La Guerre des Étoiles

Apparently, George Lucas directed this short interpretive dance piece for French TV. It was later expanded and turned into the original Star Wars movie. I guess this was some of the earliest work of Industrial Light and Magic – it’s really amazing how well the special effects have withstood the test of time…

And, to paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, “How can you choreograph a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

from The Awl

Une autre bonne semaine à NYC

Arrived without incident at JFK on Thursday afternoon. Took the Airtrain to Jamaica Station, then the E to West 4th. Incredibly easy  and only $7.50.

As usual, Ralph had a feast of cheese, salami, bread, wine and other treats waiting for me at his place. He also introduced me to Tête de Moine, a wonderful Swiss cheese that is served with a special device called a Girolle. It was absolutely delicious – plus when it is shaved off with the machine, the cheese resembles chanterelles. It was lovely…

Friday was a work day for both Ralph and me, though I did find time to walk up to Murray’s for a bagel and cream cheese. That evening we saw Follies – and both thought it was a fantastic show, funny and moving and beautiful. And I think I’m starting to become a hardcore theater queen – I recognized Danny Burstein (who played Buddy) from when I saw him in South Pacific as Luther Billis.

Post-theater dinner at Toalache, where we had margaritas, guacamole and tacos. Perfect for an 11PM meal. Then our usual visit to Posh for a bit of dancing and debauchery – though Ralph was disappointed that I didn’t do the robot more. But what could I do? The songs just weren’t robot-y enough… Of course, I did still break it down.

First stop on Saturday was at a street vendor in Soho. Ralph had sent me a super-cool (and super-appropriate) robot t-shirt for my birthday. He’d also kindly guessed that I’d wear a size small, apparently forgetting that I am un gros cochon. I’m happy to report that I successfully exchanged it for a size medium. Oh, and did I mention that the robot print glows in the dark! Perfect for when I’m out at the club, sippin’ that bubb…

Next stop was Sol Moscot, purveyor of eyeglasses on the Lower East Side. I found the perfect pair – and my vision coverage for new frames kicks in in the next few months. A good excuse for another trip to NYC… Not to mention that when people want to know where I got my cool specs, I’ll be able to respond, “Oh, they’re from New York. You can’t get them here. It’s impossible…”

After that, we decided to sample the macarons from bisous ciao. The verdict? Mostly excellent, especially salt caramel (duh) and blood orange with chocolate ganache.

That evening, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life at Film Forum, an interesting movie about Serge Gainsbourg. Dinner at Po on Cornelia St. It was sensational – we both had a marvelous grilled lamb with cherry tomato salad, along with an excellent bottle of wine. Oh, and I might’ve had some panna cotta for dessert – and a couple of glasses of vin santo… So, yes, it was an excellent evening.

Sunday was  lovely sunny day, so we walked along the promenade on the Hudson down to Battery Park City. Spent an hour or so in the Skyscraper Museum – small but quite interesting exhibition about the world’s tallest buildings. We got a glimpse of the September 11th Memorial, but despite being open to the public (visitor passes are booked months in advance), it’s still surrounded by construction. But what little I saw reinforced my view that it is a great success as both a memorial and lovely public space.

We also saw the still-under-construction 1 World Trade Center. I have to remind myself that, despite it being a deeply symbolic structure, it is ultimately a commercial office building. Which is too bad, in a way. I still think Daniel Libeskind’s original design is superior to the current design. I don’t dislike the building that is going up – but to a large degree, it’s just another glass tower, albeit a very tall one. But who knows? It’s not finished yet and may surprise me.

Sunday night, Ralph got us tickets to see Arias With a Twist, Joey Arias’ show with puppeteer Basil Twist. I think it was described as a drag-queen-on-acid-journeying-through-space-and-time – which is pretty much spot-on. Funny, innovative, with great visuals. We both enjoyed ourselves – though I realized what an old man I am when I commented after the show that I found it rather loud. Oy…

A small dinner of grilled artichokes and pizza in the East Village, then chez Ralph to finish off the macarons. A perfect end to an action-packed weekend.

Monday, I took the entire day off (i.e. no working remotely – yay!) and was up and at ’em early. First nipped down to Broadway for my usual stops at Topman (stocked up on tees) and Uniqlo (underpants – saw cute pants, too, but didn’t have the patience to try things on). I also picked up a pair of shoes at Chrome – which seems ridiculous, as they are an SF-based company whose shop is a five-minute bike ride from apartment. But they were having a San-Genarro-Festival-inspired sale, and the shoes I’d been coveting in SF were on sale for $25 instead of $60. So what if I had to wear them on my hands for the flight home..?

Picked up a spicy turkey sandwich, broccoli rabe and cauliflower to go at Torrisi, then headed over to Ralph’s studio. We shared lunch on a bench on the recently-opened Phase II of the Highline. The weather was glorious, the food delicious, the views delightful, the company charming. The Highline seems like a place that one could never grow weary of…

Then off to the American Museum of Natural History to see frogs! Turned out to be rather a trek, as a water main had flooded the uptown A and C subway tracks. I eventually made it to 72nd St. on the 2 train and schlepped myself to the museum. Frogs were fascinating (though pricey at $22). Also spent some quality time with the wapitis in the dioramas (though really I just like saying “wapiti”).

Dinner that night with Ralph, Michael and Justin at Hudson Clearwater. I’d read about this place before my trip and it sounded interesting. It’s sort of hidden – the address is on a street corner in the West Village, but the entrance is actually around the corner and there is no signage. Of course, I was also nervous that it wouldn’t have much going for it beyond the “secret” location – and that I’d be blamed in perpetuity by everyone for taking them to some lousy restaurant.

Happily, this was not the case. I liked everything about this place. Obviously, the highlight was spending the evening with dear friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. As for the restaurant, the room was charming and lively, even though a bit cramped. The bartender was highly-skilled and gregarious. Our waitress was charming and helpful. And the food was excellent. I had a subtle and velvety vichyssoise, followed by a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, with a salty crust and tender white beans. Shared a chocolate ganache with fresh fruit for dessert. A fine time was had by all…

Tuesday morning I worked in the morning, then headed up to the Metropolitan Museum after lunch. I have to say, this is probably my favorite museum in the world – walking up the Grand Staircase felt like meeting up with an old friend. The highlight of my visit was the Frans Halls show. Small, only a dozen or so paintings – but mesmerizing. I couldn’t tear myself away from Portrait of a Bearded Man – it is  sublime and, to my untrained eye, felt unexpectedly contemporary (something I noticed in much of his work being exhibited).

Strolled down Madison Ave. to another much newer but no less important temple of culture and beauty – Maison Ladurée’s just-opened outpost, their first in the United States. Framboise, fleur d’oranger, pomme verte, chocolat, caramel à la fleur de sel, pétales de rose, citron, et noix de coco. Plus, the store is like a jewel box, the boxes are beautiful, it’s like being in Paris, etc. Le sigh…

Once I was back down in the Village, I needed a snack (les macarons were for later…), so I had a dainty little sandwich from Amy’s Bread – and a not-insubstantial cannolo from Rocco’s. They are really the best cannoli I’ve had – and apparently now vermin free! On my last visit to NYC, the Health Dept. had shut them down…  Oops! But certainly glad to see them back in action.

Dinner that night at Smorgas Chef. I don’t know where I’d read about them, but the temptation of Swedish meatballs was too great to resist. Oh, yes – they were good. And the serving was quite large – sufficiently so that I had a serving leftover which I ate on the plane the next day (they were still delicious, too).

Finally, chez Ralph for les macarons and Prosecco. Ralph declared Ladurée the victor in our ongoing quest to find (and devour) the best macarons. I have already promised him a blind taste-test of local selections when he’s here in SF next…

And then, poof! It’s 545AM and I’m in a car on the way to JFK. Before I even realize it, I’m back in SF. And while it’s nice to come home (and to see my little kitty-cat), I sure do miss NYC… But I’ll be back soon – I need those new eyeglasses!

Screw you, Roku

Sat down Friday evening to watch some of my stories on TV via Netflix streaming – something I’ve been happily and easily doing since I bought my little Roku box on May 20, 2008. This was the first day they went on sale, so I was on the cutting edge of this nascent technology.

Anyway, despite having just used Roku a week prior, the device wouldn’t power on. I tried plugging and unplugging the cord, using a different outlet, using the “reset” button – nothing. What’s so strange about this is that there are no moving parts – it’s just a box with a circuit board in it. Nor had there been any warning – the device had functioned perfectly until this evening.

When I contacted Roku the next day, they offered little in the way of troubleshooting advice (other than what I’d already tried). Their solution? They are sending me a new power cord; if that doesn’t fix things, then the device is “defective” (their word) and I’m S.O.L. (my paraphrasing).

Granted, the Roku is three-years-old – but I was less than pleased that there was no offer of a discounted replacement, an opportunity to send for repair or anything else. This was especially annoying given that I was one of their first customers and an evangelist for this thing. Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I recall getting an offer from Roku for a $5 credit for movies on demand via Amazon. Since I’d already signed up for this service from Amazon, I didn’t “qualify” for the offer. When I contacted Roku to see how to get this credit (as a long-standing customer and early adopter of their offerings), their response was (and I’m paraphrasing here) “you’re screwed.”

Happily, though, I have a media server that will stream via my PlayStation, so I can still watch Netflix. Even better, though, was that after updating said PlayStation, there is actually a Netflix app that runs on the PlayStation! I can access Netflix just as with my Roku – plus at a higher resolution and, best of all, with subtitles available (something Roku does not support, even when available via Netflix).

Goodbye and good riddance, Roku! I won’t miss you at all, thanks to my PlayStation.

Back in SF

I’ll be writing a full report of the last week I spent with Ralph in NYC soon. Suffice it to say though, I had a fantastic visit and wish I were still there.

Anyway, here’s one photo from my trip. This was me after being advised I’d be sitting in a middle seat from SFO to JFK.

Every Flight I’m Shufflin’

JFK-bound today. Sadly, I’m not flying Virgin, but this is still how I roll at 35K feet. And I’m in a middle seat. You’re welcome other passengers!

“I swear, I’m never having catnip again…”

Someone had to sleep off his bender with his new toys this weekend… Not that I’m complaining! I’m glad he approved of my selections. The fluffy pink mouse and the catnip cigar were especially well-received.

Ten Years Later

I struggled mightily with September 11, 2011. In some ways, it’s an arbitrary date in an arbitrary calendar based on an arbitrary amount of time. Why should that one day make us mourn differently or more profoundly than any other day?

But, thanks to The Daily Show, I saw this – Remembering the Day We Forgot the Lessons of the Day We Had Always Sworn We’d Remember and was shown this:

This remains so monstrous, so horrifying, so very un-Christian (or perhaps so completely Christian…). But I’m able to look past it, thanks to my intellect and my inherent morality as a humanist.  I’m always fascinated as an atheist that so many Christians profess to know the deep inner thoughts of their omnipotent and very angry god. Frankly, it seems sacrilegious, but I suppose I’m not the best judge of that…

At any rate, I did watch a fascinating show on Nova this weekend, Engineering Ground Zero. There was so much about this show that absorbed me: the unique engineering feats required to construct 1 World Trade Center; the tension between safety and aestheticism; the question of what to do with this void in very heart of the city that is the heart of the United States; the design and creation of the September 11th Memorial, which is both amazingly lovely and appropriate.

But what struck me more than anything – and made me in some ways pine for those days ten years ago of unity not just among Americans but among humanity – was the reverence with which all of the workers reconstructing Lower Manhattan regarded their jobs. None of them were maudlin or weepy or sentimental – but each of them viewed their role in the reconstruction, whether small or large, as something unique, deserving of respect and deeply important to them as individuals, as Americans and as people.

Immediately after watching this show, I wanted to post something. But it remains difficult (perhaps even impossible) for me to describe my very mixed emotions about that day and the ensuing ten years.

And then just tonight, again thanks to PBS, I saw this. And I thought it was one of the most beautiful and most heartbreaking and amazingly personal recollections of September 11, 2001. It tells a story better than I ever could.

Watch more from The Rauch Brothers. Not easy viewing, but really great work telling the stories of that terrible day in a way that is touching and genuine.