Saturday, December 30, 2006

A quotidian amount of pastry pain

NYC has a very good bakery called Pain Quotidien --- but the people who wait on you are uniformly stupid and evil. You might even say that it's the Kim's Video of pastry. The other day, I went into the east-side branch to get my wife a French Cream Bun. I asked the guy behind the counter what was inside the bun. "FRENCH CREAM,'' he snarled, pointing at the sign. This cream bun was beautiful to look upon --- two wedges of pastry with a finely sculpted layer of goo inside it --- but when I told the shmuck that my order was to go, he took out a little plastic cup and squashed the pastry inside of it, literally pounding the cup with his fists until the pastry flattened out and spewed its custard-cream guts all over the packaging. It was still edible but looked very bad by the time we brought it home. If you go, bring your own packaging.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Company On Broadway,'' and why won't my neighbors just leave?

Everyone should see the great new production of Sondheim's "Company'' on Broadway. Raul Esparza, as Bobby, may be the Broadway performer of the year. His Bobby is shifty and enigmatic and you can't quite get a bead on his sexuality. I loved the youngish performer doing the Elaine Stritch part (when she's in the piano bar, feeling bitter, ordering vodka shots and singing about the 'ladies who lunch,' and it starts out sultry and sarcastic and turns into a shriek.) My parents took me to see this, and I worried they wouldn't like it because they've seen it twice before, but they liked it a lot. Esparza, playing piano and singing "Being Alive,'' near the show's end, was incredible to watch. Also stunning, but in a bad way, are my nightmare neighbors who blast Enya-type music so loudly and thump around and play Loreena McKinnit-like Eurodirges and have mercifully short (10 seconds is their all-time world record) bouts of lovin' upstairs at a million decibels -- "ook, ook, eek!" --- and use the floorboards as a trampoline at three in the morning, and drag their furniture hither and yon like Troglodytes. Naturally they are sticking around during Christmas break to make life miserable for everyone else in the apartment building. It may take a village to stop these noise polluters.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Preview of "Shipwreck, Coast of Utopia.''

The first half was quite boring and too expository. Too much blah-blah-blah. The second half was outstanding. I think Brian O'Byrne is a marvelous actor. He carries the entire thing as far as I'm concerned, especially near the end when he delivers a wrenching speech about the death of a child. Ethan Hawke did very well, too -- portraying a gruff, boisterous scalawag (forgive me, Russian history buffs; I can't remember which scalawag), and I thought he was very engaging, although my wife thought he was doing a Jack Nicholson imitation up there. This one has gunshots, betrayal, nudity, flag-waving, you name it. In case you haven't heard about the plotline, the play (by the great Tom Stoppard) is a prequel to the Russian Revolution; you get to know the six friends who helped set the thing in motion. Or something like that. I liked the second half because politics, romance and friendship get conflated in ugly and unpredictable ways. In case you are wondering (both of my readers) how a grad student can afford to go to Broadway so much, the answer is: I wait out in front of the theater and wait for desperate theater goers to sell me their extra seats for dirt cheap.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Whaat a horrible computer keyboard s ystetm this is1

Dear bloog reaaders, (the boththt o of you) I am atatempting to file a message to my own blog, uusining a terrirble computer keyboard w ith sticky keys. As you can see, the result is kinid of embarrassing... thte compuutter keeps insertinig all kinidds of rididculoous erroors, addititionaal l etters and strange spellings i nto the text. Anyhow, I hope thattp eoplel whoho check the blog don't think I'm typing while drurnk. You'd thinkn the city governmentn would spring for a a more sopohiisticated computer system!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Columbia University's friendly rat

It's true --- my university has a friendly rat. He lives in the bushes outside the School of the Arts, and I see him every single day, just chilling out in there, enjoying the fall weather. He doesn't really bother anyone.

I still can't come up with an ending for my experimental fiction

What can you do. My experimental fiction remains unfinished, and it's now reached the seven-month mark. Maybe I should try to write something that has some sort of logical structure.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Experimental fiction and more rats

OK --- I just got some good advice from a couple of people about my experimental fiction. Make it longer. That makes sense -- the piece is very, very short. Nothing happens. The question is --- how do I make it longer? It's hard to lengthen something that is virtually plotless, but my writing professor and two of my fellow students gave me the same advice. Also, you wouldn't believe the rat I saw yesterday at the corner or Broadway and 125th. It ran out of the street, collided with some guy's shoe, and then raced right back out into traffic! I hope the rat is OK. (Live in this city long enough and you start sympathizing with everyone who shares space with you, even vermin.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

'High Fidelity' on Broadway with high-low results

We liked the Nick Hornby book and the Jack Black/John Cusack movie very much so the idea of a Broadway version seemed appealing -- especially since my graduate school doled out 150 free tickets (close to the stage.) The sets were amazing (a nicely apppointed Brooklyn walk-up apartment transforms before your eyes into a scungy record store, complete with The Clash, Sex Pistols and Springsteen posters, a beat-up cash register, and, above the glass front window, a fake NY skyline rising up. The actors were all good -- the lead was terrific, and one of his sad-sack pals (the skinny one who is not trying to reprise the Jack Black role, and who could transform himself into Snoop Dogg) was hilarious --- but the song lyrics were often excruciating to the point of distraction. You have only just recovered from one groan-worthy line when, boom, another plops in your lap. One character emotes that the record store "smells like ass.'' The female lead, complaining about her brand-new, tantric-hippie boyfriend, sings that "when he's mounting me, I feel a mounting sense of insecurity!'' Ugh. That's what you call Au Bon Painful. While it was an enjoyable evening, I can't help but worry that someone's going to lose a bundle on this one.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hand to hand combat with rats -- a true story

I forgot to mention that three smallish rats somehow got into the apartment over the past year and a half. I hate violence in all forms but it was them or me --- and they are vicious, so what could I do? Since I don't believe in chemicals, I finished off one of the creatures with a copy of a famous work of borrowed experimental fiction (a thin one, not a fat one like Infinite Jest hardcover, which would have been easier to use.) The question is, how did three rats get inside the apartment in the first place? It makes me wonder if the rats were there all along, just biding their time, or if they were living in the walls and somehow got out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Guggenheim-Spain/James Bond

Everyone (if you are here) should see the Guggenheim's Spain exhibit (huge, overwhelming, arranged by strange themes instead of chronology, i.e. crying women, skulls, dead animals on display, saints, martyrs, etc.)The only difficult part of the exhibit is the fact that it is on a slant and, therefore, tiring. Afterwards we walked through the park, got on the C train and went to Soho for tapas at Pixshos, which was fantastic, and we were the only ones there. In fact, there were no harrowing New York experiences afterward, no loud cell phones, screaming couples or filthy creatures to hamper my enjoyment of that day.

The new James Bond is worth seeing although it has about four endings, one after the other, and the script has some silly aspects. For example, I don't understand why they have the worst villains competing against and sometimes killing each other to provide deux ex machina escape opportunities for the good guys. The best part of the movie is the extended gambling scene, and I liked the heavy who looks like Freddy Mercury and cries blood when he is upset --- he is creepy and striking, like a young Udo Kier --- but I thought they could have done more with him.