Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
this was a flawless, special lunch: a sweet and juicy margarita; "rojo" guacamole (spicy, with smoky chipolte. queso fresco adds a creamy, brightness); light, fresh lobster tacos; and crisp, airy churros (who knew that was possible?). the cajeta sauce will run down the thin channels of the fried dough, so take quick bites. expect to have sugar and cinnamon down to your wrists and all over your chin. what's more fun than that? especially when paired with a spiked mexican coffee?
the toloache margarita: frida kahlo blanco tequila, hibiscus, muddled blueberries, and lime.
"langosta" tacos: spicy lobster, morita salsa, avocado
churros: dusted with sugar and mexican cinnamon, with cajeta and chocolate dipping sauces.
TOLOACHE. 251 west 50th street, between eighth avenue and broadway. 212.581.1818.
last night, at around 5 pm, my friend allison emailed me.
want to go to the movies? it's so icky and rainy out--it's perfect movie weather.
i live in a rear-facing apartment. right now i'm eyeing the array of vertical and horizontal blinds of the rear-facing apartments in the tan brick building across from mine. hello neighbors. it's not bad, really--there is enough distance between "us" to allow for gentle light. the sun never imposes itself on me here, and that's rather nice. i get to ease into the days at my own pace.
but if i'm wondering how clear the sky is or if rain is here, or on the way, i have to walk up to the window, lean over the white radiator cover, and with my cheek hovering close to the glass, look up, up and away to suss things out. i had the blinds up yesterday, but i didn't leave my apartment after 11am--it was icky and rainy out? i had no clue.
i loved this impromptu movie idea, though. (is it ninety-five percent of life that's planned? short-term. long-range. big monstrous things, like careers or even little deals, like lunch.) plans, and the anticipatory thrill, can be fun. but i love the energy of the un-plan:
anyway, i said yes to going to the movies even before she mentioned what she wanted to see. she proposed 3 options: two lovers, i love you, man, and he's not that into you. (this reeks of girls-night-on-night-1-of-the-sweet-sixteen, yes?) i'd just seen i love you, man on tuesday night, so we settled on two lovers.
when it was over, my first thought was the story wasn't isn't new or even terribly surprising. but there are small moments, beautiful, melancholy snapshots that ring deep. the ensemble was restrained, mirroring the film's oppressive, lovingly confused and strained relationships. the performances of isabella rossellini (looking old world beautiful, and with a wary squint) and vinessa shaw (so simply heartbreaking) were quiet and finely tuned. joaquin phoenix's opening scenes set off alarm bells--his tweaky walk and posture made me think of sean penn in i am sam. oof. but he settled in and became properly unsettling. he is here, at turns, broken and combustible--his unique vulnerability, the way an emotion traverses the deepening lines of his forehead to the tight corners of his lips, and then lives in his eyes...his eyes...those eyes. there is nothing easy about him, is there? it works perfectly here. throughout the film, i would nuzzle into the collar of my own damp, wool sweater trying to hide or find a little comfort. so while allison and i agreed there was a level of predictability to the film, while we were there, watching it all unfold, we both dreaded the impending emotional doom right along with the characters. allison was positively morose immediately afterward, but we talked through the heaviest parts, and then the balmier ones.
how do you like the film poster? it's the UK version, created by all city media and i prefer it to the one they're using here. check out the site--they offer alternative designs for each of their projects, and it's interesting to see and consider how and why they made their choices.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
cody lacroix's calming, green wall. nyu center for architecture. 536 laguardia place, nyc. on view through april 11, 2009.
right now, "green walls" seem to be more an idea than a movement, but here's hoping that especially (and at least) commercially it...well...grows. bad pun, but judging from the "standing room only" attendance at last night's event, it's also a well shared sentiment.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
i want to go on a mountain top
with a radio
and good batteries
and play a joyous tune
(a fun, live, snake-free version here. i love her "thank you verymuch!" at the end.)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
it's been an all-sports wednesday for me, at least so far.
i've officially made my picks for this year's tournament! the POTUS and i are in complete agreement on the outcome in the WEST. we mostly agree on the MIDWEST, except I'm picking bc over michigan state. we definitely don't see eye-to-eye on the EAST and SOUTH, but that is because for better or worse (lately, worse), i'll always pick duke over nc. i have duke coming out of the east (assuming a pitt upset by ok state. haha! i did say upset) and oklahoma coming out of the south and winning the whole she-bang over louisville.
you're seeing the duke connection at work again, yes?
on an even lighter side, I happened to take a facebook quiz, "which MLB star are you?"
i don't take these quizzes very often (honestly!), but the subsequent comments from friends relating to this one were so...colorful! there were 6-8 mostly ridiculous questions along the lines of, "if you were a baseball player, would you be a superstar or an underrated team guy," "if you made a ton of money as a baseball player, would you bling yourself out of town or would you share it with the community?"
i am CURTIS GRANDERSON: "Your pretty well at every different aspect of the game - one hell of a balanced baseball player, but you're not the best. Still, you are also very nice, kind, and involved in the community." (i didn't bother correcting their grammar.)
photo courtesy of positivedetroit.blogspot.com. photographer unknown.
i was hoping i'd be bernie williams (humble, musically inclined, beautiful base runner...) but since he doesn't play anymore (except for pr in the wbc, which doesn't count) he was probably not an option.
here's a link to an si feature, by albert chen, from a couple of seasons ago.
and the barack-etology video via espn.com.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
my favorite writer is blogging from the bnp paribas open in indian wells, california, and his readers/fans are being spoiled by (sometimes twice!) daily dispatches that are so vigorously observant, that to turn on the actual television broadcast and see and hear the commentary on any single match is akin to being stranded in the desert: it's colorless and dry and it saps your energy but quick. you need refreshment. you want life. so you turn away from the tube, and back to his blog, where the real action is.
this is what happened to me on sunday night. "mfw" gave glorious build-up: i could envision the drive from LA to the desert (with no less than a joan didion reference) and the grounds as "the tennis aquarium" (what right-minded tennis fan doesn't wish to be out there after reading that?). and then, this brilliant stuff:
Opposition is tennis' essential quality. Two people face each other with nothing but themselves and a stick. The court's 90-degree grid and pure white lines are set off by the curve of the ball. At the professional level, the grunts of the players and the dry thud of their shots are enclosed in the soft authority of the chair umpire's voice.
All that was true this afternoon when Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark stood across from Kaia Kanepi of Estonia at the BNP Paribas. The match was played on Court 4, where the Tennis Garden meet the desert. Beyond this, there's nothing but sand and scrub grass. Call it another form of opposition.
The stands are low out there. You get a full view of the cavernous sky and its gradations of blue—it seems more prominent here, a bigger deal, than in the East—which is set off by jutting brown hills and rows of stark, white lighting towers that line each side of the courts. From this vantage point, everything is dry and stripped and hard. Wozniacki's and Kanepi's shots cracked through the air, and you could hear each individual scrape—chicka-chicka-chicka—of their shoes as they set up to hit.
and later, this:
The crowd is dozing, the second set is dragging, and the woman across the net isn't giving Dinara Safina anything to work with. Peng Shuai shovels one ball down the middle after another—no angles, no pace. It's time for the top seed to take matters into her own hands. This, of course, means that she must let out an unintelligible, or perhaps Russian, scream that turns into a full sentence—maybe a paragraph—of anger. The sleepy Southern California afternoon is punctured. The audience, collectively stunned out of its torpor, gives the players the biggest cheer they receive all afternoon. Safina wins the next two points, the game, the set, and, eventually, not without more struggle and a few more self-lacerations, the match. After yesterday's upsets, the tournament needs its No. 1 seed. Safina, not at her best, has obliged.
see what i mean?
so, on sunday night, i ran home after a long swim, ready to make a nice pasta dinner, pour a glass of wine, and giddily camp out in front of the tube for my first opportunity to take it all in with mine own eyes. and i saw...well...nothing but a big, buzzless stadium court, with gael monfils swinging wild, like his moods, on his way to yet another disappointing loss (i'm really starting to worry about him), this time to john isner. there was no remarkable commentary to enrapture me. my shoulders slumped. i plopped face down on the couch. drat.
i perked up a little after hearing that rafa was up next, against michael berrer. the players entered the stadium to "where the streets have no name" and that at least got me to turn over and face the television. (i don't care what people think or say about bono, or U2, or their music now--the video and song were fun and "rad" and very LA when it came out in 1987 and i'm still happy to hear it when it comes on.) rafa proceeded to make the night a bit more memorable, wowing the crowd with his usual brio (notably in the 5th game of the first set, with a crazy backhand slice approach off a berrer mis-hit, from a good foot outside the alley, hit extra sharply cross-court; and, immediately following that, with a defense-to-offense morale wrecker: out of position on the forehand side, rafa lobbed one over berrer's head, berrer managed a weak overhead down the middle, and sort of positioned himself right there, mid-court, in nowheresville--the phrase "sitting where he stands" comes to mind--and nadal passed him before he even got his bearings. i mean, rafa executes this kind of shot-making with delightful regularity, but berrer looked about ready to invoke the mercy rule. and the match was only 21 minutes old. poor guy. he didn't even play that badly).
but that's been about it so far. oh, it's not been terrible--i would rather have any live tennis than none at all. but like i said, some of us are getting spoiled...
one pleasant surprise: lindsay davenport has a real talent for commentary. there are times, when to watch her play is to feel yourself age. slowly. bitterly. but i always knew she was bright and well-spoken. she strikes a calm, confident tone in the booth, and she brings a thoughtful, pro's eye view:
on hantuchova: daniela has such a pretty game, her strokes are...textbook perfect, and she's a very... very nice player to watch...i really wish she would have a little bit more patience and go cross-court more. i was always taught that [you] work the points cross-court, and wait til you have the right shot to go up the line...i really feel she goes up the line too soon in rallies...
on the weakness of ivanovic's two-handed backhand: her contact point is a little bit late, most balls go up the middle of the court, or to her opponent's forehand...[she] doesn't use her left wrist all that much and it's very prone to errors, [she] misses a lot of balls late up the line when she is not on...
that's straightforward stuff, but it's more along the lines of what i want to hear and think about.
(unlike her counterpart gimelstob who is so reliant on the superlative as to be unconvincing. he makes me want to excise the words "great," "greatest," "best," and "most" from my vocabulary. i probably use them as unsparingly as he does. lesson learned.)
if you're not able to catch the matches on tv because you're going to join revelers for st. patrick's day (happy, happy, btw) or watch the NIT (meh), or later this week, the NCAA tourney (woo hoo), or you just can't find the broadcast (it's actually on an MSG channel, in nyc), do not fret. just visit the concrete elbow blog for "hi-def" observations and anecdotes from the crowd and the press room, and music and literary references (that you and i can look up later). it's writing that is far and away more compelling than what is on tv, and the next best thing to being there.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
swimming is my new obsession. i plan to swim every day until my gym membership lapses at the end of this month.
the pool at my gym is a funny place. it's in the basement (not so surprising). but it's tiny--my guess is that four laps equal 1 olympic size pool lap, and it's only 3 - 5 feet deep. there are two lanes, each wide enough to accommodate two swimmers, presuming they can swim straight. there are 2 odd little outlets on one side of the pool where folks can hang out and "aquacise" while waiting. there is a pile of blue kickboards, water weights and belts, and those brightly colored "noodles" that people use to practice treading or running, or for horseplay. there is also a hot tub and a eucalyptus steam room, and i am highly suspicious of both. there are a few chairs, including some lounge-y ones, made of teak. it isn't uncommon to find someone taking a snooze on them.
the pool itself often empty when i go; otherwise, there are only one or two others swimming. i like the relative quiet--no speaking, no tv, no music. my mind is free to wander.
when i'm actually swimming, i'm pretty focused on things like breath and form--i count my kicks, think about shoulders (rotated) and fingertips (graceful) and abs (tucked).
in between the mercifully short laps, i take everything else in. there is always a lifeguard, looking bored. i wonder if they are allowed to read, because i think surely they cannot be expected to just sit there, looking at this lonely, shallow pool. but the two lifeguards that i have encountered don't read. one older man, who looks ashen and a little asthmatic, sits forlornly in a t- shirt, swim shorts and striped shower slides. occasionally he'll get up and very deliberately spray and wipe to a streak-free shine each of the nine, big round mirrors that surround the pool area (meant to evoke a cruise ship?). i admire his serious, patient approach to each one. and then there is a younger girl (not dressed in any sort of swimming or lifeguarding gear). she's pretty. she looks at herself in the mirror...she poses...checks her pores.
and then i check out the pool-goers. they tend to skew much older. there is one woman who wears a cap loosely over her wig, though i have never seen her in the water. there is another who swims with snorkeling gear. and there is an older man, who receives personal instruction from a coach who enters the pool area carrying a briefcase, wearing slacks and florsheim thayer mcneil leather shoes. he doesn't bother changing in the locker room.
but sometimes random "swimming" thoughts will come to mind:
will i be able to swim without my goggles?
what if the water were deep? the pool long?
how will i fare in the ocean?
could i save myself from drowning?
how much chlorine is safe to drink?
today, an entirely new one came to mind and it was so stunning, i actually said it out loud (there was no one else around): what if i tried to swim fast?
and then i remembered reading, never sacrifice form for speed. (clearly, advice for beginners.)
but i thought, why not try?
and so i did. i know i wasn't fast, but i was faster. and it felt pretty good, like sprints at the end of a run, you're winded but also energized. i did it five more times, free and back, and probably could have done it a few more. but it was 9pm.
and there's always tomorrow.
since i am still really a "beginner," i've been looking online for technique tips and drills to try.
i found this video featuring my favorite swimmer, natalie coughlin, but i must know a lot less about technique than i realized. i don't know what she's talking about! can anyone translate?
do you love the photo of natalie and katie as much as i do?
check out patrik giardino's website. stunning sports photography. the whole espn spread, "the olympics are for girls" is gorgeous. he's also done a lot of work with the company i used to work for, the publisher of men's health, best life, runner's world.
note: espn credits "patrick giardin" for this spread, but i'm guessing that is an error?
Sunday, March 8, 2009
dimitry tursunov, in one of the most unfortunate team shirts i've ever seen. here, i presume with team captain, shamil tarpischev.
tursunov fought back from two sets down to defeat victor hanescu, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and russia clinched the tie, 4-1.
march 8, 2009. in sibiu, romania. photo by mihai barbu via daviscup.com
gilles simon, with french team captian guy forget. simon lost his singles match to radek stepanek, 7-6,(2), 6-3, 7-6 (0), and france, the tie (3-2).
the czech team will face argentina in the quarterfinals.
march 8, 2009. ostrava, czech republic.
photographed by paul zimmer. via daviscup.com.
the ties have been broken.
i witnessed bits and pieces of one (us v. switzerland), was lullabied by another (spain v. serbia), read a bit about the others online. a few things from davis cup weekend raised my little eyebrow:
1) the french losing to the czech republic (maybe i shouldn't have been surprised, but i can't ever get a beat on berdych--every time i decide to put money on him--figuratively--he serves up a big letdown. i suppose the same can be said of gasquet. but the french had simon and tsonga playing singles. so i would have guessed the french would take it;
2) israel defeating sweden (will wilander throw in the towel? does my all-time favorite davis cup player give up coaching and captaining and do commentary, full-time? i would take him over justin gimelstob any day);
3) doubles. it's fun.
i watched most the bryan brothers v. the swiss duo of wawrinka/allegro, and i let out more than my share of audible wows, especially in the 3rd and 4th sets. i found myself rooting for the underdog swiss team and especially for yves allegro, who was unquestionably, the biggest underdog of that tie. i suppose it would be one thing if the swiss team got blown off the court in straight sets, but they made such a game of it, yet it remained apparent that allegro was the most vulnerable, most attackable...well, i just wanted them to win the doubles, so allegro could leave birmingham with a great story to tell.
if you have a soft spot for underdogs (or have been one yourself), take a minute to read peter bodo's post, the cruelty of doubles. i hated playing doubles (which was my fate for four years in high school) precisely because i dreaded those moments of letting my partner down. me and my weak-ass serve. it's exactly as he says:
". . . Can there be anything worse than conspicuously being the weakest of four players on a tennis court? You feel responsible for the waste of your teammate's best efforts, and when you look across the net you see a double-dose of a modulated, veiled, but very real predatory lust. In singles, you play lousy and at least you have your own space, a fairly large amount of it, on either side of the net. In doubles, the court must look awfully crowded, with your dispirited partner on one side and two opponents on the other...
There's nowhere to hide. And don't tell me that having a teammate in those terrible moments is an emotional crutch; it's an emotional burden, unlike any known by the singles player. And it's part of the secret glory of doubles, a game that rarely invokes the noun. Fun? Sure. Fast? Sure. Exciting? Sure. But how often do people describe doubles as "glorious"? So never forget that as comforting as it is to have a comrade, throwing in with one also implies a certain amount of responsibility. Great doubles players are the ones who consistently triumph over this demand, and even under the most trying circumstances find a way not to be emotionally and mentally obliterated by it when things aren't going so well."
i suppose it's like a basketball player whose misses game-tying free throws, a game-winning shot, or who calls for a time-out when there are none left...a closer who gives up the tying run...and then the winning run...a first baseman who can do nothing but watch as the ball rolls through his legs. i feel for those guys, even if i don't root for their teams, because i don't envy that feeling.
but then there is the camaraderie. in victory and defeat, there is that.
and i'm glad for these tennis players, that there are at least a few times during the year when they can compete and cheer and endure those moments together.
2009 Davis Cup First Round Results:
USA def. Switzerland, 4-1
Croatia def. Chile, 5-0
Argentina def. Netherlands, 5-0
Czech Republic def. France, 3-2
Israel def. Sweden, 3-2
Russia def. Romania, 4-1
Germany def. Austria, 3-2
Spain def. Serbia, 4-1
check out jason's report from sunday here.
and finally, two random tennis bits from this weekend:
american tennis from the 70s and 80s really does resonate: british artist and filmmaker, steve mcqueen, whose film, hunger, won the camera d’or at the cannes film festival, likened the film's pivotal scene between bobby sands (michael fassbender) and a priest (liam cunningham) to “connors versus mcenroe at the wimbledon final, two people wanting the same thing but wanting it differently.”
i googled to see which connors/mcenroe final he might have been referring to ('82?), and found out that the british don't need nielsen ratings. they use their electricity grid to estimate their audience:
"tennis fans caused a massive surge in electricity demand after nadal took the wimbledon title because they were glued to their seats during the epic match. a 1,400 megawatt spike - equivalent to 550,000 kettles being boiled - was recorded at around 9.20pm, as the spaniard lifted the trophy. the surge shows millions watched the match."
so bizarre and old school. i like it.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
tennis channel is the exclusive US television home of the davis cup--or rather, all US davis cup ties. which means if you care about the US team (roddick, blake, and the bryan brothers) vs a federer-free swiss team, then you are "golden," as they say. because all of those matches will be televised live from birmingham, alabama, and then replayed and replayed and replayed for the next, oh, let's say several weeks.
if you live in the US and happen to care about other cup ties (in my case spain v. serbia), don't look too long or hard anywhere on tv for any kind of coverage. (and if i'm wrong about that, please let me know.)
luckily, a friend told me about a site where i can watch the matches live on my computer.
unluckily for me, watching matches live on my fossil of a computer is rather like watching the players do "the robot." everyone moves in fits and starts, and there is a 45-second delay.
i wasn't psychotic enough to get up at 4am (at least not this morning) to watch the matches under these circumstances, but i am content to sit here now on my couch with my laptop, ignore the sunny spring fling outside, and listen to the broadcast of the doubles match ("team guapo"--lopez/robredo-- v. troicki /zimonjic). i suppose that is another kind of crazy.
but the commentary is surprisingly engaging. this doubles match is turning out to be a hot contest, with the serbs up 2 sets. i love hearing the crowd cheer (o-leee, oleole, o-leee), the thwack of the ball, and the sweet rhythm of their sneakers sliding on the clay...
earlier today, ferrer defeated djokovic in straight sets, which surprised me, but i only had in mind djokovic's recent victory over ferrer in dubai, not ferrer's undefeated record (now 3-0) against the serb on clay.
i love jasper juinen's photo from today's match. i was hoping a site or paper would pick it up so i could present it here, sans watermark. but you get the idea.
a focused ferrer. may 7, 2009. benidorm, spain. photo by jasper juinen/getty images, via gettyimages.com
i'll be checking out the coverage of the US team this afternoon at 2pm est.
and since it looks like i'll be trying to get up at 4am tommorrow to listen in on nadal v. djokovic, i'm about to take a power nap.