Sunday, April 27, 2008

Up Close and Personal with the Paper Boats Balcony

Having nothing better to write about on this not-terribly-nice day, I thought I'd provide a little tour of my now thoroughly be-planted balcony. We went with a purple and yellow theme this year, with a touch of white. To start with we have this purple plant with little flowers (most of which aren't blooming at present. Next up are two planters full of marigolds which live on a bench.On the far side of the bench we have a big pot of pansies. And then next to them a table with some snapdragons (which aren't really in focus--sorry!).

Then comes the storage container with its smaller pot of pansies.
And between our balcony and the neighbors we have this little planter full of white flowers. I love these (and various other small wildflowery plants) but they call for full sun so we can only put them in the one place. Then we have another bench standing on the storage container. The aloe goes on the right side of the bench but it's inside at the moment and on the left side of the bench we have a geranium.
Here is Pyramus hanging out. He used to be a street cat and still loves to chill outside whenever he gets a chance. He demanded I take a break from photographing flowers and provide him with a lap to sit on though. And then we have the jasmine, which has been trying to die for over a year now. It's the only plant other than the aloe that we bother to bring inside for the winter and the cats love nothing better than to eat it and then throw up translucent green liquid and partially masticated leaves. Wendy keeps watering the poor thing but I doubt it'll ever be healthy again.
And that was a kind of depressing note to end on. Oh well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This and That (once more)

I was reading today's Alistair Macaulay review in the New York Times and I realized he had just described exactly how I feel while watching the Boston Bruins play hockey. Which is why I'm thoroughly grateful that I won't be doing so again until next fall.
While you watch, you begin to feel that Bill Clinton probably eloped with Michelle Obama long ago, that the problems of Palestine and Iraq and Afghanistan must have all been sorted by now, that whole generations of human life have passed and aliens have surely taken over the planet and then departed, all while you are stuck there in the theater trying to find the least interest in watching the same tepid floozies doing the same limp steps.
Well, maybe it's not exact--I am, after all, generally sitting on my couch in front of the television when I watch the Bruins--but it's pretty damn close.

Also, this is neither here nor there but too absurd not to share: My roommate's parents just had to buy a new toilet after her mother clogged their old--as in about 70 years old--toilet by accidentally flushing a large and very hard meatball. Yes, really. No, meatball is not a euphemism in this story. The toilet had to be taken apart completely and was so old it couldn't be put together again. That, my friends, is one hell of a meatball. Let this be a cautionary tale for you all--keep meatballs far away from the bathroom at all times.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Love Songs (Les Chansons d'amour)

So, in case people haven't picked up on this, I'm a fan of musicals. Not so much of the big, overwhelming, cheesy sort (see Wicked) but of the smaller scale sort. Not that I never like the big stuff, but sometimes the small ones seem more effective. Les Chansons d'amour isn't a great movie by any means but it is one I thoroughly enjoyed.

To get the criticism out of the way, the movie never quite seems to develop its themes fully--it feels like more could have been done in places and the ending is abrupt--and the subtitles for the songs are sometimes good and sometimes a bit of a disaster. Wendy assures me that the lyrics are decidedly not awkward in French and are, in fact, very good, so blame that one on the translator.

Still, there's more good than bad. The music is a sort of French pop that I enjoy and the actors do a nice job of handling the musical numbers without seeming forced. (No subtitles in the clips on YouTube, unfortunately.)

The family in the movie is a nice change from the dysfunctional families that seem to pervade most movies and the relationships between the family members seemed more true and familiar to me than those in many movies. The story is emotionally involving and I think what the director is aiming at in his examination of love--the ways in which it shifts, the relationships people form to fill different needs--is interesting. And Louis Garrel is delightful. So all in all well worth seeing, I think.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring Fever

I am not well. I got home tonight and drank a gigantic cup of tea and now my throat feels a bit better but still, general grossness is the predominant feeling of the day. Which was independently crappy anyway. We've definitely hit the "it's beautiful and I just want to be outside" portion of the spring and being inside in my little cubicle with no exposure to natural light is killing me. Or at least making me very whiny.

I'm also feeling cranky about the visit from the Pope although that will dissipate if the traveling inconveniences everyone is worrying about fail to materialize. I have to go to a Passover seder fairly close to St. Patrick's Cathedral but hopefully any fuss there will be over before the evening. I might just be able to avoid those streets anyway. That would be nice. I'm probably making something out of nothing just because I'm feeling icky.

Anyway, now that I've complained extensively, I thought I'd post a couple springy poems by E. E. Cummings, who I always think of as a spring and summery sort of poet.


O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
..........fingers of
purient philosophers pinched
,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
oftn have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
..........thou answerest
them only with


Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

Monday, April 14, 2008


Wendy and I went up to City Center Friday to see the Kirov perform. We sat next to the two chattiest British people I have ever met who talked to us through all the intermissions and were borderline rude about America throughout. And as a sidenote, where do people get the idea that Americans don't recycle? I keep hearing that lately and I find it so bizarre. I mean, there are laws promoting recycling in New York City. And even if that weren't the case, I've still been recycling for as long as I can remember.

The program started with Chopiniana, which was lovely and dreamlike. I don't have a lot to say about it but the dancers seemed completely invested in it and very unaffected. I enjoyed it more than anything else on the program. Despite being about 100 years old, it doesn't feel stale.

I wish I could say the same about Le Spectre de la Rose. The thing, as I see it, is that you take a fairly silly idea and combine it with an absurd pink leotard and a dippy, be-petaled pink shower cap, and then say, "here, pay attention to the dancing." I don't think art has to be relevant, but when you're talking about dance, where the fact that it's happening now matters, I'm not convinced that the presentation--sets, costumes--shouldn't be in line with modern sensibilities. I could understand if it was a period costume, but the man is dressed up as a fucking flower. As is, the piece comes off feeling kind of dusty and dated, as if there should be a faint odor of mothballs drifting through the theater.

Uliana Lopatkina is very beautiful in The Dying Swan but, to me, this too comes with a bit of kitsch. The music is lovely and she looked very good but seemed somewhat detached. Somehow I think I'd like to see a swan a bit less resigned to death, a bit more animalistic or pained or something. That's not to say I didn't enjoy watching her--I enjoyed it very much--and it's definitely not a universal opinion though. As I was heading out for the toilets during intermission I overheard one man telling a friend he'd "just let the tears flow." So there's something there beyond a pretty dance.

Etudes didn't really fit on the City Center stage. There were times when it looked incredibly cramped and I was just relieved that no one accidentally kicked anyone else. I found it entertaining but not engaging, which I expect is largely my own failing in this case. Given that what I've read tells me that it's an exposition of technique, I think that to a greater extent than many of the other ballets I have seen it would be extremely helpful if I could recognize good technique when I saw it. Tough conclusion to come to, huh? Anyway, I thought Sarafanov was a lot of fun to watch. Alina Somova didn't particularly bother me although I didn't particularly like her either. I do wish she wouldn't pull her leg up quite so high. It's very impressive, I suppose, but it just looks awkward. Anyway, it will be interesting to see this done by ABT at the Met this spring because I expect it will look much less cramped.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sabres at Dawn (kind of)

So with the Sabres decidedly not in the playoffs, I've been spending a lot of time watching stress-free playoff hockey. But clearly I cannot be allowed to live without sabres in my life: A group has been getting together, generally in the evening, to fight with lightsabers in my courtyard. They show up for an hour or two, grunt and yell like women's tennis players, and then leave.

To each their own, I suppose.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I had my first personal training session today in what is going to wind up being a year long, 24-session series because that's the only way I can force myself to actually go to the gym and get in shape. My goal? To be in better shape. Their goal for me? To weigh 115 lbs and have 13% body fat. The latter is something that is going to be addressed at my next session because a) I've already established with them that my weight is not really a concern for me and b) that body fat percentage is so low it's practically unhealthy. Of course I think they also want to tell me what foods I can and can't eat. Which is definitely not happening. I'd much prefer this to be about what I want. Which is to eat what I want when I want among other things. These training people are not going to like me very much.

After my training session I went with Wendy to the Union Square Greenmarket to pick out flowers for our balcony. This is what the balcony looked like this morning. Benches, pots with the remnants of dead plants, a filthy storage container. Lovely.
And here we have the cats enjoying the sun and supervising while I clean the storage container and Wendy pots the new plants. Those looks of utter disdain are for the harnesses and leashes we make them wear on the balcony. They don't seem to buy the argument that we're saving them from becoming high-rise cats. Can't imagine why.
And, finally, the springified balcony (not in very sharp focus, I'm afraid).
Although our aloe is still waiting for it to get warm enough that it can join the other plants in the fresh air.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chocolate Cake

I had a shabbat dinner to attend Friday and needed to bring a dessert so I whipped up a nearly flourless chocolate cake. The selling point was that Epicurious said it was easy and I didn't really have a lot of time. Basically I took a lot of chocolate:
Lots of eggs and sugar:
Not so much flour and baking soda:
Melt the chocolate down:
And combine. Voila!

I made ganache to ice it and basically ended up with a super-duper-chocolatey brownie. Not my favorite, but it seemed to be a hit.