Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Will all the recent talk of The Dark Knight dominating the box office in unprecedented ways (it breaks records! it cures cancer! Heath Ledger is agkuh*$lkb! (that's me I'm imitating)) it's easy to forget that fall is just around the corner, which of course means that TDK's competition for Oscar noms will be soon unveiling themselves.

It's easy to tell the studio movies that feel entitled to be put into the elusive "best picture" category: they feature A-list actors with some sort of British/Australian lineage and roll-out dates in between Thanksgiving and late December. One of these pics that has particularly piqued my interest is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Cate Blanchett, check. December release date, check.)

The mostly wordless trailer makes it hard to predict if this movie is actually good or if it's just composed of pretty images. (It should be noted that this film is an adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, which I have not read.) But it left me thinking it looked cool, eerie and somewhat imaginative. (It should be noted, though, that I'm a sucker for trailers in general.)

What do you guys think?

cheap thrills, contd.

In keeping with the 1 dollar theme, a long-time friend of my sister's informed me yesterday that it's possible to buy a $0.99 bus ticket between Boston and New York through the website, the only caveat being that you should book your ticket about 3-4 weeks in advance. And yes, she attests that the bus is completely functional and not, you know, super sketchy. (image: condenast)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Favorite one(ish) dollar food items

When I scrounge around for quarters it's for a purpose:
Hit Cookies - $1.29

6 lemons or 6 limes - $1 at the produce store down the street

6 garlic bulbs - $1, same store (we love you Nam's)

Frozen fruit bar - $1 at the deli

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smitten Kitchen

One of my favorite type of blog is the food blog, and one of the best ones I've come across lately (thanks to hjk) is Smitten Kitchen. The husband-wife blog team has a huge following, so forgive me if I'm stating old news. But in case you're not a visitor, the food photography alone makes it worth the trip. See her very helpful tips on how to make the perfect pancake here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aggravating mistakes

Forgive me if this post makes me sound like a pretentious ass, but one thing I find pretty unforgivable is when people mix up the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. By "people" of course, I mean those employed by the federal government to do some sort of work involving foreign affairs. (See the disturbing (hilarious?) article here that came out a while ago in the Times.) As the author points out, "After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants??"

Bob Herbert's latest column bring up the sad fact that John McCain is one of these people. Considering he's the contestant who uses his world affairs and military experience as a way to one-up his opponent, it's pretty disturbing how much the media has let his factual gaffes slide.

Obama has plenty of flaws (his FISA vote was more than disappointing) but at least I take comfort in knowing that he knows his basic geography -- McCain has talked about the "Iraq-Pakistan border" when they don't border each other at all. For all the scrutiny, circus stunts and invasive personal probing we put our candidates through, shouldn't knowing the ABC's of Middle Eastern politics be one of the more important tests?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Favorite recipes as of late

Stealing recipes off of food websites everywhere. All are not hard to make and are pretty inexpensive too.

1. Black Bean and Pineapple Enchiladas
(Tastes a lot better if you make your own enchilada sauce, and do NOT pour the extra pineapple juice over the dish at the end -- it makes it much too sweet.)

2. Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

3. Pasta with Eggplant

4. Spicy Tomato Bisque
(I prefer straight up grilled cheese with this rather than the brie toast)


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hump Day Links

Despite all of Arnold's good intentions , the single state of California still uses more gas than any other country in the world. Reason no. 56 to stay in NY.

The Guardian on Karadzic's arrest

Jimmy Fallon's first few months as a late-nite host will be online, not on-air, to avoid an awkward transition. (?)

New York Mag's Cheap Eats list for 2008.

Lunch for vegetarians ( Wild Ginger is worth knowing too)


The costumes alone make me want to pay full ticket price for Brideshead Revisited. (all images:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Food and politics

One of the media's favorite games is to pigeon hole politicians, and ultimately the voters, with things like food preferences and consumer choices. This contrast was especially played up during the Hillary/Barack slugfest; see the "latte liberals v. dunkin donut democrats" argument here. "Mr Obama's supporters... are the people for whom Starbucks, with its $5 cups of coffee and fancy bakeries, is not just a consumer choice but a lifestyle," writes Gerard Baker.

First of all, let's not kid ourselves. Starbucks food is pretty bad, and anyone who thinks their blueberry muffins define "fancy bakery" eating is long overdue for a trip to, you actual bakery.

But it's a catchy title, and his theory got a lot of press. As he points out, food choices and the like become a values issue. And this in itself would be fine, if Americans weren't so bafflingly proud to label themselves with less than high-end taste, to put it delicately. In short, for a country so proud of its capitalism and money-spending ways, so proud that the American Dream is to put themselves at the top of the financial heap, it's amazing that Americans want to define themselves with bottom of the barrel, McDonald-quality choices.

To be sure, when Obama and his supporters get boiled down to Starbucks, Mac computers, and Barenaked granola, it connotes elitism, and perhaps rightfully so; all these products are overpriced and not exactly staple pantry items during one of our worst economic periods. But when Obama orders a slice of regular cheese pizza and the media dubbed his choice "vegetarian" while McCain ordered pepperoni, it makes it harder for us to realize that sometimes, it's not necessarily a bad or elitist thing when a potential leader forgoes that extra portion of greasy meat in a country with a rising obesity problem.

As blue as I am, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some Republicans out there with some concern for personal health, and have, oh yeah...some money to burn.

I really want one

Devendra's lady

Natalie Portman is very pretty. Natalie Portman is beautiful. But Natalie Portman's voice makes me want to stick a fork in my eye and made Garden State the longest 102 minutes of my life.

Natalie Portman starring in a Bollywood/hipster extravaganza that is her boyfriend's music video?

Well, at least she's lip syncing.

Spike Lee's new pic

Lee doing a WWII movie -- yay or nay?

A good use of her influence.

HRC writes a much needed post on the alarming way Bush and the Dept. of Health is pushing to deny women access to basic contraceptives. (image: Conde Nast)

Garfield without garfield

An entire website that features the cartoon strip without its famous feature character. (

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's really that good.

In case you haven't heard enough praise for The Dark Knight, I'll add my voice to the chorus while I make plans to see it again in theaters. While Heath Ledger's performance is rightfully cast as magnificent (his portrayal of the Joker is hands down one of the absolute greatest on-screen villains of all time), the rest of the cast deserves its due as well, most notably Aaron Eckhart as the white-knight D.A. turned villain. Gary Oldman as well deserves praise for doing a lot with a relatively small role. Scott Foundas's review is worth reading; his comment that Chris Nolan "has one of the great procedural minds" among filmmakers today is well on the mark. That being said, (and Maggie Gylenehall aside,) it would have been great to see a stronger female presence in the film, and in the superhero genre in general.

Things to make, not make

With so many food blogs featuring home-made ice-cream recipes, I occasionally get the urge to get an ice-cream maker. But then, I remember that Brooklyn deli and a freezer full of pre-made pints is just outside my door.

(From top to bottom: fig and rasberry,; apricot,; plum sorbet,


I have long coveted this set of six glasses that each have the word "cheers" on it, each in a different language. For just $21.95, they have been on back order for as long as they have been listed, although happily, they now seem to be back in stock. (image:

Them shoes

So much more interesting than your typical flip-flop. Cheap, too.

Font Agony

For some reason, I'm having a very hard time getting fonts and text size to cooperate on this blog. In the mean time:

A cool movie on Helvetica, the most ubiquitous of fonts (movie poster above)

Create your own

Political Fictions

Joan Didion's book Political Fictions is a must-read for any Didion fan, anyone interested in American politics, or even better, someone who falls into both categories. Published in 2001, the book covers the presidencies of Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, and all the characters in between, with the perfect mix of dry sarcasm, empathy, and mild outrage. Some of the best essays include "Clinton Agonistes", "The West Wing of Oz" and "Vichy Washington."

See one of Didion's best essay's here, which dwells on her experiences of being young and moving to New York City. One of my favorite reads ever.

Adding to the noise


A quick restaurant "review":
Living in an ever-changing area of Brooklyn that is attracting higher-income renters has meant a huge growth of new, small businesses opening in the area. One of these new restaurants is called The Spot, a small American bistro that serves an interesting menu with lots of hits and misses. Living incredibly close to it, we have been twice there already, and both times, we ordered generally great food that could use a few alterations. The grilled shrimp tasted amazing in the coconut-chipotle sauce, however there was way too much of not very good couscous on the plate. The steak tasted great, but the mashed potato and vegetable side were on the dull side. The sangria, which they heavily advertise and is 4 dollars during the week, was a big disappointment -- mine tasted like slightly watered down juice with a kick of alcohol. (Sangria, as many of you who know me knows, is one of my favorite drinks -- see my favorite recipe here, which uses rum instead of brandy). In general though, this place has just started and is trying hard, and I'm sure I'll be back in the not too distant future.

Here's what I'm looking forward to window-shop in the fall:

(images: Garance Dore, Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf)

It must be hard to shake his hand after this and that, but the talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai is positive progress nonetheless.

SJP produces her own reality show on Bravo that deals with not fashion, but art. Good news for Rachel Zoe, who probably doesn't want direct competition.

If artichokes were less expensive, I'd make this recipe everyday.

Listen and cringe...