Friday, November 27, 2009

The lost art of letter writing

certainly existed in the past. I've heard so much about these letters, heard bits of them quoted, well here's a chance to read more than a bit. They are fully cross-indexed and also include images when they are referred to in the letters. What a treasure trove!


Seven of my favorite things

Jane, over at her lovely blog The Nearness of Distance, tagged me to list seven of my favorite things. Oh! so many ways I could with this. Big, broad concepts and categories, or super-micro specifics. I'm enjoying thinking about this list so much, I might do 7 seven lists! But here's a first crack:
  1. I love hazelnut ice cream, often accompanied with pistachio. I'm easily swayed by other flavors (had a heady babà-al-rhum over the summer in Italy -- I had to have it every night I was in town...), but I always come back to my true (ice cream) love, hazelnut.
  2. I do love Champagne. It's a recent love. Of course, I would always drink it on those special occasions - New Year's, weddings - but in London I discovered as an everyday going-out drink. It's not that I uncork a bottle at home (though I should! and I recently came upon a stash of superbly priced half-bottles...), but if I'm in that situation of having a drink before dinner, rather than a glass of white wine or an American cocktail, I find myself asking for Champagne. I know the French will shudder, but even a Champagne cocktail makes happy.
  3. Puris and shrikhand are one of my favorites since I was a child. Puris are a Indian bread, which is deep fried until it puffs up and becomes crispy. And they are incomparable when you get them straight from the frying pan. Well made, they are not too oily. You eat them with whatever is in your plate, but if you happen to have shrikhand, then -- joy! Shrikhand is Maharashtrian and Gujarati dessert made from strained yogurt and flavored with safron. It is the alchemy of simplicity. That's it, but what a combination -- and then if you have the puris you are truly set for bliss.
  4. Carnegie Hall is one of my 3 favorite places in New York, and thus by extension the world. This is my way of including classical music -- I was tempted to pick a favorite recording or performer, but next time. Right now I would like to savor the thought of being enveloped in the hall's generous acoustic. It's the kind of place that involves you in the music. There's no sitting back with analytic distance. Even at the back of the hall, the music reaches up to your ear.
  5. I love Room 56 at the National Gallery in London. When I have only a few hours in London, then I'll stop in here.
  6. I love walking in cities. I'm an active person - I used to run, and still do versions of this on the modern torture machines. I drive, a fast car, carefully. But really my favorite method of locomotion is walking. And my favorite place to do it is in a city. Any city will do, but hopefully some place with an interesting street life. It doesn't have to beautiful, but that is fine too.
  7. And why not admit..



Thursday, November 26, 2009

A New York Dream Sequence

... might look like this. Late afternoon, late autumn, soft sunlight. And no one on the street! Until you remember it is Thanksgiving! Mutatis mutandis like Stockholm in mid-June at 4 am...


Design Real

Monday, November 23, 2009

What New York Is All About*


* An absurdly grand statement, of course. But New York is like a hologram. Break off any piece of it, and you still have the whole....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last poem

It's Jane's fault really. Earlier this week she linked to this song from the film Les choses de la vie. If you like French "songs" (you know that spoken singing that the French manage so well -- you know one of these days I'm going to learn French and launch a career as a singer) and melancholy songs, then this is the track for you... as delicious as pressing into a bruise (sorry for that image).

That got me into thinking of other sad songs which I enjoy so much. And when I mean sad, I don't mean operatic sad, which is exultantly sad, but exactly the melancholy of chanson. Of course, some of what makes these songs so affecting is within the songs, but some is also within the listener: memories, associations, thinking about what you've been through - perhaps with a "thank goodness that's over" - but reliving it in the process. Perhaps I'll share my full list (it's actually pretty short right now, six tracks, but I'm working on it).

But for now I wanted to share this one. But be warned, proceed with caution. This melancholia is contagious!

"I Have Dreamed of You so Much"
Robert Desnos, Terezina Concentration Camp, May 1945

I have dreamed of you so much that you are no longer real. Is there still time for me to reach your breathing body, to kiss your mouth and make your dear voice come alive again?

I have dreamed of you so much that my arms, grown used to being crossed on my chest as I hugged your shadow, would perhaps not bend to the shape of your body. For faced with the real form of what has haunted me and governed me for so many days and years, I would surely become a shadow.

O scales of feeling.

I have dreamed of you so much that surely there is no more time for me to wake up. I sleep on my feet prey to all the forms of life and love, and you, the only one who counts for me today, I can no more touch your face and lips than touch the lips and face of some passerby.

I have dreamed of you so much, have walked so much, talked so much, slept so much with your phantom, that perhaps the only thing left for me is to become a phantom among phantoms, a shadow a hundred times more shadow than the shadow the moves and goes on moving, brightly, over the sundial of your life.

(Translation from here.)

* * *

And now head over here to hear Sophie Auster sing it:


P.S. Sophie Auster uses portions of her father's translation of this poem.

Monday, November 16, 2009

At last a few words

You've noticed the obvious by now, and made your deductions: more pictures, less words. Not that there's anything wrong with that, not at all. Some of the best blogs are only pictures. But my thing has been words (all told a wise choice given my limited skills with a lens).

So today I promise you words but no pictures...

* * *

I was out last night for dinner with a group of Italians. My friend M was in town (or more precisely my friend's wife's sister, but my friend's wife is also my friend, and she being Italian and I Indian her sister is my friend too -- you know how it is). In any case, she had her own flugelbindery going on, so I joined a group dinner, trying to blend in and managing like a turkey among penguins (strange image, doesn't really fit, but just liked the image).

What I noticed immediately that everyone was dressed the same, the men at least, and not the same in the sense of a uniform (though that would have been fantastic!), but in the sense of very similar choices.

It was a mild day in Boston (for November... 14C). Most people on the street were without a coat. I had my coat open, as I'm a bit sensitive to the chill. The Italians were all wearing down-filled coats, like the Michelin Man, but more stylish, and no one was was opening that zipper an inch... Those who wore glasses all had heavy squarish frames (I was thinking Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2 but looking back I see that his frames were less square). Beneath the coats, most had sweaters with a particular collar (which I have an instinct is mock something or the other...) There was less uniformity in the shoes, but more than a few pairs of suedes.

Another undeniable fact was that all these office penguins where pretty stylish, as penguins go. Or what I mean more precisely is that they were more stylishly dressed than their American brother flugelbinders. The basics were right: good material, well pressed, and the right size. On this theme, impressive how men with little bellies and thinning hair manage to convey that slightly dapper impression as well.

I'm sure there's something to be learned here, but I'm not sure what. That if you're in the right herd, the herd mentality can be good? Or perhaps the opposite -- no herd is worth following. Or perhaps it was emblematic of what office work can do to you. Not sure, not sure at all.

But when the professor began singing after taking a big sip from his Scotch, I knew everything would be fine.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Oooooo... I've been bad

Sorry loyal readers, I've been bad, bad, bad. This is one of the longest gaps in my postings ever... I've had good reasons. The flugelbindery has been working around the clock, and I've been binding harder than in a long time... Excuses, excuses.

But I do have this for you... From my early morning drive to Montréal, and part of my child hood that I miss living in the cities that I now do: The cold autumn air that greedily strokes your face, reminding you that soon you will be in his dominion. And the melancholy squawking of birds as they flee south toward sunnier climes.

A friend of mine asked me recently, why don't the birds just stay in the warm south? A question I am contemplating myself these days...

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