06.28.10: i'm finished

finished: ye chandelier

more than eight months after i first started stripping and twisting wires together, dropping blown glass spheres on the cat, and whispering promises to the hoary gods of pre-war electricity before flipping the bedroom light switch, the bubble chandelier is done. DIY right down to the 12' hand-sewn cord cover. nap time.


poker night at our house, kittens. in case my feelings about dancing weren't yet clear, our playlist:

01 gravel pit - wu-tang clan
02 tattoo - the who
03 i left my wallet in el segundo - a tribe called quest
04 a pillar of salt - the thermals
05 list of demands - saul williams
06 to be young - ryan adams
07 waitress in the sky - the replacements
08 music is my hot, hot sex - css
09 crosstown traffic - red hot chili peppers
10 lipgloss - pulp
11 life on mars? - david bowie
12 7 - prince & the new power generation
13 easy lover - phil collins and philip bailey
14 twin cinema - the new pornographers
15 kim & jessie - m83
16 going back to cali - ll cool j
17 you're not all that (feat. jessica darling) - the herbaliser
18 don't let him waste your time - jarvis cocker
19 evil - howlin' wolf
20 daddy's gone - glasvegas
21 white lightning - george jones
22 damaged goods - gang of four
23 evil will prevail - the flaming lips
24 pussy - brazilian girls
25 i need a moment alone - ezra reich
26 trees - dr. octagon
27 graveyard girl - m83
28 heavy metal drummer - wilco
29 ashes to ashes - david bowie
30 fish - the damned
31 baby's on fire - brian eno
32 i'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you - black kids
33 (i can't get no) satisfaction - cat power
34 wrong 'em boyo - the clash
35 neat neat neat - the damned
36 golden years - david bowie
37 one pure thought - hot chip
38 jealousy - liz phair
39 timebomb - old 97's
40 elevate me later - pavement
41 cocaine socialism - pulp
42 this is hardcore - pulp
43 street fighting man - the rolling stones
44 walking in the rain - the ronettes
45 bring it on home to me (live) - sam cooke
46 let's get blown - snoop dogg
47 two sides / monsieur valentine - spoon
48 vanessa from queens - stephen malkmus
49 no depression - uncle tupelo

J: "you're supposed to play happy songs."
L: "those are happy."



101 in 1001 {II}: cook with 12 ingredients I’ve never used before [ongoing]

10: lavender. i've had my little glass jar of penzeys french lavender for months, and while i've been making lavender lemonade like a lavender-lemonade-making machine - for picnics in jersey, for experimental cocktails, for pouring over my head while i make high-end conditioner commercial faces - i hadn't actually cooked with it. of course, these lavender lemonade binges sort of mean that the ingredient is no longer one i haven't used before, but let's not go overboard. in the spirit with which i came up with the item in the first place, i made lavender shortbread cookies, and they're great. they taste like a high-rent version of the royal dansk danish butter cookies that'd materialize at extended family christmases when i was little. i am semi-seriously considering having a tea party.

on confections, i would regale my tea party with excerpts from "only mr. god knows why," my boyfriend anthony lane's new yorker dispatch from the eurovision 2010 song contest. writing a less than entertaining piece about eurovision is like taking a terrible picture of new york at night - you'd really have to work at it - but he makes a point of being droll, incisive, scrupulously dressed. favorite bits:
[W]hen you sing in English, you may be blasting through the language barrier to reach a wider audience, but are you not abasing yourself before the Anglo-American cultural hegemony that the competition is clearly designed to rebuff? There is, of course, a middle way, as taken by the Israeli-born Carmela Corren, who sang for Austria in 1966, and changed gear from German to English halfway through "Vielleicht Geschieht ein Wunder" ("Maybe a Miracle Will Happen"). Historians of Eurovision argue that the miracle has been waiting to happen ever since the same country dispatched Bob Martin--again, not the most wistfully Viennese of names--to the competition in 1957, with his bottom-ranking ballad "Wohin, Kleines Pony."


The final act, from Turkey, tried to rough things up with a dab of hard rock, but they sounded like a school band, and the angry stripping robot at the back, who sawed off her own armor in a shower of sparks, missed her cue. As a pièce de résistance, she was meant to yank off her silver helmet to show her golden tresses, but it fell off early, and she was reduced to holding it up shyly to the cameras, like a little girl showing her parents the cup she just won for Best Handwriting.


It is a matter of tradition, almost a matter of pride, that Cyprus awards its twelve points to Greece; they would give twelve points to Greece even if the Greek entry consisted of an elderly Cretan slapping an octopus against the side of a wharf. Recent obligations also play a part; Greece itself received twelve points from Germany this year, which was Germany's way of saying sorry for bailing out the Greek economy to the tune of only twenty-eight billion dollars.
i'm so glad we're together, anthony lane.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 any cookie recipes i should know about? this will be a fancy tea party, you see, with a variety of cookies.

02 were/are you a fan of ye olde tinned butter cookies?

03 have you ever watched eurovision?

04 are you with me on this anthony lane thing? i mean, you guys.

06.21.10: culture blotter {the merchant of venice & the winter's tale @ shakespeare in the park}

day 311: sky above shakespeare

the public's decision to cast a repertory company of actors for shakespeare in the park this year is zippy for all kind of reasons. because they're flip-flopping between shows instead of staging two uninterrupted runs, one could in theory end up in central park for the merchant of venice and the winter's tale on consecutive nights (a prospect that thrilled me and vaguely horrified joe, who likes shakespeare well enough but found the idea of giving him six hours in forty-eight a little much). because they're striking at least once a week, the set design (which is typically quite fine) need to be extra-devious. because the public's artistic director is interested in elizabethan repertory, o my brothers, the 2010 lineup is all shakespeare all the time; euripides is the man and it's mean to poke hippies, but last year's bloody bloody arty chanting and 2008's hair left much to be desired.

the first performance of the merchant of venice (featuring al pacino as shylock) last saturday was...a little intense.


weekend shows are always popular, but this was something altogether different; some dude was blending margaritas on the lawn, several scalpers were hissing their way up and down the line (ticket hijinks are an ongoing problem, but not on that scale), and chevy chase was positively underfoot (which was also the case when i went to a pacino premiere at the ziegfeld a few years ago). the stage was as clever as i'd hoped it would be: a concentric series of sliding wrought iron gates separated nineteenth-century clerks' desks from one another and orbited a magnificent victrola (the music, particularly shylock's theme, was lovely). the play itself was interesting; i'd never seen merchant staged, and i wasn't quite prepared for how jarring the word jew needs to sound when one stages it as a tragedy. full-throated shylock (which is how al pacino played him - he was all growling, flying-spittle anger) is hard to subdue, and i can see why daniel sullivan decided to stage his conversion as a torture scene; he considers himself a prisoner of war, not a civilian. that reading works for most of the play, but it doesn't leave much room for the fifth act's comedy; how are we supposed to care about misplaced wedding rings when we've essentially just watched waterboarding? that aftertaste spoils each of the play's couplings, as it must, and leaves shylock's daughter on an empty stage, hearing his theme a final time at the scene of his baptism. it's a feel-good play.

then there's the winter's tale,* which gets the bulk of its unpleasantness out of the way early. for those of you unfamiliar with the lesser romances, this one begins as something like othello without iago: king leontes of sicilia decides his wife (hermione) and best friend (polixenes) are having an affair, refuses to listen to reason and his entire court and apollo (bad move) when they tell him he's a tyrannical fool, and makes everyone's life miserable for the sixteen years it takes his daughter to grow up in exile (he thinks she's dead; in fact, she's abandoned in the aforementioned best friend's kingdom by his tiresome underling). while the misogyny in the winter's tale could be as oppressive as merchant's anti-semitism, this production has genuine lovers to buoy it: heather lind, merchant's tragic portia, is also utterly charming as winter's abandoned perdita, raised by shepherds as a living, breathing pastoral.** leontes might not deserve his queen when she's returned to him, but his queen deserves their daughter, and the sweetness of their reunion (fine, i cried) makes hermione's self-imposed exile (she too is presumed dead for sixteen years) and apparent forgiveness of her schlub husband a bit more plausible. winter's set, in turn, is probably my favorite of the seven i've now seen at the delacorte; a wall of glass panes rose and set like a sun in the background, huge altars and censers snaked smoke across the stage, and puppeteers whipped bird-kites around our heads. moths spiraling between speakers, joe's hands clasped as he leaned into the final speeches, the night's warm breath on my neck.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 is chevy chase in pacino-specific love with me?

02 have you ever seen merchant staged? how was it?

03 what provisions would you pack for a night of theatre in the park?

*we had tickets for its first night as well and were rained out; happily, we made it through the virtual line again this past saturday.

**L: "perdita looks just like...what's-her-name from gossip girl, you know, blair waldorf?" J: "leighton meester. it saddens me that i know that."


day 295: soviet kitsch

{excerpts from "lenny hearts eunice," gary shteyngart's "20 under 40" new yorker story featuring the co-op in which both he and i live}

{with commentary}
First order of business when I got back: to celebrate what I already have. I began with the seven hundred and forty square feet that form my share of Manhattan Island. I live in the last middle-class stronghold in the city, high atop a red-brick ziggurat that a Jewish garment workers’ union erected on the banks of the East River back in the days when Jews sewed clothes for a living. Say what you will, these ugly co-ops are full of authentic old people who have real stories to tell (although these stories are often meandering and hard to follow; e.g., who on earth was this guy “Dillinger”?).
{eight months into ziggurat living, i've developed the same sort of secretive, slightly unsavory affection for said brutal '50s architecture that i have for late '80s volvo sedans. when i lived in southern california, the local drug store, my family's church, and the virulent beige cafeteria that served soapy green jell-o to which my sisters and i were addicted were all right next to leisure world, supposedly the largest gated retirement community in the country. moving to our tower was a bit like going home.}
Then I celebrated my Wall of Books. I counted the volumes on my twenty-foot-long modernist bookshelf to make sure that none had been misplaced or used as kindling by my subtenant. “You’re my sacred ones,” I told the books. “No one but me still cares about you. But I’m going to keep you with me forever. And one day I’ll make you important again.”
{i've seen and will admit to giving his wall of books The Bookish Hipster Appraisal; those of you who remember last summer's frantic apartment-hunting and co-op-approval-seeking posts (deleted in a fit of orwellian paranoia when we were getting ready for our co-op interview in september) might recall my sentimental favorite, a sixth floor balcony apartment with so-so views, a renovated kitchen, and good-looking modern furnishings. it also had stacks of the russian debutante's handbook and absurdistan tucked in the closet like a litter of kittens; it was gary's, you see. we totally yoinked his clever faux crown molding technique when we painted our bedroom gray, so i think of him fondly as i drift off to sleep.}
I celebrated the low-rise housing projects crowding my immediate view, the so-called Vladeck Houses, which stand in red-brick solidarity with my own co-ops, not exactly proud of themselves, but resigned and necessary, their thousands of residents primed for summer warmth and, if I may speculate, summer love.
{those houses were one of the big reasons joe was skeptical of casa de gary, actually, and part of why we didn't make an offer on it; they aren't so bad to look at, really, but they are indeed right there. though i've only run into the guy whose pit bull wears a fur coat that once.}
In my trendy old man’s getup I ambled with easy grace down Grand Street, stepping off each curb with the profound “oy” that is the call-and-response of my neighborhood.
{it sort of is, actually.}
She was disappointed by my apartment, by how far it was from the F line and how ugly the buildings were. “Looks like I’ll get some exercise walking to the train,” she said. “Ha-ha.” This was what her generation liked to add to the end of sentences, a kind of nervous tic. “Ha-ha.”
{OMG IT'S NOT FAR. and it's hipster-approved, fictional missy.}

{not that i'm defensive.}

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 could you live in an ugly building?

02 would knowing an apartment belonged to an author affect your interest in buying it?

03 why d'you think gary keeps those books in his closet?

04 how was your week? work carried me around town in its mouth and buried me under the azaleas; i've missed you, internets.


weekend project the second was rehabbing a frame for the hand-printed ac newman poster i bought from nate duval at last year's renegade craft fair (and rolled up and hid in assorted closets for the next year). last sunday i finally bought an old 18"x24" piece (with glass! i like to fix things, but i did not want to forage for and/or cut glass) from a garrulous woman in brooklyn who spent fifteen minutes telling me about the cats in her barn. i might need to start lint rolling a bit more carefully before i leave the house.

rehabbed frame

the frame's main selling point was its dimensions, since the gesso was webbed with cracks and the joins weren't especially tight. i added new d-rings and hanging cable, sanded down the front a bit, gave the whole thing two coats of white paint, and finished it with polyurethane. you'll have to imagine the original finish, which was what i'll call "disconsolate umber."

rehabbed frame (detail)

it was blustery last week, so the frame took on airborne bits of the lower east side as it dried out on the balcony, which is alright with me. i sentimentalized the bubbles under the "boys don't cry" sticker on my volkswagen back in san francisco the same way; clinically smooth surfaces are nice and all, but i got to drive around with little pockets of the mission c. 2001 on my bumper. when one is in town one amuses oneself.


it was a crafty weekend, internets, a sporty and a yuppie weekend; i put the last nails in three projects which had been floating about the apartment, we migrated up to our old local for the usa-england match on saturday afternoon, shakespeare was parked at last on saturday night - first night of the merchant of venice! - and we returned frosty the beleaguered helper robot yesterday afternoon.* i'm up to my eyeballs in the august issue and haven't a luxurious lunch break in which to tell you about shakespeare just yet, but i can get started on the crafty stuff. a design*sponge sneak peek featuring a cambridge apartment full of staghorn ferns convinced me that we needed one of our own. a catproof plant that addresses the antler trend without, you know, requiring any antlers!

plaque with rings

sprout home had a fern for me, so i spent last week staining and sealing a plaque with which to mount and hang it.

mounted staghorn fern (detail)

i screwed a bunch of eyes into the plaque so that i could lace the moss-wrapped fern against it with wire, gaga-corset-like.

soaking the staghorn fern

i gave the root ball and moss a good soaking; wild staghorns cling to trees and get most of their moisture from the air, but as houseplants they need to be doused every now and again.

mounted staghorn fern

we eyeballed a spot with strong but indirect light, sunk a nail into the wall, and boom.

mounted staghorn fern

meet moose the fern. he's cute, no?

*and somehow managed to hire a 93-year-old man to ferry us and two new window units from wall street back to the lower east side, a trip which was both fascinating and more than a little terrifying.



SURVIVOR: let the great world spin (colum mccann)*
CHALLENGER: the girl with the dragon tattoo (stieg larsson)

knowing of my iceland fetish, our friend jacob gave me arnaldur indriðason's first inspector erlendur novel back in '08, and i've made it most of the way through his translated stuff since then (get in paperback and on my bookshelf, hypothermia!). modern crime fiction has never interested me, but modern icelandic crime fiction is all kinds of fun (and educational, kids): i learned, for instance, that almost all icelanders go by their first name at all times (and are listed by their first names in the phone book).

that same nordic setting-magic wafts about stieg larsson's megabestselling the girl with the dragon tattoo, though it's blacker: as alex berenson notes in the times, larsson gives the reader a pretty strong impression of sweden, "especially when it comes to the way swedish men treat swedish women." sections open with grim assault statistics (part 2: "Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man."), and the swedish original and last year's film adaptation** are both titled män som hatar kvinnor, or "men who hate women." that said, larsson offers us other, more endearing tidbits about the swedes: they love open faced sandwiches, for example, and they are always offering each other coffee. if you can afford to wait, they even eventually stop talking about eugenics! larsson was an investigative journalist, and tattoo is also full of glimpses of the swedish publishing industry that both enthrall and terrify me: millennium, his main character's fictional business magazine, has a circulation of 21,000 and a full-time staff of around six (in both europe and britain, permanent publishing staffs are often infinitesimal compared to their american counterparts, death of print notwithstanding). those details leaven what would otherwise be a fairly standard locked room mystery: mikael blomkvist, a recently disgraced editor, is tasked with finding out what happened to a girl who disappeared on an isolated island in norrland in the sixties. the tattooed girl, in turn, is lisbeth salander, a freelance researcher who turns up to fortify blomkvist's research the cyberpunk way (her handle is "wasp," which somehow solidifies the conflation of her and angelina jolie's hackers character in my head). her methods are both sexy and somewhat vague; larsson is all about describing his characters' macs (at times tattoo reads a bit like a steve jobs speech), but the programming he details is...improbable.

...which doesn't bother me, really; i don't turn to mass market reads for the html. i could've done without a few of the extended abusive sex scenes (i get that larsson wanted to pick apart some nasty bits of the swedish character, but wow, awkward over-the-shoulder subway reading); that said, tattoo has an earnestness i wasn't expecting in a summer thriller. good on you, tattoo.

VICTOR: let the great world spin. iceland's still ahead of sweden (those inspector erlendur novels are quite meaty), and ireland's still ahead of...everyone. colum mccann, are you a cyborg?

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you read any nordic crime? how was it?

02 what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sweden?

03 hackers was the pinnacle of angie's pulchritude: yea or nay?

04 with what shall i unseat colum mccann? i just started denis johnson's tree of smoke, but one should have backup.

05 how's your summer reading shaping up thus far?

*previous battle here.

**best sentence in last week's entertainment weekly item on how daniel craig might play blomkvist in an american version of the film: "David Fincher is set to direct to film [sic] and is said to be high on Craig." best david fincher factoid: he directed jermaine stewart's "we don't have to take our clothes off" video, a work i've always preferred to panic room.

06.04.10: one marriage, two value systems

From: Lauren
Sent: Friday, June 04, 2010 12:33 PM
To: Joe
Subject: So

I bought a Pavement ticket. If you choose excellence, you know where to find me.

From: Joe
Sent: Friday, June 4, 2010 4:11 PM
To: Lauren
Subject: RE: So

I hope you have a wonderful time! Perhaps that evening I will be at home listening to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, enjoying air conditioning and a cold, reasonably-priced beer.