East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The most expensive coffee ever (cheap version)

The most expensive coffee in the world is Indonesian Kopi Luwak. Its selling point is that the beans are eaten and excreted by palm civets (cat-like mammals). Many coffee aficionados, however, believe this product to be crap, in more ways than one.

The really good stuff is sold at auction. This year, the first lot of Panama Geisha La Esmeralda Especial raw beans sold for $130 a pound, destroying its own 2006 record of $50.25 a pound. I presume the Esmeralda that Mokka, ten minutes' walk from my house, started selling (for a limited time) today isn't from that lot, because then they'd be broke. It's still like no coffee I've tasted before -- its fragrance is more reminiscent of tea. The beans are roasted by Equator, who also supply the French Laundry. Usually I prefer a darker roast than theirs, but I suspect that might not be appropriate for this coffee. And I have no trouble appreciating the sour, fruity, luminous qualities of this drink. If your coffee priority is brightness rather than body, you might find this extraordinary. At $3.50 for a 12 oz. cup, it's an economical way to experience this notoriously expensive bean.

3075 Telegraph @ Dowling


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Billie Holiday, "Fine and Mellow", from The Sound of Jazz, 1957

Greatest live music clip ever. For once, this is not hyperbole.

Hail YouTube.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Changing the subject

Been trying a lot of peaches lately, enough to decide I like yellow peaches a lot more than white ones. My favourite Berkeley Farmers' Market stalls to get them are Blossom Bluff and Woodleaf. Woodleaf's discounted ugly peaches are terrific value, two-something a pound where other BFM peaches are three-something. Last weekend, though, I bought one with a hole in it, and out crawled some bug. So this week, Blossom Bluff. They had three yellow peach varietals, and I couldn't help buying one of each:

Regina: sweet
Donut: sweet and peachy
June Lady: sweet, peachy and sour

So yeah, I liked the June Lady best.

This weekend: back to Woodleaf, where I'll select with more care.

Other fruit notes: Last week I finally had some good Blenheim apricots, from Monterey Market. I forget the farm name: seems to be better to select by optimal ripeness anyway. Season's already winding up, though... Haven't had a satisfactory nectarine yet, any tips?

Salad of the moment: Riverdog cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic-rubbed toast, skim mozzarella.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Excuse this post. Finding it hard, as a fan, to deal with the Benoit murders. That's all.

Monday, June 25, 2007

So what is it?

Tastes kind of like spinach, only more astringent.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

TGEL: 126 chili peppers, 5-6 days sodium... forget it, it's Oakland Chinatown

I wanted to celebrate the season by making vegetarian summer rolls, and decided to get all the ingredients from the centre of the the East Bay's Vietnamese community, which happens to be Oakland Chinatown. But first, I stopped at Cam Huong (920 Webster St) for a sandwich. Quite a lot of banh mi lovers prefer this place to the canonical Saigon Sandwiches. After one sandwich here, I'm inclined to agree with them, but need to go back to make sure. Lots of choices: I had the beef, the taste of which shone through the heavy seasoning. There's a crisp, sour mix of vegetables, and the peppers have some kick. To nitpick, the bread is only decent, and it's a little saucy, but otherwise it's near-perfect in its proportions. As good a light lunch as you can get for $2.50.

Then it was off to the markets. There are maybe a dozen Chinese/Vietnamese grocery stores there are on 8th and 9th Street; no idea how they all stay in business, but apparently some of them have been open for decades. I ended up purchasing from four of them:

Sam Yick (362 8th St): most gweilo friendly; pornographic calendar (dated 2007, impressively) in plain sight
Maui gold pineapple (screw authenticity): $1.99
Jicama: 59c/lb
Total: $2.99

Cholon Moi (378 8th St): pan-Asian range of sauces and packaged goods; girl at the counter answered my funnily accented fish sauce questions
Three Crabs fish sauce (Thai): $2.95
Green onions: 35c
Total: $3.34

Wah Hang (415 9th St): great selection of what-is-that? exotic vegetables; cheap meat counter I wasn't brave enough to try
Some greens I think were bitter melon leaves: 69c

Khanh Phong (429 9th St): the best of all worlds except service; sauces, produce, meat, even (goodness) fresh fish and prawns
Three Lobster fish sauce (from Phu Quoc, Vietnam, supposedly the place for fish sauce): $1.59
Spring roll wraps: 89c
Small rice papers: 59c
3 packets of those Kasugai roasted hot green peas Shankenstein likes (not for rolls): $1.29 ea
Total: $6.94

Before I returned home I decided to have a late afternoon meal at SPiCES! 3 (369 12st St), the latest outpost of the cloyingly typeset, small-but-growing chain. I counted: the "fish fillet with Explosive chili pepper" came with exactly 126 chili peppers. To put this in perspective, the last time I was in a chili-eating contest, it was stopped when the two remaining contestants hit 50, at which point organisers feared for their safety. (I had dropped out after five.) Was this dish Explosive? It certainly tasted so, but to make sure, I tried exactly one chili pepper. Yep. Up until then, I had enjoyed that the dish didn't just rely on spiciness: that you could also taste salt, pepper, even a little sesame. Afterwards, all I could taste was the chili, no matter how much of the horoscope-appropriate fruit drink (Aries: honeydew and coconut) I consumed. I left the other 125 chili peppers in the boat in which they were served.

After several hours of tastebud recovery, I started to make the rolls. Cutting the pineapple with my kitchenware was a challenge, but one at which I succeeded -- thanks, howtocutapineapple.com! I blind-tested the two fish sauces. The Three Crabs only had the fainted hint of fish -- it just tasted like salt (a tablespoon of either sauce contains half my sodium RDI; together with the Explosive chili fish, I'd guess I went through 5-6 days of salt today). The Three Lobsters had a lot more fish taste, but was overpowered by the presence of MSG. I slightly preferred the Three Crabs but was hardly satisfied. I ended up using a mix of three parts Three Crabs to one part Three Lobsters. Then I just ate the spring rolls undipped. Then I just ate the constituent ingredients. Then I just ate the green onions. They were quite good.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

One more for the list

Tried Three Twins' vanilla at the Berkeley Farmers' Market today ($2.75 for a "scoop"). Pretty good texture for prepackaged stuff, doesn't compare to Ici in the high butterfat category. Also at the BFM: Riverdog have the first Early Girl tomatoes of the summer. Nice simple flavour, expect they'll get better in coming weeks.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #29: Pavement, "Cut Your Hair"

Mujahideen is crazy. Songs mean a lot when songs are short. Korea Korea Korea Korea Korea Korea.

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Obligatory AFI 100 post

Shockingly, I've only seen 57 of the 100 greatest American movies. Those I would reorder thus:

9. "Vertigo" (1958)
5. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
60. "Duck Soup" (1933)
47. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)
88. "Bringing Up Baby" (1938)
2. "The Godfather" (1972)
78. "Modern Times" (1936)
52. "Taxi Driver" (1976)
1. "Citizen Kane" (1941)
32. "The Godfather, Part II" (1974)
38. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)
85. "A Night at the Opera" (1935)
82. "Sunrise" (1927)
79. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)
11. "City Lights" (1931)
7. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
15. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
39. "Dr. Strangelove" (1964)
10. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
58. "The Gold Rush" (1925)
96. "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
18. "The General" (1927)
12. "The Searchers" (1956)
56. "Jaws" (1975)
22. "Some Like It Hot" (1959)
54. "MASH" (1970)
16. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950)
50. "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001)
24. "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)
8. "Schindler's List" (1993)
92. "Goodfellas" (1990)
59. "Nashville" (1975)
4. "Raging Bull" (1980)
6. "Gone With the Wind" (1939)
74. "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)
14. "Psycho" (1960)
34. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)
80. "The Apartment" (1960)
99. "Toy Story" (1995)
3. "Casablanca" (1942)
13. "Star Wars" (1977)
97. "Blade Runner" (1982)
94. "Pulp Fiction" (1994)
30. "Apocalypse Now" (1979)
61. "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)
26. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
93. "The French Connection" (1971)
66. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
71. "Saving Private Ryan" (1998)
17. "The Graduate" (1967)
89. "The Sixth Sense" (1999)
44. "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)
57. "Rocky" (1976)
83. "Titanic" (1997)
40. "The Sound of Music" (1965)
23. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)
76. "Forrest Gump" (1994)


Friday, June 22, 2007

Chez Panisse Cafe: The sincerest form of flattery

So the most common complaint about Chez Panisse (besides the price of course) is that it's stuff you can make at home. To test this, I decided to try to reproduce in my kitchen a fixed lunch I recently ate in the Cafe (henceforth CPC). Trust that I'm a competent cook, who makes something out of the Chez Panisse Vegetables book five times a week.

GARDEN LETTUCE SALAD: The one at had at the Cafe was easily the best lettuce + vinaigrette I'd ever had, with arugula and curly endive providing exciting variations in flavour. Nevertheless, you might think this is one dish I could match: it's as simple as it gets to make, plus I could prepare the vinaigrette to my taste. I bought a wad of leaves from the Happy Boy stand at the Berkeley Farmers' Market, made my dressing and compared. And you know, even greens straight from the market didn't taste as fresh as what I had at the CPC. And my Berkeley Bowl brand olive oil and champagne vinegar aren't perfect substitutes for what they have. Other difference: their salad retails at $7.50; mine cost a dollar for the greens, plus maybe 25-50 cents for the other ingredients.
Ratio of quality of CPC's food to mine: 4.

WILD NETTLE PUDDING SOUFFLE: No, I wasn't going to put myself through the pain of foraging nettles just for this project. Their recipe for a green garlic pudding souffle is in the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook; I substituted their suggested alternative of leek. Major problem: I don't have a food processor. Consequently my product was earthbound, which a texture more like a quiche than a souffle. It was still quite awesome, since I splurged for real parmigiano reggiano.
Ratio of quality of CPC's food to mine: 2.

ASPARAGUS AND MOREL MUSHROOMS: These were served with the souffle. I've made asparagus and morels to CP specifications a number of times, so I didn't try cooking them again. I actually prefer my asparagus, since I like it better unpeeled (that's the waste-not Cantonese upbringing talking). But the morels, wow. A few days before I went to the CPC, I bought morels at the Monterey Market, sauteed them, and thought, "Yes, I've finally worked out how to get my $19/pound worth out of these mushrooms". And then I had the ones at the CPC, which sent me into mouthwatering despair: they were just so much better again. Turns out I'd been overcooking mine -- see, dining at Chez Panisse is educational.
Ratio of quality of CPC's food to mine: 3.

VANILLA ICE CREAM WITH TOASTED ALMONDS AND BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE SAUCE: Don't have an ice cream maker, but I've eaten a lot of ice cream lately, and while what I had at the CPC was very close to the top, it wasn't the very top. For the price, I could go to Sketch and have almost enough left over for a bar of Valrhona.
Ratio of quality of CPC's food to a double at Sketch plus most of a bar of Valrhona: 0.5.

Conclusions: (1) I still have some way to go before I get my Michelin star; (2) even if I were a great cook, I'd never be able to match many of Chez Panisse's dishes, because they have access to better ingredients; (3) at my price point ($40 hard limit on splurges) I can get a better meal at Pizzaiolo than here. Still, I'll go back when I've saved up enough to order more interesting stuff.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #30: Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Walt Whitman's Niece" (download)

Does anyone else think Natasha Bedingfield hasn't just read Byron, Shelley and Keats? That "Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!" is defatalised into "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you"? Getting back to the song in question, which is nearly as great, gotta love how the sly, gentlemanly way Bragg/Wilco/Guthrie withhold details, thus expanding a personal encounter into singalong universals. Endlessly rocking indeed.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Hark, the herald angel surfs

40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #31: Geto Boys, "Mind Playing Tricks on Me"

The paranoia is drug-induced, sure, but it's also created by the Boys having to front all the time. It's hard to be hard, why not just take candy from babies? It's like Safe for the ghetto male: just scary, scary, scary.

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The First Annual Berkeley Ice Cream Crawl

June 17th, 2007. Transport provided by AC Transit and our feet.

With a bunch of frou-frou places opening since I turned up in Berkeley four years ago (aside: shit, four years ago?), it seems likely that we now have the best array of ice cream, gelato and sorbetto shops in Northern California, with the possible exception of foodie eden Healdsburg, Sonoma. So why not try all the most heralded places consecutively?

52L bus to CAFE FANNY
$4.50 + tax for a small serving in a plastic container stored in their freezer. Initial participants: me, "Glitter 'n Gold" MH, "Fucking Sailors in Chinatown" MB. They had three flavours, so we each picked a different one and mixed and matched. MB's strawberry had chunks of jammy fruit, and shockingly, they didn't taste that great -- poor ingredient choice at an Alice Waters joint? What's the world coming to? MH's caramel tasted nicely burnt, though it could've used a little more sweetness for balance. My intensely-flavoured vanilla was the pick of the bunch. All seemed rich and high in butterfat but somewhat icy, as if improperly stored. Good ice cream, but not up to other stops on the Crawl (certainly nowhere near as good as what I've had at the Chez Panisse Cafe) -- and it was the most expensive.

9 block walk to SKETCH
"Stewing Hen Magnet" KR joined us on the walk over. $4.50 for a two-flavour cup. Had the strawberry sorbetto and the coffee ice cream. The sorbettos (also tried the peach) were very fruity but seemed a little heavy. The ice creams, on the other hand, were wonderfully soft without losing density. They're lower in fat, which lets the flavours stand out more, but it certainly still tastes like ice cream. Mine supplied me with a simple, concentrated coffee taste without wreaking havoc on my biorhythms. KR's balsamic cherry was perhaps even more awesome. The taste of vanilla I had seemed at least as intense in flavour as what I had earlier at Cafe Fanny, with a better texture. So: sorbettos OK, ice creams amazing.

"One Million Helpful Votes" CH met us here, and is apparently a vanilla fan. $3.25 for a good-sized two-flavour cup. Certainly very generous with samples: I asked to try a sour sorbetto and ended up sampling almost all of them. Finally settled on the mandarin but wasn't really happy with it: the main taste was sweetness, with other flavours way in the background. The same was true of all their other choices (KR's SAFFRON~! was a valiant effort, though still not as good as one might have dreamed), with one exception. The black sesame will make you believe in bitter desserts. The big bitterness balances the big sweetness for a, uh, big result. It's not subtle, but it's the way only one might justify coming here over Milano.

1 block to GELATO MILANO
$3 + tax for a good-sized two-flavour cup. Curtis Chin takes his frozen desserts seriously: you can just imagine when he was younger, while other guys were fiddling with computers or cars, he was in the kitchen with his gelato maker. And it ABSOLUTELY paid off, at least for us. The sorbetti are close to being literally incredible -- absurdly creamy without a drop of dairy. Four of the five of us got the lemon; MB, who didn't, could see the appeal, but she didn't want something "face-crunchingly tart". If you feel that way, the grapefruit is a subtler choice. I balanced the lemon with a yoghurt gelato; the coconut was also notably fine. In all, amazing whether or not you like your face crunched.

51 bus to ICI
$4.25 for two scoops on a cone. Thought this was a rip-off when they opened last year, but they've since stepped up quality and quantity. I had chocolate and malted banana; the taste of the latter got lost in there. The chocolate, though, was very good -- a much better match for the high butterfat content. And the chocolate stopper in the cone was cute, if not entirely effective. One memorable flavour I tasted was the cardamom and chocolate chip: odd combination, but it almost worked. Whether you prefer this place or Sketch probably depends on whether you prefer high- or low-fat ice cream; I slightly prefer the latter, but Ici is a block from my house.

East Bay Frozen Dessert Rankings: (places visited on crawl in bold)

Milano sorbetto
Sketch ice cream
Pizzaiolo gelato
Chez Panisse Cafe ice cream
Ici ice cream
Milano gelato
Naia gelato
Sketch sorbetto
Fentons ice cream (but for heaven's sake, don't order a salad)
Homemade granita
Cafe Fanny ice cream
Ben & Jerry's ice cream
Naia sorbetto
Cold Stone ice cream
Supermarket ice cream (like Haagen-Dazs... need to try Straus)
Yet to try: Tucker's Ice Cream, Alameda.
Not sure if it's worth trying: Ciao Bella.
I thought desserts were meant to taste good: frozen yoghurt.

Coming after an appropriate recovery time: The Mission Ice Cream Crawl.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dopo: It's Italian for "after", disappointingly

Since Pizzaiolo is perennially compared to Dopo, and I'm near-worshipful towards the former, I decided I needed to take the 51 down to Piedmont and give Dopo a shot. The area seems to be rapidly yuppifying, and while Dopo is part of this, it's also very casual. I snuggled up to the counter and began salivating.

From the short menu, I picked a sand dab crostone ($12) and the tagliolini with hen and radicchio ($15) -- maybe I should've chosen dishes that contrasted more but the prevailing opinion seems to be that the pasta beats the pizza. The crostone was pretty small -- Dopo has a rep for being a little cheaper than Pizzaiolo, but the latter has bigger portions -- and pretty good, with a hint of lemon to the fish. The tagliolini, flat egg noodles a little narrower than fettucine, were made in-house with no mean skill: very uniform. The braised Hoffman Farms hen, the bitter radicchio, and some pork product made for a neat mix of flavours. The ingredient quality seemed high, though nothing was exceptional on this basis alone: the closest was, of all things, the parsley garnishing the sand dabs. I think the key ingredient was salt: they're not afraid to use it.

So: very good meal; I have no trouble believing the consensus that this is one of the top ten places in the East Bay, any style or price. I still strongly prefer Pizzaiolo at this price point, but Dopo has the non-negligible advantage of being open for lunch (on weekdays; it's open for dinner every day but Sunday). Need to come back for the pizza before I give out the fifth star.

Dopo 4293 Piedmont Ave @ John St, Oakland


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #32: Arto Lindsay, "Q Samba" (download)

Hip to the point of parody, baby. On one hand, he's admitting he'll never be as cool as any given Brazilian. On the other, he knows what's important isn't coolness: it's drums.

Coming: The First Annual Berkeley Ice Cream Crawl.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #33: Sonic Youth, "Youth Agaunst Fascism"

I believe Anita Hill too, but all she proved was that Clarence Thomas was an asshole. What should've got him Borked was his judicial record, not to mention his obvious-even-then opposition to Roe vs Wade. What does a guy have to do to get the Dems to filibuster him -- advocate personal submachine gun ownership? Nope, that won't do it.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Surf's Up: Bird is the word


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #34: David Murray, "Shakill's Warrior"

Don't have a digital copy of this out-of-print soul jazz classic, in fact I have to go to the library and check out the decaying cassette of the album of the same name (and find my decaying Walkman) every time I want to listen to it. This is a crowd-pleaser, with Don Pullen's organ sauntering and Murray only going nuts at the very end.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Top ten: I say yes when I oughta say no

I predict I'll end loving one, hating another and being indifferent to the third of the potentially annoying Bedingfield/Ellis Bextor/Lavigne trilogy in the also-rans. But which will be which only time will etc.

1. Dragonette, "I Get Around": Hot lead singer who happens to be the daughter of Ontario's Minister of Finance: check. Eurythmic-synths leading to best chorus in recent months: check. Massive wardrobe budget for video pandering to Sapphophiles: check. UK chart placing: #92.

2. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, "Menoon Yaar Manawan": Despite its unwieldy title, The Ultimate Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Early Years, Vol. 2, covering 1983-1984, has made me forget my past struggles with the hippified portion of his oeuvre and convinced me the Greatest! Voice! Ever! boosters might be on to something. On this 18 minute track, as well as the 29 minute "Yaad-E-Nabi Ka Gulshan", his flight is sweetened with hooks. Funkier than Pavarotti.
3. Paul Nabor, "Naguyanei": Nabor's song for his dying sister is the informal anthem of the Garifuna people of Belize and neighbouring regions. The rest of the compilation From Bakabush suggests they're not as miserabilist as that suggests. Sure, they worry about the kids, but they'll make sure there's a band at the funeral.
4. David S. Ware Quartet, "Ganesh Sound": From the last U.S. performance of the best sax-led quartet since, wot, Coltrane's: Ware, Shipp, Parker and their Spinal Tap-like revolving drummer. Ware gets into and out of the groove on this moody slow-burner. No one weighs their chords more precisely than Shipp. And Parker, here leading Guillermo E. Brown through the beat minefield, should never be taken for granted.
5. Fountains of Wayne, "New Routine": Writing verses that flow seamlessly into choruses is about as easy as restarting one's life in Liechtenstein. FoW are resented for making everything seem too effortless, which for me is a necessary fantansy. Keep your sweat to yourself.
6. Mariem Hassan con Leyoad, "Id Chad": Hassan is a big-voiced Saharawi in exile. Her first husband wouldn't let her sing, so she ditched him, Sharia be darned.
7. Steve Lacy Quartet, "The Crust": The dodgy audio of this 1975 live recording makes it sound even more cacophonous. Second Steve Potts on second sax has particular fun taunting noise control. 20 mins.
8. Lil Wayne, "Upgrade": If I don't yet believe the greatest rapper alive shit, I'm starting to think there's enough to it to make wading through infinite mixtapes worthwhile. Got love a guy who disses Jay-Z over a Beyonce-borrowed beat, especially if he also takes time to mourn Apollo Creed.

9. Fanny Brice, "Becky Is Back in the Ballet": You might know "My Man", but Holiday if not Streisand did it better. Brice was better as a funny girl, and what's funnier than dancing injuries?
10. Dondolo, "Dragon (Shit Robot Firebreathing mix)": Disinterested female recites: "Dragon. Rawr." Still less sexy than Dragonette.

Ten more: Natasha Bedingfield, "I Wanna Have Your Babies"; Sophie Ellis Bextor, "Me and My Imagination"; The Federation, "18 Dummy"; Fountains of Wayne, "Somebody to Love"; Golem, "Charlatan-Ka"; Mariem Hassan con Leyoad, "Yasar Geidu"; Avril Lavigne, "Girlfriend"; Lil Mama, "Lip Gloss"; Papa Noel, "Cafe Noir"; Timbaland, "Oh Timbaland".

Good but not that good: Field Music, "Give It Take It Lose It"; Lady Sovereign, "Hoodie"; LDA, "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)"; Modest Mouse, "We've Got Everything"; Sir Douglas Quintet, "Mendocino"; Rachid Taha, "Rock el Casbah"; Justin Timberlake, "What Goes Around (Comes Around)".

You should respect a 40-year biz veteran who writes a song from the point of view of Elvis addressing his stillborn twin, but you shouldn't listen to him: Scott Walker.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ten favourite novels of the Nineties

Countless hours of reading and thinking result in this: two Franz K. namechecks and a Timberlake joke.

1. Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled: Not simply a dream, nor an imitation of Kafka: for one thing, Ishiguro surpasses the master; never has impossible geography so aptly explicated the workings of memory. Or -- people will talk in this town.
2. Norman Rush, Mating: The most sophisticated treatment of a love relationship since the Second Wave. Or -- if I gave you utopia, would you page me on the regular?
3. Philip Roth, American Pastoral: Achieving the American Dream is un-American. Or -- sorry about the twentieth century, hope you'll like the next one better.
4. Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower: It delights you with description as it makes you cringe at Romantic insensibility. Or -- Austen 3:16.
5. W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants: As Basil Fawlty knows, you can only not mention the war for so long. Or -- sorry about the twentieth century, hope you'll like the last one better.
6. Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Not simply a dream, nor an imitation of Kafka: I mean it's funny. Or -- oooh mysterious girl, I wanna get close to you.
7. Walter Mosley, A Red Death: Probably a little high, but this stands in for the whole Easy Rawlins series, a bunch of detective novels that give a marvellously detailed landscape of Watts from the Forties through to the Sixties. Or -- of Mouse and men.
8. Andrei Makine, Dreams of My Russian Summers: Not always insightful but extraordinarily vivid. Or -- if Russia's so great why don't you go live there oh you did.
9. J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace: As good as the lecherous old English prof genre, now accounting for 90% of all fiction by middle-aged men, gets. Or -- yeah, it wasn't a great century for South Africa, either.
10. Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon: OK, I haven't finished this one, but the 800 pages I read from my sister's copy were rather rollicking. Or -- nerd candy.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #35: Carlene Carter, "I Fell in Love" (download)

Prodigal daughter goes down home, stays down home, stays prodigal. Whatcha wanna do that for?

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nineties Madness: Honk if you like oinking

Yeah, I had forgotten about this until Girish got nostalgic.

Babe: Pig in the City vs Underground
Dudes thr so crazy. Underground is facile, not to mention politically dubious, as an allegory, but as a movie about the joys of getting crunk, it's unparalleled (I mean Arthur has a terrible soundtrack). But I guess the reason why there's aren't more good drinking movies is that they're iffy substitutes for actual drink. And actual drink is an iffy substitute for talking animals. The Babe movies are among the few post-Chaplin flicks that are made by their moralism, so call this a moral victory.
Winner: Babe: Pig in the City

Goodbye South, Goodbye vs Kundun
Ooh, tough one. How do compare a great film about just hanging out with one in which every action is world-historical? Answer: you pick the one that's world-historical.
Winner: Kundun

Taste of Cherry vs Backbeat
Not much of a contest. The Kiarostami entry should've been The Wind Will Carry Us; this rigorous piece of moping can't compete with HOMO LENNON~!
Winner: Backbeat


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #36: DJ Shadow, "Midnight in a Perfect World"

Those who still insist Shadow doesn't make great individual tracks should take another ten listens to this. It's a whole, and it sure tastes organic.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #37: Bikini Kill, "Rebel Girl"

I used to be annoyed by the "people should be different like me" line of fauxternative thinking, but in recent years I've softened. Humanist homilies aside, you're always going to be different from just about everyone in some essential way, and a desire for community isn't the same as wanting to destroy diversity.

Watching this Maoist fan video makes me wonder if I was right originally.


Monday, June 04, 2007

The East Bakery Project: Final count of the collision between me and them

The awards:

Best bakery + best bread: Acme
Best sweets: Sketch (very marginally ahead of Crixa)
Best actually healthy goods: Vital Vittles

You can find details on the nine places I surveyed on my Yelp page. On that site, I've been posting a lot of notes I don't mention on this blog (as well as some depersonalised cross-posts) of little interest to those who don't live around here. Read if you wish. Trying to find an appropriate way of splitting content with low duplication, for the one or no people who might read both.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #38: Pet Shop Boys, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing"

Come on, you know that feeling of absolute freedom you get when you fall in love. This song makes you glad you felt that, even if it's past, just because of the off chance you might feel it again. And it isn't the only Pet Shop Boys song on that subject on this list.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Colossal Youth: Big boys don't cry; and other stuff

(the title song, not the quoted one)

Movie review.


Part of the reason of the reason I haven't into movies lately is because DVD playback on my old Dell is unwatchable. Got a newfangled HP Pavilion 6500t in the mail today. First thing I pulled out to watch: a random disc from my puroresu collection.


Gave in and went to the Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch today. Quite good. Full report TK.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #39: The Magnetic Fields, "Papa Was a Rodeo" (download)
Imagine some alternate universe where George Jones had the worst voice in Christendom. And where at the point where things looked bleakest, instead of twisting the knife even more, he instead segued to the most beautifully hopeful ending imaginable.

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