Saturday, December 16, 2006

Temporarily Gone, But Not Forgotten!

It's been a long time since I've been here, but I'm happy to report I have at least 2 fans in NYC who have a hankering for more from this corner, so I shall do my best to serve!

But for now, an evening of catching the bad guys on Fox calls -- and my beloved Joey of Cheaters won't wait any longer. So to bed with some fried chicken, chips and Diet Pepsi. Ain't that pathetic?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

To Market, To Market (Findlay, that is!)

Yesterday, a crisp, clear, sunny Saturday, my friend Ruth and I decided to go on a shopping excursion. First stop was the newly refurbished Findlay Market, a series of food shops and stands in the "Over the Rhine" neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati. I was hoping to introduce Ruth to Divina, the wonderful French pastry chef I wrote of last fall. Unfortunately, in the intervening months, her Divine Delights stand seems to have disappeared. Another French pastries and desserts stand, La Tarterie, has been added, however. Owner/baker Michelle Phan produces gorgeous Apple "Flower", Pear Almond, Lemon Mousse, and Fruit Tarts, along with a most unusual sounding Sweet Potato Tart with Pecan-Cranberry Streusel ($4-$4.50 per serving or $22-32 whole). And chocolate lovers, such as moi, also have a lot to moon over. Although the Flourless Chocolate Raspberry and Chocolate Dream Cakes ($5-6 per serving) were already gone (and this was at only 11:30 in the morning!), there was a heavenly looking little square Black Rose Cake (chocolate cake with pink white chocolate mousse filling and dark chocolate glaze - $5.50 per serving). And, just perfect for a St. Patrick's Day dessert, I spied in the display case some slices of Pandan Cake, a light, chiffon-like cake, usually coloured green with food colouring popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and China (only $2.50 serving).

Next stop: Trader Joe's!

La Tarterie
Findlay Market
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Phone: (513)288-7696
Open weekends at Findlay Market and downtown pickup on weekdays. Catering and wholesale available.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jerry Lewis receives the Legion of Honor medal!

Somehow, I thought Mr. Lewis had already gotten this award - I mean, wasn't that the little red ribbon he wore on his tux during those telethons? But, never mind. according to this Associated Press article, he brought down the house during the ceremony at the Ministry of Culture last night, just by, well, being Jerry! (Here's a really good interview in French - «Amusez-vous, bon sang!» - by Denis Rossano for L'Express.)
France formalized its fascination with Jerry Lewis Thursday with a uniquely Gallic gift for his 80th birthday: a medal and induction into the Legion of Honor.

Lewis received the honorary title of “Legion Commander” in a raucous ceremony in Paris – hamming it up for the cameras, winking, sticking out his tongue and making his trademark funny faces.

True to form, the comedian turned what is generally a sober event – set in a gilded hall of the Ministry of Culture – into a virtual slapstick routine.

Lewis, who bucked formality by wearing slippers to the ceremony, clowned around with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres – yawning, checking his watch and even pretending to fall asleep during Donnedieu's 20-minute-long speech in French.

The crowd roared at Lewis' antics, their laughter often drowning out Donnedieu's lofty words.

At one point, Lewis tried to snatch the prepared speech from the podium, but an affable Donnedieu persevered. “The longer my remarks last the better,” he told the audience, “so you can keep on enjoying Jerry Lewis' comic talents.”

When he finally took the microphone, Lewis apologized for not speaking French, but said that “even if the French people cannot hear my language, they have always heard my heart.”

He applauded the country's sense of humor, saying he believed it “took France through all those difficult years, and will take it through difficult times now because the French are not afraid to laugh.”

Ministry officials wheeled in a massive cake, and the audience sang “Happy Birthday,” delivered with a heavy French accent.

Lewis said he was flattered by his induction into the Legion of Honor, and said he had been “gloriously elevated” by the award. He was one of 37 foreigners to have received the title over the past three years.

“The French people are the best in the world,” Lewis said.

Friday, March 03, 2006


I saw this French movie tonight and have never seen anything like the audience interaction after its final credits rolled. Everyone, it seemed, had their own interpretation of what we had just watched meant. It was a puzzlement, despite all of the clues the director laid out, and one that left the viewers with no final resolution. But it certainly provoked a lot of buzz and self-reflection!

User Comments: The first image we see in 'Caché' is a house. In a pleasant suburb of Paris, the camera maintains a long take on the outside of one particular house as the opening credits roll. The camera doesn't move, it simply remains fixed on this image as cars and people pass by; and we wonder what is so special about this home that it should hold the attention for so long. Then the spell is broken, and we realise that what we're actually seeing is the content of a videotape which has been received by the inhabitants of the house; the whole cassette is filled with nothing but a single take of their home.

Understandably, this leaves Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) bemused and a little unsettled. Why on earth would somebody film the outside of their house and then deliver the tape to them? Is it some kind of threat? or just a foolish prank, perhaps perpetrated by a friend of their 12 year old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky)? The uncertainty and unease caused by this situation soon starts to create friction within the family environment, with Georges linking the matter back to a long-forgotten event from the past and Anne beginning to despair at her husband's increasingly secretive behaviour.

Austrian director Michael Haneke, one of the most consistently brilliant and challenging filmmakers of the last two decades, takes this simple premise and builds a nerve-shredding and heavily allegorical film which grabs the viewer's attention from the opening shot and refuses to relinquish its grip. Haneke plays with the notion of filmmaker as voyeur; he tackles themes such as guilt, fear, trust and responsibility (both collective and personal); he makes numerous references to the US war on terror; and he ties the whole film back to the French treatment of Algerians in the sixties. Not bad for a film which could also be described as Haneke's most accessible and purely entertaining work to date.

On its most basic level 'Caché' is a peerless psychological thriller. Haneke's control is simply masterful and he slowly ratchets up the tension with consummate skill, creating a stranglehold atmosphere of dread which grips like a vice. Haneke uses static long takes which help to develop the almost unbearable tension; and he repeatedly blurs the line between the 'real' film footage and the images captured by the voyeuristic cameraman, continually disorienting the viewer and forcing us to reassess what we've seen, or think we've seen, in every scene. This all leads to a moment so unexpected, so violent and so shocking that it resulted in one of the most incredible reactions I've ever experienced in a cinema - a collective gasp of disbelief mingled with a few screams of horror. A moment this extraordinary is the spellbinding work of a master filmmaker, and we are mere putty in his hands.

Helping to draw us into the central drama are the uniformly exceptional cast, with special praise reserved for Daniel Auteuil who delivers the finest performance of his career. Georges is a smug, bourgeois TV presenter who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and Auteuil makes us care deeply for him. His reaction to his growing torment is varied; he explodes with rage, he wallows in self-pity, he breaks down in tears, and the actor's performance remains bottomless with subtlety throughout. Juliette Binoche is generally excellent in any situation and her display here is perfectly judged, reflecting the character's anguish and sense of helplessness as her marriage slowly disintegrates around her. Lester Makedonsky is impressive as Pierrot, Annie Girardot has a delightful cameo, and Maurice Bénichou offers a superbly understated display, full of sadness and regret.

There is not a scene wasted in 'Caché', not a single moment when Haneke is not in full command of his story. The film feeds the audience information in small doses and we attempt to make the pieces fit in the same way the characters do. In the end we sense that the 'whodunnit' element of the film is irrelevant to Haneke, and many viewers will feel cheated by the film's deliberately inconclusive finale, but the director has bigger targets in his sights with 'Caché'. The allegory of the film is plain to see, best encapsulated by George's threat of "terrorise my family and you'll get it", and Haneke also uses the film to challenge the complacent self-satisfaction of the French bourgeoisie and the western world's refusal to shoulder culpability for their past wrongdoings.

Michael Haneke is a director who has developed and fine-tuned his craft over the past two decades to the point that 'Caché' feels like the purest distillation of his film-making style. Haneke closes with a shot which causes the viewer to re-evaluate everything he has just seen, which throws apart all the pieces of the puzzle you thought you had managed to fit together. 'Caché' is a stunningly clinical and intelligent film which commands the utmost attention throughout and will haunt the viewer's thoughts long after it has finished. It is a masterpiece from one of contemporary cinema's most important figures which plays on our deepest anxieties with devastating potency. For these reasons and more, it is essential viewing.

Hell's Kitchen Redux

From the Associated Press
Fox prepares new 'Hell's Kitchen'

Fox has set a premiere date for the second season of its culinary competition "Hell's Kitchen," in which another group of culinary masochists will vie for a job with renowned and hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay.

The show, in which teams of aspiring chefs compete for Ramsay's approval - and often end up wearing what they're cooking, courtesy of Ramsay - will open its second season June 12. It will hold down the same 9 pm time slot it had last summer.

In the first season, 27-year-old chef Michael outlasted 11 other competitors to win the competition and take a job working in one of Ramsay's London restaurants.

The stakes are somewhat higher this year: The winner will receive the title of executive chef at a fine-dining restaurant at the soon-to-open Red Rock Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Fox also says the winner "will be eligible" to have a financial interest in the restaurant and give input on its design.

"Hell's Kitchen" averaged a not-bad-for-summer 7.24 million viewers per week last year, ending with a high of 8.94 million for the finale. It also regularly won its time period among adults 18-49 and adults 18-34, Fox's target demographics.

...Remember My Name!

And how could we not? Hot Hot Hottie professional Latin dancer, Cheryl Burke and her former boy band partner, heart-throb Drew Lachey, winners of this year's Dancing with the Stars! Cheryl, a precociously talented choreographer at the tender age of only 21 [!], proved to be a sensitive yet hard-driving partner for Drew, as he strived to achieve more than just his "on-Broadway" status, while still awaiting the birth of his first child with his childhood sweetheart, choreographer/wife Lea.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Save a horse, ride a cowboy"

Gee, is it just me or was Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke's freestyle on Thursday night's Dancing with the Stars absolutely the hottest dance of the whole season? Cheryl, hands down, has got to be the strongest, most imaginative choreographer on the show and the rapport that she and Drew share as dance partners is undeniably palpable.

If they don't win that hideous disco mirror-ball trophy Sunday night, there is something rotten in Denmark!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How to Drink to the Wolf

From How to Cook a Wolf (1942) by M.F.K. Fisher:
A Mr. Furnas, who writes more wisely and less pompously than most other men about other men, bread and destiny in a book called Man, Bread and Destiny, discusses at some length the various prescriptons throughout the ages for love potions. He mentions all the known ones, like Spanish fly and pork-chops-with-pepper, and a great many less prevalent charms. Finally he decides, and almost with a sigh of relief, that probably the best excitant in the world is sweet music and a moderate amount of alcohol! [Just lately I heard a modern lover state his vision of pure bliss, unconscious of his parody of Omar Khayyam: "A horn of gin, a good cigar, and you, Babe!"]

When he writes so sensibly, it is hard not to say, along with the Governor of South Carolina who was talking to the Governor of North Carolina, that it's a long time between drinks, especially when there is sweet music and your love and good liquor. Then you can raise a glass to the wolf with impunity and a courage that is real, no matter how alcoholic, and know that even if you regret it tomorrow, you have been a man without qualms either amorous or budgetary tonight.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I love Dick!

American figure skating legend Dick Button has returned to the air on NBC for a final time as a commentator on the Olympics. On ice himself, since the last time ABC aired the Winter Olympics way back in 1988, it is refreshing to hear him analyze the current crop of skaters and the mystical new scoring system decreed by the IOC after the Salt Lake City pairs debacle of 2002.

The Washington Post ran an interview with Dick in the February 12 Style section (Ranking the Rink And Vice Versa, With Dick Button by Libby Copeland) that, I must admit, took me aback as much as making me laugh. Somehow my image of Mr. Button as the sophisticated man in the tuxedo offering up his skating expertise to the rest of us is quite at odds with some of his comments recounted here. On the other hand, these are somewhat more expected:
In addition to being the patriarch of figure skating analysts and a two-time gold medalist from more than half a century ago, Button, 76, may be the coolest guy here at the Winter Olympics. He is at once crass and brilliant, invoking composers Verdi and Ravel, leaping from a discussion of the golden mean to the way U.S. competitor Sasha Cohen executes her spiral -- the perfect proportion between leg and back.

...He adores painting and theater. He speaks crudely. (It's important to relax just prior to a competition, he says, and "if that takes getting laid, it takes getting laid.") He orders a sandwich without the bread and then veers toward the dessert counter, grabbing something that looks like a lemon bar and asking, "Do you want one of these disastrous things?"

...When Button is pleased, he is as generous as he can be tough. One skater is "balletic," another is "marvelous." He praises skaters who have "ice sense," who know where in the rink to place their tricks. He dismisses those who "do a long edge into the lutz and jam it into the corner." When we leave the rink, he has us stand on one leg on the sidewalk and we attempt to achieve Cohen's perfect proportion and posture. We do not.

Button is disheartened by young skaters who seem to have time only for competing, who neglect their studies, who don't understand the importance of being well-rounded. And he is saddened by what he sees as an emphasis on tricks over graceful skating. The gym where Button works out has a rink and sometimes he watches young people on the ice trying to do fancy moves.

"They don't basically know how to skate," he says. "You know, nobody's teaching them stroking. And speed. And -- see the way these people are? Now just watch a minute and I'll show you."

A couple has hit the ice to practice for the pairs competition. We watch for mistakes, but all we can see is impressive speed and elegance. Button sees something else.

"See? That's not beautiful. That's just cut-cut-back. You have to be kind to the ice. You have to caress the ice . . . Skating is all about flow, edging, the beauty of the motion."

He pans their "dinky steps," their "forced" bows. He sees the performance the way a hunter catches sight of animal tracks in the forest. The rest of us see only the trees.