Friday, April 29, 2011

Dr. Zhivago

"When you rose out of the darkness of that room, like a shadow in a school girl's dress, I, a boy who knew nothing about you, understood who you were, with all the tormenting intensity which responded in me: I realized that this scraggy thin little girl was charged, as with electricity, with all the femininity in the world. If I had touched you with so much as the tip of my finger, a spark would have lit up the room and either killed me on the spot or charged me for the whole of my life with magnetic waves of sorrow and longing. I was filled to the brim with tears, I cried and glowed inwardly. I was a mortally sorry for myself, a boy, and still more sorry for you, a girl. My whole being was astonished and asked: If it is so painful to love and to be charged with this electric current, how much more painful must it be to a woman and to be the current, and to inspire love." -BP


"And now listen carefully. You in others - this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life - your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in others and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you - the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it."
-Dr. Zhivago

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"You said I killed you - haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!"

Eating Poetry by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs bum like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Shai darling

Monday, April 25, 2011

Royal Wedding Wine May Be Bubbly and English

Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent, one of several sparkling-wine vineyards in the area.

DITCHLING, England — In January, Michel Roux Jr., a London chef who is on the tasting committee that recommends wines to be served by the royal family, made a suggestion that would have been unthinkable not long ago. Wouldn’t it be nice, Mr. Roux asked a reporter for The Telegraph, if at the wedding reception for Prince William and Kate Middleton the glasses were filled not with Champagne but with English sparkling wine?

“It might be a bit controversial, but I think it would be great to see, and it would say a lot about Britishness,” he said.

Nobody is saying whether English sparkling wine will be poured at any of the events related to the royal wedding on April 29. Yet those who follow these issues note that when Queen Elizabeth II turned 80 in 2006, the wine poured at her reception was an elegant blanc de blancs produced by Ridgeview Estate outside this little village in East Sussex. Indeed, last year the 2006 vintage of the same wine was voted the best sparkling wine over more than 700 other wines from around the world, including Champagne, in a competition put on by Decanter, a British wine publication.

The notion of fine English wine may seem as absurd as the thought of fine English food once did. Yet, just as London has become a dining destination, southern England has become a source of excellent sparkling wines, made in the illustrious mode of Champagne. From Kent, where the white cliffs of Dover face across the English Channel toward France, stretching westward along the southern coast through East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, even as far west as Devon and Cornwall, hundreds of acres of new vineyards have been planted in the last 10 years, with far more projected.

The same geology visible in those famous white cliffs also plays a role in the rise of winemaking here. In Champagne, the best vineyards often lie in chalky limestone soils, sometimes mixed with clay. A line of this limestone stretches up from Sancerre and Chablis, through Champagne and across the Channel to England, past Dover and across southern England. The vineyards along this chalk belt are mainly growing chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the three grapes that go into Champagne.

Christian Seely, who owns Coates & Seely vineyards in Hampshire with his partner, Nick Coates, has high hopes for their 30 acres of vines, planted on south-facing slopes of chalk and flint, and their two vintages of sparkling wine, 2009 and 2010, aging in bottles.

“I believe that there is the potential to make something really great, if one finds the right place,” he said.

“Above all, it’s the existence of terroirs that bear striking geological resemblance to what exists in Champagne,” said Mr. Seely, the managing director of AXA Millésimes, the arm of the French AXA insurance group that runs a portfolio of top wineries in France and elsewhere.

If few people in history ever thought to plant Champagne grapes in southern England, it was not without reason. Champagne itself, 49.5 degrees latitude at its northernmost point, pushed the climatic boundaries for making fine wine. In fact, the perennial problem of ripening grapes sufficiently in Champagne made sparkling wine the perfect solution: to achieve a crisp, refreshing quality in sparkling wine the grapes must ripen enough to no longer be stridently acidic, yet they must retain sufficient acidity to be brisk. Hence, grapes destined for sparkling wine are harvested at lower degrees of ripeness than grapes for still wine.

Here in Ditchling, Ridgeview Estate is 88 miles northwest of Champagne, approaching 51 degrees latitude. For centuries Sussex and the surrounding counties were considered too cold to grow grapes for fine wine. Yet climate change has warmed things up just enough to make that possible.

“I don’t know that I buy into climate change, or at least that the cause is human rather than cyclical, but it’s there and has certainly had an effect,” said Andrew Weeber, a South African orthopedist who in 2004 began planting Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent. He now has 50 acres on a slope facing south, looking down toward the flat Romney Marsh and the sea.

The pace of planting has accelerated in the last few years. In 1990, two years after an American couple, Stuart and Sandy Moss, planted Nyetimber in West Sussex, the first major vineyard for sparkling wine, England had about 140 acres of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, according to Stephen Skelton, the author of “UK Vineyards Guide 2010.” By 2007, more than 660 acres had been planted, and by 2010 that figure had doubled, to about 1,360 acres.

Among the newer plantings is Bride Valley Vineyard in western Dorset, a natural amphitheater of chalk soils facing south, owned by Steven Spurrier, a columnist for Decanter, and his wife, Bella. Just after buying the property in 1987, Mr. Spurrier said, he noticed the chalk soil and sent it to Chablis for analysis. It was pronounced auspicious for chardonnay.

As with many of the newer plantings, his vineyard is not yet in production. He estimates the first wines, a nonvintage brut and a vintage blanc de blancs, will come in 2014.

“You need to have two wines,” Mr. Spurrier said. “So instead of saying, ‘Do you like my wine?’ you can say, ‘Which of my wines do you prefer?’ ”

Any thoughts of making money in the English sparkling wine business would have been considered ridiculous before Nyetimber Estate showed the way. The Mosses, who were from Chicago but wanted to make sparkling wine outside Champagne, were drawn to West Sussex in the 1980s partly by the geological similarity to Champagne but also by their love of early English oak furniture. Their first wine was a 1992 blanc de blancs, but the wine was not released until 1997, when it was awarded a gold medal as best English wine. Nyetimber now shows up at top English restaurants like Dinner, the new London venture from the Michelin three-star chef Heston Blumenthal.

If few Americans are aware of these English sparklers — in England many of the better ones retail for about $40 — it’s for good reason: hardly any have been exported to the United States. But this may soon be changing. By the end of the year, Ridgeview hopes to be selling wine in New York and Washington, said Mike Roberts, the vineyard’s proprietor.

“When we started, the very worst words we could put on a bottle were ‘English wine,’ ” Mr. Roberts said. “Now, we can’t satisfy the demand.”

Easter with Dad

The Floor


Friday, April 22, 2011


L + M

"Their throats were bare for God."

"Destiny is a worrying concept. I don't want to be fated, I want to choose."

"Trust me, I'm telling you stories. ... I can change the story. I am the story."

"In the heat of her hands I thought, This is the campfire that mocks the sun. This place will warm me, feed me and care for me. I will hold on to this pulse against other rhythms. The world will come and go in the tide of a day but here is her hand with my future in its palm."-J.W.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011



You keep me falling over,

So you came like a missile,
Falling on my head with the black sky,
Think you're giving but you're taking my life away

Spit It out

"And if you're hurting
I will replace the noise with silence instead
Flushing out your head

If you like it violent
We can play rough and tumble
Fall into bed
And I won't breathe so you can recover

When you're in pieces
Just follow the echo of my voice
It's okay
Tune into that frequency

Don't fight your reflex
Embrace the instinct
You can feel your way
Through the bed and weak face in the end

Pleasure for pleasure
It eases consequence
And love for a fall
But I know you love to take a risk

The past is weakness
Don't beg the question when the answer is war
There are moments when I'm overcome

And it breaks my heart
And it breaks my heart
In love"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


"I fed the King another story for his pleasure. It was his opium. He lived in my words, while outside, his defeated kingdom crumbled."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Harper's Bazaar, Cate Blanchett

That ’80s Moment When Nothing and (Almost) Everything Mattered

Céline Danhier’s “Blank City” uses conventional documentary methods — talking-head reminiscences intercut with clips from the archives — to explore the work of a group of aggressively anticonventional artists. This is not a criticism. The movie is about the iconoclastic filmmakers clustered in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1970s and early ’80s. The chaotic, fast-moving, hazily remembered scene they created deserves and benefits from the scholarly consideration Ms. Danhier offers. A dogged journalist and a careful, enthusiastic cultural historian, she illuminates a hectic and fascinating place and time, bringing it back to life and tracing its continuing influence.

It is easy to forget — and also to romanticize — what New York was like in the decade after the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. Ms. Danhier’s interview subjects testify to the danger and desolation and also to the bohemian energy that they experienced and made into the basis of their work. There were punk bands, poets and artists-without-portfolio milling around the blocks below 14th Street east of Broadway, and at a certain point some of them decided to start making movies. They shot with Super-8 or 16-millimeter cameras, sometimes with synchronized sound and almost never with professional actors. Their acknowledged precursors included John Cassavetes, Andy Warhol and Jack Smith, but they also wanted to make something new.

Some went on to achieve a measure of fame, respectability and mainstream acceptance. A viewer with no background in the downtown avant-garde is likely to recognize Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry and Jim Jarmusch, and maybe also Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Wojnarowicz. Someone with deeper knowledge — or, say, a secondhand memory gleaned from reading The Village Voice as a teenager in the provinces — will be gratified to see stalwarts of the era like Scott B and Beth B, Lydia Lunch, Fab 5 Freddy and Amos Poe, in their youthful vigor and their sturdy middle age. But the point of “Blank City” is neither to celebrate the ones who made it big nor to scold the sellouts. The movie aims, rather, to evoke a moment in as much detail and with as much insight as will fit into 95 minutes. In this it succeeds beautifully.

The tricky thing about artistic scenes and movements — as opposed to the particular works that outlast them — is that you kind of had to be there. For those who were not at legendary music spots like CBGB and the Mudd Club, or the short-lived cinemas that popped up to show underground and experimental film, “Blank City” provides a vivid, vicarious tour. And it also features a generous sampling of films made by mostly self-taught auteurs like Mr. Poe, Eric Mitchell and Daze.

“Nobody was doing what they were good at,” John Lurie recalls. “The painters were in bands. The musicians were making films.” Technique, polish, professionalism — all of these were suspect. What emerged in their absence, under various names (No Wave and Cinema of Transgression are two that stuck), were films that were at once rough and sophisticated, cynical and passionate, jaded and hysterical. Kind of like New York itself.

Documentaries on the history of film often work best as guides to future research, and “Blank City” is no exception. Some of the movies it samples have carved out niches for themselves — Mr. Jarmusch’s supercool “Stranger Than Paradise,” Charlie Ahearn’s splendid and sprawling “Wild Style” — while others are clearly in need of rediscovery.

Starting April 14, New Yorkers will have the chance to rediscover the work of Bette Gordon, subject of a timely and welcome retrospective at Anthology Film Archives. Her career started before the period covered in Ms. Danhier’s film and extended beyond it — “Handsome Harry,” her most recent feature, was released last year — but her “Variety” remains a vital artifact of that time, as well as a permanently unsettling and intriguing glimpse at a world in which art and sleaze collide and commingle.

Creative groupings are often boys’ clubs, with women serving as muses, models and mothers, and American film, independent or not, has traditionally been a macho undertaking. The New York of “Blank City” is a notable exception, a hotbed of feminism, glamour and sexual provocation whose resident geniuses included Ms. Gordon, Ms. Lunch, Patti Astor, Lizzie Borden and Susan Seidelman, among others.

There was a toughness in the downtown aesthetic that inoculates its survivors against nostalgia, and somehow Ms. Danhier manages to conjure a glorious and grungy bygone past without fetishizing it as a golden age. A bunch of people got together and did some stuff, and this is what it looked like.

Nellie married Brian and I took some old-timey photos with my Holga

Library of Congress

Coco Chanel

The Dance With Death

Religion Does Its Worst

LONDON — So Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who organized a Koran burning on March 20, wanted “to stir the pot.” Mission accomplished. Perhaps he’d care to explain himself to the family of Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede slaughtered at the U.N. mission in Mazar-i-Sharif by Afghans whipped into frenzy through Jones’s folly.

On reflection, no, there’s nothing Jones can explain to Dungel’s family, or the other U.N. staffers murdered. Jones is not in the explanation business. He’s a zealot. How else to describe a Christian who interprets his faith not as grounded in love and compassion but as a mission to incite hatred toward Islam?

There’s no discussion with a bigot like this: You can’t be argued out of something you haven’t been argued into in the first place.

Jones is not alone in this Islamophobic campaign in the United States, which is what is most disturbing. But before I get to that, let’s talk about the murderous Afghan mob and its enablers.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was one such enabler. He was a fool to allude to Jones’s stunt, performed before a few dozen acolytes. Why elevate this vile little deed and so foster mayhem?

Karzai is a man who will stop at nothing to disguise his weakness. His benefactors and underwriters — the West — are those he must scorn to survive.

The foolishness did not stop with Karzai: The imams of Mazar chose to use Friday prayers to stir up the crowd. As for the killing itself — whether by infiltrated Taliban insurgents or not — it was a heinous crime against innocent people and should be denounced throughout the Islamic world, in mosques and beyond. I’m still waiting.

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, did not honor the dead by failing to denounce the perpetrators of the crime in a statement. He was right to call Jones’s Koran burning “insane and totally despicable;” he should have used the same words about the slaughter of his men. Not to do so was craven, a glaring omission.

All this madness began at the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, home to Jones’s mini-church. As my colleague Lizette Alvarez chronicled, an unrepentant Jones believes Islam and the Koran only serve “violence, death and terrorism.” That’s as dumb as equating Christianity with Psalm 137 that says the “little ones” of the enemy should be dashed against stones.

But such incendiary views about a world religion now find wide expression in the United States where “stealth jihad” has become a recurrent Republican theme.

Several Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Peter King, have found it politically opportune to target “creeping Shariah in the United States” at a time when the middle name of the president is Hussein. (A Newsweek poll last year found that 52 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement that “Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”)

I spent time last year with Paul Blair, a pastor in small-town Oklahoma, a state where Islamophobia is rampant. He told me Muslims were “not here to coexist but to take over.” He told me there are only two possibilities in Islam — “the house of Islam or the house of war.”

That sort of message is going out in a lot of U.S. churches. It’s dangerous. Already, Muslims are victims in 14 percent of religious discrimination cases when they make up 1 percent of the population.

In Europe, too, rightist politicians peddle divisive anti-Muslim bigotry, with some success.

Muslims have work to do. They should have the courage to denounce unequivocally the Mazar murder. Jihadists have too often deformed a great religion with insufficient rebuke. From Egypt to Pakistan, it must be understood that Islam cannot at once be a political force and above criticism. Once you enter the democratic political arena on a religious platform, your beliefs are no longer a private matter but up for legitimate attack. Pakistan’s violence-inducing blasphemy laws are an affront to this principle.

Jones, by contrast, lives in a nation where the law defends even his folly. I’m a free-speech absolutist and so I support that. But he must examine his conscience: How is it consistent with religious faith to stir hatred and killing? And how can the Islamophobes, spreading poison, justify their grotesque caricature of Islam in the thinly veiled pursuit of political gain?

This column is full of anger, I know. It has no heroes. I’m full of disgust, writing after a weekend when religious violence returned to Northern Ireland with the murder of a 25-year-old Catholic policeman, Ronan Kerr, by dissident republican terrorists. Religion has much to answer for, in Gainesville and Mazar and Omagh.

I see why lots of people turn to religion — fear of death, ordering principle in a mysterious universe, refuge from pain, even revelation. But surely it’s meaningless without mercy and forgiveness, and surely its very antithesis must be hatred and murder. At least that’s how it appears to a nonbeliever.