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Archive for February, 2009

I Will Lose You

One of my favorite-ever poems, by Gregory Orr. Simple, striking, moving, memorable:

The Sweater

I will lose you.
It is written into this poem
the way the fisherman’s wife
knits his death into the sweater.

-Gregory Orr

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It feels sort of weird to actually acknowledge, but disturbing art, literature, film and music has always fascinated me. I loved Marilyn Manson as a middle schooler, not for his noise-goth-punk-rock albums, but for his disturbing persona, which manifest itself through music videos featuring medieval face contortion devices and corseted mad-doctor costumes. Throw in some creepy wooden dolls and some dingy medical paraphernalia and I was glued to MTV, happily scaring myself (aren’t we all masochists?) each day after school. Interestingly, Manson is also a rather gifted painter whose watercolors have a serene, but frightening beauty that is comparable to the works of Marlene Dumas. Both use watercolor (though Dumas, not exclusively) as a way to suggest an image instead of explicitly define it, giving it a ghostly quality. Both also utilize this generally soft, palatable medium to portray harshness, strangeness and at times, un-savoriness (the below painting by Dumas, however, like much of her work, is oil on canvas and was featured in MoMA mid-career survey “Measuring Your Grave” on view last year).

Marilyn Manson via MTV.com

"Hand of Glory" by Marilyn Manson; image: Marilyn Manson via MTV.com

MoMA via nytimes.com

"The Painter" by Marlene Dumas; image: MoMA via nytimes.com

Disturbing imagery isn’t reserved for modern-day artwork. A while back I attended an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s.” I enjoyed it so much, I came back a second time. And then a third. The German Expressionist works, by artists like Otto Dix and George Grosz, were raw in their depiction of the seediness and decadence of post-WWI Germany: saggy prostitutes, transvestites, disfigured veterans, a man with an upside down ribcage. People were painted to reveal their most grotesque, self-conscious selves. But the colors were vibrant, and the mood striving–one of a people desperate to enjoy life again. Some of the works were are almost a caricature of this mood; the works’ combined magnetism made this one of the best exhibitions I’d ever seen.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s"; image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Film, too, moves me similarly. After I finished watching “Lex Yeux Sans Visage” (Eyes Without a Face), A French horror film from 1960, I was confused; I knew I loved it, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint a reason why. The film was aptly frightening: the slow sequences built up the terror expertly. But it was also strangely heart-wrenching. The plot centered around a father and daughter; the father had caused a car accident that left his daughter disfigured–only eyes where her face used to be. Wrought with guilt, he seeks out similar-looking girls in a desperate, psychotic effort to find one whose face he can transplant onto his daughter’s (he is a surgeon by profession.) The efforts fail, as is expected, and the daughter, who wears a mask to hide her disfigurement, floats around the sets of this film in long white dresses with pirate collars (which I had read somewhere were designed by Givenchy). She is already gone, already a ghost, as the visual allusions seem to suggest. Her loneliness is at once wistful and resigned and the more her father harms others to better her, the deeper she slips into a desperate state. French films are known for this kind of all-sided hopelessness, of course. The film is beautiful, though, in the way a lot of disturbing, otherworldly art seems to be. Its pacing and cinematography are almost poetic and it escapes the horror genre to stand almost peerlessly as a movie that delves into a secret, subverted sector of the human psyche–a place where empathy, disgust and despair can exist simultaneously.

associnetic.free.fr

Les Yeux Sans Visage movie poster; image: associnetic.free.fr

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Caviar!

A caviar open-faced sandwich, simple as it may be, has always signified a special occasion in my household. It’s a staple of the Russian holiday table. Making one is simple. Start with fresh white bread, preferably a slice of an Italian loaf, add creamy unsalted butter and top with plump red caviar. The little balls burst in your mouth and coat your tongue with a sea-infused saltiness. So simple, yet so divine! The photo below, from the blog, Moscow Daily Shot, is drool-inducing (and looks way better than my previously-shown lame  photo of a solitary and under-loaded caviar sandwich); this is what a celebration should look like!

caviar

Heaven!; image: moscowdailyshot.blogspot.com

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I tried Macaron Café when it first opened last April. I was impressed, but soon forgot about it when I had to take a freelance assignment further uptown and my lunch options dwindled to the vicinity right around Bryant Park. I revisited it the other day and have become certifiably obsessed. Lunch lines usually stretch out the door and there’s absolutely no place to sit and eat, but it’s all so worth it. The French proprietors are always in high spirits and seem very passionate about this venture, even if they do get a bit frazzled at times.

My Two Must-Try Sandwiches:

The Norvegian–smoked salmon, capers, lettuce, lemon juice, cream cheese, scallion, persil and black pepper sauce on pane d’filone

The Siciliano–Breseola “Italian dry beef”, cherry tomatoes, basilic and mozzarella on a baguette

And then there are the macarons…

(I have an obsession, as is evident.)

Fig macaron, left, and Toblerone macaron, right.

Fig macaron, left, and Toblerone macaron, right.

The innards of a Fig macaron

The innards of a Fig macaron

The fig macaron was satisfying, but it didn’t really taste like fig, more like tasty gray stuff. The ganache was smooth and creamy and not at all like the sort that sticks in your teeth. It was great, but I would have appreciated a stronger fig flavor, if only for novelty’s sake.

Toblerone innards

Toblerone innards

I’m not exactly sure what this Toblerone flavor entails; I forgot to ask. I’m guessing it’s like the chocolate bar–honey and nougat. Personally, I thought I tasted a bit of hazelnut and almond. It was REALLY good, though. Light, but decadent enough to satisfy an intense sweets craving.

My favorite macaron of theirs is the lavender and honey (the lovely lady behind the counter recommended it), which I had the other day but sadly, didn’t take a picture of. It was mild like a fruit salad–well, maybe a fruit salad topped with sugar–and tasted exactly like spring.

Listings:

Macaron Café
161 W. 36th St.
New York, NY 10018
Telephone: (646) 573-5048

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I’ve been a Beatles fan ever since my father–who, as a boy, used to listen to illegal bootlegged Beatles records in Moscow–played “And I Love Her” on cassette for me. I loved the echo chamber-sound of the song, which, combined with Paul McCartney’s booming vocals and the glorious melody made the tune feel haunting, like it was being sung to its subject from a far flung beyond. A recent discovery, the cover song “A Taste of Honey” (which I’d somehow never heard before) from Please Please Me features the same sparsity and reverberating voices. I can’t stop listening to it.

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