Posts from 24th October 2004

Oct 04

I <3 Street Food

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 389 views

There’s a lot of interesting street food to be found in here in NYC, what I’ve had that I remember I tend to love. Three vendors:

1) The Dosa Guy (Thiru is his name) on Washington Square Park

Come noon everyday, Thiru, the “dosa guy” is swarmed by hungry NYU students, itching for a quick meal. Lots of them probably don’t realize that they’re getting totally top quality food, because most of them order the same things, samosas, masala dosas, or uttapams. Which is fine, he makes those well; but what really makes him special is all of the little other things. The iddly (steamed rice/lentil patties) he makes are outstanding, if you ask for the “iddly lunch” he’ll put a few in a plastic container and soak them in sambar, coconut chutney, same with the medhu vada. He makes this thing which people call “roti curry”, of which I don’t know the origin (maybe it’s west indian?), lots of chopped up paratha with fresh veggies, potatoes, and soy gluten (everything he cooks is 100% vegan). I usually head out to lunch like 15 minutes early to avoid the lines; in the summers it’s nice that he isn’t so busy, but after labor day, if you come around 12:30, you’ll wait like a good 15-20 mins, which can be not so fun when it’s cold.

For those that care, Thiru used to be the chef at Dosa Hut, the South Indian place next to the Mandir in Flushing. That ought be enough to substantiate his cooking chops.

2) The Tamale Cart on 61st and Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside, Queens.

Just as it says. As far as I can tell they serve cheese and chicken tamales, along with Arroz con Leche. I think they serve other things, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what they are. Often, I pull the, “I’ll have what he’s having” maneuever, which has once ended in something different (a chicken tamale in a piece of bread, not too exciting.)

3) The taco truck on 65th St. and Roosevelt Ave.

The taco truck pulls up to the triangle around 65th. st (where Sripraphai is) sometime about 10-11pm and stays till late, late at night. To be truthful, the other tacquerias around Roos are just as good, if not better, but man, this food hits the spot, and it’s cheap too; $2 for a taco, $3.50 for a torta. I’m usually (pretty wasted) and the only person there that doesn’t speak spanish, but I’m always successful in getting something tasty. I’ve yet to manage the get the toungue tacos, but the chorizo and bistec ones are always tasty.

the negative pragmatics of soxmania

TMFDPost a comment • 289 views

the negative pragmatics of soxmania: or

3lisha S3ssions writes:
“It’s only in recent years that the word “curse” came to be associated with the Red Sox’s particular brand of hope-dashing bad luck. Before 1986, the last time the Red Sox went to the World Series, in which they were one strike away from winning it all, they were perhaps more pragmatically known for simply being choke artistes of the highest caliber. No lead was too large for them to find a way to blow it. No weakly-hit ball could be considered a sure out. When Billy “Bad Wheels” Buckner let that little squib of a ground ball through his legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, it was merely the culmination of a disastrous inning that saw three straight hits and a wild pitch from Calvin Schiraldi that allowed the Mets to inch that much closer. I couldn’t take it, and went back to my parents’ bedroom to stare at the ceiling and wonder why this game was so cruel to my team. So I didn’t see the famous grounder go between Bill Buckner’s legs. My dad came in five minutes later to tell me. But somehow I already knew.

“Such moments form a litany as familiar as a rosary, a new bead being added each year or two, with which we poor mis-shapen souls atone for our particular choice of team to root for. Some stop practicing the religion altogether, or find new champions, because of the formidable exhaustion and heartbreak involved. Those who stay on try to harden our hearts and immunize ourselves to the blandishments of this year’s promising crop. We roll our eyes as a reflex. It’s almost comforting to know that victory will always be just out of reach: if defeat is foretold, we can say that we knew it all along. When the Sox finally won a game against the Yankees, cutting the deficit to 3-1, Red Sox Nation let out a collective groan. When they won again, we were proud of them, but we knew it would only jack up the eventual pain. When the Sox evened the Series we wanted blood: to be down 3-0, come back 3-3, and then lose in the 7th and deciding game – well, surely the only disappointment greater would be to choke in the World Series.

“The World Series. Which the Red Sox have famously failed to win since 1918. The outlook this year is of course propitious. Reebok has constructed what they call a “magic shoe” for Curt Schilling. Does sports gear get any more talismanic than that? We have the legendary god of numbers, Bill James, on our payroll as well – the inventor of “fantasy league” sports, and a seer amongst the thickets of statistics this sport produces each year. But his presence is at least half-totemic, too, like a cardinal or bishop versed in oblique obscurities, capable of offering advice, but really more of a lucky charm. After all, And although an underwater search failed to raise the piano that Babe Ruth reportedly pushed into the pond behind his house during a particularly crazy party – back before the Babe played for the Yankees, before the pinstriped team from the Bronx convinced him to give up his remarkable pitching career to try swinging the bat a little more, before he got sold so that Boston owner Harry Frazee could finance a musical called “No, No, Nanette,” after which the Red Sox never again won a World Series, despite having won half of the first decade’s worth of them – despite dozens of complex rituals, which count amongst their number the placement of Sox paraphernalia on the summit of Mount Everest and secret hexes thrown over Babe Ruth’s grave – and despite the deep pockets of its owners, who must spend a king’s ransom each year just to keep within spitting distance of George Steinbrenner’s Yankees, who cost about 70M more than these, your Boston Red Sox – each year they find a new way to lose.

“This is why Sox fans are unhappier now than we were when we were down 3-0 to the Yankees. Because we know how this script ends and we’d like to get it over with. Living in the shadow of the Yankees is comforting, because it’s not really about us, it’s about everybody else who keeps us down (the Sox fan’s most popular – and most pathetic – chant mentions the Yankees but not the Red Sox). Now it’s about us, and we’re frightened out of our wits. We are the perennial loser, the promising son who disappoints, the prodigy who falls apart in public performance. And now we really will have no one to blame but ourselves. And the curse, of course. For the last 86 years the Red Sox have come up short. 1986 was our last shot at it. That was 18 years ago. We last won it in 1918. “A remarkable coincidence,” stat-guru Bill James might say. Red Sox fans know better than to believe in coincidences, but we also know better than to believe we might win. Watching the World Series this year will be like seeing an old favorite film on videotape. But privately, some seed of infernal hope will blossom in our hearts unbidden. A snappy play from Pokey Reese, a couple of quick innings, and who knows what crazy thoughts we might begin thinking. We might even start thinking that this is the year. Because there is a script that contains all other scripts, and that one says that someday the low places will be raised up and the mountains shall be brought low, the crooked places made straight, and the rough places plain. To plod with willful diffidence against such a day, to accept that the videotape will show the same scene that it did the last time, would make life far more bearable. But apparently, we’re cursed.”

posted on MR H4ND’S behalf by…


Blog 7Post a comment • 726 views


9. Frayed Wires

I got electrocuted the day before my wedding. My rabbits had got behind the fridge and had a good old chew – suspecting this had happened I moved the fridge to check it out, and there it was, the tell-tale glint of gold in the middle of the thick white power cord. I reached for the plug to switch it off, and made contact with another chewed bit – one I hadn’t noticed. Wham! Big jolt up the arm, rather shaken me standing, then sitting, in the middle of the floor.

Electricity is a bit scary, but never more so than when the innards of wires are exposed. It’s a particular kind of passive fear, based on the malevolent appearance of the frayed wires rather than the damage they might do. Since they will only do that damage if you’re stupid enough to touch them. A brief survey in the pub suggested the nastiest kind of frayed wire is that which is revealed when a plug socket is pulled out or removed – especially when you’ve just signed the contract on a rented property.

Behind this fear of course lurks a deeper worry – the fear of Being Shit at DIY. Exposed wires need to be dealt with in a forthright DIY fashion: I am sure I am not alone in suspecting I belong to a pampered generation that has no idea how to cope with even the smallest household emergency, let alone a thicket of lethal electrified cables poking out of the wall.


Do You See1 comment • 588 views

Dir. Jonathan Demme

I actually feel somewhat reticent about posting this because I have a slight hunch this is appearing in the FT Top 50 list (or else it already has and I’ve missed it), and it seems sorta gauche for me to intrude on it. But I will post, partially because I have what might or might not be an unusual excuse — I only just saw it for the first time the other day.

More than once I’ve surprised people — unintentionally — by what I have or haven’t seen (or heard or read), partially because I think there’s an understandable assumption that it’d be extremely odd for me in turn to ask why everyone hasn’t read Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, for instance. The scale between what is assumed to be known and shared and what isn’t does vary, after all. Still, as I’ve muttered elsewhere, assuming that *every* major thing in all artistic fields is equally known by all would be a bit much, wide cultural impact notwithstanding, and so it was that while I knew of the characters and the general sense of the story and the references to it — and even flat out lurved Silence! The Musical — I still hadn’t gotten around to actually seeing it yet. But then I stumbled across a used copy of the Criterion DVD last week for cheap (apparently it’s out of print and goes for major cash) and didn’t hesitate. Why not?

What it was about it that didn’t impel me to see it back in 1991 isn’t clear. I’m just not sure. Possibly the reports of ‘gross scenes’ or something, which my 1991 self was probably more squeamish about than my current one. Not that I like regularly seeing gore (horrible thought), but what is shown is quite literally more visceral than horrifying, rudely unsettling rather than vomitous. To my mind it’s telling, on some level I’m not sure about myself, that when I rewatched the film tonight to hear the commentary track, the one scene I didn’t want to see again directly was the one of Clarice Starling surrounded by the West Virginia cops in the funeral home. I think I can relate to feelings of awkwardness more intensely than other things, and that was a feeling of that plus condemnation and sneering and more, with the overarching implied sexism tying it all together — it’s captured brilliantly, and I hate that feeling, and couldn’t watch again, looking away until the scene was over.

In contrast the moments of corpse photos and the like could bear watching again, while in the meantime I could also appreciate more thoroughly how Demme balances that against not showing things and letting the implication be all — the photo the asylum director shows Starling, for instance. Or perhaps most clearly the corpse investigation scene, where the body is only revealed once in full, via the back — every other time, the shots are close, often unsettlingly so, sometimes out of focus. Perhaps the most disturbing element is the preternatural whine of the camera as shots are taken during Starling’s accounting of the condition of the body, it just sounds off.

Technology is another thing I think about when I see the film, in that what must have seemed not so much state of the art but simply how things are has changed so radically. I was honestly startled to see a scene start with a close-up on a fax machine, or to see Starling looking for information via newspapers on microfilm, or to see largish cordless phones and no cell phones at all. The film could be set now with a few updates on that front and not much need be changed, but I wonder — possibly very naively — what would have to be changed in the portrayal of institutional/societal sexism (that the film can comment so effectively on that, as well as issues of class, regionalism and even size is definitely one of its strengths, and makes me understand its reputation more clearly). More than a few things struck me as being the type of thing that people would now file lawsuits about (or else be aware of that enough NOT to say something that would cause that), but whether that reflects a sea change or whether I’m just talking from the obviously limited perspective that I’d never have to potentially deal with that anyway, as I’m not female, I don’t know.

The impact of the film on many different things is now more fully clear to me too — it was fascinating realizing how much of the nineties derived from the film’s popular impact. The X-Files suddenly had a very clear source of origin, The Blair Witch Project‘s ending wasn’t so far from Jame Gumb’s basement, plenty more could be mentioned. Literary efforts come to mind too — Caleb Carr’s confrontation between an investigator and a psychiatrist in The Alienist could have easily been a tribute to Thomas Harris’ original novel, I’m willing to bet, but something about the way Carr portrays the scene makes me think of the movie now. But just as interesting is the seventies roots of the film too — Demme’s own roots show, and I think the film is more of a bridge between that past and the strands of revival that followed thereafter than I ever would have guessed before seeing it. The camera shots, occasional sudden zooms, conscious demystifying (in part if not in whole)… Even the opening credits, for all their starkness on the screen, seem somehow…clunky, hand-carved, ‘real’ in a weird sense.

Perhaps the film’s closest parallel at the time would have been Twin Peaks, I’d guess — and while there’s murder and the FBI, what really suggests that is setting, which it parallels (for instance, in Lambs nothing is really set or seen in a ‘typical’ huge city outside of occasional DC tracking shots, and DC itself is that most atypical of modern American cities in that it lacks skyscrapers of any sort) but not equates. If Lynch and cohorts’ America was a lush green setting of mysteriousness, Demme’s America is this vast strange prison that’s at once familiar and astonishingly constricting. The suggestion of confinement and escape is set with Lecter’s confinement and Starling’s drive to break free, and through that lens the many locations of the film — none of which, aside from that Bahamas sequence right at the end, are set near the most direct border possible, the ocean (and notably Starling’s false offer of limited freedom to Lecter includes an island setting) — become this series of mostly rural, isolated sprawls or stand-alone buildings. Even the FBI Academy is hardly immune, set amid woods, and the predominant color is brown, not green. The regular though thankfully not scene-for-scene constant invoking of the American flag as symbol of inherent violence makes that Bahamas scene all the more of a difference, it’s like everything has been escaped, setting, country…state of mind? Not if Lecter has his way.

I could talk more about the strength of the performances and the wisdom in not letting Lecter become the main character and the effectiveness of how both source and soundtrack music are used but it’s been said and better and this is almost too long for an FT entry already. I’d say all those Oscars were well deserved, at least (and I will say that seeing Chris Isaak as ice cool SWAT team dude is really disconcerting, that I didn’t expect the ambulance part at all, and that the part where Gumb gropes near Starling in the dark is heart-in-throat for me). So two points to note in conclusion — the Jame Gumb genital-hiding dance sequence surely was taken by many as something either horrifying or weirdly comic or both, perhaps understandably so. Personally I just thought of the only character who combines both Lecter and Gumb, Frank N. Furter — in a film where the condemnation of and fascination with serial killers has the thinnest of lines separating it, damn if I didn’t sympathize a little with Gumb’s character then, the part of me that just wishes I was the prettiest thing on the planet (and had a good song to sing to boot).

And finally — getting back to a literally visceral moment — is there anything more unsettlingly beautiful than the cage death reveal sequence, a gutted cop strung up by flag banners, a true Angel in America, an angel of death? Expressionist cinema to the ultimate in a film that wants to be ‘realist,’ lights just so framing everything, the music swelling, a cage in a huge room, doom and a weird sort of life at once, camera pulling back quickly almost in horror but unable to look away? Astonishing.

And now Demme directs Manchurian Candidate remakes. Hmf.