August 2005 Archives

New York Diary

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Ah, another Parker reading randomly selected from The Portable Dorothy Parker. At this rate, I'll have read the whole thing aloud in about two years. Still haven't gotten to the poetry, though. This one is a short story from 1936.

play audioFrom the Diary of a New York Lady by Dorothy Parker 8'45" MP3 (8 MB)


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Blue truck on Expressway #5

"Oh, red flashing lights over on the highway," I noted to Tod last night, as a police traffic stop caught my eye.

What I didn't twig to was that I haven't seen the highway from our veranda since they finished building the ugly green striped apartment building last year.

The destruction of the building across the way is moving along quickly. The workmen remove the metal sheathing as they pull down each floor, so now we can see all the way across to the highway. I wonder what they are going to build here?



Riding home on the subway the other night, there was a really obnixious little boy waiting on the platform with his family. Maybe 11 or 12, he was well beyond husky, with a buzz haircut, a dark tan and a bullying attitude. I watched him manipulate his parents and harrass his sister. Not a good kid.

As the train pulled into the station, he crowded up to the platform gate taking a position front and center that would prevent people from getting off the train. I find that to be truly annoying behaviour in anyone, and this kid was already topping my annoyance tolerance levels.

I turned to Tod from my position near the side of the gate and whispered, "Can I trip the fat kid?" I don't think he heard me. But apparently my feet did.

As I entered the train about a half a step after the fat kid (who'd been forced to to move to the side a little as people pushed past him getting out of the train), my ballet slipper-clad foot twisted just a little and slipped in front of his chunky athletic shoe. He tripped and stumbled into the train, recovering his composure in just an off-balance step or two.

I can't believe I did that. I swear my foot seemed to be acting on its own...

Showa Kinen Koen

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Tod & I and a large bunch of friends spent the day at a park bigger than a breadbox. We had to take the train out to Tachikawa to do it, but it was worth the 45 minute trip.

Showa Kinen Koen (Showa Memorial Park) used to be a military base. Now it's a giant playground. There's a series of shallow swimming pools and four waterslides; a mini-golf course, croquet lawn, frisbee golf course, boat rental, a bike trail, gardens & forests, a huge cargo net for climbing, and a series of bouncy trampoline hills.

If you want to splash in the wave pool or waterslide, hurry out to Tachikawa--the pool closes on September 4th. The rest of the park is open year round.

Too Charming

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I can't get enough of Dorothy Parker, though you are probably tired of my daily readings. That's just rotten for you but I assure you it is just a phase. I'll soon be onto new topics.

Here's another book review from the New Yorker column, "Constant Reader," circa April 1928.

play audioThese Much Too Charming People by Dorothy Parker 7'44" MP3 (7.1 MB)

Constant Reader

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One of my favorite sections of The Portable Dorothy Parker is the collection of her book reviews. From 1927 through 1933 she wrote a column for The New Yorker called "Constant Reader." I've never enjoyed book reviews as well as hers; they are snarky comments on society with books as a catalyst.

Though my reading hardly does Dorothy Parker justice, I love these reviews so much that I cannot prevent myself from reading them aloud to you (No doubt Mrs. Parker would have something to say about that). This one is from the November 17, 1928, issue of The New Yorker and it reviews two books.

play audioWallflower's Lament by Dorothy Parker 7'35" MP3 (7 MB)

Dorothy Parker


I had the good fortune at St Mark's Bookshop in New York, to find a book I've been missing since I packed it away eight years ago in Pittsburgh. The Portable Dorothy parker is something I opened again and again when it was on my bookshelf.

So today, when it arrived fresh from America, I opened it at random, began reading aloud and recorded this short, five page story. I can't say it's my favorite, but then again, I can't say which one is. They're all worthwhile.

play audioSentiment by Dorothy Parker 11'55" MP3 (10.9 MB)

Knife gift


Miyakoya knife

Although it's said that giving a knife as a gift severs a friendship, that didn't stop Jim from presenting me with this one last night. (If I give him a coin as "payment" for the knife, that should hold off the bad luck and we can remain friends.)

I've often admired his collection of beautiful, antique Japanese steel knives and I love to help make dinner in his kitchen just so I get to use them. My knife is new, flat tipped, double bevelled along its 7 inch blade, and ever-so-slightly curved for chopping vegetables. It has a good weight and balance. I'm looking forward to wearing in the handle and gently reshaping the blade to my stroke as I use it.

Thank you, Jim.

Boating Party

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Boating Party
Saturday, September 10 (rain date: Sept 11)
14:30 - 16:30
Shinobazu pond boathouse, Ueno Park
Cost: boat rental, 600 - 700 yen/hour

Please come to our second dress-up party. Wear your favorite summer frock, hat, gloves & parasol--or don your tux or suit--for an elegant row around the pond at Ueno. If you'd like, bring some light snacks and drinks for a mid-pond picnic.

Everyone is welcome; no RSVP necessary, though you may leave a comment if you want to signal your attendance or have a question.

Korean Wedding

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Today we went to a Korean wedding. Tod's colleague, Sukki, was getting married formally, after having been married officially for four years. It was unlike any wedding I've ever attended.

The first hour was a Korean ceremony. The mothers entered and lit candles. Then to a fanfare of immense proportions, Sukki and Chang appeared in the spotlight. They wore wore bright traditional costumes--purple and fuchsia with lots of embroidery--and elaborate headdresses. Their resumes were read aloud and they recited some stuff in Korean, then signed a certificate and exchanged gifts. Sukki has a wedding ring now; Chang got a watch. They displayed them proudly for photos and then disappeared a while to change.

In the meantime, we indulged in a feast of Chinese food. We were seated with some of Tod's coworkers who are all fun to be around and the conversation was a mix of Japanese and English. The meal was fabulous and we were drinking some sort of strange carmel colored shochu that tasted like rancid soy sauce. Sounds nasty, but was actually pleasant over ice.

After three or four courses, Sukki and Chang reappeared in less elaborate, but still Korean, outfits. Chang wore an ivory colored suit with a long coat; Sukki wore a pale purple hoop-skirted Korean dress and had flowers woven into her hair. They sat together at the head table while people made speeches to them. During the speeches, friends and family lined up at the table to pour them beer after beer. I don't think they ate anything, so I imagine they were quite tipsy.

And then the dancing began. It was graceful but energetic--arms outstretched and waving with feet stepping side to side just a little. It is the perfect dance for the vivid Korean bell-skirted gowns. The women looked like flowers in a breeze.

I was dragged into the dancing early on by one of the men I thought of as "the crazy uncles" and immediately found myself holding hands with the groom. I danced with Chang twice as I was passed around the circle of dancers. It was only later, after many people commented on my dancing (which is nothing to comment on) that I figured out that I was the only white woman at the wedding. I forget what a curiousity Tod & I are among our circle. Most of our other foreign friends have Japanese partners.

After the dancing, there were speeches by Sukki and Chang to their parents and they presented flowers to their mothers. It was very touching. Chang's father made a very funny speech in Korean and Japanese. Then it was time to go, four hours after we began.

A day late


Friday morning I rocked up to the United international check-in counter for my flight back home and while standing in line, took a look at my itinerary.

"I'm schedule to leave the 18th?" A burst of fear gripped me as I scanned the lobby for a calendar. "But today's the 19th, isn't it?"

Sure enough, I'd missed my flight by 24 hours. Crap. I was utterly certain that I was leaving on Friday, not on Thursday. What a screw-up! What to do? My e-ticket was non-refundable, non-transferrable, non-changeable, and non-flexible to the maximum stiffness.

However, the counter agent I talked with, Mr. Julio Mejia, was quite flexible indeed and got me on the Friday flight with no fuss and a minimum of additional outlay. (A one-way ticket to Tokyo purchased on the day would have cost me several thousand dollars, so I appreciated his efforts to save me some money.)

Now here I am, home safe and sound with an bonus day of Chicago holiday well spent with an architectural tour of "Downtown Deco" and a fine dinner in Greektown.

Perfect Space

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creative perspectivesHave you ever imagined your perfect personal space? Mine is a large room, well shaded and insulated from the outdoors, but with a wide wall of windows onto a sunny veranda and garden with a fountain. Inside, there is a fireplace for chilly nights, a wall of books, a big table for working on and plenty of storage for supplies and tools. Need I mention the comfy chairs for relaxing and a spacious kitchen for cooking?

I guess that's quite a lot for a room to accomplish, but in my mind's eye, it is the perfect place for me. Relaxing, well-appointed and comfortable in all seasons.

I wonder if I'd be more creative there, or less? I think that maybe a bit of adversity improves my focus and drive to be creative.

Coq au Vin


recipe thursdayThis is my own recipe for coq au vin. I don't like the bacon that's featured in the authentic version, so I leave it out. And since I'm usually making the dish with leftover wine from the night before--or sometimes a bottle that just wasn't worth drinking--the quantity of liquid is variable. Stewed chicken in wine is quite forgiving, thankfully.

Coq au Vin
serves 4-6

1 chicken, cut into pieces
6 small onions, peeled and halved
1 large carrot, cut into thick rounds
2 cloves garlic, slightly squashed
1 can chicken broth (low salt)
1 cup red wine (or more)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cups mushrooms, stemmed and halved
salt & pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, brown the chicken in butter until the skin is crispy. (Depending on the size of the pot, you might need to do it in two batches.) Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and cook over medium heat until the onion starts to carmelise.

Pour in the chicken broth. Place the chicken back into the pot and add red wine to barely cover the chicken. Toss in some fresh thyme. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

After 30 minutes of simmering, saute the mushrooms in butter until they relase their liquid but are not yet shrivelled. Add the mushrooms to the chicken pot, reserving the butter in the pan. To the mushroom butter, add an equal amount of flour to form a roux, stirring to remove lumps. Scrape the roux into the chicken pot and stir to thicken the gravy. Allow to simmer a few more minutes to cook the flour. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a loaf of French bread and a salad.

Note: If you like a thicker gravy, dredge the chicken in flour before frying it and add the roux at the end, as well.

Home & Away

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I'm still going to and fro in the world, but woke up this morning thinking about one of my film projects. It was slightly painful not to be able to get up, trot over to my computer and work out the idea I had. I hope I can keep that thought in mind until I return to my studio in a week's time.

That, combined with the cicadas in Jim's Hanashi Station program, made me almost long for home. I can see that this is a feeling that will come and go throughout my travels and I will need to learn to handle it without falling into homesickness.

Fortunately, there is much to see and do before I return. I've got another week in Chicago before I fly out of here, and I intend to use it for drawing some of the city's architecture and landmarks, as well as recording sounds and taking pictures. (And feasting on pirogies and other ethnic goodies.)

I bought a set of pan watercolors in New York. They are much like the ones I had in grade school and their limited palette of 8 colors forces me to work harder. They are quite a different experience compared to my double handful of watercolor pencils, but I can make many of the same colors with either. I might have to carry both forms of color along with me as I walk up and down in the earth.

NY Public Library

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The silent and vast Reading Room on the third floor of the NY Public Library

My seat in the Reading Room, with a volume of the OED

My first visit to the NY Public Library was all I could have hoped for. The Guttenberg Bible was on display along with a brass globe from the 15th century. After carefully examining both, I sat down with a volume of the OED in the odd-numbered book delivery wing of the Reading Room.

I could have stayed all day but we popped into Bryant Park to catch a lunchtime concert by the city opera. Here's a clip from the concert. I'm sure you can identify the music over the traffic noise and general hubub.

playBryant Park, NYC Opera 1'43" MP3 (1.6 MB)

Rowing in Central Park

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I had no idea I looked like Eleanor Roosevelt.

Jenn looks like a 1960s movie star.

Book inspirations


creative perspectivesI'm a little tired of my drawings. It's not the drawing process itself, but the way the pictures are turning out. Some days it's hard to get into the right frame of mind and as you have seen, they sometimes end up not well-observed or well-executed.

So to find a bit of outside inspiration, and maybe a few new ideas, I stopped into a Bargain Books yesterday. These are the bookstores that take over a vacated shop in a stripmall and fill the place with folding tables full of paperback overruns and out-of-date travel guides. They always have a big selection of large-format paperback cookbooks and crafting guides. And plenty of books on art.

I browsed through some of the "Best of Art" titles: Picasso, Degas, Monet, Calder. Studying those familiar images was helpful, but I realised that I'm not likely to imitate any of their styles. It may be sincere flattery, but I am not interested in copying. So I tucked into a few art instruction books until I found one that wasn't too annoying and put it in the basket.

Though there's nothing new to me in The Sketching and Drawing Bible, it's good to have some reminders of techniques I don't normally use. When's the last time I did a scratchboard? I don't have what I need to do one right now, but with the materials I have in my travel bag, I could try more crosshatching or a different blending technique.

Glad I stopped into that cheesey bookstore. I feel possibilities opening up.

Grilled Trout with Oregano

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recipe thursdayThis is what we ate for dinner last night. It hardly seems like a recipe at all...

Grilled Trout with Oregano
serves 4

4 10"/25cm whole trout, gutted
1 lemon, juiced
12 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Tblsp sea salt
olive oil

Chop 4 sprigs of oregano, mix with oil and salt. Rub mixture over fish skin. Stuff the remaining oregano into the fish. Douse with lemon juice inside and out. Arrange in a fish rack and grill over medium hot coals, turning once, about 5 minutes on a side.

We served ours with grilled portabella mushrooms and steamed kale.



This afternoon we're going to Evanston, a college town just north of Chicago. It has a lively downtown of boutiques and bars along with Northwestern University's campus. My grandfather grew up in Evanston and his father modelled for a statue of Peter Pan that was on display in one of the Chicago parks decades ago. I've been looking for evidence of it for years, but have never managed to locate it.

Today I plan to find a shady spot to sketch while Kris is in class and Tod & John run around looking at audio gear and aquariums. I'll post whatever I manage to churn out.

Evanston Lakeshore

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A slideshow with audio captured on a brief visit to the shore of Lake Michigan in Evanston, IL.

playicon.gif Evanston Lakeshore 2.5 MB 24" MP4

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