Friday, February 27, 2009

Broads We Like

I recently finished reading Sex & the Single Girl as research for a mid-twentieth century period piece I'm writing. I always dismissed Cosmopolitan magazine and anything to do with it as fluff, but found myself strangely and surprisingly charmed by its wacky, long-reigning Editor-in-chief, Helen Gurley Brown. It's hard to forgive her for presiding over the masthead of such a cringe-worthy and horrendous "lifestyle" publication, but from time to time she'll do something endearing, like titling her editorial column "Step into my Parlor" and other humorous -- intentional or otherwise -- flourishes.

When reading the book I realized that inside the Cosmo-girl morass, there was a woman I actually didn't hate. She's kind of an old-fashioned broad: tough, sassy, solo, offering up a great big "I don't give a damn what you think" to everyone. This woman was a single career gal for seventeen years in the late '40s and early '50s before she married a film producer, so she knows whereof she speaks. It must have been a tough climate for her. I also wonder if she was the inspiration for Peggy on Mad Men, because she started as a secretary and moved up into writing ad copy after being mentored by a boss-man who noticed her talent. Here's another endearing quality she has: she grew up desperately poor and gives some amazing advice about living on a budget, including a section on how to save, buy stocks ("Choose a company that has an asset to liability ratio of at least four to one"), and negotiate a lower rent with your landlord. Her warning never to buy anything on layaway seems like the lone rational voice in the wilderness in these days of post-credit card remorse.

HGB advises living life to the fullest while living solo, whether it means working your way up the ladder at your office, taking violin lessons or traveling to Australia for a year: "Paradoxically, living dangerously lengthens and strengthens your life." She does not advise waiting for a man to call, predating "He's Just Not That Into You" by several decades. She's all about getting out there, having fun, working hard and really relishing this world, an ethos that isn't so easy for any woman who's ever spent weekends and holidays alone with the "lonely fidgets." ("But how much easier it is to bear if you have a really intriguing job to return to next morning and enough money to buy yourself a Ferrari to race around in and forget.") Her hardworking no-nonsense advice and bloody-minded dedication to "routing out the trembles" and eschewing self-pity is quite astonishing when you consider the how-to-land-a-man sensibility she and her magazine would later become associated with.

For instance, Cosmo readers appear to have little do other than sleep their way to the top, right? Not such a great idea, advises Mother Brown: "You would ... do yourself more good by staying right where you are and learning to read a statistical report. After all, girls to go to bed with he can always find. No real training required, but where is a boss going to get a girl who can read statistical reports?"

I don't know, maybe the last 2.5 decades of backlash and post-feminism have lowered the bar, but I found HGB's "make yourself useful" philosophy kind of refreshing, and despite whatever she did later in life, despite all the unforgivable dating/dieting advice she doled out to women, I think this still stands:

"Those who glom onto men so that they can collapse with relief, spend the rest of their days shining up their status symbol and figure they never have to reach, stretch grow, learn, face dragons or make a living again are the ones to be be pitied. They, in my opinion, are the unfulfilled ones."

Or, put another way, "There's such a long time to settle down by the hearthside."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Writing by Committee: A Lesson from Top Chef

At many points throughout the creative process, a writer finds herself in the position of taking advice from friends, colleagues, editors, and higher-ups about her work. Watching Top Chef last night, I couldn't help but notice the parallels between the chef/sous chef dynamic, and the way a writer interacts with these well-intentioned advice givers.

First let's take a look at Carla. She took a lot of advice from her sous chef, and it ended up destroying her meal and costing her the game. What's truly sad is that she could have easily won it if she's stayed true to her own style of cooking, which the judges had praised again and again. Carla's personal unique stamp was what they loved -- her passion and soul shone through, and when she took too much of her sous' advice, it cost her everything. The moral? You're in charge, ultimately (unless you're being paid to write for someone, in which case you better do what they say). If you know your voice is strong and your writing is good, and everyone has told you so, then don't take advice from random people who may be ill-informed and also not really get what it is you're doing.

On the other hand, you have Stefan. He should have taken his sous chef's opinion to heart. His sous knew that freezing salmon to create carpaccio-thin slices was a bad idea and it was. It watered down the dish and completely ruined the intense pleasure of eating a fresh, raw piece of fish. It wasn't clear if the sous chef actually forewarned him or if he kept his mouth shut, but knowing Stefan's headstrong overconfidence, he wouldn't have listened anyway. But you have to know when to listen. Think about it: melting ice = water. It makes sense. If something makes sense logically, maybe you should pay attention to it.

Finally, we have Hosea, who did exactly right. He picked his teammate knowing his track record, and allowed him to contribute his strengths while maintaining control over the big picture and final product. This is exactly how to take advice when you're writing. Listen to people you trust, respect and admire and allow them to contribute in areas where you know they excel but always remember that it's your project and you're in charge. If, like poor Carla, you know your voice is the one people want to hear, don't let anyone else interfere. She was really the nicest person on the show as well as an excellent chef, and I wanted her to win.

Don't let writing by committee ruin a perfectly good thing.

(All the above advice is null and void if you're being paid to write something for someone. Then you're a hired hand and you better give them what they want. Spec scripts are all yours though, baby. Why bother obeying all the "rules" if you're not getting paid anyway? You won't sell something that sounds like everything everyone else ever wrote.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

May You Live In Interesting Times

What is this world coming to? First New Yorker shutters forever, then douchey frat bags think they can take over Hollywood? (On the upside, no one will really notice if they do, right?)

It's terribly sad about New Yorker, though.

This Indiewire article runs down just a few of the directors New Yorker introduced us to over the years: Ackerman, Bertolucci, Bresson, Chabrol, Fassbinder, Fellini, Godard, Herzog, Kieslowski, Malle, Rohmer, Rossellini, Sembene, Wenders, Schlondorff, and many others.

Meanwhile, according to this month-old NYT article, Wall Streeters with generous two-year severance packages are apparently trying to break into the movie biz armed with scripts they describe as "Annie Hall meets Swingers." Some especially foolhardy ones aim to start their own production companies.

How many of them, I wonder, have even heard of New Yorker Films?

They would no doubt reply, "Who cares? These are foreign indie films, not HOLLYWOOD movies! We don't need to know about them, we're trying to make money here!"

Lots of people are pissed off that bankers would try to get into the business of film. More corporate number crunchers is not what we need, they would say. To which I would add, more people who really don't give a shit about cinema is also not what we need more of in this industry.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

S is for Sunday

Why it's Edward Gorey's birthday today! Thank goodness for that, since it gives me a chance to drop in on Spinster Aunt, post a pretty picture and be on my way. Coherent writing is out of the question at the moment; it's far too drizzly out and I'm far too sleepy to form any thoughts. It's just a pleasant hum up in my brainbox at the moment, so I think I'll go with it and read some ghost stories by Muriel Spark. Happy Sundays to all, and good luck in any Oscar pools you may be swimming in.
Update: I spent some time at the kitchen table playing with watercolors, which made me feel like I was ten again. I like the haughty, disdainful way this lady's expression turned out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gems from the ash pile

As per my resolution -- for I never falter when it comes to resolutions -- here are some sparkling gems from My Man Godfrey (La Cava, 1936) and Easy Living (Leisen, 1937).

My Man Godfrey has the special privilege of showcasing Carole Lombard at her most utterly bonkers as socialite Irene Bullock, and as a special treat, Alice Brady as her mother Angelica Bullock, who resembles no one so much as the Mad Hatter (come to think of it, Irene's a lot like the March Hare). It almost makes me get over my lack of fondness for William Powell. I'll tell you who I do love, though: Eugene Pallette, who also played Henry Fonda's dad in The Lady Eve. No one played put-upon patriarchs better than he.

A few choice quotes:

Angelica Bullock: You mustn't come between Irene and Godfrey. He's the first thing she's shown any affection for since her Pomeranian died last summer.

Alexander Bullock
: Life in this family is one subpoena after another.

Irene: Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!

: Stand still, Godfrey. It'll all be over in a minute.

Godfrey: Opportunity is just around the corner.
Mike Flaherty: Yeah, it's been there a long time. I wish I knew which corner.

The story in Easy Living revolves around a $58,000 sable coat. Can I even fathom a coat that costs more than I ever made in a year, in my best years, selling at this price in 1937? No, no I can't. It breaks my brain. Cracks it right in half. But without the coat, the gossip of the milliner Van Buren wouldn't be half as funny:

Van Buren: The bull of broad street... with a girl... in the sable-est sable coat they ever sabled!

The hat salesman is on the horn with a Winchell-esque gossip columnist, spreading rumors that innocent Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) is the mistress of financier J.B. Ball. It's all a crazy mix-em-up, of course, all the better to deliver this incendiary line:

Van Buren: Where-ever there's smoke, there must be... somebody smoking.

Nobody orchestrates chaos better than Sturges (who wrote the screenplay), ably assisted by Leisen (sorry, fella, you have to play second banana to my hero). Subtle commentaries on wealth are also appreciated (by me), like the scene in which Jean Arthur finds herself in a princely hotel suite but is bitterly disappointed to find it has an empty fridge, and wears her $58,000 fur coat to the automat, where all she has to spend is two nickels.

Alright, truthfully, I can't remember a lot of funny quotes from this movie, but here's one I can recall -- a marriage proposal to beat the band:

John Ball Jr.: We both have jobs! I'm going to work for my father --
Mary Smith: And what will I do?
John Ball Jr.: You're going to cook my breakfast.

How can a girl say no to that?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snappy Pre-Code Dialogue Is Always in Fashion

I've been amusing myself at Film Forum's Breadlines and Champagne series this week but regret not having brought a notebook to any of the shows. What use is all that fabulous, snappy pre-code yammering if it slides out of my grasp as soon as I hear it? So from now on I'll not only jot the stuff down, I'll transcribe it, too, since the only thing worse than my memory is my handwriting.

A few dillies from last night's Warren William letch-fest:

Employee's Entrance (1933)

William's cold-hearted department-store boss gets a number of good lines off, but my favorite is this exchange with local hussy, Polly:

Kurt: When did YOU develop principles?
Polly: Oh, I saved a couple out of the crash.

Skyscraper Souls (1932)

A jeweler and a clothing model with loose morals are in a crowd of people buying bank stock. While pressed up against the broker's counter, the following exchange occurs:

Jake:You shouldn't gamble.
Jenny: No? But what are you doing here?
Jake: Well, I can afford it. I'm established;
I'm in a very old business.
Jenny: Yeah? Well, so am I.

(Update: I just remembered my dream! I was trying to draw Loretta Young's face. I remembered just now when I looked at her eyes and eyebrows and realized I was trying to draw those perfect arches in my sleep. Also: why doesn't *my* hair do that?)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who is this Dardo and Why Is He Handing Out Awards?

"The Dardos Awards is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

I think it's sweet that someone considers my overenthusiastic dilettantish blathering worthy of attention but I shall accept the award nonetheless, since I've always said it's a sign of good breeding to be able to accept compliments -- and gifts -- with grace. So huzzah to P.L. Kerpius of Scarlett Cinema, and a tip of the cap, a flutter of the petticoat, a curtsy, blush and doffed bonnet to all, hip hip tiddlywinks great big bully gosh hurrah!

The Rules are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award."

And now the great difficulty of selecting five other blogs to laud! See, I don't actually read that many (hence my pathetic little blogroll) and also, many that I'd like to have nominated are already tagged, and therefore untouchable (like Self-Styled Siren and Six Martinis and the Seventh Art). Also, it's a tad embarrassing to have to contact these good people, due to my pathological shyness. However, never let it be said I shirked my duty or disobeyed the hard and fast rules of web-based creative platforms, so here it goes:

Best View In Brooklyn
I've Been Reading Lately
Art and Ghosts
Garfield Minus Garfield
My Cozy Little Whimsy Nook

You have been chosen, either because you bring delightful art, whimsy and curios into my world (Art & Ghosts), create staggering 19th century costume reproductions and are obsessed with macarons (Cosy Nook), alert me to some of the best of the printed word (I've Been Reading Lately) or the goings on in my own neighborhood (Best View In Brooklyn) or lead me to question the very essence and nature of life, love and my own sanity (Garfield Minus Garfield).

Finally, I resolve to read more blogs, and welcome any suggestions. I will dutifully expand my blogroll, too.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Boats n Hos (Part 3)

I also had a chance to pop over to The Hague (because when are you ever going to go to a city with "The" in its name ... other than The Bronx?) and was appropriately dazzled by the Royal Picture Gallery. I went specifically for Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring (1665), which is really quite arresting:

It's a small canvas, but astonishing for its luminous, intimate, pretty, innocent, doe eyed ... ness. Sorry for the torrent of adjectives, but I was really struck by it. I know it's a cliche to say this, but there's an otherworldly aura to the original painting. I'm going here to learn more about the painting right after I finish this post (updating may occur).

Again, I was reminded of how awesome it is touring Europe in January, as I had Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp (1632) all to myself in an empty room. The composition is typically lively, with all subjects looking in different places at once. The light source appears to be the body, emanating a glowing white (but looking at the painting you can see that it's actually a shaft of light from a high window).

The light source reminds me of a scene from Hitchcock's Suspicion, in which a glowing white glass of milk seems to illuminate the space around it:

The backgrounds in "Girl" and "Anatomy Lesson" are relatively unimportant -- plain black -- which directs the viewer's focus and highlights the paintings' subjects. Here's a random observation on Vermeer and Rembrandt: their use of black backgrounds reminds me of Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

See how dark all these backgrounds are? The Disney Alice is one of my favorite animated versions of the story, and part of the reason I'm so fond of it is the strange sort of black field it seems to take place in front of. It lends an eerie effect to the whole thing that I find quite delightful. Apparently it turns out Alice was considered a quick cheapie, which may be why Walt didn't put any time or effort into the backgrounds -- little did he know that his luminous blonde heroine would emulate the effects of the masters (or did he? he was an evil genius after all).

Other personal favorites within the collection were Jan Breughel 1 and Peter Paul Rubens' collaboration Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (1617), Rubens' Old Woman and Boy With Candles (1616-17), Gerrit Dou's Old Woman Reading Lectionary (1631) and Hendrich Avercamp's On The Ice (1610). We saw Avercamp in the Rijksmuseum, too -- like Jaques Tati, he's very playful and full of activity in the frame and uses deep focus:

One The Ice


See? The old masters aren't a bunch of boring pictures of black-clad dudes wearing frilly collars! These are fresh, lively, almost animated pictures that (I think) have a proto-cinematic (if you will) sense of depth and movement. So there!

Finally, I also really liked Judith Leyster's Man Offering Money to a Young Woman (1631):

Seeing Leyster's work made me want to learn more about her, as I don't know of many women painting at that time. It also made me aware of what women were doing in these paintings: reading, playing music, laughing, drinking, fondling dudes (or protecting their virtue), working lace, caring for children, pouring milk, sewing. I always thought the idea of women as naked passive objects in art was a bit overblown. These 17th century Dutchwomen had very busy lives, it seems. I wonder if it's just emblematic of the region, though -- I mean, the Netherlands was one of Europe's first Republics after all, and has always had that whole equality and tolerance thing going on. Of course, I'm sure they weren't allowed in the Draper's Guild but ... well, anyway, I'm going to look up Judith Leyster now and read more about her. I'm sure I'll be obsessed with the Northern Renaissance school for a long time.

Finally, I just want to add a little aside on the food, and then I promise I'll stop rambling about the Netherlands. Dutch food has a pretty bad reputation, and I'm sure their raw herring totally sucks, but nevertheless I managed to eat fairly well. For one, the grand Cafe Dudok in Rotterdam is very good, as is the Bagel Bakery, which serves Israeli cuisine as well as the eponymous bagels, and you can get decent Chinese-style fast food at Wok to Go. The Witte de Wittengstraat is a street packed full of galleries and tons of restaurants, which all seem to be pretty good, except for Bazaar, which I can tell you is totally overhyped.

At Bazaar, I put my name on the list for a table, waited for an hour, then asked when I'd be seated after seeing other, newer arrivals seated before me. They couldn't find my name on the list. I volunteered (pleasantly) to go somewhere else but they begged me to please sit, right away. The service was average, but the couscous was a shade below average, and way overpriced. My server disappeared after my meal and I totally could have walked out without paying, because, when I got up to use the restroom, he'd already cleared my table and put a "Reserved" sign up for the next customer. I went up to the maitre d' and paid him directly. This must be a mob joint or something, because I can't fathom how it stays in business. Other than Bazaar, the food in Holland is definitely Not That Bad, and hey, in Europe you can never go wrong with supermarket staples like bread, cheese, and fruit. And yes, the Gouda is very yummy.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Boats n Hos (Part 2)

Delfshaven, one of Rotterdam's few original neighborhoods still intact, was eerily quiet when I went, but pretty nonetheless. It's definitely where I'd want to live if were a Rotterdamer. There were artists painting in their ateliers, a woman cleaning her boat and a very sweet cafe called Soif overlooking the Maas River, where I'd totally hang out after I finished painting my boat and collaging in my studio.

Cute, no?

The Boijmans Museum is the largest art museum in Rotterdam, but it's still comparatively tiny, with a wee little collection. It more than makes up for it, though, by being extremely well-curated. Their permanent collection is organized chronologically and also by subject, so for example you'll be in the 16th and 17th century rooms, and each room within that section is subdivided by style: landscape, interiors, genre, etc. This imparts a wonderful sense of context and perspective, and for a gal like I (really a rank amateur) it's very informative.

Highlights included Cornelius Saftlever's Who Sues for a Cow (1629), Hendrik Martensz Gogh's The Grote Market in Rotterdam (1654) (which gives a good idea of what Rotterdam's medieval center might have looked like), Emanuel de Witte Interior with a Woman at the Virginal (1665), with beautifully rendered light and sophisticated deep focus:

There was also a delightful little aside, a room of modern installations stuck right in the middle of their 17th century exhibits, which they call"Interventions." The interventions are designed by various artists to interact with the permanent collection by mixing the old paintings with their new, original installations (the artist when I visited was Victor Man). The idea is to prevent the old masters from becoming too ossified by their own history, making them relevant, playful and new.

The Dutch seem to live with art and design in a way that is very real and immediate -- from the Urban Screens and installations at IFFR to the Interventions at the Boijmans, they seem to interact with art effortlessly, perhaps the result of their great legacy of Renaissance painting? In any case, it's no wonder they're at the forefront of international design since they seem to take it for granted as a vital part of life; what's more, they're not afraid of the new, as Rotterdam's architecture amply illustrates. I have great respect for the way they seem to refuse to compartmentalize, and for all their work ethic and business savvy they embrace art enthusiastically; that is, they don't seem to view these things as mutually exclusive. Americans, who tend to separate art and commerce, could learn.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Boats n Hos (Part 1)

And now, the long overdue Spinster Travelogue Netherlands Edition. Since this was a very museum-heavy trip (I mean, holy cats! This place is stuffed so full of Rembrandts it's like a freaking masterpiece jamboroo around here) it'll read more like a gallery round-up than a travelogue, but that's the way it was I tell ya. Listen, between the insane cultural treasure-trove, the gale-force winds, driving rain, and my inside-out umbrella, I was more than happy to spend a lot of time indoors. Here's the best of what I saw, where I supped, and things I learned. Also, a thrilling account of almost falling into a canal.

Let's start with Amsterdam: The Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
Admittedly, I found the VGM underwhelming, and wondered if all his best work is scattered around the globe at various other museums, or if I was just spoiled by the very good MoMA exhibit earlier this year.(MoMA owns Starry Night, I think, so probably my scatter-theory has some merit). The Rijksmuseum was partially closed for renovation, but they thoughtfully had a "greatest hits" section open which included Rembrandt's Night Watch and Syndics of the Draper's Guild, and Vermeer's Milkmaid, and View of Houses in Delft (1658), below.

The only streetscape he ever painted, for which he applied paint in varying layers of thickness to depict glass versus paint, bricks, etc.

The Milkmaid is very still, calm, and peaceful, milk being the only movement in the picture.

Rembrandt loved a single light source and was interested in directing the viewer's eye.

Nightwatch isn't a nocturnal scene at all but rather a dark indoor scene illuminated by a single shaft of sunlight -- the misnomer is the result of dirt on the painting.

At this point I am beginning to become utterly spoiled by all the visual goodness around me, and Rotterdam has yet more in store.

Rotterdam was bombed to pieces during WWII, so it lacks the medieval center most European cities have (see what I learned at the Maritime Museum!). But it rebuilt astonishingly quickly embracing new and daring architectural forms, like Piet Blom's Cubic Houses:

Apparently the houses are meant to represent abstract trees that, when taken together, become a forest. But I think the cube houses provide a parallax view from certain angles, evoking the columns in an ancient structure, or the naves in a Gothic cathedral:

Perhaps I'm imagining things

While I was walking from the Maritime Museum to the Cube Houses the rain picked up and evening began to fall, so that by the time I left the Cubes to head back to my hotel, the whipping wind and the darkness so disoriented me that I lost my way. Stumbling around a city while lost is one thing; stumbling around a city whose streets end abruptly in waterways is another. I kept turning my umbrella this way and that to shelter myself from the rain, sometimes having to place it directly in front of me, looking only at the ground to see where I was going. I crossed a footbridge. I could see only very dimly. I looked up to try and orient myself and skirted left a little too sharply. Narrowly, by about a foot or so, I missed stumbling into the water. "Wouldn't that be just like me," I thought, "To fall into a canal in January?"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Prague on Ice

While this Spinster Travelogue is long overdue, it's cold enough in NYC today to bring back sharp memories of Prague two weeks ago, during the coldest of the cold snaps. (During which, I might add, people in Slovakia had NO HEAT, thanks to a natural gas dispute between Russia and the Ukraine. Something like fourteen people died, so I tried to keep my complaining to a minimum.)

With its embarrassment of architectural riches and compact historical center, Prague is ideally suited for long outdoor walks, but kind of miserable on frigid January days. During any other winter, I'd happily stroll the city's snow-dusted cobblestone lanes for hours at a stretch, but on this trip our flaneur time maxed out at two hours or less.

A complicated timepiece

From Kampa we caught Tram No. 22 up the hill toward Strahov Monastery, a medieval marvel founded in the twelfth century. The tram ride is a tour in itself, winding up Petrin hill over pretty Mala Strana and offering breathtaking views. Strahov's stunning medieval library is open to the public, and I was completely captivated when I saw CALL NUMBERS on the books' spines. From there it's a healthy walk to Prague Castle, but a charming one, on a street called Nerudova, which is also known as the Royal Way.

Rooftops in Mala Strana

Prague Castle's enormous complex of museums and galleries is familiar to both my mother and I -- she absolutely refuses to go to Golden Lane, because she thinks it's too commercial -- but we did stop by the recently restored Lobowitz Palace. The Palace is owned by Czech-Americans who were granted restitution of their land after the curtain fell, and their audio tour is hilarious. They take turns talking about all their priceless treasure and what a bitch the upkeep of all *that* is, and at one point when the matriarch of the family hands off the mic to her son, he actually says, "Thank you, mummy!" It's kind of sickening, but then there are original Beethoven scores in glass display cases, which are guaranteed to awe (if you're not awed by the original score of Beethoven's Fifth, you have no soul).

Strahov Monastery is in the background

The Museum of the City of Prague was next on our tour, and I completely loved it. It's my favorite museum in the city right now, and it has a fabulous scale model of the town in the early 19th century where you can actually see streets you walked down, like Nerudova (and you'll be forgiven for saying things like, "Look, there's our hotel!") Architecture students should love this place, and they get a student discount on admission (your MA in Cinema Studies will get you nowhere with the ticket lady, unfortunately). This was a far, far better museum than the cheap-o Mucha Museum in Old Town Square, which consisted of a few slapped-together posters, and totally sucked.

Finally, what wintertime jaunt would be complete without cozy places to eat and drink? For my money, you can't beat Café Slavia, a grand old-world café where Vaclav Havel used to dine. Located across the street from the National Theatre, you can soak up some history while your hearty dumplings soak up some beer, and you can do it all under a gaudy oil painting of a man drinking absinthe with the Green Fairy. You can probably get absinthe, too, if that's your thing.

Or you could go to the Kinomat

Later in the week we went to a small town called Trinec to pack up my grandmother's things and prepare her apartment for sale (she passed away in November). I couldn't help but notice a few things, notably:

Czech peasantry (note the poppies):

My grandma's town:

= I am a peasant

... which explains a lot of things about me, like why I really want that country house, and why I think potatoes are "neat."

Na zdravi!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'm going to post pics and a travelogue today, I promise, but I'm busy cleaning every square inch of my house (which is how I put off writing) so until then, here's a tantalizing interview with Guy Maddin, by none other than the legendary R. Emmet Sweeney himself.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day

"I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."