Friday, December 19, 2008
Over the last few days, I've hit the usual spots -- Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, etc. I preferred the Musee d'Orsay over the Louvre, primarily because of a wonderful exhibit they have on Picasso/Manet, and the inspiration that Picasso got from Manet's famous Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe.
After first seeing Manet's painting, Picasso interpreted and reinterpreted the painting in various forms. The exhibit takes you from the original Manet painting, and walks you through Picasso's various interpretations including: sketches, paintings, cardboard cutouts, and sculptures.
Both the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay have extraordinary collections and it's hard to believe that the paintings and sculptures in front of me were the real thing; world famous original works of art. There was such a sense of familiarity, yet only from the pages of books, prints, or the internet. Experiencing the original, actual pieces of art in plain view was something else.
Speaking of Picasso, I visited the Picasso museum yesterday and it stands out as my favorite in the city thus far. Not only is it literally around the corner from my Marias apartment, but it is very intimate and feels like a small gallery -- a nice respite from the Louvre! The building used to be an old hotel, and it was there that I had a little fun with my camera and played around with the distorted mirror they have on the grounds facing the museum.
Between museums and tourist sites, I decided to visit a different type of place -- a Fromagerie! At the recommendation of my guidebook (and my waiter at the Louvre's cafe), I trekked to Quatrehommes, a cheese store on Rue de Sevres. It was there that I truly discovered that cheeses are world of their own -- with different textures, flavors, ages, colors, and smells. There must have been about 200 types of cheeses there! Appartently, France has over 500 varieties of cheese from cow, goat, and ewe's milk. That said, there are only five types of cheese: fromage a pate demi-dure (semi hard cheese), fromage a pate dure (hard cheese), fromage a pate molle (soft cheese), fromage a pate parsillee (marbled/blue), and fromage d'chevre (goats milk). Anyhow, the women behind the counter weren't particularly interesed in chatting, but recommended two cheeses (I think in an effort to get me out of her store as quickly as possible) -- a Mont d'Or and a Fougerus. So I took her advice and have been enjoying the two in the few hours that I've spent at my apartment.
Moving along...the weather has been pretty lousy the entire time, which you can probably judge from the photos. However, today there was beautiful sushine and I chose to avoid any indoor activity and romp around the city taking more photos. I made a valliant effort to make it to the Eiffel Tower for the sunset, but was about twenty minutes shy and caught the tail end of daylight.
Frustrated as I was that my only sunset of the trip was quickly fading away, sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower at dusk did make for a lovely evening.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The day began with a sense of purpose: first the Louvre, then coffee at Angelina, then chocolate at Jean Paul-Hevin, followed by dinner somewhere back in the Marais. Yet upon leaving the apartment on the late side, my first priority was lunch. So I stopped at Victor’s where I got a tomato, chevre, and rosemary baguette which I took to-go as I found my way to the store that sells multi-day museum passes (a must if you're in the city for more than a few days). This was easier said than done. It is located in a place called Le Forum des Halles – aka Hell with a pretty name. The place is a giant underground mall fully equipped with an H&M, Gap, and Starbucks. When inside Dante’s third circle, it only took about 45 minutes to find what I was looking for, and when I thought I was only minutes away from the Mona Lisa, nature called.
The five gallons of water that I drank before I left the apartment was ready to gtfo. My search for the toilets began. On the bright side, one of the five phrases that I can utter in French just happens to be “Ou est la toilette.” Great! Wrong. Knowing how to ask the question doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll understand the answer when spoken in French. Lesson learned. Another 20 minutes and .40 euros later (you have to pay to pee) problem was solved. So finally, hours later, I realized it was probably too late to see the 300,000+ square feet of world famous art. And my day could finally begin.
I walked from Le Forum des Halles down the Rue du Pont Neuf and over to the Rue du Rivoli – a busy street with large brand name stores like Zara and Levis. I then turned onto Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – home of the well known bar called Le Fumoir. While I didn’t stop in, it is a place I intend to return at which point I can testify to whether it lives up to it’s “fashionable” name.
From there, I wandered over to the Louvre, mildly jealous of the cultured tourists exiting the building, and continued to the Q du Louvre where I walked along the Seine which looked pretty bleak in the cold and cloudy temps.
From there, I wandered into the Jardin du Carrousel, which I believe (I could easily be wrong here) was a scene in the Audrey Hepburn film Charade. Somewhat creepy with the carousel music and ornate plastic horses, I took a few photos and wandered over to the hugest ferris wheel I had ever seen in my life – covered in bulbs that changed colors every 10 second and probably visible from Italy. Time for a ride! By this hour it was dark and the buildings and sights were all lit up – making this a particularly fun find. The view was spectacular, although my camera wasn’t able to capture one-tenth of it. The city lights outlined the streets and most historic buildings making it look like a city scene made out of light-brights – apropos for the City of Lights.
There was more to my day, including exquisite pastries at Angelina, a walk along the Champs-Elysees followed by high-end boutique window shopping on the Rue St Honore (where lingerie can cost more than a single-family home at la Perla), and then a delightful French dinner in the Marais. All things considered, no itinerary was needed. But those stories will wait until a time when I am more awake. Bonsoir!
Feeling rather jet lagged and sleep deprived, I used my first afternoon to wander aimlessly around the Marais. The quaint beauty of the area is striking, making me feel like I’ve stumbled onto an old French film set rather than walking around a modern day neighborhood in a real life. The shops that line the streets are a mix of boutiques, restaurants, boulangeries, brasseries, chocolate shops, and small markets specializing in fish, meat, or fruits and vegetables – which all display their specialties in storefront windows beckoning for passersby to enter. Unable to resist temptation, and rather hungry, I picked out a delicious looking square of focaccia bread that was covered with chicken, veggies, and spices that I could take to-go as I continued walking. (I’m sure the French translation of what I ate would make it sound much more appetizing and it would live up to its deliciousness. Sadly, my language skills on day one are limited to “si vous ples,” “merci,” and “je ne parle pas francais.”)
The chilly winter temps weren’t keeping people in doors, and the outdoor seating in the cafes was packed with people reading, drinking, and chatting under heat lamps. Almost everyone looked quite stylish – the uniform of choice for men is skinny jeans and converse, while most women were wearing leggings and tall boots. Clearly I have some shopping to do if I’m to fit in. Better get to it!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
“With projections as high as 4 million people planning to visit the city during this time period,” the two senators wrote, “we are deeply concerned that the plan approved by the City Council could seriously strain law enforcement resources that need to be focused on the large crowds and security requirements of the Inaugural and its impact on the city.”Forget safety, we know how to protect ourselves (remember - SCOTUS let us keep our guns). The move to reverse seems simply irrational given the economic stimulus this could provide to our fair city and small business owners. So rather than throw out the idea altogether, why not consider a compromise? Here's an idea: a percentage of the money spent between 2am-5am could go to our failing school system. Beers for books. Whachoo say, DiFi?
UPDATE: Sign the petition to Save the Parties.
Between the corruption charges and the flying f-bombs caught on tape, one might be reminded of another sickeningly sleazy (but somehow lovable) character -- Tony Soprano. Thank you, Benjamin Sarlin at The Daily Beast, for bringing this connection to light in a game of "Name that Goon! Rod Blagojevich vs. Tony Soprano." Game on.
Hands on buzzers: One's a trash-talking thug trying to stay one step ahead of the law. The other was played by James Gandolfini. Can you identify the speaker of the ten quotes below?
1. "Unless I get something real good...shit, I'll just send myself, you know what I'm saying."
2. "What the fuck am I, a toxic person or something?"
3. "Log off, that "cookies" shit makes me nervous!"
4. "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them."
5. "You got no fuckin' idea what it's like to be number one. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fucking thing."
6. "I've got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and I'm just not giving it up for fuckin' nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there."
7. "That motherfucker's full of shit. He's shaking me down."
8. "Our recommendation is fire all those fucking people, get 'em the fuck out of there..."
9. "I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they perform by the end of the year. If they don't perform, fuck 'em."
10. "Jesus Christ! The money I've been dropping in here, I could've bought a fuckin' Ferrari."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The set was about as quirky as the music, with fake palm trees and each band member sporting cheap plastic sunglasses of different colors. The band members exuded an energy level that kept the audience bouncing through most of the show – a particularly great feat given that it went well past midnight on a Wednesday night.
Dr. Dog's fifth, and most recent album, Fate, is a must-listen (and buy):
Fate is one of those listens where you’re not ready for it to end, and by the final chords of the closer, “My Friend,” you’re ready to hit the repeat button. That first listen is simply a summer’s day, a weekend trip to the waterhole, an afternoon in the sun. The second listen is a reunion with old friends at that dive bar down the block, a night at the pool hall, a kick-start of the warmly lit jukebox. The third listen is fireworks over the lake, roman-candle wars in the dark, bottle rockets on the blacktop. If you’re sensing a common theme here that’s good. Dr. Dog’s fifth movement cements them as impossibly and comfortably classic.Next time they come your way, go. In the meantime, from the words of Dr. Dog, "Put that needle to the groove and sing."
Check them out here:
Thursday, December 4, 2008
4tehlulz says at 3:51 pm, December 4th, 2008:
I always hoped that the Internet could be used for pointless insults,
pornography, and piracy, but it has degraded into meaningful and
productive discussion. Humanity truly is doomed.
1. Where to eat falafel: L'as du Fallafel
2. How to eat falafel: You chomp on your pita, harissa and hummus dripping down your cheek — tilting your head to get a good bite, as there's no attacking this gargantuan sandwich head-on — and juggle as many napkins as you can grab, and marvel at the neighborhood.
While the vegetarian garlicky goodness will tempt my palate for a majority of the trip, I might just have to join the carnivore club for some mouth watering** steak frites, jambon d'Auvergne, and entrecote.
**Warning: might drool while reading.
Honestly, we couldn’t make this stuff up.
As the President of UnitedHealth explains, “What this product is designed to do, for a very modest premium, is to essentially protect your insurability for the future.”
To be clear, the product is not health insurance. It’s more like a bribe. You’d be paying the insurance company now – 20 percent of the annual premium, at that – just for the right to purchase their policy later, if you lost your job or retired early, for example.
Sound like a great deal? Well, no. But it’s actually even worse than it sounds at first. If you’re sick and need to be sure you have coverage, you probably can’t buy this plan. And if you’re healthy enough to buy it, but get sick later, you may not be able to afford it when you need it.
This is coming at an interesting time, when both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are buzzing with talk of comprehensive health care reform that would include a broad expansion of health coverage. So the fact that UnitedHealth is offering this product inherently implies that they are betting against reform – and they’re asking consumers to do the same:
"Some advocates for changing the health insurance system say that rather than expecting individuals to spend hundreds of dollars a year for a guarantee they may not need, the government should do more to make sure everyone has access to coverage."In an economy where it’s hard enough to afford rising premiums, is it really fair to entice consumers with product that capitalizes on people’s fear of losing their health coverage some time in the future? Doesn’t seem like it. Especially when the prospects of reform look so good that even the health insurance lobby wants a seat at the table.
*Full disclosure: I posted this on another site this morning and wanted to share it here as well.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Does this mean the late-night pizza places will stay open just as late?
UPDATE: It passed. Get ready to get your drink on.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
On Friday night, I braved the wintry temps and hiked aaaallll the way from my apartment on 15th St to the Black Cat, on 14th Street, to hear the French Kicks -- a band whose chords closely fit the textbook definition of indie rock.
While more officially from Brooklyn, I’ve learned that the band is actually quasi-local. Lead vocalist and keyboardist, Nick Stumpf, and his brother Lawrence, the bassist, are both from the area. That could explain Stumpf's love affair with DC's music venues:
We played the Rock and Roll hotel somewhat recently and it was great. Good size, great back stage room, nice folks. The Black Cat is great too though, always love playing there. Those two and 9:30 are all among the better places to play in the country actually, so D.C. wins.
The quartet knows how to put on a good show, pleasing the hipster crowd. Their dreamy pop sounds and catchy harmonies kept my head nodding, and the musical talents (and adorable indie rock star good looks) kept my eyes on the stage. The energy level hovered around 6.5 volts -- leaving me yearning for something slightly more upbeat for a live show, but at the same time reminding me why they’re great itunes companions for cooking or walking to work. Their set included mostly their newer songs, but a few of the oldies, including "You Could Not Decide." Admittedly, I was a little disappointed, as fan of their older records. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying their new sounds from their most recent album, Swimming, which got pretty good reviews, as Pitchfork describes in this illustrative adjective bomb:
Thick with both a springtime twinkle and autumnal heartache, Swimming makes good on the band's early promise. Trading layers of mood and melody and meaning for layers of Pro Tooled artifice, French Kicks have razored off the bullshit, leaving a core of beguilingly honest tunes.
From listening to Stumpf's crooning melodies, you can probably guess which vinyl records keep their turntables warm -- including 80's rockers the Pixies, The Kinks, and The Cure. So it's no wonder that their latest EP, Covers, includes their own interpretation of songs written by the late greats, such as Lindsey Buckingham, the Ramones, and the Shirelles.
Check out their website: http://www.frenchkicks.com/
Find them on Myspace here: http://www.myspace.com/frenchkicks
Breakfast this morning = concert review. Stay tuned.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Check out the video of Rahm Emanuel roasting Stephen Colbert. Highlights below, via HuffPo. Definitely worth the watch in spite of the amateur videography.
From Rahm's speech:
On Joe Biden: "Unfortunately, Joe Biden couldn't make it here tonight. Joe's the one who predicted that President-elect Obama will be tested by a crisis in the first six months of his presidency. What he didn't mention: the crisis will no doubt be over something Joe said."
On Steny Hoyer: Stephen is a guy who knows that no matter how smart or successful he is, he'll always play second fiddle to Jon Stewart. If he thinks that's humiliating, try standing behind Steny Hoyer."
On Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Lieberman: "I'm scared of Stephen Colbert. I'm not alone. My colleagues in Congress, political operatives, the top minds in Washington, even some of the people in this room -- we're all scared of Stephen Colbert... We're scared of Stephen Colbert in the same way Sarah Palin is scared of a geography bee. We're scared of him the same way that John Edwards is scared of the National Enquirer. Mary Matalin is scared of Stephen, and she's seen Carville naked! ... Even Hillary Clinton is scared of Colbert, and this makes no sense to me -- she is a woman who braved sniper fire at the Battle of Bosnia's Airport. We're frightened of Colbert, but we know that deep down, underneath the Republican character you see on TV, there's still a good man, there's still hope for him. It's the same way we feel about Joe Lieberman."
On DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton: "In Congress, Eleanor is allowed to speak, but doesn't have a real vote or a final say. So she has the same role I used to play with Nancy Pelosi."
From Colbert's speech:
On Alan Greenspan: "Alan Greenspan is here, and we're in the middle of a once-in-a-century financial meltdown, so of course the question everyone is asking is, How did Alan Greenspan land Andrea Mitchell? Seriously. Keep kissing him, Andrea, he's going to turn into a prince one of these days."
On Ben Bradlee: "Ben Bradlee is here -- nice to see you Ben. Congratulations on your latest children's book, 'Grandpa, What Was Print Media?'"
Typically, I’m not much of a party host. Not because I have annoying roommates or I secretly live with my grandparents, or anything. Rather, my apartment is the size of a large shoebox and the limited seating situation means that guests that number more than eight are relegated to the floor. So when I decided to play host last night to about a dozen grad school friends, I was naturally a little anxious. In an effort to get them to immediately forget about their lame seating accommodations, I felt the need to overcompensate by serving intoxicatingly delicious beverages.
My drink of choice: the deceptively simple spiced rum and hot cider.
I scoured the intertubes for a recipe that would meet my expectations. Luckily, there are hundreds -- most of which have an estimated prep time of approximately 10 minutes. The ingredients vary depending on your preference. In addition the most basic elements of rum, cider, and cinnamon, you can accent the drink with: orange slices, cranberry juice, apples with cloves, apples without cloves, lemon wedges, ginger, wine, brown sugar, butter, honey....and even milk.
I stuck with the basics: cider, spiced rum, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and one freshly squeezed orange. The preparation is about as simple as it gets. (For all you lazy hosts out there, this one's for you!). Combine all the ingredients, minus the rum, into a medium-sized pot. Let it come to a simmer and then remove from heat. Add the rum and serve -- preferably with a cinnamon stick for some added flavor.
Needless to say, all party-goers were quite happy regardless of where we were sitting.
One recipe can be found here:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
* 1 apple
* 2 teaspoons whole cloves
* 1 orange, thinly sliced
* 2 quarts apple cider
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon allspice
* Pinch grated nutmeg
* 1 cup dark rum
* Cinnamon sticks, garnish
1. Stud the apple with the cloves.
2. In a medium pot, combine the studded apple and remaining ingredients except the rum.
3. Slowly bring to a simmer over low heat.
4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and add the rum.
6. Discard the apple.
7. Ladle into mugs and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
8. Serve immediately.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
From the NYT:
It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.
Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.
Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.
So are we to believe that Sarah Palin actually knows that Africa is a continent?
Correction: I got a little ahead of myself. The hoax is the fake McCain advisor who claimed credit for the Palin comment. But this brings up an interesting point (that I, of all people, should take note) about fact checking. In an era of the 24 hour media cycle and news flying at mach 10, especially in a presidential campaign, there is fierce competition out there to be the first to report on salacious tidbits of information. Do we blame Eisensdadt for tricking the MSM and bloggers, or does the blame fall on journalists and bloggers who didn't do their homework? Or perhaps we, the consumers, are to blame. In such a competative environment, it's easy to flock to sources that back up the claims that you want to believe, filtering out the less supportive sources. There will always be hacks spewing false information so it is also up to us to vet the sources where our news comes from. If only we had a series of tubes which could help us do that.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thus, I was delighted to discover that Vidalia is celebrating their 15th anniversary of serving yummy food by giving YOU a little present! They're offering a three-course tasting lunch for a recession-deal of $19.90 -- which apparently references the restaurant's address - 1990 M Street. Clever.
More deets at Metrocurean.
For all of you twitter poets out there, it is your time to shine! Enter this twitter haiku contest and you could win a new MacBook air for your clever poetry.
Need a haiku refresher? Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. It consists of 17 syllables broken up into three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.Here is an example:
Write your own haiku.
May the forces be with you.
Win a MacBook air.
The best part of a haiku, in my opinion, is that it doesn't have to make sense. So go forth, young poets, and let your creative minds lead you to MacBook prosperity.
This paper – this “Call To Action” – represents the next step. It is not intended to be a legislative proposal. Rather, it details my vision for both policy and the process in the upcoming health care reform debate. The plan contained outlined here addresses health care coverage, quality, and cost. Many components will require an initial investment but, over time, will vastly improve the quality of the health care Americans receive and reduce the cost of that health care, ultimately putting our system on a more sustainable path. It is my intention that after ten years the U.S. will spend no more on health care than is currently projected, but we will spend those resources more efficiently, and will provide better-quality coverage to all Americans.
Is it me, or does this resemble Hillary's plan more than Obama's, given the mandate for coverage?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"...despite the current economic downturn, we must forge ahead with this urgent priority. The system is broken. And it's no longer just patients demanding change. Businesses, doctors and even many insurance companies are demanding it as well"
More (much more) on this topic later. Yoga is calling my name very very loudly.
So here's why: I'm sitting at Tryst, one of the best people watching and procrastination locations in DC. Hence, in the spirit of indiscriminately turning nouns into verbs (i.e. verbing), I am trysting.
- Main Entry: 1trysting
- Pronunciation: \ˈtristing, especially British ˈtrīst\
- Function: verb
- Etymology: Middle English triste appointed station for thoughtful ponderers, probably from trist, trust confidence, trust.
- Date: November 2008
2 : The name of my blog.