Friday, December 26, 2008


by James Joyce

This book is a collection of short stories about ordinary people living in Dublin in the early 1900's. I picked it up because at the bookstore, this book was screaming at me from the shelf, READ ME. It's a classic and James Joyce is a Nobel Prize-winning author born in Ireland and the book is about Dublin and I am temporarily living in Dublin. READ ME it screamed.

I had a hard time with it. The stories never got me fully engaged, and I found myself exhibiting the attention span of a squirrel, as in being able to focus for one second on normal things and four minutes on acorns and nuts. Joyce seems to be somewhat of an acquired taste. Thus, Ulysses has been squirreled away to be read maybe next winter.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas POD

Papa T and I are locked in an epic BATTLE OF THE CAMERAS. Me with my Canon Rebel XSi. He with his Nikon D90. I am winning by sheer force of will, i.e. the crop and auto correct buttons on my Microsoft Office Picture Manager, having to contend with his freakishly giant lens attachments, that cheater.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A quarter of a century years old POD

I am hard of hearing and practically blind. The joint on my big toe creaks.

I prefer a fancy dinner to a noisy, crowded bar and Parisian macaroons to yellow cake.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Moon

New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2)
by Stephenie Meyer

I am still embarrassed about reading these books. And yet I continue reading them. For most of this installment, my eyes were fully rolled into the back of my head, even more so than for the previous book. And yet I turned the pages faster and faster. If I could actually speak to the characters (and they could hear me), I would say, "People, chill out". At which point I would probably get bitten by a vampire and ripped apart by a warewolf, all at the same time, but not before they profess their undying love and describe their unbearable pain to the main character, Bella, through various and subtle facial twitches and eye-color changes/pupil dilations that only she can detect and interpret.

Don't know if it's the same for you but if I watch the first episode, even if by accident, of say, The Bachelor, I feel committed to seeing it through to the end. Despite knowing that I am watching trashy television, despite feeling stupid when I faithfully tune in each week, despite yelling obscenities out loud at the screen and at myself as I am watching, I feel compelled to finish the series. And so it goes with this hot vampire madness.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guinness is good for you

One of the exhibits on the Guinness Storehouse tour is a collection of the classic poster advertisements that the company has put out throughout the years. These are some of my favorites.

1932. According to the Guinness website, this ad contains historical product claims that are no longer endorsed by Guinness. Guinness is, in fact, probably not good for you. This poster is so classic though, and also slightly reminiscent of Russian propaganda posters that try to assure you that communism is awesome.

1937. Very seasonal. The man seems totally surprised and delighted to find in his stocking/sock something that he should supposedly be drinking every day anyway.

1950. Speaking of Russian propaganda posters...this one says "Drink Guinness / To Your Health". I am guessing that this ad did not actually run in the USSR.

1958. This is one of the few posters drawn by a female artist. Fun fact: the harp is the national symbol of Ireland. It is also the symbol of Guinness, however the Guinness harp faces to the right and the Irish harp faces to the left.

Mulled wine, Czech dumplings, Missed flights

Prague photos are up on Flickr.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dear Santaland Diary,

Usually at this time of year, I like to sit in a comfortable chair and re-read one of my favorite short stories, David Sedaris's "Santaland Diaries." The setting: a winter wonderland at Macy's. The players: demented Santas, screaming children, photo-happy parents, Jon Bon Jovi, and a chorus of elves, as told by David Sedaris, a 33 year-old man dressed in a green frock as Crumpet the elf, who just might possibly be a little bitter about his station in life. Today, the universe smiled down upon me and brought me some extra Christmas cheer as several moving forces converged and I found myself eating a bowl of soup and watching my favorite story being acted out on a stage in front of my nose.

Act 1: My Dublin travel guide had mentioned lunchtime performances at Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street. But my travel guide also says that Dubliners call the pub the "chipper" and urges the traveler to do the same. So basically anything that comes out of that travel guide has a 50-50 chance of being either really useful information or utter horseshit, and you are really taking your chances on it each time.

Act 2: Yesterday at lunch, I walked into Bewley's to buy yet another Orla Kiely tea tin. A girl at the door, trying to stuff a flyer into my hand, mumbled something about a lunchtime performance. I was on an Orla Kiely tea tin mission, so needless to say I did not really pay attention and all she got was my polite sidewalk smile.

Act 3: This morning, coming up on lunchtime, with half of the office gone and me waiting around for the work day to end, I suddenly remembered that poor girl outside of Bewley's and the lunchtime performances I had read about in that horseshit slash good travel guide. An Internet research project was born.

Act 4: With a bowl of soup and some soda bread, I watched/listened to that favorite story of mine.

"We were packed today, absolutely packed, and everyone was cranky. Once the line gets long we break it up into four different lines because anyone in their right mind would leave if the knew it would take over two hours to see Santa. Two hours - you could see a movie in two hours. Standing in a two hour line makes people worry that they're not living in a democratic nation. People stand in line for two hours and they go over the edge. I was sent into the hallway to direct the second phase of the line. The hallway was packed with people, and all of them seemed to stop me with a question: which way to the down escalator, which way to the elevator, the Patio Restaurant, gift wrap, the women's rest room, Trim-A-Tree. There was a line for Santa and a line for the women's bathroom, and one woman, after asking me a dozen questions already asked, "Which is the line for the women's bathroom?" I shouted that I thought it was the line with all the women in it."

The actor channeled David Sedaris's voice and mannerisms pretty convincingly. The only times I doubted that he was an American was when he said "tay-co" for taco and "Karl" for carol. Also when I saw on the program that his name was Patrick O'Donnell.

Epilogue: To continue on the Christmas spirit, after work I rushed to the first day of the "12 Days of Christmas Market" across town. After such a hard day's work I felt it necessary to reward myself with some mulled wine and garlic mushrooms and Christmas stollen. In a few days I will go back for the German sausage, crispy potatoes, and mince pie. Possibly also to browse the actual wares stalls. Definitely to get some Christmas market PODs. I hope that woman standing by the mulled wine vat is ready for her photo feature in the Review Notes blog!

The End/Sincerely,


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The best and worst decisions of the day

Bad decision: Voluntarily sign up self for Advanced Tax training at work and sit through hours of topics called "Urban Renewal Relief" and "Land Dealings" with only a limited understanding of Irish income (individual) and corporate tax systems.

Good decision: Run to Bewley's immediately after work and snag what looked like their last limited edition tea caddy designed by Irish phenom Orla Kiely. Her handbags and wallets cost hundreds of euros/dollars, and I haven't truly been on board, but her designs are slowly growing on me. The caddy only set me back 7 euro and includes 160 Bewley's Gold Blend Tea bags.

Bad decision: Purchase a ticket for Cinderella, thinking it is a holiday performance of the opera variety. Sitting in the theater, munching on my popcorn, I quickly realized that I would be the only person in the audience without at least two elementary- and middle-schoolers in tow who wave laser sabers and butterfly wands. Although the overture was the theme of "Sex and the City", the fairy godmother lamented about botox, and the wicked stepsisters sang "That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings, the was a show clearly geared towards little children. The clownish character named "Buttons" was the ringleader of my misery, urging the children to shout his name, no louder, no louder!, no LOUDER! I joined in. BUTT-INNSS!!!

Good decision: Leave Cinderella at intermission, treat self to a warm cab ride home, light up the "Christmas wreath" candle, and turn up the Irish All Christmas Radio. Mmmm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter wonderland

In the Netherlands, I fell in love with Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp's winter landscape paintings. This particular one I saw at the Mauritshuis in The Hague and it made me want to jump right into the scene with a mug of steaming hot chocolate and the Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" playing in my ear.

Avercamp's paintings are anecdotal and humorous, with every figure performing a different activity -- washing clothes, playing hockey, slipping on the ice and having a bare butt exposed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Unsocial Socialist

An Unsocial Socialist
by George Bernard Shaw

Not quite sure what to say about this book as I am even struggling to decide whether or not I liked it. It's a satire and social commentary. It's a platform for Shaw to brief us on his Socialist views. It's a love story, sort of, not really. Mixed parts enjoyable, mixed parts bizarre. It definitely makes me want to re-read Pygmalion.

3 out of 5

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Smells like Christmas wreath POD

The theme of today is randomness.

1. At the Dublin City Gallery I found myself somehow being ushered into a chamber music performance. I sat though a cacophony of sounds. A screeching clarinet. A woman's soprano. A cello with an incomprehensible melody. As it turns out, American composer Elliott Carter is celebrating his 100th birthday in a few days and there are performances happening all over the world.

2. Next door was the Dublin Writers Museum. With no previous intention of ever going there but finding myself next door, I went ahead and walked in. Instead of focusing on the exhibits, my attention was focused on the two Spanish women who took photographs of every single piece of paper put on display despite all of the signs prohibiting photography. They made me angry, and I really wanted them to get caught.

3. At Eason bookstore, my goal in life became to find some scented candles, in their massive Yankee Candle display, that would fool me into thinking that there is a Christmas tree in my apartment over there in the far corner, you can see it if you close your eyes. "Christmas wreath" came in a set with three other candles. Christmas Eve. Christmas cookie. Mistletoe. They all kind of smell the same. "Christmas Eve" will be lit on Christmas Eve, that goes without saying. "Christmas cookie" may be a good choice for Christmas day. Mistletoe is for other special occasions.

4. At the grocery store, all pork products had been pulled off the shelves. Irish pork has been contaminated, most likely through the pigs' feed. No salami = disappointment.

5. A 21 year-old college student went missing a few days ago. Posters on all of the lampposts. His body was found yesterday morning in the Grand Canal. On the walk home I passed by students milling around, gathering for a memorial or perhaps a vigil.

Every day is a collection of random events, but today, unlike most other days, just felt so strange.

Giving books

Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda's 10 Commandments of Book Giving. Books make the best presents!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Getting a high from the Christmas potpourri POD

Today, the entire population of Ireland and half of Europe congregated at Grafton Street, where I was innocently trying to buy some Christmas decorations at the Marks & Spencer. The "3 for 2 deal" turned out to be a test of endurance in disguise. As proof of my triumph, there's pine cones and ornaments littering the apartment.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Going through books almost as quickly as I am going through boxes of delicious Irish chocolate

Currently reading An Unsocial Socialist by George Bernard Shaw. I stumbled upon this gem at an outdoor book market, which in turn I had stumbled upon in the Temple Bar area on a Saturday stroll (i.e. a determined-not-to-get-lost power walk to the Gallery of Photography). I had never heard of this novel and in my ignorance had thought that Shaw only wrote plays. After a moment's hesitation, the decision was made. George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, he won the Nobel prize for literature, he gave us Pygmalion and consequently My Fair Lady -- so what if there's potentially some good ol' socialist propaganda in the mix?

I am about a fifth of the way through and so far have not directly been called to rise up against my capitalist masters. In fact, I've been enjoying the amusing characters and light-hearted narration.

The book itself is old and quite smelly. Has tons of character. Ordinarily I'd be partial to a brand new book, but somehow reading this somewhat unknown Shaw satire in the "smelly old book" edition makes the experience all the more enriching.

Now if you'll excuse me . . .

. . .I am all out of Irish chocolate so I will have to eat those organic shortbread cookies from Wales.

Can't be everywhere at once

In honor of the Vampire Weekend shows I missed in DC this week, here is, in my humble opinion, their best song and their best video:

Yes, I've posted this video before. It's just that enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Even if you cannot hear my voice I'll be right beside you dear

Great cover. Chill-inducing.

Let's compare to the original.

After a thorough and detailed analysis, taking into consideration the hotness of Snow Patrol's lead guitarist, Nathan, the winner is clearly Snow Patrol. Although I must say that their new album doesn't do it for me this time. I have promised several people to give it another chance though. In return I hope that Snow Patrol promises to come back to DC to give a performance at a respectable venue such as the 9:30 Club (where I have caught their guitar picks on two separate occasions and now proceed to carry them around everywhere I go in my wallet like a crazy person), not a pajama party on the basketball court of American University. The Black Cat is also acceptable, as long as none of the band members have me contract pink eye (I am looking at you, Keith Murray from We Are Scientists). Thank you.

On a related note, I've started watching The X Factor on Irish TV, and last week the guest was Britney. I felt embarrassed for her. She lip-synched the entire performance, or "mimed" as the Irish would say. If it weren't so sad, it would have been hilarious. "That's gas" the Irish would have said.

Coffee napkins

I loved this fun coffee story told through the power of coffee stains on napkins by Christoph Niemann for the NYT.

Simple and brilliant.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Walk to work

By the end of my stay in Dublin, I will have made the walk to/from work one hundred and twenty times, give or take a few times. Even though there's nothing especially beautiful or special on the walk, I wanted to create a photo project. I am just being sentimental. Of course often such projects always sound grander and more inspired in my head than they end up being in reality. No matter. Click here to see what I see on my walk to work.

Notes: 1) I took the photos on a Saturday. All of the photos are missing crowds of people that I am trying not to run down and that are trying not to run me down. Dubliners walk fast. 2) I listen to iPod Jr. The song that often puts an extra bounce in my step is the Kaiser Chiefs' "Never Miss a Beat".

What did you learn today?
I learned nothin
What did you do today?
I did nothin
What did you learn at school?
I didn't go
Why didn't you go to school?
I don't know

It's cool to know nothin

Drunken POD

A new favorite Dublin photo.

My Internet seems to be back up and running in the apartment, and I am just about dizzy and drunk with frantic blogging, facebooking, and flickering in the comfort of my own home. For the love of God, work faster, Internet, work faster!

Brighter yellow urine

Read this article about a doctor who eats organic food for three years. Nothing but organic. For three years. He cites increased levels of energy, earlier wake-up time, fewer illnesses, and brighter yellow urine (more vitamins) as the positive effects of his diet. He does not recommend this way of eating to anyone because of how difficult it is to maintain.

Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt

Today I finished reading Angela's Ashes, drinking tea and eating Irish soda bread with jam (tea with bread and jam make a frequent appearance in the book). Only there weren't four kids sitting in the bed with me dressed in rags, and I had eaten other meals today.

This book is a memoir of growing up in Limerick, Ireland in the 1930s and 40s. Frank McCourt sums up his story quite poignantly on the very first page:

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

The story is quite sad from beginning to end, and you really do wonder how he was able to survive such harsh conditions. The words "resilience" and "spirit" spring to mind, and I am left with a harrowing picture of what Ireland used to be like.

4 out of 5

Monday, December 1, 2008

The White Tiger

The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga

Review from Amazon/The New Yorker:

"In this darkly comic début novel set in India, Balram, a chauffeur, murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a "social entrepreneur." In a series of letters to the Premier of China, in anticipation of the leader’s upcoming visit to Balram’s homeland, the chauffeur recounts his transformation from an honest, hardworking boy growing up in "the Darkness"—those areas of rural India where education and electricity are equally scarce, and where villagers banter about local elections "like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra"—to a determined killer. He places the blame for his rage squarely on the avarice of the Indian élite, among whom bribes are commonplace, and who perpetuate a system in which many are sacrificed to the whims of a few. Adiga’s message isn’t subtle or novel, but Balram’s appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling."

This novel won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2008 and was an Amazon Best Books of 2008 Top 100 Editors’ Pick. I expected great things but was disappointed. Balram's sardonic voice was not appealing to me, and I was constantly waiting for a bombshell or some kind of amazing revelation that never came. Perhaps I read it too soon after Twilight and still had hot vampires on the brain.

3 out of 5

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seems to be a problem with the clutch

Day one goal: Buy Christmas gifts for others, not for self.

Instead I bought this clutch/wristlet for a fun jeans outfit.

Day two goal: Buy self a nice warm hat.

Instead I bought this clutch to potentially match my Christmas party dress and also for a fun jeans outfit.

I have two regrets. One - pumping money into the Irish economy instead of the American one. Need to work on that online shopping. Two - when I come back to the suburbs, I will once again turn to Banana Republic sweater sets and repress the fashionista in me that wants to run wild. Am I ever again going to wear the cowboy-style boots I bought in Northern Ireland?

I have become the paparazzi

Today, on my journeys through Dublin, specifically at Eason bookstore, I officially became a member of the paparazzi. I walked in, unable to resist this large bookstore in the middle of O'Connell street, one of the widest streets in Europe. Inside it was madness -- people crowding and jostling and holding their digital cameras at the ready. I asked an employee if there was a book signing. Yes. Who is coming? Sarah Ferguson. As in the Duchess of York? The original Fergie?? I joined the crowd and got the Canon Rebel out of my bag.

She was fashionably late. I randomly took a picture of the bookshelf on my right.

This is what it looked like when Sarah Ferguson was rushed through the crowd to her seat.

This is the best shot out of ten horrible shots. Photojournalism at its best.

I did not feel like braving the crowd further to get a signed copy, but the book was called Tea for Ruby.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


by Stephenie Mayer

To see what all of the hype is about and of course to be in style, I picked up the first book of the Twilight saga and read it over the course of two days. It is a book about typical teenage girl woes. Does he like me? Does he not like me? Oh wait, he's a VAMPIRE. I definitely found myself lost in the story. Especially in passages such as these:

"About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him -- and I didn't know how potent that part might be -- that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."


"I don't want to be a monster."

For much of the book I felt like I was eating cheese balls. But actually they were Cheetos. A delicious guilty pleasure.

4 out of 5


Monday, November 24, 2008

Ran over to the bakery for 20 minutes of free internet

Last night I finished re-reading Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. I bought this commemorative copy in the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam:

Something new I learned from the book and the museum: there were several versions of the diary. Version A is the diary Anne originally started writing. While listening to the radio, she heard that the Dutch government encouraged people to save their letters and diaries to have a record of people's wartime experiences after the war. Anne started re-writing bits of Version A and adding notes in the margins. This became Version B. When her father published the diary, it was a combination of Versions A and B, with certain passages excluded, for example parts where Anne talked bluntly about her sexuality -- Version C.

For a change of pace, today I walked into my favorite book shop and purchased the first book of the Twilight series. To make my humiliation more complete, when I couldn't find the book and had to ask the cashier to check if it was in stock, she directed me to the "Teens" section. I can already tell that it's going to be great.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

Pillars is an epic-sized historical novel that centers around the building of a cathedral in England in the twelfth century. I was thoroughly engaged in the beginning of the book. Quite soon however, reading the story resembled watching a tennis match and watching the ball go from one side of the court to the other and back again. Constant pushing and pulling. Defeats followed by victories followed by defeats again. The story is also peppered with some violent and graphic rape and war scenes that I suppose are meant to enhance the feeling that these are the medieval ages. Times when people would have to walk for days through the forrest to get to the next village, wearing wooden clogs on the feet for shoes, and having to be on constant alert for fear of an attack from an outlaw. If you enjoy historical fiction AND are willing to commit to more than a thousand pages of book, I would recommend this read.

4 out of 5

{Frauenkirche, Munich}

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A year of books...well, ten and a half months of books

Today I pored over Amazon's Best Books of 2008 lists. This activity was both enjoyable and highly stressful, as my TO-READ list has grown to such gargantuan proportions that I am likely break out into hives the next time I look at it. The book that seems to be the most popular at the moment in the blogging community is 2666 by Roberto Bolano. It's everywhere! The novel was published posthumously in Spanish in 2004, and the English translation came out last week. It's on my list...somewhere.

What was your best book of 2008? I am picking The Forger's Spell -- it certainly transformed my appreciation for Vermeer into an obsession this year.

Billy & Chopin, Elliot & Frédéric

I was not terribly fond of the scathing review in the Wall Street Journal of the Billy Elliot musical, which opened in New York last week. Karl Marx in a tutu?? Say what?? I saw the show in London, maybe three years ago, and hardly remember the show turning into "sequin-spangled feel-good socialist kitsch". However, I am biased because the movie is one of my all-time favorites. There's family drama, the overcoming of obstacles, and a boy who just wants to DANCE. (The NYT review is friendlier.)

I was terribly fond of the WSJ article about Chopin and his 27 Études. However, I am biased because Chopin and I are thick as thieves.

This particular piece is probably ingrained in my mind forever. Pour yourself a nice glass of pinot noir before you hit play.

Sviatoslav Richter plays Chopin Scherzo no. 2 Op. 31


Monday, November 17, 2008

Matrioshka Couture

In celebration of Vogue Russia's ten-year anniversary, several designers were called upon to design outfits for the Russian Matrioshka. Here are three of my favorites:


Ralph Lauren

Yves Saint Laurent

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Listening to Billie Holiday and seeing everything in black and white

One of the many things that make Amsterdam my new all-time favorite city is all of the fantastic art from the Dutch Golden Age. This is a poster of Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" on the wall of the Rijksmuseum.

Christmas lights are up all over the city. The streets are beautiful.

Candy cane street corner.

Perfectly autumn.

Let's ride by the canal.

Candy cane street.

Nationaal Monument and lion, commemorating Dutch WWII casualties.

I AMsterdam, a mini photo-journal

For more favorite Amsterdam photos, click here.

Using my blog to catalog Vermeers, because I am perfectly comfortable with my nerdiness

Vermeers already viewed:
1. The Milkmaid
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
2. The Glass of Wine
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
3. View of Delft
.....(The Mauritshuis, The Hague)
4. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
5. Woman Holding a Balance
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
6. Woman with a Pearl Necklace
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
7. A Lady Writing
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
8. Girl with a Red Hat
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
9. Girl with a Flute
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
10. The Girl with a Pearl Earring
.....(The Mauritshuis, The Hague)
11. The Love Letter
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
12. Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid
.....(National Gallery, Dublin)
13. A Maid Asleep
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
14. Officer and Laughing Girl
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
15. Girl Interrupted in Her Music
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
16. Woman with a Lute
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
17. Study of a Young Woman
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
18. Mistress and Maid
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
19. Allegory of Faith
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Vermeers for future viewing:
1. Diana and Her Companions
.....(Mauritshuis, The Hague)
2. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
.....(National Gallery, Edinburgh)
3. The Procuress
.....(Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden)
4. A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Dresden)
5. The Little Street
.....(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
6. The Girl with a Glass of Wine
.....(Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick)
7. The Music Lesson
.....(The Royal Collection, The Windsor Castle)
8. Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
9. The Concert
.....(Isabella Gardner Museum, Boston)
10. The Art of Painting
.....(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
11. The Astronomer
.....(The Louvre, Paris)
12. The Geographer
.....(Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main)
13. The Lacemaker
.....(The Louvre, Paris)
14. The Guitarplayer
15. A Lady Standing at a Virginal
.....(National Gallery, London)
16. A Lady Seated at a Virginal
.....(National Gallery, London)
17. A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals
.....(Private collection, New York)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan

This book was an eye-opener for me. The point of this book is not to get you to stop eating meat. The point of this book is to get you to start thinking about where that meat is coming from. My take-aways from the read were:

The U.S. has a surplus of corn, which is subsidized by the government.

This corn is fed to cows, who are naturally not predisposed to eating corn because they are ruminants that should be eating grass.

Feeding corn to cows makes the cows grow bigger and fatter more quickly.

Feeding corn to cows also takes care of and perpetuates the surplus corn problem.

The cows' digestive systems quickly fail trying to process the corn diet if they are not given antibiotics.

These antibiotics end up in our food.

In addition to corn, the cows get supplements that include protein, which in some instances includes/included cow remains from slaughter houses.

Mad cow disease.

Since the cows are not eating grass, the nutrients in the meat change, and the meat becomes less healthy for humans.

Cows in the U.S. are mainly raised on CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

CAFOs are large-scale, industrial operations that take the cows off of farms and allow farmers to focus on growing a monoculture of corn.

Cows are more likely to get sick when living in confined quarters on a CAFO.

More antibiotics.

Lots of science behind the hazards of farming monocultures.

Surplus of corn.

Farmers have to use artificial fertilizers as they have no cows on their monoculture farms to naturally fertilize the pastures.

Instead of using solar energy to produce food (grass photosynthesizes sun, grass grows, cow eats grass, cow fertilizes grass) we are using excessive amounts of oil and other fossil fuels in our food production, among other things, for acquiring and using artificial fertilizer and removing toxic cow manure from CAFO's.

Many other interesting points. Read the book!

Pollan splits the story into three parts, or three different food chains -- the corn or industrial food chain, the grass or pastoral food chain, and the forest or "personal" food chain. My favorite was the middle section, which describes a self-sustaining farm in Virginia called Polyface, where most of the manual labor is performed by the animals and the grass and the intellectual labor is performed by Joel Salatin, the farmer. Pollan spent a week on the farm learning about its operations and participating in all of its aspects, from rotating the cows to different parts of the pasture to slaughtering chickens. His descriptions make it sound like a farm utopia. The circle of life in all of its glory. I was very excited to learn from Polyface's website that the farm distributes some of its meat and dairy products to a couple of local places in Arlington, Willow Restaurant in Ballston and The Liberty Tavern in Clarendon. I have been to both of these establishments but definitely foresee going there more often, especially to find out what they buy from Polyface and what they do with it.

Finally, while Kingsolver made me want to make my own cheese, Pollan has inspired me to go hunting for mushrooms. It's more of a European and Russian pastime than an American one, and I actually remember, back in the day, my parents driving out to some woods in Pennsylvania, or was it West Virginia, and hunting for mushrooms. I think I would like to do that again.

The book did not inspire me to go hunting for wild California pig, although I commend Pollan for that undertaking.

5 out of 5

Irish cow picture #23

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Depeche Mode has announced a TOUR OF THE UNIVERSE in 2009.

Six years ago I went to see the EXCITER tour with my brother, and it was a defining moment in my life. I had grown up hearing a constant stream of Depeche Mode in our household for as long as I could remember, watching my brother watch their videos and concerts on video, yelling at him to turn down the speakers. They were as familiar to me as my mother's pierogi (called vareniki in Russian). It wasn't until I saw and heard the live show that the realization came: I just couldn't get enough. It was as if I had been eating vareniki indifferently all this time, and then after a huge vareniki feast, I realized that vareniki were the essential staple of my sustenance. Deep.

This is an excerpt from the Exciter tour from their DVD called "One Night in Paris". Watch Martin get a little funky on the guitar at around the 4:40 mark.

Two years ago my brother and I saw the TOURING THE ANGEL tour, which was even better.

My brother skipped my graduation and got to go see them again that year in Atlantic City. I was not so lucky.

Papa T has actually never wholly approved of us listening to Depeche. Says it's too dark and depressing. Well. Each and every one of their songs is a love song. Of course sometimes things get a little dark and depressing.

You can fulfill
Your wildest ambitions
And I'm sure you will
Lose your inhibitions
So open yourself for me
Risk your health for me
If you want my love
If you want my love

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's just gonna get into this ridiculous Russian doll situation

Flight of the Conchords on youtube. Amazing social commentary. I can't embed, so you'll have to click here and here and here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday night POD

Mickey Mouse street art.

Lifestyles of the middle class and unknown

Today I bought the most expensive and ugliest bag that I have ever owned. It's only redeemed by the fact that Marc Jacobs uses the nicest leather known to man, and it will perfectly hold an umbrella and book and many other items.

Being a brand whore really takes a toll on the psyche.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Parliament Square at Trinity College

back of flower stall on Grafton St.