21 December 2006

happy hanukkah

most years i have made the traditional potato latkes with my dad. the making is a tradition in itself, the ceremonial changing of shirts - me wearing one of my dad's big t-shirts - the swathing of the kitchen in aluminum foil, the scrubbing of the potatoes.

and the conversation is also ritual. we discuss whether or not to peel the potatoes, we comment that the meal is so unhealthy - unlike spaniards we don't keep a deep fryer on our kitchen counter, this is a special occaison. but, we say, it's just once a year. then the stories, how as a child aunt joan used to eat fifty latkes by herself when my grandfather would make them. my aunts and father would eat them fresh off the stove, as fast as they were made.

and the grating of the potatoes. every year as we toss the potatoes and onions into the cuisinart we harken back to the days of hand grating, every memory exaggerated by the continued retelling. papa would spend hours, hours! grating those potatoes by hand.

so it was that this year i thought about my grandfather and his toils as we hand-grated the 3kilos of potatoes for our hanukkah party in madrid - no cuisinart i'm sorry to say. but here's a secret: between you me and papa, the hand grating really isn't that bad.

related: my friend joie wrote an op-ed piece about anti-semitism in iran. check it out.

18 December 2006


i've been busy. i'll be back in the u.s. and a. in five days. meanwhile, here's a hasty update on what has been catching my eye (and ears)

  • happy hanukkah: why are american jews so funny?
  • related: circumcision makes straight men less prone to AIDS. in my pros and cons list, america just scored one under "pro"
  • wine and yoga: obviously
  • the new yorker examines the office
  • the economist's year in 2007 issue. i'll summarize it for you: we're screwed.
  • best of 2006 lists (all over the place)
i'll be stateside from dec. 22-jan. 13, between framingham, martha's vineyard and new york. let me know if you'll be around.

14 December 2006


slate takes a moment to reflect on the "revolutionary" genius that was beverly hills, 90210 with the release of its first season on dvd. as you probably already know, i was a huge fan of bev, from its beginnings when i was in junior high to the later years, when i was a senior in college. although most critics would disagree, i dare to say that the show got better with age, like a fine wine. say what you will about friends, or dawson's creek, or any of the other shows that purported to speak to our generation, bev was the original: the clothes, the hair, the angst, the musical guests, david silver.

not to mention the earnest parade of teen issues through every episode. for example, in the first season alone there was "shoplifting, long distance relationships, language barriers with your Hispanic maid, cheating, drugs, adultery, AIDS, teen pregnancy, sex ed in schools, breast cancer, fear of heights, date rape, and affirmative action." fear of heights?! this shit was real! (that episode rocked)

and that's just in the first 22 episodes! off the top of my head, future seasons wrestled with such themes as diet pills, underage drinking, gun control, gambling addiction, cutting, corruption, murder, drunk driving, heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, LSD-spiked punch, stalkers, lesbians, lesbian stalkers, regular (non-date) rape, abusive relationships, bulemia, and about fifty donna martin haircuts that stung the eyes.

but to look at this, it seemed like one big dance party.

and by the way, that's why i love slate. they're not afraid to get a little lowbrow and throw bev on their front page and call it revolutionary, without a touch of irony.

11 December 2006

surf's up in cleveland

they surf in cleveland. cleveland? i didn't even quite realize it had beachfront. here's a map to help. well, looky there, right on the shores of lake erie.

and, they have a metro system! check it out:

and, this site has maps of subway systems all around the world, convenient!

ok, i digress. where was i? oh yeah, surfing in cleveland. take it from one of the dedicated few, who rather proudly claims "surfing lake erie is basically disgusting." brown water, twenty degree temperatures, freezing rain and snow, ice chunks the size of bowling balls, these are just some of the attractions of cleveland's beaches. but wait, there's more! the most popular spot, nicknamed sewer pipe, has a beach littered with used syringes and condoms and the water floods with untreated waste from a nearby water treatment plant.

the locals want to keep their surf spots secret, harkening back to the surf culture of the mid-twentieth century when surfing was a "renegade sport of social misfits." somehow, i don't think they'll find too many crowds at sewer pipe.

unrelated: a long-held superstition is proven: apparently wearing a helmet in new york city makes bicylists more prone to accidents.

10 December 2006


this weekend is an aqueduct...three days appended to the usual two. despite my fiercest intentions to leave town, here i remain in madrid. if only i could relive the following weekends:
  • 1996, lake powell, utah: a broken tooth, a trip out of town, a suite at the hilton. a much-needed change of scenery and re-entry to the "real world." a drive through the desert in the light of dawn, racing toward the ferry, shiny new tooth and weekend complete.
  • 1998, long beach island, new jersey: a typical new york weekend away from dartmouth resuted in a beachy vacation on the jersey shore. i remember asbury park, batting cages and a perfect burger. for the unfortunate landlocked, any contact with the beach is a bonus, no matter the company or the weather.
  • 2003, atlantic city, ny: a spontaneous roadtrip, we were homesick for our westcost casino options and sought shelter in south jersey. after much trolling and much disappointment it was the lounge at harrods that scratched the itch. normally, ice-laden beer taps would be but a novelty, but combined with the wiley matchstick bar tricks of our trusty server there was undeniable magic in the air.
  • 2005, denmark. we went to gabe's wedding, only to find out that it wasn't so much a wedding as a luncheon. but no matter, sky and i had been to copenhagen before so we didn't mind the sojourn into the danish countryside. a four-hour train ride from the airport and we arrived in the middle of nowhere with snow falling and nobody to pick us up, the train emptied and everybody else hastened off into their cars while we stood in the dark night waiting. there is the moment when you realize nobody is coming, and you drag your rolling suitcase into town, find a phone and call gabe. hours later all was well, we were among friends and subject to the best non-wedding lunch in western europe. then days of finicky weather, danish country culture, gabe's offspring and levys galore. all in all, a memorable weekend.
  • 2006, portugal. one year ago, to the date. another random roadtrip, a journey that ended on the white-sand beaches of portugal, warm in the dead of winter. we soaked in the beach villages, collected shells, revelled in the simplicity of a peaceful weekend away. at night there were three chiringuitos on the beach, one was full of guitar-playing hippies who were somehow intimidating. yet, we made our way in and moments later i was strumming and ariel was singing: joni mitchell. the night fishermen came in for their espresso, we had a few port wines and headed back to the guesthouse, opening the oven to warm ourselves up. do you remember portugal? can a weekend be more idyllic?
today's question: how much can you squeeze out of a weekend? is a weekend time to rest or to rage?

08 December 2006


so we're going to be putting people on the moon again. that's nice. call me when i have health care.

i mean, it's bad enough that we're supporting a useless space station. and it's not like our government has money to burn. could there be a more frivolous waste of money? how would you feel reading this if you lived in new orleans? we can't build a simple levy but we need to permanently install people on the moon?

am i the only one who pictures george bush like a little kid playing with his space-themed legos?

being american is ridiculous sometimes. one small step backwards...

06 December 2006

love in the time of nostalgia

another story about games, but this time it's board games. they meet, they play monopoly in bed, they always guess 'secretariat' in original trivial pursuit, they agree that sorry is overrated. could it be love?

but then trouble sets in. can a couple who can't play (taboo) together stay together? oh, the embarassment, as all the other couples effortlessly read each others' minds! the relationship comes to a breaking point over a game of scrabble. it could be solved by simply consulting a dictionary, but the truth is, it's about so much more than whether 'beeatch' is a word.

yet when all hope was lost it was the brusquely-spinning wheel of life at a family christmas party that brought them back together, made them see through their differences. and because this is a fable, we chuckle at the unsubtle irony of it all and sigh at the inevitable simplicity of yet another story about love and christmas.

or just chalk it up to that nobody wants to be single during the holidays.

05 December 2006


i've been thinking about gifts lately, as it is that inevitable time of the year again. the obligatory buying of gifts in december is one of the most dreaded traditions of the western world, in my humble opinion.

well, one of the top fifty most dreaded at least.

one of the best gifts i've gotten in the last few years has been an international subscription to the new yorker. maybe it's that i get less mail here, or maybe its just nice to have such a juicy package of high-quality english to read every week, or perhaps i'm just another pretentious new yorker reader who would equate the lack of said subscription with a crime against humanity. but meanwhile there have been some great articles lately.

here, from the financial page, is a quick analysis of the video game industry, pegging nintendo as a successful third place to sony and microsoft. did you know that playstation loses $240 on the sale of each $650 ps3?

then there was the incredible piece on the rise and fall of donald rumsfeld, how he reformed the military after what was apparently a confidence crisis following the clinton administration, rose to power, kept his blinders on to the counterinsurgency in iraq, and finally got shitcanned. fascinating read.

and a beautiful profile of olafur eliasson (excerpt here), the icelandic artist and former breakdancing champion of scandanavia who will have shows next year at sfmoma and ps1. yesterday i saw one of his pieces in the louis vuitton store in madrid, a giant reflective eye. i stood and looked for ten minutes, interacting as intended.

today's question: new yorker, love it or hate it?

01 December 2006

december is here

and i'm finished. clocking in at 67,926 words and 124 pages, my novel is done. i haven't so much as read a paragraph of it yet, while writing i let the forward momentum propel it along, afraid of psyching myself out by actually reading it. i'm going to let it rest for a couple of days and then start from the beginning.

what an amazing project, i recommend it to anyone with a little bit of free time and a desire for a quick confidence boost. it's one of the most self-indulging things you can do, create an entire world of your own, be the puppetmaster, fill these characters' lives with words and events. i'm not sure if it's good, but it was good for me.

i started with a big story in my head and the end result is a very pared down version of that. what's it about? it's about an inner struggle catalyzed by a recurring dream. maybe you can read it, but i need to read it first.