Archive for the ‘Tastes’ Category

2008 – Highlights

January 1, 2009

Instead of doing a standard best of list for 2008, I decided to list the 10 things that most affected or inspired me this past year.

In alphabetical order:

1. The Divine Comedy

I was introduced to The Divine Comedy a couple of years ago but it was only this year that I really connected to Neil Hannon’s elegantly composed brand of pop music. There is something very modern about the music but also an over the top Baroque feeling about it. Filled with literary references, great humor and beautiful musical compositions, I’m officially a big fan.

The most recent album, Victory for the Comic Muse, was released in 2006 and contains plenty of knock out tracks but my favorites are the mesmerizing A Lady Of A Certain Age with acoustic guitar, and The Plough with devastatingly gorgeous string instruments.

For an older album check out Promenade from 1994, a concept album about two lovers who spend their day by the sea. The album opens with Bath, a song that slowly breathes its way to life using sounds of the ocean and repetitive strings before announcing itself as a pop song.

Listen to The Booklovers, probably my favorite song, it’s composed entirely of great fiction writer names throughout history. The album concludes with the emotional Tonight containing some of the most beautiful musical arrangements on the record.

2. The Drawing Project by Jason Polan


Drawing #239, Alan and Wayne by Jason Polan

The combination of a pop sensibility, minimalist execution and a wry sense of humor made The Drawing Project a must see each and everyday of its existence. Although it began towards the end of 2007, Polan put his project to rest in August of 2008 after giving away 250 drawings.

3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

By far the greatest and most affecting novel I have ever read. Beyond epic in scope yet so universal in its themes of good vs. evil and the idea that we have the freedom to choose who we want to be in this world.

East of Eden is probably as close to the bible as I’ll ever get.

3. Fleet Foxes, Bowery Ballroom, July 9, 2008


Fleet Foxes illustration by Tomby

If you haven’t yet listened to Fleet Foxes Sun Giant EP or Fleet Foxes self-titled debut LP, you are definitely missing out on one of the most amazing bands to break out this past year.

Pick up both records and see them live next year, you won’t be disappointed.

4. Gustave Courbet at The Metropolitan


The Desperate Man (1844-45) by Gustave Courbet

If I only got to see the self portraits and nude paintings (including a NSFW Origin of the World) in this extraordinary exhibition of Courbet paintings, I would have had enough but there was certainly more to see in one of the best painting exhibitions I saw all year.

5. Ippudo – Japanese Ramen Noodle Soup

With their homemade noodles and deliciously pork-filled broth, Ippudo always has me ready for another bowl of Ramen. The wait for a table can be long but the food is affordable, served quickly, piping hot and ready to be eaten.

Try the Shiomaru Pork Ramen Classic.

6. Mickey Rourke’s Performance in The Wrestler

It would be close to impossible to argue with the insanity and ridiculousness of Mickey Rourke’s sensitive yet psychotic portrayal of “The Ram” in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

One has to wonder if he was just playing himself but in the end it really doesn’t matter. Rourke brings it all the way, putting his whole life on the line like he’s got nothing left to lose.

7. Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah

Visiting Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty has been a goal of mine for a long time. I finally made it out there earlier this year while I was traveling and working my way through Colorado and Utah.

Needless to say, it was a transcendent experience to say the least, one that cannot be compared to any other art experience. The journey is long and the drive almost treacherous but once you get there and see the Jetty with your own eyes, one quickly realizes how powerful great art can be.

Built in the middle of nowhere with nothing around for miles except the Great Salt Lake and what feels like a desert landscape, the Spiral Jetty appears like an old world relic and ancient monument to nature.

Make the journey, spend the night, watch the sunset and catch the shooting stars, The Spiral Jetty is a magical and one of a kind experience.

8. Stellet Licht (Silent Light) by Carlos Reygadas

In a year with too many overhyped films (The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Frost/Nixon), it’s a shame that so little attention has been paid to Stellet Licht.

I’ve written about this previously and it’s finally being officially released here in New York City starting next week at Film Forum.

Don’t waste any time. See one of the best and most cinematic films I’ve seen in a long while.

09. William Eggleston: Democratic Camera at The Whitney

In all honesty, I’ve had enough of William Eggleston, but when an exhibition brings together so many incredible photographs and hangs them on a wall together, my eyes can’t help but take notice.

Gathered together in this exhibition are probably some of my favorite color photographs of all time. I must have counted at least 5 that I would take to a deserted island.

While I think that Eggleston is essentially repeating himself ad nauseum at this point and the newer large format prints in the show disappoint terribly (except the b+w 5×7 portraits, which sing), I still would recommend heading over to the Whitney for a fantastic and refreshing dose of color.

Also, check out five films that influenced the man.

10. Words Without Pictures

Created by the photography department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and written by some of the best known thinking photographers and thinkers about photography, Words Without Pictures, continued to surprise and inspire me with each and every essay.

Read contributions by Mark Wyse, Walead Beshty, Sze Tsung Leong, Charlotte Cotton, Charlie White and Jason Evans.

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Rescued By Ronald

November 12, 2007

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Finding take out food on the road in France is pretty darn difficult unless you are driving through a big city like Paris, Marseille, or Lyon. There are rest stops with food that are not too disimilar from the ones we have here in America, but that’s only on the big highways. If you are driving through a small town during the night and need a nice hot cup of tea or some grub to keep you going you’re choices are limited to McDonald’s and a mysterious place called Buffalo Grill. While we never took a chance on the grill (see the ominous picture below. I think France is dark enough at night one doesn’t need to eat with the devil) we did hit McDonalds quite a few times.

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Yes it’s pretty fucking ridiculous that I’d end up at a McDonald’s drive thru in France considering that I never go to them here. I confess that I did hit a Mickey D’s near the San Francisco airport last month while working a job. We flew in late and my assistant was hungry. I was a bit shocked at his late night order: a burger, a cheeseburger, small fries and a soda. I had a milkshake and a small fries. The milkshake tasted totally artificial and left a chemical residue in my mouth. The fries were soft and mooshy.

In France I was mostly ordering tea to keep me going on the road. I’m sure the drive thru crew must of thought I was completely nuts. The tea being served was always Tetley’s English Breakfast or Earl Grey and not some cheap generic brand. They also gave you real milk, not half & half which makes a difference. I can only complain that they served the hot drinks in one small size. I guess I prefer a bigger cup, I am American after all.

Although it’s rare to see a French person walking down the street holding a paper cup of coffee, the relationship that the French have to take out is changing. Starbucks has opened a few locations in Paris and from what I hear the French people like it. But even still, they mostly sit down to enjoy their hot drinks which are still served in reusable ceramic mugs.

So while the French continue to enjoy the “luxury” of McDonald’s and the novelty of Starbucks, I just hope the basic traditions don’t change too much. I actually do like to sit down to enjoy a fresh croissant and a hot cup of tea, sometimes.

Tunafish Disaster

September 26, 2007

Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster (Detail), 1963
Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster (Detail), 1963

I spent the bulk of my day on a flight to Los Angeles. The moment the plane took off from JFK the gentleman sitting next to me decided it was time to break out a plastic container filled with tuna fish salad. Needless to say it stunk up the whole plane for a good part of the flight. Now, I’m a tuna fish fan as much as the next guy (specifically the Italian variety soaked in olive oil) but when it comes to the cramped quarters of an airplane one should be respectful to your neighbors.

My tuna fish eating neighbor turned out to be nice guy as we had a brief conversation. He was very keen on finding out if I worked in “The Industry” as I was busy reading a film script (Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited) for the first part of the flight. Turns out he has a son in film school and is always looking for a connection he can make for him. That got me thinking about my dad again as he is always looking to work an angle in my favor. Too bad I couldn’t be of any help to the guy.

Anyway, half way through the flight I took a nap and woke up to the smell of more tuna fish. I half opened my eyes to look around and my neighbor was at it again, this time enjoying a tuna fish sandwich. I guess he really likes the stuff…

Knoppers

September 20, 2007

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I am and will always be obsessed with this square chocolate bar from Germany. I go cuckoo for Knoppers any chance I get. Luckily for me, my agent just came back from Hamburg and brought me some.

I discovered the wonderful world of Knoppers on a work trip to Stuttgart, Germany a few years ago. I was checking out the supermarket situation as I always do when I visit a new country. The Knoppers were eyeing me from the shelf. I tried one and quickly decided that a whole bagful was necessary. They didn’t last a week as I ate at least two a day. Then over a year ago I was in Amsterdam waiting at a bus station when I found Knoppers being sold at the newstand. I filled up another bag. Those didn’t last either.

I’m not sure what makes me so crazy about Knoppers but it’s the perfect afternoon or late night snack. Great with a glass of Coke or a cup of tea. I love the combination of crispy wafer, milk chocolate, hazelnuts, and a nougat cream filling (to me it’s like marshmellow).

If you ever get a chance to indulge in some Knoppers don’t pass up the opportunity and don’t forget to bring some back for me.

Shibuya

September 1, 2007

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The View From My Hotel Room

A fourteen hour flight, three movies (Spiderman 3, Kicking and Screaming, The Wild One), three outdated issues of The New Yorker, two issues of Film Comment, as well as a few chapters of Madame Bovary.

Not to mention a couple of hours of uncomfortable sleep.

I finally arrived at Tokyo’s Narita Airport yesterday afternoon. It was surprisingly easy to pick up my rental phone and find the right bus into the city. The bus ride into the Shibuya district, where my hotel is located took about an hour.

The moment I entered my room I received a call from a friend inviting me out for some gallery openings and dinner. He gave me some simple subway instructions and I headed out the door. My hotel is actually located directly above the Shibuya subway station so I just had to go downstairs and hop on. It was very easy to find my way. The galleries were a bit of dissapointment but dinner was perfect. We ate plate after plate of delicious fresh fish, as well as some tofu and vegatables, washed it down with some sake and all we spent was about $20 per person.

Why do people always say that eating in Tokyo is expensive? There is no way in hell you could ever find a deal like that in New York City.

Chickeny Chicken and Leftovers

August 1, 2007

Anatomy of a Chicken, 1939 By Frederick Sommer
Frederick Sommer, Anatomy of a Chicken, 1939

Have you ever been served a bad chicken dish? I’m not really sure how to describe the taste. The texture can be somewhat rubbery and the flavor can be hard to chew. I think I’ve discovered what causes these chicken eating disasters. It stems from pre-cooking the meat, then cooling it off in the fridge until it needs to be re-heated and served. I realized this when I reheated some left over grilled chicken from two days ago. I don’t eat left-overs that often as I enjoy cooking just enough to eat and not leave anything left behind. Plus most things taste dead when they’ve been re-heated.