Tuesday, July 29, 2008

At last, complete success!

So when I first started making ice cream this summer I couldn't quite get the texture right. The ice cream tasted great, but wasn't nearly as smooth as I would have liked. As it turns out, the major problem was that I was being impatient and wasn't leaving the custard in the fridge to chill long enough. So in the past few weeks I've made some highly delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream (although I still can't get the chips quite how I'd like them). 

This weekend though, Wendy asked me to make chocolate ice cream again and since she's leaving in just over a week for vet school I figured I'd better oblige in a hurry. So I bought this Icelandic Nói Síríus chocolate at Whole Foods and set out to try it out. I'd never had the chocolate before but I liked their packaging (two chocolate bars wrapped in wax paper, with a simple width of white paper wrapped around everything) and it was a good amount, so I figured why not. Then when I got home and actually tasted a piece of the chocolate I was dismayed to realize it was, well, not fabulous. Fortunately, once it was melted and blended into the custard the flavor was improved as was the texture.

I cooked the custard a bit longer than usual this time around--just a minute or so but it thickened up better. By the end of its time in the fridge it had thickened enough that I couldn't just pour it out but instead needed to use a spatula. That's probably the thickness it was always supposed to have, but I hadn't been getting it there before. 

The final result, once frozen, was a dense, wonderfully smooth ice cream and while it could have a bit more depth of flavor to it to be truly perfect, it's still pretty damn excellent. 

Love Letter to the Purrfect Post People

Awhile back, looking to replace our ultra-ghetto scratching post (seriously, it was an old rug scratching post with a pair of jeans stapled onto it since the rug was worn out), Wendy and I followed a recommendation from a friend and bought the cats a PurrFect Post. The cats adore it and we were a little concerned about how we were going to properly clean it during the Great De-Sporing. So Wendy called the people of PurrFect Post and explained the situation, asking if we could bleach the post. She had assumed they would have heard the question before, but they hadn't. So they promised to speak to the doctor and get back to her. Which they did. Promptly. Only to say that they didn't know if the post would survive or not but if it didn't they'd be happy to give us a discount on a new one. And also to please email and let them know how it went. 

And all that is well and good, but they went further by also sending us a toy to help "our little guy get through his tough time" or something to that effect. Just to be nice. Now that's customer service. 

The post, incidentally? Just fine post-bleaching.

Monday, July 28, 2008


A few years ago I bought a whole load of books at the Strand sidewalk sale. You could fill a rather large shopping bag with books for 10 dollars.  One of the many books I picked up was Dee Brown's Showdown at Little Big Horn. I didn't have any particular fascination in the subject (I love learning about history, but 19th century American history isn't a really an area of interest for me) but it was cheap, cheap, cheap so I figured, hey, why not? and bought the book. A book which is listed as non-fiction. A quote:
A few minutes later they halted beside a long stable fragrant with the odor of hay. "Shall I get your horse for you, Doc?" Ryan called out.

"No, I'll be going by the hospital." DeWolf took a pair of leather bags from the ambulance. "Well, Mr. Kellogg, I may not see you again until we return from the expedition."

"We may meet again sooner than you expect," Kellogg replied mysteriously.

DeWolf hesitated for a moment. "H'm. If you mean what I think you do, don't forget to bring along your chess set. They tell me there's more waiting than action on these summer Indian chases."

"I'll remember that." Aware that Sergeant Ryan was moving about impatiently, Kellogg made a quick farewell salute.

Ryan said: "You'll be needing a horse, Mr. Kellogg. I'll see if I can confiscate one--hey, Sivertsen!"

A giant of a trooper, well over six feet tall with shoulders as broad as a door, swung around from a blacksmith forge. "Yep, Sergeant?"

"How many horses in there?"

"Half a dozen."

"Saddle one for Mr. Kellogg." 
Right, sure, non-fiction. I particularly like how well the sources are cited. Except for the part where they're not. I have no problem with historical fiction. I frequently enjoy it, even. But call it what it is. 

Despite my ongoing annoyance though, there is one thing about the book that amuses me immensely. 
The printing I have is a mass market from 1971 and was published by Berkley Medallion. Berkley was owned by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a long established company that published such authors as John Le Carre, William Golding, and Vladimir Nabokov. What would people say now if major book publishing companies inserted pages of ads into their books? 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Martha Wainwright at Highline Ballroom

When I first listened to Wainwright's new record I was underwhelmed but wanted to hear her performing the songs live. And as is so often the case with her, they did work better when she was performing them right there in front of you. And I was tickled by the fact that acknowledged of the "overly flowery" nature of many of her lyrics (it's true, they are). Her voice is rawer and more interesting live and she takes more risks with the songs. She also has a likable stage presence--kind of Rufus minus the egomania if such a thing is possible. Despite being a bit hoarse last night it was an enjoyable concert and I particularly enjoyed her singing Stormy Weather and then performing one of my very favorite of her songs, Don't Forget, with Rufus and their mother Kate McGarrigle. Now if only I wasn't always getting stuck standing behind tall people.

Opening for Martha last night was Justin Bond, who I've only seen performing as Kiki from Kiki and Herb, not as himself. He's thoroughly entertaining both ways, so that was fun.

Despite doing a fair bit of whining about having to go all the way across town on a hot, rainy night it was a really a nice time and totally worth it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bath II

I'm sorry, I know this ringworm stuff is probably pretty boring for everyone by now, but my life is kind of revolving around it at the moment. Today we did the lime sulfur bath the right way, by which I mean we didn't rinse it off. The smell is so strong that it's actually a bit tough to breathe in my room. Also his little paws are yellow.

The e-collar--which Wendy told me today stands for Elizabethan collar, which I think is really neat--is totally necessary because in between refusing to look at us and getting stuck while trying to slink he's desperately attempting to groom. As it is, he keeps grooming his e-collar instead of his fur.

Fortunately one nice thing about having a roommate employed by an animal hospital is that she has a generous supply of scrubs. Some of which are clearly massive on her because they fit me.

This week has been better in one respect. I made cocktails.
That's right. This experience is driving even my teetotaling roommate to drink. Lightly, anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

And I was hoping things would get a bit calmer...

Wendy and I spent most of Friday and Saturday cleaning and bleaching the hell out of our apartment. The kitchen, living room, and halls are about as clean as they've every been. Clothing? Washed. Sheets? Washed. Towels? Washed. And so on and so forth. One of the other big projects was clearing out a lot of my room. Because that's the place where we need to isolate Pyramus, it needs a daily bleaching. We figured the only way that would really be doable was if we got all the surfaces super clear. So I took all the books off the bookshelf, and the table behind my bed, and the dresser. We moved the bookshelf out to the living room and, after bleaching the shelf and vacuuming all the books, returned them to their places, stacking all the extras on top. Then everything else found a temporary home, either in my now stuffed drawers or in the rest of the apartment.

Today was then dedicated to vacuuming and rolling my carpet and then doing the same bleach job we'd done everywhere else in my room. It's now looking rather bare, sad, and colorless. Well, the walls are still colorful, of course, but my multi-hued quilt is packed away and my bright yellow chair all covered so it's far more dull and cheerless than it normally is.

So as you can see the last few days have just been a blast. Also exhausting. We have taken time to do some fun stuff though.

On Friday Wendy and I met up with a friend and her family and, after buying a picnic dinner at whole foods, went to the Prospect Park Bandshell to see the Metropolis Ensemble and Deerhoof. I enjoyed the ensemble's remix of Rite of Spring--although not as much as the regular orchestral version--but didn't like the other piece they did. Deerhoof was kind of hit or miss for me. What was really nice though was just sitting outside in the park on a blanket with people I enjoy. I'd never been to the Bandshell before and was a little worried that it would be like Central Park SummerStage, but it was much nicer.

Then yesterday, there was a birthday party on Long Island. I was so exhausted from cleaning that I wasn't really looking forward to the trip out there but unsurprisingly it turned out to be a nice break and the party was fun. Among other things I got to spend time with a friend who is moving back to Buffalo shortly. And we got gift bags with various fun stuff like this, which I think is too funny:

And since the last picture of Pyramus was so utterly pathetic, here's one from today of him sitting in my lap and looking far less miserable.
His next bath is going to be on Tuesday and this time we'll be better prepared. By which I mean I'm going to have alcohol on hand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One Miserable Cat

So Pyramus has ringworm--where he got it we don't know--and is developing bald patches like it's going out of style. Wendy took him to the vet this morning and was given all sorts of instructions. Then she came home and proceeded to wash every washable piece of cloth in the entire apartment. Including my sheets, blankets, dirty clothes, and everything in the open drawers he likes to sleep in. Then she cleaned and vacuumed my room and the entire rest of the apartment. Then she went to PetCo and bought all the things we'll need while he is isolated in my bedroom for the next six weeks. All while I was at work and then doing the spending time with the parents thing. So basically I have the most awesome roommate in the world.

The primary aspect of his treatment is a weekly lime sulfur bath. It's every single bit as nasty as it sounds. Hours and about 10 hand washings after giving him the bath my hands still smell like sulfur. First we put on clothes that can be stained, take off anything metal, and empty the bathroom. Next we put a liter of water in a litter box and then add an ounce of the lime sulfur solution. Then we soak him in it while he freaks out. Then we rinse him off, put on the e-collar so he can't groom himself while drying, and sit with him while he shivers and sulks. He's actually incredibly good about it all, which somehow just makes it sadder.

Monday, July 14, 2008


As I write this my cat is kneading my bare leg with all ten of his stubby little front claws. Itake it to be a painful commentary on its firmness, or lack thereof. Getting in better shape is one project that's fallen largely by the wayside as I've spent most of the summer "resting" my ankle. I'm going hiking the first week of August no matter what, so hopefully the problem joint continues on its current path of slow but steady improvement. I go back to the personal trainer on Thursday but I'm going to be good and wear my hated ankle brace.

This summer is turning out to be much busier than I anticipated which is good, but also frustrating in that I haven't gotten things I intended to done. And it's not going to happen this week because my parents and brother are in town starting tomorrow. Which I'm totally excited about because my dad almost never comes into the city (not that it's not nice to see the others as well).

I went to a party in Bushwick on Friday night and on the subway ride home, sat across from an African American guy wearing a Canucks hat with the stick-in-rink logo. That's something you don't see every day in Brooklyn. Maybe he's from Vancouver originally? Either way, it was awesome.

The weather has been decidedly bearable so far this year. I went to the beach on Saturday and it was gorgeous. The weather that is. Coney Island isn't gorgeous but it's good enough for me.

I'm reading Amanda Vaill's Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins right now. I wanted to learn more about how his Judaism, and his at times conflicted feelings toward it, influenced his work. So far though I'm mostly learning more about his sex life (knowledge I could generally have lived without as it hasn't been much related to his choreography thus far).

And that's about it. Hopefully more interesting stuff to write about in the near future as I realize that was all less than fascinating.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jack Spicer

Reading the blog About Last Night the other day, I followed a link to Poetry magazine's site, where I promptly fell in love with this poem:

"Any fool can get into an ocean..."
by Jack Spicer

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What's true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor's seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you've tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That's when the fun starts
Unless you're a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You'll drown, dear. You'll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What's true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.

They have more poetry by Spicer posted as well. "A Second Train Song for Gary" is another one I particularly enjoyed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Whisper of the Whistling Water

Well, I think it's safe to say that this has supplanted Watermill on Wendy's list of most boring things I've gotten her to go see. When my friend called and asked if I wanted to see a documentary on Louise Bourgeois at the Anthology Film Archive I said, "Who?" and then figured, "Sure, why not?" because it could be interesting and I figured I'd learn something. As it turns out, some of her work was familiar to me and I did learn some stuff but I think the only way it could have been interesting for me was if the artist was of particular interest to me or if I really enjoyed her work. There were all sorts of details that probably have more value if you go in with a basic, working knowledge of her life. As it was, around the time that Bourgeois was spending quite some time showing the filmmaker a ticking metronome which is virtually identical to one that sits in my apartment I decided that--despite moments of interest and humor--I might have more fun banging my head against a wall. Although I did really like the beginning when she was telling us about different tapestries. That was neat.

Anyway, afterward Wendy and I went home and watched the results show of So You Think You Can Dance? while reveling in our philistinism.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Before I actually talk about Giselle let me just point you to this article. Now I like bats. I think they're neat. But if I looked down and found one nestled up to me? I think I might be less calm than this girl. Of course I have far, far less for the bat to nestle up to. Anyway...

I was really excited to go to see Giselle, partially because the photos I've seen of it have always been so beautiful and partially because I love Julie Kent's dancing and haven't seen her in anything at ABT this season. And the evening got off to a humorous start for me when I overheard a man near me asking his companion, "so this is like the Nutcracker?" And when she told him no, "well I mean the guys wear tights, right?" Heh.

I feel like the excitement was well deserved too, because I really enjoyed the whole ballet. The dancing in the first act was so delightful when it was meant to be happy and I thought that Kent, with her delicacy and beautiful arms really made me believe in the frail village girl she was playing. Stiefel was also believable as a noble in disguise--never really a peasant but just convincing enough. And he's such a fantastic dancer that he's just a pleasure to watch. I also liked Sascha Radetsky's angry Hilarion and Misty Copeland in the peasant pas de deux. Carlos Lopez, also in the peasant pas de deux, was exciting but there was something that felt just off about his dancing in moments and I can't put my finger on what it was. And now I have to confess that I've always kind of rolled my eyes at the idea of being moved to tears by these old ballets but when Kent died I did well up a bit (so fine, I was wrong). Her mad scene feels like a shtick of sorts but it's a beautiful and moving one. What I really got to me though was Susan Jones as Giselle's mother. Her grief came through so clearly.

I did wish that I knew what all the mime meant. I mean, things like, "I love you," and, "I don't love you," came through pretty clearly and I certainly picked up on "dance" but during the scene where Giselle's mother has the vision of daughter's death I would never have known what was going on if I hadn't read the synopsis first. Nutcracker man had not, and during the intermission I overheard him saying, upon finding it, "reading this probably would have been helpful." Yeah. I've been there.

The second act was beautiful. The only dancer I didn't particularly enjoy was Michelle Wiles as Myrta, who seemed stiff to me. I wonder if her dancing just isn't to my taste or if I would enjoy her more in more modern works or what? That's a minor quibble though. I think part of what I liked so much about Giselle was that instead of seeming like the narrative was a cobbled together excuse for dancing or silly Orientalism or merely a thin outline, Giselle is actually about the dancing and winds up instead feeling like a fairy tale. The dancing is still paramount, yes, but the story is a part of that. I think that's where the emotional connection comes from; these characters are people and their lives matter. Giselle retains enough of her humanity and so she still loves Albrecht and saves him. It's more interesting to me than something like, say, Bayadere where Nikiya and Solor are reunited after divine intervention and the destruction of the temple. Telling a human story only works though, because the dancers succeed in conveying the story and their humanity.

As we were leaving I overheard a man saying, "That was the greatest ballet I've ever been to. It's the only ballet, but it was the greatest." Funny how that works.

Picture stolen from the New York Times slideshow. Consider it a teaser and go here to see the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Storm of Steel

This was the most bizarrely apolitical, and in a way amoral, war memoir or novel I've ever read. By that I mean not only that it makes no judgment but also that it provides no context. As a reader you don't get any impression of the war as a whole or the reasons for fighting or the progression of the battles. What's more, the writing is so incredibly unemotional--Jünger seems much more interested in describing the war than responding to it, mentioning his feelings only in passing--that reading the book becomes disturbing for that reason in addition to the graphic descriptions of war. On entering the town of Combles:
Over the ruins, as over all the most dangerous parts of the terrain, lay a heavy smell of death, because the fire was so intense that no one could bother with the corpses. You really did have to run for your life in these places, and when I caught the smell of it as I ran, I was hardly surprised--it belonged to there. Moreover, this sweetish was not merely disgusting; it also, in association with the piercing fogs of gunpowder, brought about an almost visionary excitement, that otherwise only the extreme nearness of death is able to produce.
[ . . . ]
After breakfast, I took a little look around the place. In the course of a very few days heavy artillery had transformed a peaceable town in the hinterland to the image of dread. Whole houses had been flattened or ripped apart by shells, so that the rooms and their furnishings were left hanging over the chaos like theater flats. The smell of corpses oozed from some buildings, because the first abrupt assault had taken the inhabitants by surprise, and buried many of them in the ruins before they could leave their dwellings. On one doorstep lay a little girl, stretched out in a lake of crimson.
The smells and sounds of war, the sweetness of rotting bodies and the lingering scent of gas, the sound of shells and whistling bullets, pervade the book. As do the names of Jünger's comrades. A constant litany of the honorable dead runs through the narrative. It's a memorial and in that sense perhaps a noble undertaking. But the book itself is less noble than a document that glorifies a terrible thing.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Say Ow.

So I sprained my ankle nearly 4 weeks ago and it's been getting steadily better. For the last couple weeks I've pretty much been doing everything I normally do, with the exception of wearing heels. So it came as a surprise when I woke up at 6 o'clock this morning with the front of my ankle really hurting. I could barely walk. So after making sure the cats and birds had water and waking my father up at 7 in the morning to ask if I should see a doctor right away, I took a cab to NYU's immediate care center.

Now I've sprained my left ankle many times and never been to a doctor about it. Generally speaking, I'm much more likely to be all, "well, why can't I climb that mountain on a bum ankle," than to feel like I should go to the doctor. But I've never had an ankle get much worse so suddenly weeks after hurting it. Anyway, I arrived at the immediate care center at 8:30 and was out of there about 2 hours later. They checked it out, did x-rays, and confirmed that it is just a sprain. I've been instructed to abuse my ankle less and wear an air cast when I'm out walking around. So apparently standing/walking for hours each of the last few days was not my best decision.

At least the weather's not so nice that I feel bad about sitting around at home resting the damn thing.