Ever since 4 billion years ago when our earliest protozoan ancestor slouched the earth looking for highly excited electrons to cut down a few quantums, energy has been an important part of life on earth. Here are some highlights:

10,000 BC: Humans develop agriculture, thus providing the first form of regular and reliable base-load generation. No longer do men need to wait for a half-eaten carcass to show up at the cave in order to have a good meal.

4,000 BC: Draught animals are domesticated, thus allowing humans to utilize energy stored in grass and other such indigestible sources.

2,251 BC: The Great Pyramid of Giza is built with nothing else but the energy of human brawn. Egyptian seers laugh at the ineptitude of Boston’s Big Dig.

500 AD: Bedouin nomads in the Middle East begin raising camels in arid zones and selling them as draught animals, thereby effecting a useful transfer of energy from arid zones to population centers. Meanwhile in Europe, where population density is too high to maintain draught animals, people develop windmills and waterwheels for additional energy.

1698 AD: Thomas Savery invents the steam engine, causing dinosaurs to turn in their graves. They are later exhumed.

2004 AD: 6,000 years of draught-animal utility are rolled back as Jamba Juice begins feeding its customers wheat grass.

2009 AD: Federal subsidies in the United States lead to a wave of wind and solar energy developments, with the apparent goal of returning us to an intermittent-energy society. Pre-historic farmers wonder why they ever bothered to invent agriculture.

2010 AD: A post about energy appears on “Yesterday’s Salad”, introducing a new level of reductionist absurdity to the blog’s miscellany.

This is a short follow-up to yesterday’s post.

“4 films by Bogdanovich is easy,” says the email, “Try someone harder.” Ok, here goes your Director-Digest #2: Woody Allen

  • 1 Recognized Masterpiece: “Manhattan” (1979)
  • 1 Very Early Film: “Sleeper” (1973)
  • 1 Late and Popular Film: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008)
  • 1 Film X: “Interiors” (1978)

This list wasn’t very hard to come up with, and is, in my mind, an excellent crash course in things Woody.

But, for anyone who wants to know how I came up with it, explanation after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Don Delillo is one of the best writers of the second half of the 20th century. So it’s a little disconcerting that the jacket for his new book looks like a still from those American Express smiley-face/frowny-face commercials:

I’m really hoping that this is an Underworld allusion that’s escaping me at the moment.

Mr. Pickle’s last post on bar construction got me thinking about film spectatorship and how we collect media. For most of us, going to the theater is hardly the predominate form of movie watching. Movies are more often a homebound, domestic activity; in the 1980s there was even a genre of film criticism devoted to random TV viewings of classic movies. (See, Geoffrey Hartman on North by Northwest). 3D films like “Avatar” are designed to heighten the public spectacle and bring back the communal aspects of film-going, but the other major developments in film technology (digital film, digital distribution, iPod videos) are all designed to further miniaturize the viewing experience, putting more movies in your home or pocket. DVD collecting never actually made much sense as an activity; with very few exceptions, these were mass produced, easily acquired. But in an era of increased on-demand, Netflix streaming, Surfthechannel, and puppet show re-enactments (Ok, I made that up; but just imagine trying to recreate “Being John Malkovich!” Would you need to cast people as the marionettes? What layers of meaning and textuality!), it makes even less sense than it did before.

And yet, there is a strong limiting factor in acquiring media: time. The standard completist model of watching everything by a given director, or every movie on the AFI top-100 list, or every movie ever nominated for best picture and best director (who would do such a thing? oh wait…) is a commitment that most of us can’t make. Watching movies conflicts with other parts of domestic life and causes domestic conflicts. Shall I write thank you notes, or focus on the nuances of Renoir? Improve my meatloaf recipe, or discover the hidden aesthetic of Michael Bay? Better: McG. We need a system for generating viewing lists. Think “Man and Fish,” Mr. Pickle tells us.

So let’s say that you want to catch up on the work of a given director. You need a way to catch only the fish. Last week the Brattle did a one day program on Robert Altman. They aired two movies unavailable on DVD (“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”; “Brewster McCloud”), one cult classic (“The Long Goodbye”), and one widely recognized masterpiece (“The Player”). Coming from different time periods, it’s a pretty fair sampling of Altman’s work. Is it missing his magnum opus? Yes, but that makes it all the more interesting. This is a workable template for a director digest–minus the films not on DVD, of course.

Let’s try this with another director. Read the rest of this entry »

I am currently in the middle of a very confusing relationship.

The love and affection I receive from this person is constant and without fail. No matter how gloomy the weather or mood, no matter how shitty the day, this person is always able to offer me love. This person’s love is a beacon, pulsing in regular intervals throughout the night. This love calls out to drifting ships and low flying planes, to the city’s quick steppers and stragglers alike. This love is timed to the heart beat.

“I Love You! I Love You! Allelujah!”

The tall, skinny man shuffle-strides down Broadway, right hand raised, poised, holding a Book. His eyes face forward, unyielding. In many ways, this man embodies the opposite of How One Should Be in New York.

My small three bedroom apartment is off of Broadway, and I chance into this man, this erstwhile lover, with frequency. And when I do, I am struck by the most conflicted feelings imaginable.

At first, I am delighted by this selfless man, walking day in day out, proffering the love of his heart to each and every one of us, to complete strangers. What could he expect to receive in kind from us? Agape, altruism, pure love.

Immediately following a bite from this love bug, my heart makes a whiplash turn. The unceasing love call pounds into my ears like a drum. I want to shake him to make him stop! I want to do something nasty and demand love in return. He doesn’t know me! What sort of love is unqualified? What sort of love is untainted by circumstance? How can that be love at all? Who is he serving when he says he loves me?

Am I jealous that his love is not personal? Am I jealous that I have to share him with everyone else on Broadway?

I don’t think so.

I am angry at the Love Man. Love is not an idea; it’s not even an emotion. Love is a balm, a cool kiss on abraded skin. Love is whispered right into your ear; it tickles the cochlea and stirrup. Love is an arrow piercing your chest.

Love does not shout down the walls of your heart. Love is not one-size-fits-all.

One day, I want to stop this man in the street and ask him who I am, ask him what I need, ask him how I must be loved.

Your Bar and You

January 27, 2010

Every tee-partialing household has, or should have, a bar. Yours probably does, if we take “bar” to mean a stock of liquor that exists on a “going concern” basis (as opposed to one-off stocks for large parties). But your bar isn’t much, is it? You don’t feel any special sense of proprietorship over it. It doesn’t say anything about who you are or what type of social space your apartment is. But sometimes, after you’ve visited my bar, you wish it did. How can you make that happen? You’ve tried wandering the aisles of the liquor store, but it’s all so bewildering, and you end up spending more money than you wanted to on a haphazard selection that sends you reproving vibes as it sits unconsumed on your shelf, like some stray animal “adopted” by an enthusiastic but irresponsible child. Is there nothing to be done?

The key to building a great bar is the same as it is for any collection, be it of books, movies, autographs, or whatever. You must define the collection’s domain, and you must do so according to (1) your interests, and (2) your budget. A paleoichthyologist friend of mine once won a book-collecting contest with his collection “Man and Fish.” Of course it had Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, but it also had fishing manuals, treatises on the importance of fishery to American culture, and suchlike. The collection wasn’t worth very much money (I’d guess a few hundred dollars), and most of the books were, if not common, then not particularly rare. Nonetheless it was a remarkable collection. Beholding it, one’s sense of the importance of fish to man was immediately expanded, not indefinitely into vaporous musings, but along the lines that my friend’s own wholehearted engagement with the man/fish question suggested. The collection was an appendage of his personality, an expression of his identity in a new medium. Of course collectors with deep pockets might build much more comprehensive collections, perhaps about about man and the sea in general, but that was beyond my friend’s personal interests anyhow. When you start thinking about building your bar, think “Man and Fish.”

Now, how can we translate the “Man and Fish” principle to liquor collecting? The place to begin is with your interests. What are your favorite cocktails? What are the cocktails you are so attached to that you shake your head ruefully when you discover that a friend doesn’t like them? Those cocktails will form the nucleus of your bar. Let’s say that you love the Manhattan. Start by buying one to three bottles of the main spirit, which can be either rye or bourbon. (I highly recommend Rittenhouse rye, which sells for about $17/750ml and is the best rye I’ve ever had). Next you’ll need some sweet (red) vermouth. Vermouth is a very misunderstood drink: many bars feature a large bottle of Martini and Rossi that sits out for years and years, being slowly depleted. But since you love the Manhattan, you’ll do some research and discover two things: (1) there are brands of vermouth that taste much better than the ubiquitous Martini and Rossi (try Noilly Prat), and (2) vermouth should be refrigerated and consumed within a few months. Finally, you will need some angostura bitters, which is a no-brainer since there’s only one brand. And of course you’ll need a metal shaker, a strainer, and some glassware, but that sort of goes without saying. Now, already, you’re at the point where your friends will say, “Daaamn! Now I know where to go if I want a top-notch Manhattan! Party at YOUR house!” Read the rest of this entry »