cheated, a little

Friday, August 21, 2009

wouldn't you take a warming, intoxicating, melt-you-all-over sip (or two) of balvenie single-barrel 15 year-old single malt scotch, especially if it was graciously passed in the luxuriously modern salon at l'espalier for a dear friend's 28th birthday celebration?

well, wouldn't you?

so, such is my lapse. but oh! mercy on this forgivable trifle. truthfully, i am glad that i did stick to my abstinent guns, for the summer refreshers that english bill prepared were blissfully boozefree, yet absolutely exquisite.

the first, paired with an island creek oyster topped dramatically with a pouf of cucumber foam and smidge of fruit and glistening roe, stood head to head with any cocktail worth its mettle: an ethereal elixir of watermelon granita muddled with lemon verbena "plucked this morning from frank's own farm."

heck yes.

the second beverage that materialized also burst forth in all sorts of sun-kissed pleasure. passion fruit juice, steeped with a cinnamon stick for a day or so, is shaken with honey syrup and then taken over ice; sipped daintily from a straw, if you would do so kindly. really perfect, presiding somewhere in that nebulous middle ground between simple fresh juice and meticulous mixology. it drinks like a dream.

there was plenty of emotional flux throughout the day. a sweet yet sentimental goodbye over breakfast, the stupefying stifle of what became the sauna-city, some stolen moments with a bohemian who has nothing to lose and all to gain.

up next: sugarbomber ice cream showdown. may the best delights reward a patient, passionate following of frozen dessert. in other words: the most righteous guerilla dessert feast in a somerville parking lot! sounds like trouble. sweet, sweet trouble.

darkly bright

can't wait to participant in adam tessier's collaborative project, our daily sonnet. i'll spare you the details of how i know him (about six ways to sunday, tucked within the folds and loops and gnarls of cambridge's social pool), much less how i managed to meet him about a year after we last spoke. but here we are, enthralled by shakespeare and people and internet and whatallthisreallymeans.

every day, one video is added to the published tally: one speaker, one sonnet, in singular style, until all 154 are recited.

there have been 10 sonnets performed as of today; holly's glimmering rendering of #3 is my favorite thus far.

after reading a few dozen tonight of the enormous remainder (my summer camp culturefest must truck on), i committed myself to sonnet #43:

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

word after word, each burns with proof. this shall be the one.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o ♥ p o n y o p o n y o p o n y o p o n y o p o n y o p o n y o

just witnessed miyazaki's film ponyo this evening with jenna at the coolidge corner theatre. i left inspired, wide-eyed, delighted, altogether rosied with a wonderful story and old-school animation. you just need to watch it -- the humor, voicing and timing is not easily portrayed secondhand -- but instant wins in my book:
  • the gorgeous, silent introductory scene exploding with detail, supporting a serene balance of an ecosystem shimmering in tandem
  • jellyfish! so many jellyfish!
  • the mutually neurotic tendencies of the stripey-suited father and earthbound lisa
  • the extreme evocation of the ocean, the light, the color, the fluidity
  • octopus sneaking its way into the house
  • the intoxicating magic of ramen
  • mass-guppy tickling of scary-eyed water demons
  • casual appearance by enormous, scaly, prehistoric fish
  • the dry, crazy humor of cranky old people
  • the vaguely Renn-faire speak, "kiss this bubble, child, when you reach to the surface"
and, as an aside, the haunting resemblance between ponyo and the little pilgrims (night walking) by yoshitomo nara:

the glass menagerie

lots of unexpectedness today: a tumultuous start in the morning, an honest-to-goodness free lunch (out-for-hours leftover pizza harkens back to grad school-worthy small victories), windows-hate technical difficulties, and the miraculous chance that i didn't get anything on my purple silk harness filippa k dress that i was foolishly, swelteringly traipsing in all day. score.

the reason for the outfit (the concept of day-to-night dressing is like a sofa bed; it doesn't really do proper justice for either function) was for the 500-or-so attended yelp gala at the harvard museum of natural history. the 'gala' aspect of it was silly but fun -- an excuse for ladies and gents to get dolled up for each other (rather than in front of the computer tapping away at, ostensibly). i invited jake along for the ride, and looked forward to seeing a slew of familiar faces.

traversing through harvard yard on a breezy summer evening like tonight was pure pleasure. all nostalgia, tender familiarity. silent, wise trees saying hello like they've known me for years -- and they have.

any excuse to see the glass flowers is a treat in itself, but the frozen-in-time venue held a precarious balance between an eye-opening collection of animals and a pathetically retro appeal (some taxidermied specimens were so distressed you could see the armature; glass was warped; walls and surfaces were accidentally stained or painted a mustard yellow that hadn't seen the light of day since 1962). even for me, who usually has squeamishness in the negative, the idea of chomping on pork burritos or steak tartare while standing next to a dozen creatures in various stages of fur and formaldehyde was a little disquieting.

one gastronomic and personal highlight: seeing chef marco suarez at the bon savor table, with a most exquisite bacon-wrapped pheasant terrine. (notwithstanding the fact that a brilliantly plumed pheasant, caught in outstretched prostration, was strapped on display in a diorama near the museum's entrance.)

another highlight was getting my eyebrows threaded gratis at the naz kupelian salon booth in the 'mineral hall'. how often do i get my eyebrows done, and do i usually get them waxed or threaded? er... no comment. i take pride in the fact that i'm pretty low-maintenance (and do everything at home as much as possible), but goodness, it always feels good to be groomed upon. if the hair on my head could grow fast enough, and money wasn't an issue, i'd get my coif cut at a salon every day. there's something about the element of transformation, and having your head at the absolute mercy of an artist.

but seriously. thank you, leighann, for organizing this absolutely tamed circus. it was a wonderful event to see everyone in their sunday best, and the array of tasty sponsors amidst a historical institution. plus, we bore witness to a wicked funky air conditioner with ducts and foil that looked like it came out of tomorrowland. that: priceless.

afterward, stopped by upstairs for a chit-chat and zebra-lined comfort. while dipping grilled cheese odds and ends into vats of impossibly creamy tomato soup, i received my mocktail experiment for day 2. matt, in attempt to make something "not so sweet" for me, came up with this, which i adored: mint muddled with lime, shaken with lino's housemade ginger beer, dashed up with peychaud's and fee bros whiskey-aged bitters, and fizzled with a bit of soda water. sensually spicy and mintalicious, and totally refreshing in such a season. shall i bestow the moniker... "jamaican patience"?

though it didn't entail going out, i did maintain the summer-campy cultural experience promised to myself. tonight i unearthed a lot of gems while preparing for my show, sans serif, on wmbr 88.1FM. (listen to the hour-long show in MP3 here). you can recount the playlist for yourself, but what struck the hardest was how modern the work of patrick cowley & jorge socarras sounded, despite its recording in the late 70s. the synthy proto-techno stuff spawned and influenced the likes of depeche mode and lcd soundsystem. they were absolutely artists before their time. though cowley died in 1982, a bunch of tracks of unreleased work from 1976-1979 is being released in the album catholic, which i got the privilege of queueing up tonight.

by the way, some visual evidence surfaced from last sunday's whiskey smash bash at eastern standard. in my natural habitat, of course, washing down pork product with eagle rare. and it feels. so. good.

camp liu-anna-wanna

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

i've declared a staycation of sorts. not necessarily the kind where you sit by a hotel pool, dipping your toes idly while reading a dogeared novel, dreaming about the riviera while figuring out what mbta bus route to eventually take back home. but rather one of the emotional getaway, one where i declare summer camp is now: it's my party and i'll macrame if i want to.

so every day this week, i will spend my evenings on something performative and enjoyable--a film, a concert, a furtive harmonium wailing in someone's backyard, whatever--rather than the constant oot and abootness that usually characterizes the liu. not to say i'm not aboot, but doing so as a solo act. it's commitment.

tonight i went to see (500) days of summer at the harvard square cinema, and absolutely adored it. oh, it was heartstring-pulling and teeming with sharply timed dialogue and endless flirtations with the audience that makes it impossible to hate. the acting was impeccably strong on both accounts. and can i please, please, please have summer's pastiched, art-strewn, toile-papered apartment? long-lashed girl has serious, vintage-drips-sex style that's real, yet irresistible. her pants wrinkled after a work day; her face gloriously un-botoxed in a smile; the you-can-draw-on-my-arm candor.

i think what i loved so much is that, watching it, you really get the the-world-can't-be-more-perfect swellings of infatuation and the subsequent burn-and-crash catastrophe of confusion, breakup and constant rumination. i literally felt the rush in my heart, deep and fast, with the grandiose zig and zag of the narrative. a sensation at once intimately familiar and, alternatively, a vicarious deal. this isn't anything new, but for some reason it was especially resonant--perhaps because the protagonists are pretty much of 'my' 'generation'. it unleashes the escalation of anxieties after you finally come to the realization that life only moves forwards, never backwards.

not sure if the director meant this, but in hindsight, it almost seemed like an american version of amelie--in a good way. the artful reinterpretations of tom's perspective in different cinematic modes (the french scenes emphasized this connection). the interplay between reality and fantasy with overlapped graphics; the moment when amelie melts, heartbroken, into a waterfall that splashes dejectedly in the cafe is translated here when tom angrily busts out of summer's rooftop party and disappears at a standstill, black silhouette against a misty void of the city. the recollection of each of the characters' upbringing, with that-explains-it childhood quirks and parallel do-all-things-lead-to-this-fateful-moment framing. also: tom and summer (not to mention amelie) watch a lot of films together. and i imagine many couples in various stages of their relationship are watching (500) days of summer; watch the ripples go!

the ending-ending is endearingly silly, but the end of the '500 days' is extremely moving. my heart still sort of hurts thinking about it. but somehow we all manage to find the strength to say goodbye, get off the bench and prepare for the next day: (1)

in other news, i'm doing a little simultaneous experiment: 7 days of dry. or would that be (7) days? it's the best way to research mocktails, which are totally the new bacon-wrapped cocktail.

after the film, i met up with the lish and some industry people i haven't seen in a while at the bar at clio. todd fixed me up a nameless frothy concoction with raw egg white, lime juice, lemon juice, dash of grenadine, and ginger ale. shaken like crazy and served sans ice in a collins, the foam floated deliciously about halfway down the glass. a sip revealed the drink's bearings as super-fancy version of middle-school prom punch--totally reminiscent of fruity sherbet scooped into a vat of citric soda. kinda fun, kinda sweet, and incidentally fitting right in my grown-up summer camp shtick.

hit me with any and all suggestions for what else i should see, attend, or sip this week in terms of pleasure-seeking. at the moment i may not have a bonfire to toast my s'mores, but impaled food? now that's a given.

the writer's plight in julie & julia

Sunday, August 16, 2009

irony always finds its way to bite.

who would expect that a film depicting everything that i find exasperating, self-absorbed and flash-in-pan-fame about modern media and blog culture would be just the impetus for me to fervently jot down my response online?

more than most, i would only assume.

i had been looking very forward to seeing julie & julia since the frenzy started, from the previews to the screenings to the opening weekend (last) and subsequent film writeups. naturally, being a complete food obsessive and starving-artist writer, i was piqued from the get-go. and despite many opportunities to watch it from last friday on, i kept the suspense so i could watch it with fresh eyes with my friend frank (a classifiably starving artist who chooses to eat exceptionally well) last night at the illuminated-owl lined screening room in the somerville theatre.

to prepare our minds and bellies, we supped at hungry mother, where i always manage to feel, in foolproof measures, better and better with each subsequent visit. seeing duane warmed my heart (the becherovka-laced no. 57 took care of the belly), not to mention learning that alon and rachel just celebrated the birth of their baby daughter, mira. john emerging from the sweltering kitchen in an apron and ear-to-ear grin, jennifer stashing a 40 of miller high life in a brown bag before delivering it to a table, naomi retelling stories with aplomb--such small, yet persistent details contribute to the indescribable pleasure of everyone here, there. everywhere.

chenin blanc, viognier, clams with housemade chorizo and hominy and refreshingly al dente potatoes, baked grits with house smoked bacon and cheddar, a succotash-esque side whose name i don't remember but starts with M and was addictive beyond measure [edit: john helpfully reminds me it's maque choux], swift demitasses of espresso and eager developments in brillet pineau des charentes, meletti anisette and amaro.

it lingers.

so yes, the film. i'll get the obvious bits out: streep is nothing short of incredible. the shots of food elicit gasps and egg-wash-golden murmur-gasms. the husbands are amusing but totally secondary. the stomach-lurching arcs of drama lead gracefully into a rose-colored ending. and, apparently, julia child had an amazing taste in shoes.

but for some reason, i felt especially nonplussed, even indignant, about the julie powell narrative. it came across as extremely narcissistic, and well--yes--a bit disrespectful to the real julia child in her apparently worshipful tribute to her. and despite julie's ambitious project and fervent followship ("i can't let down my readers!"), the questions raised (even explicitly in the film) really didn't have satisfactory answers:

what was the motivation--to make her feel better about her vapid-seeming life or to motivate and equip others with skills and morale? could she herself be her own role model instead of clinging to her projected perfection on a talented, though mortal, figure? if she were so poor, how did she manage to purchase so many ingredients in such a short span of time? was it really that easy to secure a book/media/tv/fame-in-fifteen in less than a year of a sweet, yet small, project? and something that perhaps is beside the point, but crucial nonetheless: perhaps she could weave a tale, but could julie really, actually cook?

though incidentally, i could completely empathize with the phone conversations between her and her mother regarding the blog. (hi mom, i know you're reading this very post, and you probably will call me to laugh and say you're just trying to look out for me. it's cool :)) but having the constant pressure of a fun, perhaps flippant, very public project. having your mom be the only one who, depressingly but supportively, comments. being immediately concerned after misinterpreting a faux-dramatic posting. all that, very true.

i tried to find the seed of my restless annoyance at julie (or at least the one portrayed in the film). she took less than one year of tapping away at an invisible, yet quantifiable audience, whereas julia took major strides in surmounting the sex and class ceilings, had to deal with the thorns of teamwork and constant travel, and took eight painstaking years on a very uncertain project that she, somehow, managed to make certain. that julia is so much greater a respectable artist than julie is obvious, and the juxtaposed stories just made the contrast ever more so.

then again, am i just jealous that julie powell lucked out with all this success as a writer? perhaps. but it also gives dashful hope that doing the right things at the right time, no matter how precarious, can lead to events beyond expectation.

encouragingly, many changes afoot.

anyway, the point is, julia child was a kick-butt rogue and inspiration to all subsequent (and specifically american female) cooks and writers. i mean, just look at her:

and, in indulgent tribute, two drops in the sizzling saute of julia child footage.

fowl ("the CHICKEN SISTERS!") and eggs (with not one, but two pan-flipping demonstrations)

bon appetit!

the touch of summer

i cannot ask for finer adventures, more gracious friends, the beauty of serendipity and tenacity. in mid-august reflection: you have treated me well, boston, as well as i hope i have treated you.

to wonder.

+ + +

there was adventure.

there was music.

there was mirth.

there were goodbyes.

there was sunshine.

and ... take a wild guess.

and all of it, salt-kissed sweet.