.'

Don't be thinking you're going to climb over this fence and rescue your vehicle..

You want it back? First, go pay the reve-noo-ers, as the Beverly Hillbillies would say.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who's That Cake?

Dean & Deluca confections from my birthday party a few months back:
 Lemon Blossom Cake - "vanilla cake filled with homemade lemon curd, raspberry preserves and finished with white chocolate butter cream"

On the right - Pear Almond Cake - "almond cake loaded with poached pears and finished with white buttercream and honey-toasted almonds"


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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Edge of Brooklyn

DUMBO - Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass...

It's a hardscrabble world that hasn't yet given up its twentieth century grit....

It's a power plant...
and a billboard...

Have I wandered into the east side of Mexico City or São Paulo?

In case you didn't get the title reference...

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Monday, March 23, 2009

At A Loss For Words?

That sure doesn't happen to me often... : - ) But today's maddeningly catchy slice of retro-pop, 'Never Never Love' by Liverpool's Jonathan 'Pop' Levi, reminds me of something I can't quite put my finger on. 

I've appealed, via email, to my musical inner circle, and await their verdict as I pre-type these lines on Saturday morning...  only Brian volunteered, with appreciation for the very 80s synth squiggles and handclaps.

I actually struggled a bit with which side of Pop Levi's double-header single to spotlight this week, and I've included as well the video for the runner up, the devilishly sly 'Dita Dimoné,' imagine a 1986 Michael Jackson with more testosterone.. 'Never Never Love' is snappier and lighter. 

The winner:  'Never Never Love'

The (very close) runner-up:  'Dita Dimoné'

Both of the above songs are a huge leap in quality from his previous album, remembered for one good song, the near-parody, also included below, called 'Sugar Assault Me Now.'

When Levi is singing and playing multiple instruments, he's busy producing records and now directing films for his new indie compnay 'World Empire Inc.' Here's the trailer for this 27 minute surreal featurette..

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Food Journey: Return to Cornwall Part 1

Visited some old friends last week in deep in the baby Berkshires, in Cornwall Bridge, a charming little hamlet in northwestern Connecticut. When you visit this family, you eat very well. Here's Saturday night dinner, spiced steaks broiled to perfection wrapped in bacon strands with sauteed potato medley and marinated portobello mushroom slices.
The view from their terrace, ridges of Berkshire, and the Housatonic River
A chef's secret: preparing the spiced steaks on green wax paper...
Ye Olde Greene Wax Paper Dispenser...
I stayed in a room with a view!  How I love wicker....
Biscuits in the making... At least, there was one one fattening dish I could avoid, being the cheese-a-phobe that I am.
The wages of mincing....


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

They Really Like Us

At least one other species does... ....from the Pacific shore..

...to the Baby Berkshires...

...to the deserts of Arizona...


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Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm up at the crack of dawn and must trudge to Greenwich, CT, total round trip commute roughly 3 hours....Happy Friday!

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Happy Birthday, Milton!

My friend Milton, from São Paulo, is studying in Barcelona! Bom Aniversario!  Milton is one more reason to love Brazil, especially São Paulo!   So smart and so sweet...  Happy Birthday, amigo meu...

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scenes From A (50s) Marriage

I was blown away by 'Revolutionary Road,' a wrenching story of two lost souls trapped in the ersatz perfection of 1950s suburbia, superbly acted by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio - perhaps the finest work yet by two artists with long and impressive oeuvres.

It's not a feel-good movie, picture Scenes from a Marriage made unrecognizable by American 50s idiom, or Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolff made less frightening, but three times as paper, by the fact that the unhappy couple truly love each other and just somehow got lost.. It's also less insulated that either 'Scenes' or 'Wolff,' with first-rate art direction opening up the faded colors of 50s Americana... Directed by Sam Mendes of 'American Beauty' fame...

This movie is inhabited with some of the spirit of 'Mad Men,' but lives in film's artistic edifice of brevity, large screen views, total immersion.. Also, 'Mad Men' show a pre-PC world of prejudice slapping often you in the face and a large tableau of characters, where as here the focus is on the characters and their dilemma, unlike Mad Men where the cast shares star billing with the era itself.... The music is haunting, a great counterpoint to the situation and yet another very high production value.

Oh, Oscar, how could you neglect this masterpiece so? Though I do believe Winslet's work in this movie was more than half the reason she won for 'The Reader,' another excellent performance though with far less screen time. Three well-deserved nominations for art direction and costume design, and best supporting actor for Michael Shannon as a mentally disturbed lad speaking several grains of truth...

But, hey, don't just take my word of it. watch this preview....

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

D Day Arrives!

Welcome home, kid!

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Goodbye to Glitter

I snapped - and then tossed - the glitter hats from my birthday party. They were leaving a trail of glitter everywhere... actually, worse, the glitter would detach from the hats, float across the air, and disperse on any surface. They had to go.

So I have a frakking headcold again.. It's not just me, though, my friends/colleagues who went up to NW Connecticut with me came back somewhat ill, and even Christi has the sniffles... I must, I must, I must be better for the weekend. Last night, I put my pijamas on at 8, and was in bed sleeping at 9:30...

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This Is The Land of 1,000 T-Shirts...

...you just keep on saving the day / I try to stay but it's in vain when you're far /

I'm on the run to wherever you are.... to wherever you are... to wherever you are... /

..here's the official T-shirt of my blog... order while supplies last!   Actually, it's from the (once) obscure Chicago power poppers from whom I procured its name...

This is a extremely cute 'words and images' amateur video of OK! Go's 'The Fix Is In...' Which is also the theme for Chris Cillizza's wonderful Washington Post column on politics, The Fix. Chris & Mrs. Fix just had their first baby fix!

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