Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh, the sadness

The time has come for me to move out of my apartment. Well, that time will come at the end of November, but the time has come for me to accept the fact that I'll be moving this fall. My building was sold to new owners in January and, as I feared, they're trying to get everyone out so they can raise the rents. Apparently mine, at a jacked up price of over $1,700 would have been a steal compared to what they'll charge a new tenant for it. According to the powerless but nice woman at the management company, no studio will be rented to new tenants for less than $2,500 in my building.

Since I found out I've been lurking on Craig's list to see what's out there. It's too soon to really start looking, but I can't help myself. If anyone knows of an available studio, please think of me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Tina Siler Eating and Shopping Tour of New York

Tina arrived at my place on Saturday after what sounds like a smooth flight and hellaciously long baggage claim experience at JFK. She warned me that she was here to shop (thanks to our esteemed president, all of New York is essentially half-off to Londoners), and she wasn’t kidding! After a short catch-up in my apartment we headed out for burritos (apparently England has very little to offer in the way of Mexican food) and then hit the shops in my hood. We stopped only after hitting Banana, The Gap, and Aldo and only then because the other stores in the area were closing and wouldn’t let us in.

Sunday was a delicious breakfast at Popover CafĂ©, my favorite brunch place in my ‘hood, and even though they were totally unnecessary, I insisted Tina and I each get a popover to start our meal. With bellies full of carbs and strawberry butter, we hit the town. The Upper West Side is full of posh boutiques that I routinely ignore. I’m frankly intimidated by shops like these and fear being called out for my poverty like some scene straight out of Pretty Woman. My shopping is more along the lines of Ann Taylor Loft when I’m feeling flush and Old Navy when I’m not. Buoyed by Tina’s visa card, though, we braved some of these boutiques and often didn’t leave empty handed. All I can say is that Tina will look fabulous when she starts her new job on Monday. I’ll still look like someone who shops at Old Navy, but that’s ok. We wrapped up our day with manicures, pedicures, and the most awesome mac and cheese in NYC, courtesy of Duke’s.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to abandon Tina to her own devices while I go to work this week, so yesterday my shopping exposure was limited to an evening trip to Macy’s and the budget friendly Old Navy. We were just about to pass out from low blood sugar when we dragged our shopping bags into a taxi and headed to the east side for (drum roll....) gorgonzola bread! Those of you who know Angel’s know how good a night with gorgonzola bread is; those of you who don’t, just imagine heaven in your mouth. The restaurant isn’t decked out with cherubs for nothing.

I think tonight we do The Strand, which is just fine with me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Keep

Jennifer Egan is bringing my book club full circle. Years ago, I was a part of another book club which was made up of 75% of the same people who are in this one, and the first book we read was Look at Me, by Ms. Egan. In a couple of weeks, we'll be discussing her most recent novel, The Keep. I didn't love Look at Me, which brought together the disparate worlds of high fashion modeling and terrorism, and The Keep was described in a few reviews as "experimental." Experimental fiction can either be awesome or awful, but in my experience it's very rarely somewhere in the middle. So I went into The Keep with hopes but not expectations high and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.

As children, Danny was the golden child while his cousin, Howie, was the misfit. When a foolish prank is taken too far, the dynamic between them is changed forever. After years of drifting apart, they reunite at a crumbling castle somewhere (neither cousin is totally sure of which country) in Europe. Having essentially switched roles, Danny is now a tech-obsessed failure in all traditional senses. His panic at being so far removed from a cell tower and wireless internet connection will feel extreme but horrifyingly familiar to anyone who feels that recognizably silly but still present anxiety at forgetting your cell phone for a day. Howie, in the meantime, has reinvented himself as a successful, healthy entrepreneur with a hot wife and scads of money. But is their reconciliation really friendly? Are childhood grudges being held and revenges secretly being plotted? Their motivations and intentions are explored by a prisoner in a creative writing class, and his connection to the tale is only one of the mini mysteries peppered throughout the book.

Imminently readable, The Keep qualifies as a literary page turner and comes with my recommendation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bull Riding and Cake Eating

Riding The Bull is my one stop at the Fringe Festival this year. What I like about Fringe is seeing new works by creative and motivated artists. What sometimes sucks about Fringe, though, is that certain shows just aren't that good. I'm happy to report that Riding The Bull was well developed, written, acted, and staged. It's a good thing, too; I went with Anne and Aaron, both friend's of the playwright, and there is nothing worse than having to find a compliment that is not a lie at the end of a friend's terrible show. Luckily we had no shortage of compliments.

GL, excommunicated from the church he loves due to an masturbatory incident involving a confessional, the memories of a Sears and Roebuck catalog, and very unfortunate priest with bad timing, is searching for a way to get his life back on track. Then he forms an unexpected bond with his atheist neighbor, Fat Lyza: they become both lovers and business partners and are soon rolling in it. High on his newfound wealth, GL loses his faith just as Lyza is looking for something to believe in. Both tragic and comic, Riding The Bull, at its essence, is about the universal search for something larger than ourselves. For some it's religion, for others it's love, and for still others it's Elvis and Graceland. Playwright August Schulenburg fearlessly explores his themes through comedy while never losing sight of how serious they really are.

After the show, Anne, Aaron, and I ventured out for a late lunch. I don't know too many places on the Lower East Side (my ongoing quest to get to know neighborhoods other that the Upper West Side definitely needs to include some quality time downtown) and Anne suggested Moby's restaurant teany. It's all vegetarian which is totally fine with me. What was a little surprising, though, was how much of their menu included fake meat products (a "turkey" club, a "chicken" salad sandwich, etc.). Maybe I've just had bad versions of these fake meats, but really I'm just as happy with vegetables that are supposed to be vegetables. Dressing them up as meat really makes them less enticing to me. Ultimately, I had a bagel with tomatoes, cheese, and fake canadian bacon, which was good but not something I'd go out of my way for again. That absolutely cannot be said for the cake I ordered to follow up my bagel sandwich. I don't think I'm over stating it to call it: The Best Cake Ever. It was a delicious chocolate cake with a thick, fat, rich slather of peanut butter mouse in between the layers and another coating of it around the cake topped by a layer of chocolate fondant. YUM. Thank you, Moby.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bite-sized opera: just the way I like it

Sometimes I'm amazed at the talent of the people around me. Thursday night Jen, Krysta, and I went to a small production of Suor Angelica, one third of a Puccini opera trilogy. One of my coworkers was singing the lead, and I was eager to see her perform. The opera is, as most operas are, tragic and sad. But, unlike most others, Suor Angelica is only about an hour long, which worked perfectly for me. I'm constantly trying to like opera more than I actually do, and for the first hour or so of any show I always think it's working. I really do think that the singing is beautiful. But, after a while my mind begins to wander, my butt begins to hurt, and I start to wonder how it can take so long to say so little when you're singing in Italian. I usually make it to the end, but every now and then I have to give up and leave before the show is over: I went to a performance of Aida at the Met by myself about a year ago. Around midnight we hit the third intermission and still had an act to go. I really wanted to see Aida and Radames entombed together, singing about their love even as they were dying, but I wanted to go home and sleep more. All of this is to say that an hour long opera was perfect.

Of course, now I'm wildly jealous of my coworker's voice.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Divine Intervention

Laura recently pulled me into the world of book reviewing for a Colorado-based online mag she’s involved with. Enfuse Magazine, in addition to book reviews, publishes reviews and features on films, games, music, and all other manner of art and culture. I’m excited to be writing for them and thank Laura for getting me involved!

Last week I took a hiatus from the massive to-be-read pile of books I’ve slowly accumulated to read The View From Here: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers. You’ll have to visit Enfuse to read my full review of it, but here’s a teaser:

[The author] circles around issues, asking similar questions to multiple filmmakers. This technique offers broad if not deep responses to questions about what it’s like to work independently versus within the studio system, how politics influence films and films influence politics, and how the landscape of gay and lesbian films has changed over time.

Check it out!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hush Up

Friday night found me having delicious butternut squash soup with Jen at the new uptown Vynl. It's right in my 'hood, and I have to say: it's even better than the perennially favorite midtown location. Celebrity look-a-like dolls adorn the back wall, a giant disco light hangs over head, and each of the bathrooms is a mini shrine to a celebrity. I chose to go next to a pretty awesome mosaic of Elton John while Rocket Man was piped in from some Elton-only music universe.

From there we headed to the piano bar Don't Tell Mama, where I had more fun than I've had out on the town in ages. Unlike show tune-heavy Marie's Crisis, my other favorite piano bar, Don't Tell Mama focuses mostly on pop songs. Bartenders and wait staff each do their own set, singing along is encouraged throughout the night, and the quality of guest performers' (aka audience members') voices far exceed what you'd normally hear at open mic nights. Jen was even brave enough to perform her own rendition of "Hopelessly Devoted to You," inspired by the Grease playbill held by a woman near us. We also bonded with the man and woman at the table next to us through a shared love of an older woman across the room. She was so excited by the music that she was practically dancing in her seat the entire night. She seemed so energetic, engaged, and happy that we couldn't stop watching her. I think each of us at one point said we hoped to be like her when we're older. The only way the night would have been better was if the Joanna Gleason doppelganger sitting beside us for part of the night had actually been Joanna Gleason. I know Gleason mostly from stage work, but those of you who aren't regular theatre-goers will most likely know her as Rachel's boss on Friends (the one with the cigarette smoking subplot, not the one with the dating-Chandler subplot).

To top it off, we very randomly found a whole mess of British candy bars at the bodega on the corner. It's hard to beat any night that includes a surprise Lion Bar.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Robert Sullivan's Rats is about exactly what you think: rats. Large and small (ok, mostly large), fancy/pet (for about one paragraph) and wild (for the rest of the book), Sullivan describes his year of personal rat research. He focuses mostly, though not exclusively, on New York City's furry foes and even more specifically on those dwelling in an alley in the financial district that he monitored for a year.

Written in an personal and engaging style, Sullivan's prose is extraordinarily readable given his subject matter. He writes very anecdotally, taking the reader with him step by step as he learns about rats through personal observation, reading, conversations with experts, and ride-alongs with exterminators. Among the angles he explores are: rats throughout history, favorite rat foods, how to combat rats vs. where and why rats thrive, and rats' influence on politics.

Though rats are often disgusting, Sullivan rarely goes for the gross-out. One exception is when he recounts the early American recreation of rat fighting. In secret back rooms of taverns (much the way I imagine modern-day dog fights taking place), dogs would be released in a pen of countless rats. The dogs' task was simple: kill as many rats as possible within a set period of time. Though an effective method of population control, early animal rights advocates shut the rat fights down. Before they did, though, things got more than a little stomach-turning:

On rare occasions, men fought the rats. A New York correspondent covering a Philadelphia rat fight described one scene: "Then came a horrible spectacle. Quick as lightning the man plunged his hand into the mass of rats, seized one by the back and carried it to his mouth--with a squeak and a crunch, the lifeless rat carcass was tossed aside with a broken neck." When men fought rats, the man was expected to bite the rat's head off. This often resulted in the man's face being bloodied from rat bites. (78)

Yuck. Luckily the rest of the book prompts a much more thoughtful response than, "Eeeew!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Could I be any lazier? Oh, and P.S.: I hate CNN.

For once, the answer is, yes, I could! I got up extra early this morning and went jogging/walking around the reservoir in Central Park. It's been ages since I've done that, so it was definitely more walking than anything else, but I'm glad I did it. I'm going to try to start going on a regular basis again.

After I got home, I collapsed on the couch for a few minutes to drink some water before getting ready for work. I turned on the TV to see what I could find out about the state of the world and found myself watching CNN. Now, you may have heard about the recent tussle French President Nicolas Sarkozy got into with some American photographers while he was vacationing off the coast of New Hampshire (more details here if you haven't heard about this). Basically, he was irritated about being photographed and confronted the photographers, complete with much yelling in French. CNN's take on this? Some asshole morning news guy (not the anchor, some other dip shit whose name I don't know) says: "We are Americans. We don't speak French in France; we're certainly not going to speak it in New Hampshire." Thank you very much, CNN, for reinforcing the Ugly American stereotype so effectively. It's a sad day in the world of journalism when the self proclaimed "most trusted name in news" considers it good reporting to jovially encourage Americans to embrace their obnoxious reluctance to learn anything about any other culture and, rather, cling to the ridiculous assumption that the whole world over is just dying to bend to our will. I've hated CNN for a long time now. But this...this is a whole new low.

I needed to stop watching CNN immediately (and probably permanently) after that and started flipping channels. I sped past the Disney channel but had to flip back again, because I thought I saw a familiar face. Sure enough, John Tartaglia of Avenue Q fame has his own Disney show called Johnny and the Sprites. I miss having J.T. on Broadway, but I guess he has to pay the bills.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The sensation that’s sweeping the nation

Ok, in reality, it’s the sensation that started in LA, skipped the entire middle of the country, and recently landed in New York City. That sensation’s name? Pink Berry. It’s a new frozen yogurt creation (part yogurt and part shaved ice) topped with your choice of unhealthy toppings like Cap’n Crunch, chocolate chips, or hot fudge or (and this seems to be the resoundingly more popular choice) fruit. There are only two flavors ever, and they are always the same: plain yogurt (this does not mean vanilla—it means PLAIN) or green tea. That’s it. And it’s a phenomenon.

I finally tried it last night after hearing all the hype for months now. I waited in a long-ass line and then felt slightly scolded by the guy behind the counter for not knowing what I wanted. Unfortunately, they don’t list their toppings anywhere, so until you’ve waited for ages wondering what exactly makes this all worthwhile and finally make it to the front of the line, you don’t have a chance to prep for the ordering process. I ended up with a cup of the plain yogurt with raspberries, kiwis, and blueberries.

The first bite was underwhelming. And, I confess, I was tempted to hate it on principle just for being so popular, much like I hate any books that come pre-approved by Oprah’s book club. By the end, though, I’d kind of come around. I’m not saying it’s worth all the fuss, but it was good. It was very light and felt healthy, as far as desserts go. I can see why it became so popular in image-obsessed Hollywood first.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


It’s always sad to realize that you’ve seen the funniest bits of the movie you’re watching in the previews. While that isn’t 100% the case with The Simpsons Movie, it almost is. The “spider pig” part was one of the biggest laugh getters at the screening Rena and I took in earlier this week, and it’s also the part that I’ve seen almost any time I’ve seen anything at all about the movie. Another favorite part, for me at least, was Bart taunting Homer with a Flander-ized picture of Homer while repeating “Howdly-Doodly” over and over. It was actually pretty damn funny. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of other laugh-out-loud moments in the movie. As Rena pointed out, it essentially felt like a really long episode. It was a well done 90-minute episode, but still.

I’m not a die hard Simpsons fan, though I do enjoy the show. Maybe the movie is worth $10 for the really serious fans, but for everyone else, I recommend a bit of Netflix action on this one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Obviously (obviously!), you all know that I was eagerly awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a few weeks ago. Several days before it came out, though, I found myself between books and unsure what to do. I didn't want to start a novel that I'd ignore as soon as Harry Potter was published. Instead, I took up a book of short stories by Alice Munro: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.

Much to the chagrin of several of my writer friends, I don't often go for short story collections. I academically recognize that they are often better than novels. Each sentence counts in a way it doesn't in longer form, and successful short fiction writers craft tight, thoughtful, evocative prose that says a lot more in fewer words than many long novels ever achieve. Even so, I love to get lost in the (yes, sometimes rambling and tangential) world of a novel.

Luckily, Munro's collection is wonderful enough to overcome even my objections to short stories. As her title suggests, the pieces compiled here all examine a relationship of one kind or another. Her main characters are usually women, often disaffected, and sometimes at a crossroads. Munro offers a painfully honest glimpse of her characters' imperfections and the constant tensions inherent in intimate and familial relationships. Individually, each story is a treat; together, they provide a troubling and beautiful perspective on life and love.