Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Temptation, Thy Name Is...

... either Brasserie (well, precisely, cucumber gimlets at Brasserie) or business class complimentary drinks. Tonight I shall be travelling overseas for my first business trip and, alas, I will not be able to take advantage of the joys of free booze on a plane. It's making me very annoyed, actually. And last night, another Shirley Temple was required to stave off the jealousy at not being able to tuck into a cucumber gimlet - which also broke my personal rules for living - or a nice glass of Sancerre. Dagnabbit.

I will have to content myself with purchasing local liquor and bringing in a hipflask on Monday.

Obviously, that's a joke. Obviously.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Nice Glass of...

... what, exactly? One of the problems of not drinking is it makes me realise how limited my beverage choice is. To whit:
  • Can't have caffeine after 6pm (breaking that rule today, and I will pay for it later)
  • Juice is full of sugars that are not good sugars (i.e. have turned to alcohol)
  • Non-caffeinated beverages like ginger beer (NOT ale) and lemonade/sprite-type things are full of sugar - or are diet and full of nutrasweet which, frankly, scares me and also tastes a little like washing-up liquid when you think about it
  • Caffeine-free coke is... well, it's just that I don't want to drink it, not that I do not like it
  • Milk is yummy but again, full of fats and calories that seem wasted because a) they are not cheese or b) wine
  • Water I love dearly, but I don't want to drink a ton of it and be up half the night. It'd be much preferable if shops in the US sold squash but, alack, they tend not to - or it costs about a tenner
So, you see, drinking really is the optimal option. Roll on March 1.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It's been a winter of great piles of snow elsewhere, both at home and in the US, but until today, New York City had managed to avoid the hits - certainly, this winter has not warranted a nickname such as Snowmaggedon. I saw something on tv a couple of days ago that said that while Baltimore had had over 60" of snow since December 1 (that's nearly as tall as me!), NYC had seen a mere 15.5".

Nonetheless, yesterday we got a big fat foot of snow that muffled the sounds of the street, squidged and crunched underfoot, and utterly enchanted me. I worked from home, and took a break in the late afternoon and fading light to take some photos of the snowy streets. It was an absolute joy. I can imagine that getting to work is not going to be quite so much fun.

The (snow)chair on our deck

Park Place

Poor old snowed in lions

Our building

Check out this gorgeous pic of Eastern Parkway, too - I'll be trudging along that to work very soon... And to see the rest of my photos, follow this link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Assorted Donuts

Today is the anniversary of the death of the great hip-hop producer, J Dilla. It's not an overexaggeration to say that he produced some of the most inventive, fun and creative hip hop since its creation. He took this sort of neo-soul feel and just flew with it, bringing about one of my favourite albums ever (it was #4 in my greatest albums of the 2000s), Fantastic, Vol. 2 by Slum Village, along with one of my favourite tracks ever, Runnin' by the Pharcyde (from Labcabincalifornia - a mere $6 on amazon at the mo - on which Dilla produced several other fantastic tunes, such as Drop, which has a truly great video).

And here's an example of what Dilla did so well: slinky bass, the fun whooping... it's just perfect. And I am incapable of sitting still when it comes on. Which is the point, really.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

First (& Second) Hurdles

Onto week 2 of No Booze in February (NBIF). Thus far, I've had the first of my passes, for the Super Bowl. I'm afraid I drank beer other than light beer; I think I may have managed to avoid breaking the rule if we hadn't discovered that the wonderful Brooklyn Beer & Soda sells my favourite Tico beer, Imperial, for not much more than the bars in Costa Rica - which was, at least, impressively cheap. So I drank a few of those, and felt a) quite light-headed quite quickly indeed and b) rancid on waking up on Monday morning. Although the recovery was remarkably quick, interestingly enough.

Yesterday evening was the first real test, the real temptation, however. Because it was one of those casual, lovely meals with great foodie friends, who were salivating over the claret they had ordered - a Bordeaux Saint Colombe '05 which, apparently, was earthy and bloody (suitably enough for claret) and went extremely well with the incredibly good burgers we had last night. It smelt divine. It was a genuine test of my resolve that I passed, but by which I was saddened. Roll on March.

Monday, February 08, 2010

As Titanic was to L.A. Confidential...

...will Avatar be to The Hurt Locker? I really, truly hope not. But I have a horrible feeling, now having seen both these movies, that the well-written, smart, thought-provoking movie will be overlooked for the impressive "feat" of making a certain type of movie and taking in a record box office gate (of course overlooking that it costs more to see Avatar than other movies. But I digress.).

Avatar was, genuinely, astounding - beautiful to look at, impressive technology. I can't remember which blog pointed it out, but scientists were the good guys here - Cameron at least managed to capture the zeitgeist and have the bad guys the evil corporate interests. The script, however, was absolutely terrible, and I didn't find myself emotionally engaged - at least, not as much as the person at the end of our row who was absolutely bawling for the last half hour of what was a very, very long film.

But does being an impressive feat of filmmaking mean that it deserves to win Best Picture? The Hurt Locker was incredibly well made - absolutely beautifully shot (but then, that wins you Best Cinematography) and well-written (Best Original Script). But The Hurt Locker was, in my opinion, much more than that. Bigelow managed to juggle our sympathies beautifully, so that you were torn between an understanding of how absolutely appalling the occupation of Iraq has been and continues to be for its people, and the sheer horror of bombs, of what they do to people, and how no one, regardless, deserves to encounter them. There is also one scene that captures brilliantly - for me, a complete civilian with no family/friends in service - how overwhelming returning to civilian life can be. How civilian life, with its ambiguities, no clear right or wrong, can't compete with the sheer terror, adrenaline and simplicity - in a way - of knowing one's enemy and having one, life-or-death decision to make.

It's not going to win. I can feel it. But you should see it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Keeping Up

Have I mentioned how much I adore The News Quiz? Well, I do. It's a superb way for me to keep in touch with politics at home (meaning I am a) informed and b) relieved of having to listen to John Humphreys haranguing people*), and this week I was laughing so much at the Buckfast thing I got very, very strange looks on the subway as I tried to hold back the tears of mirth. The weeks when it's not on are bleak for me, as I make do with whatever ersatz topical entertainment Radio 4 places in TNQ's stead, trying desperately to convince us that it's just as good. Not that I don't enjoy the other ones; they just pale in comparison to Toksvig** et al.***

* I used to podcast The Today Show, but it was unbearable after a while. I stopped after he was utterly out of line and abusive to a poor politician from Northern Ireland, whose name escapes me, but Humphreys was even more overtly aggressive than normal and utterly unreasonable. I'm less concerned when the politicians deserve it, but this was completely uncalled for and ridiculous.
** Did you know, I had no recollection whatsoever that she used to be on No. 73. But she was. A stalwart hero of entertainment.
*** I am also clearly onto a good thing, as there's a wonderfully ridiculous Telegraph article contemplating whether Radio 4 is alienating its "core audience" by having, according to commenters, Jeremy Hardy as a regular on TNQ, what with him being of the Socialist Alliance. It's terribly "smutty." This week TNQ even received a letter stating that there were too many women shrieking on TNQ, and there should be fewer women on it. Good work, people, good work.

Monday, February 01, 2010


I have a massive thing for Japanese chocolate-covered breadsticks. I developed my taste for them in Barcelona, where I regularly consumed a large number of packets of the brand Mikado (I know). On Saturday, while shopping in an Asian food supermarket, I went on a search for some. Imagine my surprise and delight to find many, many brands, many flavours, and, bizarrely, that the bitter chocolate version is called... well, you'll see for yourself:

How mad is that? It's the men's version. What makes it more amusing, of course, is that Dr. TOH really doesn't like dark chocolate and prefers milk and even, occasionally, white chocolate (which makes my stomach clench, ugh). And, indeed, this appears to be the experience of various female friends and their male partners (so, obviously, that's a fact. ahem). So, yes, Pocky's makes Men's chocolatebreadsticks.

Mad. I still bought them. Even though they annoyed me.