Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weekend Trains

I doubt that anyone would come here looking for subway information, but I recently became an expert on train service advisories, as of my last subway ride from Tribeca to Greenpoint.

The A is actually running normally this weekend. There is no C train, instead the F train is the C train. I don't know what this means, but they are having train announcers justify it premptively by describing "necessary construction." Okay. There is no F train. Instead, if you want to go to Coney Island, you have to get to the G at Hoyt Schermerhorn and take it towards Smith-9 where it will continue on the F train line to Coney Island. This also means the G trains are extra long, and seem to be extra frequent. Marvel at the sight of the long G train! It continually thrills me.

To summarize. The F is the C. The G is the F. The A is normal.

This is probably for this weekend only, and maybe next weekend. The N, Q, R, W are also all messed up, but don't ask me about that. All I know is that if you want to go to City Hall, don't even bother with the Broadway line. Just take the 4 or 5.

Mark Z. Danielewski and Rick Moody in Conversation

I just got back from another World Voices event, a discussion with Mark Z. Danielewski, author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions (which has a very interesting website). The discussion was interesting, and Danielewski, in addition to being very intelligent, was exceedingly nice at the book signing afterward, drawing in my book and making time to chit-chat. That gives him major bonus points as far as writers go in my mind.

A lot of the discussion was focused on his life, which was interesting, especially because he tends to be a bit private about that sort of thing, and he told a pretty fantastic story about Susan Sontag as well. One especially interesting bit that came out was Rick Moody's mention of how deconstructivism might have affected his writing of this book, since he was doing his undergrad work right as it was beginning to really catch on. It made me remember just how much I liked Derrida, and made me want to read even more. I also liked that Danielewski, even while discussing some loftier ideas, managed to kind of cut out the bullshit a bit, asking one of the audience members to ask the real question he was getting at, and in general being very clear about his influences, both directly and indirectly.

As for the books, if you haven't already, go read House of Leaves, which is absolutely fantastic and absolutely terrifying. Briefly, it's the story of man who inherits a manuscript written about a lost film about a house that expands into an enormous labyrinth. Only Revolutions is less easy to follow, and I should admit that I haven't actually finished it, but it's a really interesting take on the road novel that puts the reader in the center of the reading, told through the perspective of two eternally youthful lovers. Danielewski never for a moment forgets that the story is the most important part of a story, and this is augmented by his typesetting, which might otherwise be seen as gimmicky. Both are great reads, and it's definitely worth taking a look at either.

Brunch in Soho

Why do I keep going to Soho? It's a mystery. Sarah and Steph were going for the day for shopping and other Soho-type activities, and I tagged along with them for brunch at the surprisingly pleasant place they had picked out.
Here is where we went:

Right there were those two women are, to be exact. This is 100 Acres on Macdougal.

The second we arrived, the otherwise gray day became bright and sunny. We stood on an actually non-crowded sidewalk and a group of charity runners came out of the restaurant exclaiming louder than I have ever heard about the pleasantness of the sun. What optimism! What appreciation! Soho!

Anyway, we liked the nice windows next to our table that reminded us of Bates. We liked looking out them at the people who were walking dogs and examining the smart car parked outside. The place was not too packed, and actually pretty spacious. I think everyone liked what they ordered too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts

Yesterday evening, I saw my first World Voices Festival panel ever. I have a lot of respect for the PEN International group, but haven't gotten out to the festival before, so it was a great pleasure to see "Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts: The Evolution of a Children’s Book Writer," a panel on children's literature and writing for children, featuring Neil Gaiman, Mariken Jongman, and Shaun Tan, and moderated by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Overall, I enjoyed it very much.

I found Pinkney to be, overall, a good moderator, although she was definitely a little biased toward publishing (no, I don't really know what I mean by that either, but there's a way that people talk in publishing that was very much reflected by Pinkney), and I was really thrilled with her asking the panelists to answer questions with one-word answers, a la James Lipton.

The panelists were all very interesting, particularly Shaun Tan, who was thoughtful and simultaneously fun, and whose book, The Arrival, I very much want to read now. Jongman was curiously sweet, particularly when she talked about not liking to speak so much in English. And, I've heard Neil Gaiman say this before, but I really love how he discusses children's books as especially important to the adults who will have to read them over and over and over again.

Other than a particularly obnoxious man sitting behind us, I would definitely call this a very successful event.

Cafe Miro

Yesterday evening, Kristin and I had some time to spare before a book event in the wasteland (to me) of SoHo.  Down on Broadway by the Scholastic office where the book event took place, we were looking for a place for a little snack.  Kristin suggested this place because she had been there before and really wanted some kind of frozen coffee drink that they have.  Inside, it was pretty big and trying to be sleek what with the metal menu with a small, mechanical looking font that was hard to read, and the slow jams playing overhead.

It took me a long time to figure out what kind of pastry I wanted, and finally I decided on some kind of fruit crumb cake in a glass cake plate next to the cashier.  Total with cafe au lait (inspired by steph) everything costs $6.  The cafe has other food counters with things like sandwiches and pizza and salads.  There is a bunch of seating, though the whole atmosphere, Kristin and I decided feels kind of like a classy food court.  

Things were going okay, though not great, especially after Kristin realized that Housingworks was close by and we could have gone there.  I wasn't sure if the server had actually given me the whole milk I asked for.  Finally, I noticed something bluish near the bottom of the crumb cake we had eaten most of.  We flipped it over and noticed many vibrant green spots.  They gave me my money back and threw the rest of the cake out.  Kristin did say that the frozen vanilla latte she got was exactly what she wanted, but after the mould, we felt a little bit off about the whole experience.  It also made Housingworks seem really appealing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ashkara/Urban Pita

I love falafel. So when I found out that my cousins had never tried it, I decided we should stop by and get some at Ashkara, a less commercial version of Maoz at 189 East Houston Street. I decided we should go there because it has seating (though not a ton) and we could all sit down together. I might have chosen Rainbow Falafel on Union Square, except that I thought my cousins might like the fill-your-own pita salad station, and the french fries. For some reason, the falafel was not quite as good as I remember it being in the past, which was disappointing, but I do like how customizable it is, and the French fries are also good (though not quite as good as they are at Pommes Frites), as is the lemonade. If you're in the neighborhood, I'd probably suggest you go to Vanessa's Dumpling instead, but if you're really in the mood for falafel, and want a bigger meal instead of just the sandwhich, Ashkara is a good stop down there. You can get a falafel sandwhich (which you call fill with as much salad toppings as you want), a huge order of fries, and a big lemonade for $9.40 with tax. Another big plus is that everything seems to be made fresh.

Earplug Update

To follow up on my review of Mack's Ultra Safe Sound Soft Foam Ear Plugs from March, I would like to report that the ear plugs are still quite effective, though leave my ears feeling sore if used many days in a row. I still recommend them, but I wonder, do they make them in a smaller size?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Turkish Poached Eggs with Sage Butter

At 3:30pm today, Kristin decided to revise her Cleanse strategy aka fell off the wagon.* Deciding to adopt a whole foods regimen instead of the Master Cleanse (see below), she came over for dinner tonight. We decided on another Orangette recipe, Turkish Poached Eggs with Yogurt and Spicy Sage Butter.

This is an extremely simple recipe (if you know how to make poached eggs), but the flavors are wonderfully complicated. At any given moment, you can taste creamy, tangy yogurt, spicy red pepper, and sage-infused butter. The garlic has the potential to be a little overwhelming, especially if you don't have a garlic press, but we didn't find it to be too much of an issue.

Next time, we would cut the garlic up smaller, and poach the eggs in a shallower pan. (When my mom makes this, she just fries the egg, which would probably yield a less squishy meal.) We also would definitely try to use greek yogurt (instead of plain ronnybrook farm yogurt) so that it is less soupy. This will be a great opportunity to use homemade yogurt, once we master the process.

*It wasn't that she lacks discipline and got too hungry, she just didn't want to drink 1 liter of salt water everyday.

The Master Cleanse: Day 1

I've just started the Master Cleanse, a fast-cleanse where you drink two liters a day of water mixed with 14 tablespoons of lemon juice, 14 tablespoons of maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Each evening you're supposed to drink 1 liter of saltwater, to really cleanse you. I think I'm going to be skipping that, because I don't want to do that.

So far, so good. I'm not hungry at all, and I think I'm consuming more sugar from the cup of maple syrup than I normally do anyway, so I'm not really feeling any different. I have a small headache and trouble focusing, but I haven't really focused at work in about a week, so I'm hesitant to blame the cleanse. The drink itself is pretty gross because there's way too much sugar in it. I've had about half a liter of my required two liters, and at this point, I'm not really sure how I'm going to manage to drink more than one liter of this stuff. I'm so not hungry that I'm not even wanting to drink this. I'm considering doing it with two or four tablespoons of everything, instead of 14. I think that would taste a lot better, and I'd be more willing to drink it.

I'll keep you posted as things progress, and I would love to hear from anyone else who has done this! If you're interested, there's a good episode of This American Life about a similar (though not the same) cleanse you might like to check out.