Monday, December 31, 2007

rock and roll films

On Saturday I saw "Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten," the documentary about Joe Strummer by Julien Temple. The doc was a memorial to The Clash's lead singer in that his friends, family and collaborators gathered around a bonfire to reflect upon their experiences with him. I thought Temple used some interesting storytelling techniques for a documentary (animations built from Strummer's first band, The 101's, slow shutter speed during the fireside interviews, Strummer's voiceover giving a London Calling radio broadcast as the narrative thread), which I appreciated from a filmmaking point of view. But overall I have to say that in terms of a rock and roll film, I liked Control better. And I know that you can't compare apples and oranges (one film being a narrative shot in black and white with fabulous actors, the other being a documentary pieced together with a interviews and a lot of stock/archival footage); however, inasmuch as they are both fruits that come from trees (films about deceased British rock and roll stars), I am comparing them. I felt more moved by the portrayal of Ian Curtis's character in Control than I did Strummer's in Unwritten. I felt that I got to know Curtis more intimately, even though several of Strummer's closest friends retold his story with private details only friends could know. I just felt there could have been a little more detail, and a stronger turning point. The music in both films was great, but then again how could you not enjoy music from two of the most influential bands from that era, and it was fun to relive the moments. So put them both on your queue and rock on!


My new fave word, penned by David Sedaris in his most recent essay in the New Yorker. Read and enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2007

rest in pandemonium?

I've been slammed at work this week so I don't actually have the time to write about Benazir Bhutto's assassination, but I would like to recognize that this event is having and will continue to have some serious ramifications that make me a bit frightened.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

SF moment

I'm having my cappuccino at the Velo Rouge and the table by the window is occupied by three Chinese men playing Mahjong.


Who decides who and what can represent the face of a culture? Where do our typical images of culture come from? I mean, when we think of the Japanese, it's sushi and karaoke. When we think of Germany, it's beer and lederhausen. When we think of the Brazilians, it's Carnaval and bikinis. But what about the faces that make up just as much a part of our culture as the stereotypical images? I mean, if America is all baseball and apple pie, we can't forget that our baseball teams are dominated by Dominicans, Venezuelans and Puertorriqueños, and the people that pick our apples every autumn often hail from south of the border.

This Wednesday my gal pals and I had a fabulous holiday get-together at La Provence on Guerrero and 22nd. At the end of our very enjoyable and delicious meal, we chatted with Lionel, the owner, about European football, and he commented that the French team is not even French. This attitude is pervasive in certain European countries, and particularly in France, where the very Gallic people claim that the dark-skinned immigrants and children of immigrants aren't really French. But really folks, when you look at history, the French have been claiming territories outre-mer as part of France for centuries. So the idea of a black man not being French is downright silly. And in my opinion, what country wouldn't want to claim Thierry Henry as one of its own (who by the way is French born, raised in the banlieue of Paris).

Last night, Lilia and I saw a show at the Independent that also challenged my own conceptions of image and culture. Her friend's boyfriend's band Aphrodesia was playing that night, and Lilia informed me that it was an afrobeat band. The Fela Kuti fan that I am, I was imagining a 10-piece orchestra with sparingly dressed men and women of the African Diaspora blasting out danceable grooves. Instead, the lead singers were three white women dressed in striped tights and combat boots with punk hairstyles, and nary a dark-skinned person in the band. It was a little bit of a shock to me. But the music was tight and everyone in the crowd was dancing like mad just the same. The lead singer had the crispest voice, exploding with energy, and when she sang, her eyes lifted toward the heavens and it seemed that she was calling upon the gods to guide her through the melodies.

Clearly this woman has studied African musical traditions and is infinitely inspired by the music, as was the rest of the orchestra (amazing show by the way!). So I asked myself, why can't a white American woman sing Nigerian afrofunk? Why can't the son of Algerian immigrants play for France? If they weren't allowed to do these things, then maybe I, the San Francisco born grand-daughter of Irish and Hungarian immigrants, wouldn't be allowed to speak French as I do, or use chopsticks, or shake my booty as well as any Cuban girl (and those who know me know I'm not kidding about this last one).

[As a side note, if you have never eaten at La Provence before, you're missing out. This is the only restaurant in SF with a menu featuring all authentic dishes from Provence. La Pissaladière et la Soupe au Pistou sont formidables!]

Monday, December 17, 2007

sustainability = nice?

Lately I've been working on a couple projects with some folks at the Presidio School of Management Sustainable MBA program. When discussing the terms "sustainable" and "green," one of the women commented that we need a new word to explain the concepts, because these words have become the buzzwords of our time, and have thereby become devoid of their true meaning. I countered by stating that yes, I believe the word "green" is overused and misused, but the concept of sustainability is timeless and simply needs to be explained and defined in a way that people get it.

In his recent NYT article, Michael Pollan writes:

When pesticide makers and genetic engineers cloak themselves in the term, you have to wonder if we haven’t succeeded in defining sustainability down, to paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, and if it will soon possess all the conceptual force of a word like “natural” or “green” or “nice.”

Confucius advised that if we hoped to repair what was wrong in the world, we had best start with the “rectification of the names.” The corruption of society begins with the failure to call things by their proper names, he maintained, and its renovation begins with the reattachment of words to real things and precise concepts.

On Friday evening at one of the many Christmas soirees I've attended, Jessica (not only a fantastic artist but also a very knowledgeable nutritionist) argued that our food source in this country is contaminated due to the use of GMO, antibiotics, pesticides and artificial fertilizers. When the very food we depend on is causing epidemics more rampant than the AIDS virus in our country, we have reached a point where our food production has become unsustainable. In this article, Pollan writes about the unsustainable mass production of pigs and use of bees in almond orchards and explains sustainability as such: "What it means is that the practice or process can’t go on indefinitely because it is destroying the very conditions on which it depends. It means that, as the Marxists used to say, there are internal contradictions that sooner or later will lead to a breakdown."


On another semi-related note, Saturday afternoon I attended the cookie exchange at the Farmer's Market, to which I contributed my mom's famous lemon bars. I met Jacob, a 10-year old food impresario who offered adorable little meringues in the shape of button mushrooms. In addition to cookies, I was gifted with the leftover root vegetables from the cooking demo that day. So last night I feasted on locally grown, organic parsnips, beets, sunchokes and rutabaga, dusted with some chopped tarragon. Yum yum.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

ho ho ho

My friend Matt just sent me this alternative version of a favorite Christmas carol that he penned, which I found quite amusing:

“Holiday Plans”
(Sung to the tune of “Joy to the World”)

It’s December: time to see friends.
And every weekend’s filled.
When all the households call
For bashes, brunch, and balls
It will be so much fun,
It will be so much fun,
The drinking, and eating will all be fun.

Two weekends in, and I’m so dead.
This schedule never ends.
Why every foe and friend
Holds parties without end --
It’s far too much to do,
It’s far too much to do,
It’s too much, and I’m sick – which way’s the loo?

Monday, December 10, 2007

word of the year

I'm a little late in catching the wave on this one, even though I've been talking and writing about the word itself. Oxford University Press has selected locavore as the 2007 Word of the Year. As a side note, if you have never attended one of Jessica Prentiss's Full Moon Feasts, it might be something fun to do in 2008.


Since it was released on DVD, people in my social circle, including myself, have received from Netflix La Vie En Rose, the biopic about Edith Piaf, the little sparrow hailing from the streets of Paris. Though Cotillard as Piaf is stunning, the film itself is mediocre, cheesy at times, goes all over the place and is hard to follow. The music, naturellement, is enticing and will have you humming Je Ne Regrette Rien for days on end.

I found the portrayal of Piaf as a free-spirited twenty-something in Belleville endearing, especially when she grabbed a bottle and her best friend and dragged both onto street corners to keep her company while performing her repertoire for passers-by.

So on Saturday, inspired by Piaf and her best friend, I grabbed Jessica (my artistic partner in crime) sans bouteille, my iPod, some mini-speakers, a camera and we hit the streets... the Powell Street Muni station to be exact. We conducted what I coined a social experiment since neither of us are technically street performers, but there's a first time for everything. I placed the hat in the middle of the corridor, pressed play on the iPod and Jessica began an improvised interpretation of the anxious feelings she was experiencing around this crazy idea of mine in which she somehow agreed to partake.

Passers-by stopped and watched, captivated by her movements. One man lauded her with encouraging words. She performed while I filmed for about 6 minutes before the BART police kicked us out (no filming allowed in BART stations since 9/11). We moved onto Union Square and continued the experiment until the light started to disappear and Jess had had enough.

Why street art, you might ask. Some of you know about the film that we sacrificed to the gods of technology earlier this year. So given our theme--identity--we ask, who am I if I can't do what defines me? The point of this experiment is that, since we don't have a run at ODC this year, we want to know what really is the difference between art performed on a street corner witnessed by passers-by for free or for a small hat donation and art seen by many in a theatrical venue purchased for $25 to $40 per ticket? And why are some kinds of art considered suitable for the street and others for an enclosed venue? Is the location what defines you as an artist, or what the critics say, or the act of doing art for art's sake for whomever to enjoy?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

another way to consume chocolate

Although I prefer eating organic, fair-trade chocolate of the 70% cacao and above variety, I thoroughly support its consumption in this manner as well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

un chat after my own coeur

I think she's trying to give me a hint, n'est-ce pas?

i heart good food

What I'm writing about at the moment is nothing very esoteric or philosophical or deep; however, what interests me is that it was more or less spontaneous and it pleased a few people so here goes:

Monday night dinner

Attendees: Michael, Pamela, Nobu and me.


Cheese plate: Roquefort, Comté and some fromage de chèvre from Sonoma.

Main course: Sashimi grade tuna marinated in miso, meyer lemon and white wine, then seared. Brussels sprouts sauteed with shallots and dried red currants. Meyer lemon risotto.

Salad: Arugula with shaved fennel, cucumber, persimmon and a tarragon vinaigrette.

Persimmon and goat cheese tart.

All made by hand by yours truly with local, seasonal ingredients, and with love.

And many bottles of wine, naturellement.

En plus, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), I heart sharing a good meal with good company!