Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wendy and Lucy

I wasn't a huge fan of Old Joy.  As much as I love Will Oldham, I thought his performance fell a bit flat.  The score from Yo La Tengo was exceptional, though, and director Kelly Reichardt displayed some stunning restraint and a deft eye for subtly profound moments and intimate exchanges.

Based on its trailer, her new film looks worth seeing.  Like Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy is based on a short story from Jon Raymond and takes place in Oregon. Starring the consistently captivating Michelle Williams and Reichardt's own pooch as the titular pair, the film follows a young woman as her life unravels through a series of financial hardships. Sounds like the perfect movie for these dire economic times!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Awesome New Peter Bjorn & John Video!

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: The Virgin Suicides & A (Gin!) Martini

Here's another first novel for you: Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, a seemingly straightforward novel about growing up in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Grosse Point during the financial and racial turmoil of Motor City during the 1970s. The cemetery workers are on strike, Michigan's notoriously obnoxious fish flies alighting on all surfaces, and the sheltered Lisbon girls lose their youngest sister in an ugly suicide. Things go downhill from there.

Written in 1993 and adapted for film in 1997 (Sophia Coppola's directorial debut), both the novel and the book employ a nameless "we" as the controlling narrative voice. Atypical narrative perspective can be jarring when it seems unwarranted or too overt (the second person, or, like this, the first person plural), yet Eugenides attains a plainspoken sincerity here that's hard to resist. The gravity and beauty of the author's observations—of Grosse Point, of the Lisbon family, of his/their own adolescent curiosities and needs—are more than enough to justify the chorus-like voice of the narration. That is to say that here, Eugenides is not merely employing this narration on a whim. Instead, his use of "we" as the anonymous narrative voice implicates the reader and, as such, engenders incredible empathy. The perspective combines moments of omniscience and of personal observation in a way that neither the simple first person or third person could do on their own. The result is that Eugenedies has you eating out of his hands from the first page to the last.

The original 1993 jacket of The Virgin Suicides

As long as we're talking about deceptively simple things, one would be hard-pressed to find a drink that's simpler and better than a gin martini. You've got 5 basics to consider when ordering or making this classic: the type of gin you'd like (something floral? Something savory?); whether you want it on the rocks or straight up; whether you want it dry (little vermouth) or wet (extra vermouth); whether you want it dirty (a touch cloudy and salty from a touch of added olive juice); and what type of garnish you want with it.

I've been on this kick recently, and it's made me happy: A dry Beefeater martini on the rocks with a twist of lemon.

This is what a martini on the rocks should look like prior to garnishing...

...and here's what that garnish should look like, unless, of course, you prefer an olive.

1. Toss a dash of dry vermouth into a rocks glass. Roll the glass in your hand to coat the sides with the vermouth and then pour the vermouth out. To make it dryer, give it an extra shake or two. For a wetter martini, leave a bit of vermouth in the glass before loading it up with ice.

2. Load the rocks glass with ice.

3. Pour 4 oz. of Beefeater gin over the ice.

4. Using a paring knife or zester, pull a long twist (about 3") and drop it over the top. No pigtail twists or quirky slinky-like manipulation of the twist is necessary, though it is a nice touch to cut your twist over the glass so that the mist and oil from the lemon peel hits the top of the drink and the edges of the glass.

5. Drink.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sex in the New Millennium

Here is a thought-provoking and elucidating segment with Cornell sexologist Michael Perelman, courtesy of Big Think.

What do you think? Is monogamy passé?

Plantastic! Citrus Edition

It's December, which means that from now through the spring, delicious varieties of citrus will be ripening across the more temperate climes of the northern hemisphere. My childhood bedroom window looked out onto a side yard that had an orange tree and a lemon tree growing in it. To this day, the smell of citrus makes me happy (particularly when we're talking about virtually any citrus juice combined with a good amount of vodka), but what of the rarer citrus fruits that don't share the spotlight with their more popular cousins? Here are a few interesting varieties and hybrids.

Common Name: Pomelo
Latin Name: Citrus maxima
Alternate Names/Spellings: Pomello, Pumello, Chinese Grapefruit, Shaddock
Uses: Juice, Marmalades, Garnishes, Salads, Cocktails, Candied Peel
Other: The Pomelo is extremely fragrant, and not as acidic as many varieties of grapefruit. It's also been hybridized to create the Oro Blanco Grapefruit (Pomelo + Grapefruit) and the Tangelo (Tangerine + Pomelo). It has a very thick, somewhat mild pith, and though the rind is green, the fruit can range from pale yellow to pink, like a grapefruit.

Common Name: Buddha's Hand Citron
Latin Name: Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus
Alternate Names/Spellings: Buddha's Hand, Fingered Citron
Uses: This citron is all peel and pith; no juicy fruit like other varieties of citrus. As such, it's culinary uses are limited primarily to zest, which is lemon-like and floral.
Other: Obviously, the name of the fruit comes from it's "fingers." In some parts of southeast Asia, these citrons are used as offerings at Buddhist temples. The "closed hand" variety (pictured above), where the individual fingers grow close to one another, are preferable as offerings, as it resembles a hand closed in prayer.

Common Name: Blood Orange
Latin Name: Citrus sinensis
Uses: Juice, Marmelade, Garnishes, Salads, etc.
Other: A hybrid of ancient origin, there are several varieties of blood orange, though all of them get their distinctive color from anthocyanin, a pigment found in many fruits, but rarely in citrus. Somewhat shocking to look at, most blood oranges that I've had are actually surprisingly sweet.

Common Name: Tangelo
Latin Name: Citrus tangelo
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Zest, Garnishes, etc.
Other: Another old hybrid (likely of a tangerine and a variety of grapefruit or pomelo), the Tangelo has a distinctive loose rind (like a tangerine or clementine) with an odd "nipple" formation on top. Like a tangerine, they can range from somewhat tart in flavor to extraordinarily sweet.

Common Name: Oro Blanco
Latin Name: Citrus paradisi
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Zest, Garnishes, Candied Peel, etc.
Other: The Oro Blanco is a medium to large grapefruit that's a hybrid of a Pomelo and a white grapefruit. Other similar crosses include the Melogold. Both range from tart to moderately sweet, and are extremely fragrant and juicy. Awesome with vodka.

Common Name: Kumquat
Latin Name: separate genus under Citrus: Fortunella
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit)
Other: A surprisingly small, tart and juicy citrus, the Kumquat is eaten whole. The rind is thin and holds tight to the fruit, and, strangely, the rind is somewhat sweet while the fruit is bright and tangy. Swap out the limes in a Mojito with quartered kumquats—you'll thank me.

Common Name: Sunquat
Latin Name: member of Citrortunella
Alternate Names/Spellings: Lemonquat
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit), etc.
Other: A hybrid of any variety of lemon and a kumquat. Like the kumquat, it has a thin peel and can be eaten whole. It's fragrant, tart and, also like the kumquat, fairly small (like a little, brightly-colored bird egg).

Common Name: Limequat
Latin Name: Another member of Citrofortunella
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit), etc.
Other: Yet another hybrid, this time between a lime and a kumquat. These little guys are very tart and can range from light green (like a pale lime) to bright yellow when fully ripe. Like the Kumquat and Sunquat, they can be eaten whole and are fairly small.

Motivate, cinematically!

I don't know about you guys, but it's been an incredibly long week—and it's still only Thursday. The following video—a two-minute montage of clips from 40 motivational speeches from various films—just made my morning.

I think my productivity just about tripled.

Challenge: can anyone name all the films included in the montage? (I can't.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good Dancers: Feist

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Jon Stewart vs. Mike Huckabee in a Gay Rights Debate

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Top Ten Top Ten Lists of 2008 (Pt. 1)

We're going to try to create a Top Ten List of our favorite Year-End Top Ten Lists for 2008. Albums, movies, books, casseroles, marmoset videos, etc... Please help us get past #1...

With possibly the most expansive-yet-impeccable musical taste within the blogosphere, motel de moka is one of the few sources worth consulting for those ubiquitous and often vapid year-end lists that litter the interweb this time of year.

Their '08 list—which they just put up today!—is full of our own personal favorites (Paavoharju, Scott Tuma, Tape, Grouper, Lykke Li), plus a few albums we'll be checking out immediately, all with generous mp3 samples!

(It'll be tough to find 9 more lists that hold up this well... Do you have any favorites?)

Sound & Vision: Is That All There Is?

Sound: "Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee
Vision: Like a house afire | 2006 | photograph | by Kora Manheimer

Monday, December 8, 2008

FLOW: Scariest Movie of the Year

See FLOW Tonight in Brooklyn

Learn more about the film HERE.

"Marmoset there'll be days like this..." two more Marmoset-related videos...

A look back at the songs (Pt. 1) ...

Here are some of the tracks we've featured during our first 8 months of existence. (Some are downloadable!) There will be four installments coming over the next few weeks.  Play them all at once to experience nearly a year's worth of music all at once! And please let us know about your own favorites.

[Click on the song title to see the original post. Click "download" to, um, download.]

Stars of the Lid — "Slight on the Childproof" (download)

High Places — "Golden" (download)

Pants Yell! — "Magenta and Green" (download)

Deer Tick — "Beautiful Girls" (Sean Kingston cover) (download)

Lykke Li — "Tonight" (demo version)

Friday, December 5, 2008

We ♥: Watches in 3D!

I haven't worn a watch since some time 'round 1996 or so (I think it had velcro)... But now that's gonna change!

I just got a package in the mail that has me psyched to start wrapping my wrists again (in red and cyan!) and keeping my cell phone in my pocket when someone asks for the time...

Furni x Raised by Wolves I Love 3D Watches

The 3D-themed watch set is a collaboration between Canadian design companies Furni and Raised by Wolves. They are offering a limited edition combo set—of which I am now a proud owner!—that includes the red and cyan watches, a pair of 3D glasses, and a book of stereoscopic images of various artists' and designers' workstations, entitled You, Me and 3D: Workstations in Different Places.

Here are the specs:
  • 1980’s style LCD unisex wrist watch.
  • Phone book, stopwatch, countdown timer and multiple alarm features w/ melody setting.
  • Hourly chime, 12/24 hours selectable and “dual time” mode.
  • Water-resistant with PVC strap.
  • Indiglo style backlight.
  • Face dimensions: 1 1/4” x 1 1/2”.
  • Available in Black, Red and Cyan.
  • “This ain’t the time to have your wrists freezin” engraved on watch back.
  • First 50 combo sets available with free 3d book.

You can purchase your own HERE, before time runs out.

Remembering Odetta: 1930–2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Interview with Photographer Abby Powell

YSC friend and photographer Abby Powell is a California native who makes her home in Portland, OR. We emailed Abby to ask about her process, her recently-launched online shop, and about her particular aesthetic that blends rich patterns and bright colors with passing glimpses of friends, family and the occasional model.

NB: To begin, can you tell us how and when you developed an interest in photography?

AP: I think from an early age I developed a unique aesthetic taste. My mother would constantly take my sisters and I thrift shopping, and I started to enjoy finding beauty in the textures and character of objects. I've always loved photographs for their documenting purposes, but I'd say it was about four years ago when I moved to Portland that I began to be interested in photography as an art form. It was then that I started sharing my slightly different sense of what beauty is that I really began to love photography. I created a blog to show my friends and family what I'd been up to and found a whole group of people out there who liked what I was doing. It felt really good and I've been doing this ever since.

NB: Can you talk a bit about the differences between shooting on traditional film versus shooting Polaroids? Do you prefer one over the other?

AP: When I shoot with my 35mm camera I can control the focus and I have a much broader range that I can shoot. When I shoot with Polaroids, there's a lot of room for error. I shoot with two kinds of Polaroid cameras; with the One Step (early 90's version) I intentionally broke the flash and love using it for landscape shots. With my Polaroid Land Camera I can somewhat adjust the focus and prefer to use that to shoot photos of still lifes or people. Polaroid film is expensive and hard to find. It's being discontinued, so there is a bittersweet feeling when I shoot with it. I have to say, I love shooting with all different types of cameras, but if I could only have one it would be my Yashica tl electro. I feel as though I know exactly what to expect from it.

NB: Generally speaking, there are rarely broad horizons or empty spaces within the frame of your photographs. Frequently, the areas outside of or behind your subjects are richly colored or patterned. If there's a person in a shot, the viewer frequently only sees his/her head and hands, or a pair of shoes. Aesthetically, what draws you to the tight or close shots?

AP: It's hard for me to express in words why or why not I enjoy the certain look of something, but I will try. I think that the life I live is very vibrant and colorful that these shots often just happen. If one were to look at my flickr favorites (a sort of log of my inspiration) you'll see that I do love simple, more stark shots. But my home and my life here in Portland are so very full that I think that overflowing of color and pattern just comes through in my photography. Perhaps that is why I like the tight shots; they allow the viewer to focus on a specific area of the mayhem.

NB: There's something optimistic and even nostalgic about your color palate, so that even when you're shooting something that could seem melancholic -- an empty diner table, a field of dessicated flowers -- the bright tones of your work kind of push the viewer to reconsider the nature of your subjects. Is that at all a fair statement? Along those same lines, what draws you to work primarily in color, rather than in black and white?

AP: I think that is a fair statement, if not a little generous. I really do believe that almost anything and anyone could be considered beautiful-if we just looked at them in the right way. Call me cheesy, but I really do believe that. I think that we have all witnessed this to be true, at one moment or another. Those are the moments I try and capture. Black and white photography is nothing I have ever really enjoyed. I think many people have produced great works in black and white, but I just prefer color. Maybe someday I will change...

NB: Your photos are incredibly composed, but there's something improvisational and immediate about your work as well. When you set out to shoot, do you generally have an idea of what you're looking for, or do you just shoot what you feel like at any given moment?

AP: I'd say about 99% of my (recent, within the past year) shots just happen. I rarely set up a scene to shoot. Yes, sometimes I'll be at a party and tell some one "don't move, literally" and line up a shot... but other than that I just go with my gut. I still don't drive and often walk everywhere I go. I always take a camera with me when I walk. I will often go to certain places hoping to get some good shots, but I try not to force it.

NB: In terms of your process, do you work in a studio or out of your home?

AP: I work out of my home, which at this moment is probably half filled with bits of my work. The other half is filled with my partner's instruments-so it works for us.

NB: I know you recently began to sell prints, and that you've done some commercial work as well. I think in any artistic field, there's the perennial question of whether commercial interests encourage or inhibit creativity. Now that you're selling your work, have you felt pressure to produce more? Has it been liberating to get your work out there? A combination of those things?

AP: Definitely a combination of all of those feelings. I am really trying to let go of my own expectations and any expectations I may feel from others. A few years ago I was selling block prints and stationary and burnt out on the whole thing very quickly. I'm trying to not do that this time and learning to say "no" when I really don't want to do something. I am lucky to have a big community both online and in "real" life that is hugely supportive.

NB: It's always a tricky or tenuous thing to claim influence, so I won't ask you for a laundry list of influences, but I am interested to know what inspires you.

AP: I guess just the normal things in life; a nice pen that writes smoothly, an interesting houseplant, a well made dish cloth, a good piece of bread, a new pair of socks. Those little things that make our day to day lives seem less mundane. And flickr, I'm obsessed with flickr...

NB: Do you see yourself working as a full-time photographer ever?

AP: Hmm...I could never be a photographer who shot portraits or studio shots for a living...but if I was able to travel around the world shooting what I wanted, then of course. Bottom line for me is that I dislike people telling me how to create art. If I can find something where I can express myself and people want to pay me, cool. If not, I'd prefer working an easy job during the week to support my happiness.

NB: Thanks for talking with us, Abby, and best of luck.

AP: Thank you!