Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Egg Cream

A chocolate 'egg cream' has three ingredients; chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer. No one will argue that there is no egg and no cream, however the ingredient brands, recipe formula and preparation are another matter.

The trick in achieving that wonderfully creamy head is to mix the milk with the seltzer first, before adding the chocolate syrup.
When you're ready to add the syrup, you sneak it into the mix along the edge of the glass. Stir slowly, so the bottom of the spoon incorporates the syrup with the seltzer, but the top of the handle does not disrupt the foam. If you stubbornly mix the syrup with the milk first, then add seltzer, you wind up with brown scum on top of a head that is more frothy than creamy.

Egg cream aficionados swear by Fox’s U-Bet syrup, whole milk is recommended (calorie counting is not allowed) for a truly creamy finish, seltzer water (not sparkling mineral water, not club soda) is essential.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Memory of Space

an hoang

an hoang

I met R. many years ago, as one of the circle of friends of my former boyfriend J. Generally, as romantic relationships change or fade or end abruptly, the secondary friendships follow. Fortunately, several people I met from that romance blossomed into enduring, endearing friends.

R. is a professional photographer so I'm not surprised he has a keen appreciation for detail. He mentioned something in a recent conversation that struck me as fascinating; "I remember J.'s old apartment to the letter. I could draw a blueprint, it's so clear." I could too. Not that the apartment was so remarkable, but I think everyone is imprinted by certain times, people and places.

The beautiful paintings of An Hoang explore the memory of spaces. From her website:

"This ongoing body of work is a series of paintings investigating
psychological spaces which reference the memory of space
and explore concepts of time, longing, and nostalgia."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Miss Subways

Artist Fiona Gardner is working on a book that features former 'Miss Subways' winners. The New York City pageant lasted over three decades with winning contestants (determined by phone call votes) reigning for one glorious month. From her website:

"Miss Subways was a beauty contest run by the Subways Advertising committee from 1941–1976. Every month, a different woman was crowned Miss Subways and featured on subway placards throughout the city. The contest was remarkable for the diversity of the women who were selected. The first black Miss Subways was crowned in 1947, which was 36 years before a black Miss America. The first Asian Miss Subways was in 1949.The Miss Subways contest focused on the careers and aspirations of everyday, working women."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Life Examined

by Dan Eldon

On July 12, 1993, U.N. troops in Somalia bombed a house wrongly assumed to be the headquarters of the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. Instead, 74 innocent civilians were killed and many others were injured. Dan Eldon working for Reuters, along with several other photojournalists at the scene of mayhem were brutally beaten and stoned to death by the outraged crowd. Eldon was 22 years old.

The tragic end to his young life took a surprising turn: Eldon's private journals which he had kept since he was a teenager, were returned to his family. Unlike traditional diaries, the journals are virtually free of text, filled instead with elaborate collages of ephemera (cards, labels, phone book pages, photos and newspaper clippings) Eldon meticulously collected and altered. His family chose to share his complex and startling work first in the 1997 book, The Journey is the Destination, followed by the traveling exhibition of the actual journals.

A film biopic is planned for 2011 with Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) cast as Dan Eldon. There have been other artists portrayed in films with varying degrees of believability; Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh, Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus, José Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec, Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol and Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo to name a few. In each instance, the audience sees the details of the artist's life, their studio, home and idiosyncrasies. Because the artists vision is experienced through the filter of the writer, the director, and finally the actor, his or her particular way of seeing the world is distorted and at best an abridged version. Perhaps this explains why the pure, wordless expressions of Eldon's are so evocative.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


According to the King Arthur Flour catalog, "If cooking is an art, baking is a science."

Jen Yates' blog Cake Wrecks underscores the lack of art and the quantity of strange science in cake design. A book of her hilarious cake blogging will be released this week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

10 List: Soup

*Hobo Soup is still available. I don't buy canned soup, but this label is terrific.

It's officially autumn and I'm thinking about sweaters and leaves falling and tasty soup. It sets my heart a flutter to see soup on the menu, and who doesn't love to ask, "What's your soup today?" Isn't it grand when the most American Mom & Pop restaurant offering steak and fried chicken decides to get a bit fancy by offering 'Soup du Jour'?

Ten to order:

Manhattan Clam Chowder - made with tomatoes not cream!

Matzo Ball Soup - the ball sitting alone in broth, all zen-like (no mish-mash noodles or rice!)

Italian Wedding Soup - with escarole and tiny meatballs

Potato and Leek Soup - also known as Vichyssoise, best served chilled.

Borscht - Beets, mmm. Lovely to look at, delightful to know.

Lentil Soup - Hearty and rustic.

Corn Soup - pureed to smooth perfection

Onion Soup - topped with cheese and French bread, yes!

Thai Coconut Soup - there's chicken and veggies,but the coconut makes them memorable.

German Cabbage Soup - so...fragrant! Tasty times for the unsung vegetable.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The 1967 French film Belle de Jour presents an elegant Catherine Deneuve as a frustrated wife of a successful physician who decides to spend her afternoons working at a brothel. Some people are busier than others! Although the story shrieks implausibility, her clothing is tailored perfection. The Roger Vivier pilgrim flats she wears throughout the film are still produced today, however the price ($350-$500) is prohibitive. My love note to Vivier is a little pink painting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Earth vs. the Flying Saucers by Anselmo Ballester

John Wayne in The Searchers by Luigi Martinati

John Garfield in Forces of Evil by Averado Ciriello

Vintage movie posters (painted images made prior to the use of photography) are incredibly provocative; the actors seem bigger than life, the single image manages to convey the gist of two hours of storytelling in efficient shorthand. Over time, with newsreels introduced to moviegoers, followed by magazines which were saturated with photos, and finally television, savvy ad men abandoned illustration altogether and photography became the medium of choice. What a loss!

I'm partial to the Italian movie poster designers. Just looking at the dramatic lighting and the gorgeous moody colors you half expect the scene to be from an opera, not a film. In Italy, a movie poster is referred to as a manifesto. In English that word suggests a political declaration, but it is rooted in Latin; manifestare which means 'to make public'. Clearly, the artistry of vintage film posters has transcended the original purpose of promotion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do this, don't do that.

Pictography is a form of writing in which drawings or symbols are used to convey information. The DOT pictograms created in the 1970's by the US Department of Transportation may be the most familiar,successfully directing the public to the nearest telephone, restroom, and elevator, while also preventing fires, traffic infractions and littering.

The pictogram is especially useful to the traveler in a foreign locale, navigating an airport or city when language/communication is an obstacle.

Still, some pictograms are less than clear:

Yield for loose women?

Yield for sprinters?

Smash and grab HERE?

No gleeking* (*spitting while talking)?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy trails

I had breakfast with K. after too long a spell. She and her husband went to Rome over the summer where they couldn't get a bad meal or an ugly view. She talked and I imagined an idealized Rome...

K. is moving to Texas in a few short weeks. She described her cheerful new digs on the friendly street she will live with bubbly enthusiasm. I pictured this...

...though it really looks like this...

I will miss you K!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bright Star

While in line for Jane Campion’s new film Bright Star, the man behind me asked his female companion, “Bright Star…what’s that about?” and she answered, “Some period piece. A chick flick love story with corsets and no sense of humor.” Her short review was spot on, but I’d add there is much to like about the film and the thoughtful way Campion tells a story.

The film portrays the romance that develops between vibrant Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and the struggling poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) who meet as neighbors. It is no small feat to create the gentrified world of 1800’s England and to write believable dialogue for its restrained and hyper-polite society. Equally challenging, to breathe life into the poetry of Keats for an audience unfamiliar with the music of an emotive recitation of his odes and sonnets. Campion achieves all of this with a languid, painterly approach. Although Fanny knows little about poetry and John has no interest in her passion for designing clothing and hats, they have a shared need for quiet reflection and solitude. Over time, he studies and admires her spirit and outspokenness and she reveres his focus on writing and deep fascination of nature. To love with respect and admiration, and to long for the voice and presence of another kindred spirit may disappoint the viewer who equates great passion with sexual lust. Bright Star is undeniably chaste, but I found it also intoxicating.

Incidentally, no woman has ever won an Oscar for Best Director and only three have been nominated: Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola. Finally, the couple in line behind me bought tickets for Mike Judge’s movie Extract, also a love story laced with tragedy and longing but definitely a horse of a different color.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New and improved!

(And you may tell yourself,"This is not my beautiful house!'')

McDonald's, Pottery Barn, Gap, IKEA, and Starbucks are simply embedded in a metropolitan landscape. These corporate giants guarantee a certain sameness for all. The Awesomeness Manifesto, a recent post by Umair Haque suggests that 'awesomeness' replaces innovation as the economic advantage for any organization. Although the article refers to cars and cellular phones, creativity as a cure applies to so much more; clothing, furniture, toys, the arts, education, housing etc.

"What is innovative often fails to delight, inspire, and enlighten — because, as we've discussed, innovation is less concerned with raw creativity. Awesomeness puts creativity front and center. Awesome stuff evokes an emotive reaction because it's fundamentally new, unexpected, and 1000x better. Just ask Steve Jobs. The iPhone and iPod were pooh-poohed by analysts, who questioned how innovative they really were — but the Steve has turned multiple industries upside down through the power of awesomeness.

When you can make awesome stuff, you don't need to find "better" ways to sell it. The fundamental challenge of the 21st century isn't selling the same old lame, toxic junk in new ways: its detoxifying and dezombifying it, by learning how to make insanely great stuff in the first place."

You can read Haque's original post here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

10 List: Noir

When it comes to film noir, there are so many films that possess such overall brilliance they transcend the genre and top many critics lists of best films ever made.

Films like Gilda and Casablanca are considered by many to be 'Noir' but I find both titles too female-centric to sit among the bad boys. I prefer my noir to be hard bitten and bubbling with greed and revenge--romance is another animal altogether.

Ten to love:

Public Enemy - Breakfast? Cagney smashes a grapefruit in his 'moll's' face.
Sunset Blvd - Narrated by a dead man, I'm all ears.
Strangers on A Train- "You're a naughty boy Bruno!"
White Heat- Cagney's Cody Jarrett has a mother complex but he is amazing in every scene.
Double Indemnity- Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck play against type superbly.
Night of the Hunter- The only film directed by Charles Laughton yet one of the best films of the 1950's (or ever!)
Out of the Past- Nearly every line is quotable. This film is also on my 'what to take to a desert island' list.
Key Largo-Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson made 5 films together, this is my favorite.
The Killers-Hemingway's story of a murdered former boxer is told in flashback by several of the main characters.
Kiss of Death- Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo throws a wheelchair bound woman down the stairs, "Ya lyin' old hag!"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seeing red

Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup

(reproduction of a British World War II poster)

It's fairly common knowledge that the color red is used in packaging and advertising to attract consumers. I don't wear red or or use it much in painting (a personality thing) but love the color in nearly every shade. For humans and animals, red quickens the heart rate. Red is the color of happiness and prosperity in China and may be used to attract good luck, it is sometimes the color worn by brides in the East while it is the color used in mourning in South Africa.

Red letter day - important or significant occasion
Red carpet treatment - make someone feel special, hospitality
Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning; red sky at night, sailor's delight (reading the signs)
Paint the town red - celebrate, a wild spree
Red eye - an overnight flight
Seeing red - anger (Incidentaly, the bull facing a matador doesn't charge because the cape is red, but because he is agitated by the movement)
Red herring - or Macguffin; a plot element that deceives or distracts attention
In the red - debt
Red flag - as an expression denotes danger, warning, as an actual flag represents defiance, or refusal to surrender.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I'm happy to noodle and doodle in a plain composition notebook from Staples. However, I do like the crisp design and dry humor of these blank journals from Archie Grand.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Real places

Paris by Jack Savitsky

The Chicago Fire by Myrtle

In our criminal justice system, eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. That same distortion or false memory is wonderful when applied to the arts. If we didn't have cameras to photograph our vacations or friends or the homes where we live, no doubt the images conjured would be vastly more interesting. Of course, this is how it was before the invention of photography, but the documentarians were the highest caliber artists and draftsmen.

In Savitsky's drawing of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph are conveniently close. Their angle and proximity is impossible in reality, as is the sparse traffic and handful of pedestrians. He recalls or imagines a better City of Lights.

In Myrtle's cutting board painting of The Chicago Fire, she opts for a modern setting and includes Uno's (the famous pizzeria) and Carson's Ribs, which would have made the fire even more tragic. However, the fire occurred in 1871, long before there was a Sears Tower (renamed the Willis Tower) or drive by shootings.