Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24

Shocked to see the total lack of response to the excellent Tinie Tempeh video I put up Thursday.  I've been reciting his rhymes to myself all weekend.  My wife even compared him (favorably) to The Streets--favorably!  (She prefaced that by saying--correctly--that I probably wouldn't agree.)  But his rhymes are clever and fun and his general attitude towards life is festive and upbeat, in a knowing ironic way.  So I can relate.

Have to fly to [Southern City] this weekend for a semi-expected funeral.  My grandmother was 102 years old; she'd lived a long and happy life.  In recent years her medical problems had made it harder and harder to do the things she most enjoyed--working in her garden and walking in her neighborhood.  So, all in all, it was probably as optimal a death as one could have.  If I were speaking at the funeral, I think I'd talk about wisdom.  We'd like to hope that as we get older, we all get wiser.  In reality, though, I'm not sure that's the case.  So the trick for those of us who are still relatively young, who are still aspiring to acquire wisdom from our elders, is to work out who actually possesses wisdom and who only thinks they do.  And there's no surefire way to do this.  But, one reliable signpost, I think, to indicate a person who may actually may be wise is that they still have a capacity for joy.  As most people age, they tend (in general) to become less joyous.  This is understandable; in some basic way life is suffering--the more we live, the more we suffer.  So joy becomes, with age, more difficult.  The ability to feel and express joy despite advancing age is one of the surest signs I know that the person aging has somehow gotten wisdom--and is someone therefore we should seek to learn from.

Of course, joyousness despite advancing age can often make a person seem foolish.  Think of Falstaff: the greatest fool--and sage--in all of Shakespeare.  His foolishness is one with his wisdom; two sides of the same coin.  My grandmother, who retained a capacity for joy well into her late nineties, could also in her way seem foolish.  Her entire philosophy of life could be accurately reduced to: growing tomatoes is a lot of fun.  But in the time I spent with her (when I lived in Houston I used to visit her every week) I always came away feeling like she actually did know what she was talking about--that she actually had wisdom.  She was alone in a house with just her maids; her husband had died more than twenty years ago, and yet despite it all she was still--in general--remarkably happy.

I hope our visits together allowed me to gain from some of her wisdom.  At the very least I hope I can emulate her spirit of joyfulness.  Those readers who attended my wedding (which I think is pretty much all of you) might remember the speech she gave before dinner about our relationship.  In its details, it was almost entirely inaccurate.   But in its underlying insight, it was completely true.  It may have been the best speech of my whole wedding.  Now the speaker is no more.  But the words, I hope, in some way will endure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Call me chauvinistic but she can't even spell it

Tinie Tempah--what I'm listening to now. Here he's featured with Chase & Status, but he's the attraction. Get his album, Disc-overy  for lyrics like this:

papz (paparazzi) see me up in the vicinity and flash me
i'm the definition of definitive and catchy
the only thing that's bigger, quicker, slicker
more black and more upper london is a taxi

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weekend Report

The Parents were in town this weekend which gave me an opportunity to do some of the LA things that tourists usually do.  After four years here, I still hadn't been to the Getty Museum (which I pass daily driving to tutor).  We cooked for them one night and went out the others.  Their experience was a bit desultory I think--the freeways were even more clogged than usual and their hotel proved to be a major disappointment.  But it was nice that they came.  Exhausting, but nice.

I saw two new movies last week.  One was In The Loop.  A dark comedy about the political machinations that lead up to the US/UK declaration of war on Iraq, In The Loop is the only movie I can ever remember Netflix recommending to me with four stars (when they do the thing about "What YOUR Rating Will Be.")  I had high expectations, therefore, and I have to say they weren't really met.  Every character in the movie is deceitful or cowardly or manipulative or...base.  It's supposed to be funny, but I found its cynicism so excessive that I couldn't care about the comedy.  A fantastic cast with great performances (James Gandolfini as a coarse US General was particularly good) but the movie itself did not equal the sum of its parts.

My other recent viewing featured a corp of Scottish Bagpipers and Alec Guinness.  Therefore, you would assume that it had to be great.  And, indeed, Tunes of Glory did not disappoint.  Well, okay, it disappointed a little (the ending maybe didn't work perfectly).  But mostly, Tunes Of Glory gets an unequivocal "Yes" from the ANCIANT reviewing team.  Guinness is the movie's center, of course; he plays a rough and ready, hard drinking Scottish soldier who's been assigned the command of a military outpost in the Scottish highlands.  The plot involves his growing conflicts with a by-the-book commanding officer who's brought in to replace him, but the plot is less the draw than the performances.  Also, the bagpipes.  There are a LOT of bagpipes.  Plus, a lot of people drinking Scotch and using words like "lassie" non ironically.  It's a good time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Big Meal in NYC

After years of writing restaurant reviews for the New York Times, critic Sam Sifton announced that in his farewell column he would select the single "Best Restaurant" in New York.  To nobody's surprise, he chose Thomas Keller's Per Se.  The wife and I (who are heading to The Big Kiwi in a month) have already considered having a blowout meal at Keller's world-renowned foodie Mecca, but the cost and time commitment made us waver.  The article doesn't really change my opinion; although part of me thinks this would be a fascinating, perhaps sublime, experience, I also question how any one meal can be worth close to 1000$ (the price of a nine-course dinner for two with full tasting menu and drink pairings is slightly less than that, but not much).

Luckily, in another 'farewell' column Sifton also ranked all the restaurants he's ever  reviewed in New York.  There, again, the list of places awarded three and four stars is predictable: Daniel, Jean-Georges, Del Posto, Ai Fiori, etc.  Still, worth looking over for those interested in American fine dining.

Right now I'm leaning towards Eleven Madison Park for one (possibly our only) big blow-out New York foodie dinner.  Although Per Se still has a dark fascination...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Post With More Home Life In It

Yesterday, while I was working on a scheduling issue with one of my students, she said that maybe we shouldn't meet late in the afternoon on Friday, "because you might want to have Date Night with your wife."  I don't know where it came from; it's not as if I ever talk to this girl about my wife, or about Date Night.  (Also the meeting in question was going to start at 4:30, which has little chance of interfering with Date Night around the ANCIANT household).

Then, later the same night--on a Date with the wife--I was told that my blog has not featured enough family stuff of late.  There's been no Bink.  There's been no wife.  That's no good, the wife said.  My readership wants family life!

So, here's some snippets of family life--centering around Date Night no less--to appease the quiet majority my wife thinks is out there.

-We went to a new Italian restaurant.  The food was above average, the ambience was great.  The service was terrible.  But they had forty dollar Barolos, which is pretty great and pretty rare.  The wine alone made it worth the price of admission.  Barolo--the grape of the gods.  Reminds me of my friend Cold Bacon, who sent me a great email yesterday.  But that's not apposite.

-Discussion Topic At Dinner (Main): my wife's research.  She has about nine different projects at various stages of completion right now, and I need constantly to be reminded of what they are and what they aim to do.  Her most exciting project is...

-The Illumaniti.  The wife has been invited to a National meeting of higher-ups within her work universe. They are going to meet at a retreat somewhere near DC and decide the future of the planet.  The price of Zinc. Who'll win the next Presidential election.  Stuff like that.  So, if you have any hopes for the future, submit them now.  It's all about to be decided.

-At the end of the date, when we returned to the Eager Dog Locale (aka our house) I let my wife suggest some appropriately romantic music.  Her choice?  Rumours. (!?)  Don't get me wrong: I LOVE LOVE LOVE Rumours, but....I don't know.  The album is a chronicle of two different marriages dissolving.  It has Stevie Nicks singing things like "if you don't love me now, you will never love me again."  Yes, it's Stevie Nicks, which is an absolute good.  But I had to question the mood of the thing.   ("Chains...keep us together" I quoted to my wife.  To which she said, defiantly, "that's right.  I am your chain."  Which, while true, doesn't necessarily awaken thoughts of love in me.  Or anyone.)

Anyway, it was all moot in the end because I don't have Rumours on my iPod (inexcusable, I admit).  So she got a second choice, and with it she picked....Led Zeppelin. (!!!)  And there was much rejoicing!  We watched a long documentary about Robert Plant when we were in London last year.  I think that, combined with It Might Get Loud (which we also saw recently) has finally allowed my wife to put aside her high-school associations with Led Zeppelin (i.e. geeky boys and Rush) and listen to them on their own terms.  Doing so, she has realized--like all right-thinking people must--that they are fricking awesome.  (One of the few bands from my youth that I actually seem to like MORE, the older I get.)

So anyway, I got to listen to Robert Plant singing about ringwraiths last night, during a date.  Now THAT is romance.  Yes it is.

Oh, and here is some Bink.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Current Input(s)

What I'm Listening To:

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
by David Byrne and Brian Eno (2008)

One of my favorite recent purchases, and for sure of David Byrne's best non-Talking Heads albums.  An album about aging that is not maudlin or self-pitying and that actually rocks.  Grown up music that's still invigorating.  Three and a half stars.  (Out of five)

What I'm Reading

Dead Souls
by Nikolai Gogol

I keep intending to stop reading this book but then I keep reading.  I think that says something about its hidden depths.  Either that or my hidden persistence.  It has no real story, instead the author just follows around a would-be entrepeneur as he meets and talks to various members of Russian society.  It fees like a documentary, or a piece of New Journalism a hundred years avant la lettre.  Except it's not--it's a novel.  One that I never look forward to reading, but always think about with interest when I'm done.  Three stars.

What I'm Watching

Samurai Assassin
by Kihachi Okamato

Decent but uninspring.  A displaced ronin joins a conspiracy to murder an important samurai daimyo.  He is compelled to make increasingly difficult and painful sacrifices in order to help the conspirators until ultimately he leans (too late) that the daimyo he has plotted to kill is in fact his own father.  Two and a half stars.