04.30.09: the business of death

1: i told my mother i'd want to be stuffed and mounted and placed in the front yard, with big teeth and claws, if they fit.

2: or i could take you down to new orleans and have a voodoo priestess reanimate you, so that you could shuffle around mindlessly. and vacuum.

1: i'd want to be helpful.


my garfunkelesque 'recent reads' list (the dozen titles in that column on the right) has been awfully tomboyish lately, probably because i picked up a bunch of media roundups (especially esquire's "75 books every man should read"*) right before creating my own latest 101 in 1001 list. so how's the Man Canon? a bit dodgy, but surprisingly enjoyable. in order of suitability for mixed company (descending), a handful:

sharp teeth, toby barlow

{+} like vikram seth's the golden gate (sonnets about san francisco), a modern take on the epic poem (free verse about packs of werewolves in los angeles). one of its main story lines - a romance between a dogcatcher and a she-wolf - springs from the idea that packs, like bee hives, have queens. barlow's an ad exec, not a full-time poet, and his style's a bit rough - but it suits the material, and he's got joss whedon's knack for writing strong female characters (several of sharp teeth's remind me of buffy and angel's ladies).

{-} the lonely gal who took in strays was a bit one-note, but i quibble.

watchmen, alan moore and dave gibbons

{+} lady superheroes costumed heroes! okay, one is murdered long before the book starts and another is considerably more forgiving than she should be, but the most prominent one - laurie - gets to kick some ass. next to most of its contemporaries (neil gaiman's sandman, which came a few years later, notwithstanding), it's positively girlpowertastic.

{-} how to say this without spoiling the book? i get the feeling that alan moore hasn't spent a lot of time around real, live women. his can be...improbable.

rabbit, run, john updike

{+} as i tweeted a few weeks ago, updike is something of an apple with a razor blade: his language is gorgeous and precise, and his sense of a conversation's emotional pace is really remarkable. but then there's the

{-} constant need to make really vile observations about women. rabbit angstrom (a former basketball star and current philanderer) is a dog, and the contrast between his adorable/despicable tendencies is A Big Deal, and i get that - but do i need the panty-sniffing on every page? it jerked me out of the book, as did updike's disproportionately unflattering portraits of his women (poor ruth: 5'8" or 5'9", 147 pounds, and thus - according to updike - hopelessly, relentlessly fat!). i felt unwelcome in updike's head, if that makes any sense.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 what's the most masculine book you can think of? define 'masculine' however you like.

02 why does art garfunkel's reading list cut off after 2007? did studs terkel's the magnificent ambersons ruin all other books for him?

03 what should female superheroes wear?

*an especially silly list, but Manly Cultural Roundups are fascinating, aren't they?


101 in 1001 {II}: 033 make pickles from scratch [completed 04.26.09]

pickled grapes with cinnamon and black pepper

deb of smitten kitchen's post on pickled grapes with cinnamon and black pepper began with "wow, people, just wow." she was talking about the internet loving her pregnancy news (as they should; hooray for nice people having babies!), but she could just as easily have been talking about the picklin' - this recipe* is a thing of beauty. though it's super simple (the brine is 1 c white wine vinegar + 1 c sugar + 1.5 tsp mustard seeds + 1 tsp black peppercorns + 1 cinnamon stick + 0.25 tsp salt; just boil those together, cool if you like, and throw the top-trimmed grapes in), the flavor gets interesting in no time. i made a pan of brine saturday evening and had pickles in time for a picnic in prospect park yesterday afternoon. that's some hot turnaround right there, especially since i decided to cool the brine in the freezer before adding the fruit (to keep it a bit more firm). the lunch crowd was initially a bit skeptical, especially since i forgot to bring toothpicks and we had to bob for grapes, but the recipe worked its (sweet, just a little bit mean) magic. the whole batch dematerialized in the time it took joe and me to walk over to the picnic house and back. i'm not sure there's a secret, though i did use good ingredients (spices fresh from penzeys, and brad's vinegar): on the first hot sunday of the year, it was hard to beat fresh, cold, tangy fruit. these babies would be great with an after-dinner cheese plate, too. i also suspect that they would be good with fresh-basil-leaf-and-marshmallow-fluff sandwiches, but no one would eat those (cough). i won't lie: i'll be making more (and another batch of giada de laurentiis's lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze**) this weekend.

*from molly wizenberg's a homemade life. molly's blog (orangette) is pretty nifty, too - even the banner looks tasty.

**the weekend's other big hit. served cold, they're lethal.

04.23.09: PA redux

my feet and magnolia petals

alright: philadelphia. as i tweeted (and said about four thousand times, i'm told), it's pinchably cute. we had the good fortune to be in town for dazzling weather - breezy sunshine straight through - and the flowering trees had just started to shed their early spring blossoms, so everything was covered with petals. revolving doors and air conditioned shops would kick up little white eddies. it was like wandering around in a snow globe.

our pre-trip research was far more fruitful than i'd expected it to be: tripadvisor led me to the independent hotel [nb 2016: now the independent philadelphia hotel], a little boutique place in rittenhouse square, and travelzoo hooked us up there; we paid $119 for a room with a pressed tin ceiling in the bath.* design*sponge's city guide did us several solids, too: in fact, most of our random decisions worked out so well that i started to expect a stroke of bad luck just to balance things out. i'm used to special occasion doom, you see.

windows at mcgillin's

doomless occasions are so nice, internets. as we sipped pints and peoplewatched by the windows at mcgillin's,** joe's blackberry beeped: an anniversary note from his parents saying how happy they are that i'm their daughter.

imaginary vacation awards

best bar: national mechanics (22 south 3rd st. @ market). i didn't even try to blend like a local when i got a good look at the interior of this place: it was designed so well that i needed at least a dozen pictures immediately. the apothecary jar terraria! the lamps made of pharmaceutical bottles and whippets! the bill cosby pint glasses!*** if you find yourself in philly, find this place immediately.

best use of artichoke: three-way tie, osteria (alla giudia), amada (on flatbread with wild mushrooms, black truffles, and manchego), and tria (in salad with grilled asparagus, white beans, tomato-onion relish and pine nuts). inspired by joe's dad and his all-haggis scottish adventure, i tried to have an all-artichoke weekend. an excellent decision, if i do say so myself.

best use of al gore: this room.

i love you, wallpaper

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if you were to eat one foodstuff at every meal for a whole trip, what would it be?

02 have you been to philly? how was it?

03 when joe and i finally buy an apartment, should our bathroom have a tin ceiling or a little chandelier?**** (both would be overkill even for me).

*which strikes me as kind of brilliant, as it'd be so much easier to clean than the painted ceilings i've always had (no weird condensation-mold!). note to self: install pressed tin in bathroom.

**cheers for that tip, anonymous commenter!

***i don't have a picture of those, but...ask me about them sometime.

****i was skeptical at first, too, but they're surprisingly pleasing.

04.21.09: vapour trail

mcgillin's old ale house

we're in the last throes of getting the ladymag's june issue out into the world, so the epic poem about our trip will have to wait. the faux haiku version: philadelphia / is goddamn adorable. / we will be back soon.

clicking the mcgillin's photo will take you to my whole foreigntouristastic set, which features joe recovering from the mutter museum, fake steak, and deeply questionable rocky tributes. not bad for 38 hours.

04.16.09: again with the treacle and the cherry blossoms

cherry blossoms under scaffolding (2 of 2)

on a double-time errand run over my lunch break this afternoon, a patch of excellence! as they assembled a construction site in front of an urban outfitters,* someone wove the nearby trees through their scaffolding.** the fixtures plus the flora reminded me of the park (a chelsea bar that looks like architectural digest guest edited by miss havisham - so-so drinks, but a wonderful place to explore). can one build an apartment around a tree? i'd quite like that.

*yeah, i went to urban outfitters. i wanted to celebrate our apartment's long-awaited unpacking with new pillowcases (his and hers), but i neglected to notice that they were online only. alas!

**trees are this spring's big medium, i think: a few weeks ago someone was adding false foliage to the ones in front of the time warner center.


my new favorite vase:

favorite things: spicy inglehoffer mustard (and the excellent little potbellied jars it leaves behind), my great-grandfather's silver cigarette case (now a clutch), and cherry blossoms. happy spring, internets: you've been awfully nice about my umpteen tales of bed bug woe, and i dig you for that.

04.14.09: the dirty dozen, part III {le vent du metro}

09 heartening spot of the day: via rachel, i discovered the bright side project, a site that spreads the word about designers and rewards clever commenters (rachel won a gold clutch by telling a marvelous story about bread dough and her family's old car). dailycandy explains it well:
These days, it’s pretty tough to find the sunny side of the street.

But stationery designer Tristan Shout Brando is a ray of light during dark times. She has come up with The Bright Side Project, which is dedicated to reminding people that there is still goodness in this crazy world.

Here’s how it works: Every day in March there will be a question posed by an accessory designer (coming months will have different themes). One lucky reader with a creative answer will win a creation from said designer. Easy as that. The queries are intended to get people thinking on the — you guessed it — bright side. (Think, “How do you define internal peace?”)
my bed bugs comment is unlikely to win me a toywatch (a shame, as i've been batting my eyes at them for several months now - we feel strongly about enormous watches at kidchamp HQ), but you never know, right?

10 speaking of the buggers, we're very nearly at yet another finish line: six weeks after we found our first little friends on the mattress, we get to unpack our apartment! on thursday, that is. at present it still looks like this (the giant ziplocs have to stick around for three weeks after the last exterminator visit in case anything decided to linger and hatch - blech). the drama of reimbursement is far from over, however: though our management company promised they would cover our expenses, they ultimately offered credit for half the receipts we forwarded (a thousand-dollar difference). we explained in the friendliest possible terms that we were already lowballing our out-of-pocket costs - in my original letter, i'd tried to demonstrate our good faith by including an extra five pages of receipts for which we weren't asking to be reimbursed - and were told that we'd receive full credit if we signed a new lease (our old one is up in september). internets, my needs are simple: i want to stop imagining that things are crawling on me when i sleep, and i want to repair this giant bug-shaped hole in our bank account without going to housing court. cross your fingers for us!

11 in happier news, we finally got something together for our anniversary this weekend. it's not our wedding date, mind you, but it's ten years since we started dating in oxford; a decade is pretty cool, no? the original plan was to jet back to england for a long weekend in our old stomping grounds, but we're smack in the middle of shipping the june issue here at work - and tickets to london, recession or no, are still pretty outrageous. philadelphia is only an hour away, though, and joe and i have both been itching to go there for awhile now: alors, we shall celebrate in philly! train tickets are a mere $45 or so each way, and i found a good deal on a boutique hotel near rittenhouse square; we've got reservations at osteria (saturday night) and amada (an early dinner on sunday), i'm looking into museums, and i've been studying design*sponge's philadelphia design guide. my trip folder sez epic in loopy rainbow script across its cover; here's hoping, you know? any hidden philly gems we should know about?

12 in bright side and giant plastic bag news, giant inflatable animals made of subway exhaust (or, as joe and i call the footy breeze that whooshes down the platform and curls our hair on the lower east side, le vent du metro)! this footage has been everywhere, but that doesn't keep me from watching it several times a week.

04.13.09: thai spicy

101 in 1001 {II}: 054 have dinner at sripraphai in queens [completed 04.12.09]

easter dinner

my other half, an adventurous and well-read foodie, is more than happy to commute to a good meal; i would betray my country for a properly made mission burrito, but if mexican isn't on the table, i'm pretty much unwilling to go more than a few subway stops or stand around in excess of fifteen minutes. we did both last night, for joe's been talking for at least a year about the hot and sexy thai food waiting for us out in woodside (sripraphai's reviews, i will admit, impressed even me).

i thought the holiday would thin the thai-seeking crowd a bit, but the restaurant was packed when we rolled up at about eight; we took a number and spent twenty minutes shuffling our feet and checking out the mysterious desserts in refrigerators near the door (i ended up bringing a little container of wiggly, kelly green-striped coconut tapioca whatsit home; to my surprise, it was kind of tasty). when we finally snagged a table, it was in the restaurant's more recently renovated (and less harshly lit) wing; a good beginning. an even better beginning: big-ass menu binders with a substantial vegetarian section tabbed near the end. internets, i don't even remember when i last had tom yum soup (the bowl front and center in that photo above); i know that this tom yum soup, which was fresh, sour-spicy, and brimming with silky tofu and perfectly cooked cauliflower, was easily the best i've ever had. the vegetarian spring rolls (humble, but a must for american thai) were crisp and tasty as well - points for chili sauce that wasn't cloyingly sweet - and my bowl of red curry (we planned for serious leftovers) was muddy, moody, and dragon's-breath hot. my thai receptors, deadened by years of aggressively mediocre thai from the mostly interchangeable restaurants in hell's kitchen, had a synaesthetic moment of bliss; william gibson would have been proud (more on neuromancer, finally finished last night, in a day or two). i won't be heading out to queens every weekend or anything, mind you, but i know where to go the next time the soup jones strikes.

how was the holiday weekend - and how were your eats?

04.09.09: the dirty dozen, part II {bless us every one}

05 my camera's moodier settings are having, i will admit, an unduly dramatic effect on the tone of my photos. i was going to post a gaily colored picture of the trees blossoming in front of my apartment, but it's so much more fun to caption the ones i take in pinhole mode.

A guy watched me take this photo.

the orphans rejoiced when spring put her arms around the tenement building.

06 according to this morning's newsletter, gwyneth paltrow is selling her goop online ("i thought maybe i would ebay some of my favorite and most treasured things to raise some money for the robin hood foundation, who do a lot of amazing work in new york city."). this is a bold move: as any voodoo priest can tell you, it's a lot easier to practice black magic on someone when you have some of their personal effects. don't anger anyone who wears chicken bones as accessories, gwyneth! of course, there is the distinct possibility that they aren't her personal effects at all; it's a likelihood, really, for the idea that she and i wear the same size is more than a little silly (and, well, the items are listed as new).

07 via popbitch, the charles mingus cat toilet training program ("it took me about three or four weeks to toilet train my cat, nightlife."), c. 1972. no, seriously.

08 we've tiptoed into the time of year when i have jonathan richman's "springtime in new york" in my head in a near-constant loop. here's hoping a full version pops up on youtube one of these days; live, it's one of his loveliest songs.

on canal street in april when it's 60
and the snow is melting fast
it's still shady in the morning
when you're laughing in your t-shirt running past

in tompkins square park, a couple is meeting
say what you want but i feel my heart beating
cause i love springtime in new york,
springtime in new york i do
04.08.09: the dirty dozen, part I {snow in april edition}

01 a group of my college friends and i started sending each other birthday haiku via our google group (hipsterdeathsquad) a few years ago. it's kind of great: the aged one gets lots of inbox love, and the rest of us get lots of bad poetry. my syllables for jen, today's birthday girl:

chicago locals
forgo easter services
for jen's birthday bash.

dare we conclude that,
like the beatles, our girl is
bigger than jesus?

she makes better cake
for sure. happy birthday, kid -
big love from new york!

02 via lucky's style steals blog, the zappos map: a real time feed that shows shoe purchases on a google map. it's a bit like the tweet-maps that sprouted up around the presidential debates last fall, except, you know, with shopping. someone in riverside's got great taste in sneakers.

03 i passed a flock of choirboys in front of carnegie hall on my lunch break today. what is it about formalwear (they were wearing tuxes and electric blue bow ties) that makes young guys such baby birds? teen girls, now: the ones i see running off to prom all over the city are bold little warriors. was i that confident when i was that age? were my dates so...george-michael?

04 amanda and i met last night for the season's last installment of poems & pints, a reading series at fraunces tavern (new york city's oldest building, where washington addressed his officers for the last time). i will spare you my theories about the intricacies of cultivating post-college, non-work female friendships (i tried working them out earlier today, and the resulting paragraph was infinitely creepy) and say that i had a lovely time (coworkers: "...so how was the girl-date?" me: "not terrifying at all!"). also, watch out for sharon olds's compost poems: that lady loves her digestion imagery.

04.06.09: the burn

do not weight train with this man.

a man and his cheese

he might look like a sensitive new age armenian string cheese buying guy, but then he's all, "dead lifts are the best thing ever!" and it's twenty-four hours later, you need the muscle-numbing hot shower the icy pipes in your hundred-and-twenty-three-year-old building are denying you, and you feel like my car in high school when we parked it at irvine meadows for the KROQ weenie roast and a half-conscientious thief ambled by during the concert, stole the working battery, and replaced it with an almost-dead one (that they actually hooked back up). in short, ow.