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Monthly Archives: January 2010

As many of you may know, we are moving from Edgewater, NJ to Neuchâtel, CH. The movers are coming this week. Every thing is being packed for shipping. The chaos has been overwhelming.  We will be living in a hotel and out of our suitcases for about two months (until we find a new home).  The picture above is a view from our balcony which was taken around Christmas 2009.

We will be offline for about a week or so.   Do come back to check where our adventure is taking us.

You can use the Tags or Category Cloud to find related posts (links located at the bottom of the page and not under the title of the post). Here are some interesting series of posts in case you missed them:

vacation food porn series (now up to #21), e.g.,  #1-4 recap.

NYC food porn series (Telepan, DBGB), e.g.,  Telepan #1-5.

Our Mexican trip (maps and links):  Maps – Playa del Carmen.

Most serene place visited (with video):  Driving in Iceland.

I ♥ NY – High Line series: e.g., Star architecture.

Cheers.

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One of my first posts on this blog is about the public demonstration of cutting up a 680-pound bluefin tuna at Mitsuwa supermarket.  It was posted here two months ago.  Amy, Jason, Sue and I went to Mitsuwa, and I took pictures and videos of the demonstration.  According to blog statistics, there are a lot of lingering interests in those photos.  Well, to keep my audiences happy, here is a video which I took at the time, and below was our lunch on that day.  It was the freshest sashimi I have had, and it was even better than what we had at the Tsukiji fish market (築地市場) in Tokyo.

Here is another anime made for LV by Takashi Murakami.  My earlier post about his anime and LV is here: Super Flat First Love.

This one shows one of TM’s cute character (a bamboo-chewing LV panda ?) swallowing a young Japanese girl whole and transporting her to a world of dancing LV monograms.  It graphically shows how LV wants to indoctrinate a whole generation of future customers.  The programming is relentless. Luxury has no physical meaning anymore, it has become carefully-packaged, manufactured symbols.

The accompanying music is by Fantastic Plastic Machine – a Japanese band that I like.  Pictures below were taken at TM’s exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum in 2008.

 

If exotic sculpture is not your cup of tea, Louis Vuitton created this window-display in New York City which is based on a Solari information panel.

 

Too tired to write.  Knee deep in stuff.  Turning home upside to get ready for the movers.

Here is something catchy to look at.

I finished reading “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson (first published 2003) – thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended. It is less sci-fi furturistic than his early works. The story revolves around a quest to find the maker of a series of enigmatic online videos that rocked a certain corner of the cyberspace inhabited by otakus, industrial spies, and culture vultures.  The action moved from places like London to Tokyo, etc., accompanied by vivid description of each locale.  I used to frequent the Camden Town area of London where the story started.  Because the story takes place in the present, it is more accessible.
While his writing style takes some getting used to, there are lots of little gems, like his description of jet-lag (mentioned in an earlier post here), and this one about tabloid publications.

The tabloid doesn’t go down any better, seemingly composed in equal measure of shame and rage, as though some inflamed national subtext were being ritually, painfully massaged, for whatever temporary and paradoxical relief this might afford.

I am going to start on his latest book – Spook Country.

Canon Powershot S90

All my pictures on this blog up to this point were taken by a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3.  Its 28mm lens with true panoramic aspect ratio, and 10x optical zoom (up to 280mm) are rare for a point-and-shoot camera.  Here is a review of the Lumix TZ3.

I bought the camera in 2007 and used it for photos and videos on my trips to Brazil, Hawaii, Shanghai, Iceland, and most recently Mexico.  It was also used in almost all social functions, birthdays, new years, etc.  My other camera, a Canon 10D DSLR is so dated and is seldom used these days.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

Being heavily used, the Lumix has been subjected to (unintentionally, of course) quite a bit of abuse – it had been dropped on the street and onto hard ice on a glacier, and sprayed to dripping wet when I used it behind a waterfall.  The glass protecting the LCD screen has little cracks and the metal back is scratched. But it is solidly built and it still works perfectly, so I have no plans to replace it.  I was prompted to buy a new camera now because of the higher price of camera in Europe relative to the US – almost the same numerical price except in Euro.

The pictures of the Lumix TZ3 above were taken by my new camera – a Canon Powershot S90.   While I am perfectly happy to buy another Lumix, such as the LX3, there are several things I liked about the S90.  It has a 28mm, 3.8x zoom (up to 105mm), F2.0 fast wide angle lens and is really inconspicuously small.  Although it looks like a point-and-shoot, as the Chinese call these small cameras 傻瓜機 – (literally translated as “silly melon machine”, meaning idiot-proof camera), the S90 can actually be operated by complete manual controls, beside being fully automatic.  It has a control rings on the front which is programmable for adjusting exposure, ISO, white balance, etc.  The turning of the control ring is reminiscent of the controls on the lens barrel of a SLR camera.  The camera is truly pocketable and yet provides fine creative control.  In addition to JPEG files, it outputs RAW image files which are more amenable to retouching.  A detailed review of the S90 can be found here: Canon S90.

I also looked into the micro four-thirds format – was really tempted by the Lumix GF1.  Being a first generation product, it probably has design bugs.  And it is rather expensive and still a bit bulky.  I will eventually buy one as a DSLR substitute.

I intend to carry the S90 with me everywhere, especially for people pictures in restaurants at night.  The Lumix will be reserved for daytime excursions.

I resigned on the last Monday of 2009, which was the start of the last work week in the first decade of the 21st century.

It felt good.  Thought about this song by Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats.

I had this metal dice sitting on my desk for a long time.  Each of the six sides is inscribed with a suggested action: FILING, GYM, SNOOZE, GOLF, COFFEE BREAK and RESIGN.

Finally, I got to flip the RESIGN side up, and acted on it.

This video of Manhattan cityscape created by time-lapse photography (I presumed) is fantastic – movement of the crescent-shaped moon, pulsing street traffic, the smoke, airplanes landing and taking off, and the sunrise.  I believe the view is that of upper Manhattan and the Bronx with La Guardia Airport at the back.

But before you view the video, start this song –  Water From a Vine Leaf by William Orbit as a soundtrack (click link to open new window, click play under ezt NYC Time Lapse Video soundtrack).  After the music starts, return to this window, begin playback of the video and switch to full screen (click button in window on bottom right).

Play it several times on full screen and you will notice something new each time.  The lights in some of the buildings go on and off throughout the night.  Can you spot the darkened room with a flickering TV which stayed on until about half time (look near the middle of the screen) ?

[flickr video=http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaddles/4274448491]

Wednesday was a bad day.

Sue and I drove into the city during the day on a weekday (against our better judgement).   We had to get our visa from the Swiss consular office on 3rd Avenue and East 41st street. We parked in a garage on the east side which cost $28 for under 2 hours.  Apparently, it must be quite a reasonable rate for midtown Manhattan.  Because when we returned, the garage was choked full with cars.  The two attendants had to move almost ten cars, including one that was parked inside the elevator, out onto the street and the sidewalk.  It took them almost 15 minutes to retrieve our car which was parked underground.

Then we went downtown so that Sue can exchange a shirt.  All the streets in Soho are signposted: “No Standing except Loading or Unloading on Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm”.  Since we were not shopping, we decided that there was no need to park the car.  I could stay in the car while Sue run into the shop.  We were near the intersection of Broadway and Prince Street, more or less outside Dean & DeLuca.  Traffic cops usually drive around in those golf cart-like buggy and wave the drivers to move along.  So I was on the lookout for them in front and in my mirrors.  There were lots of people out on the street at lunch time, though not as crazy as a weekend.  Seen in the side mirror, a guy was selling “Obama Condoms” on the street corner.

“Excuse me, can I see your driver’s license ?” –  a female traffic cop appeared at my window out of nowhere.  It was a cold day, she was all bundled up in dark blue.  I could barely see her badge.  I rolled down my window and pleaded, “Can I just leave now ?”.  She replied “May I have your license ?”.  I begged one more time.  She repeated the same request without any emotion.  What can I do but to hand my license over to her.  She punched my details into a handheld device and printed some money for NYC.  According to the Notice of Parking Violation that she dispensed to me, I was fined $95.

A few minutes later, Sue came back to the car and found me, reading the fine print and learning the various ways to pay the fine: mail, internet, phone and in person.  Punishment can be so convenient.  I guess it would save me time and might even lessen the pain – after all, time is priceless, right ?

“Let’s go home.”

“But, … how come the car is not starting?”  As I turned the ignition key, the car just made clicking noise and all the dashboard lights came on and then went off.  XM radio and GPS navigation were also offline.  We tried a few more times without success and realized the battery was drained.   It had never happened in this car before.  We were stranded in front of a hydrant in a No Standing zone on Broadway !  The Soho lunch crowd was thinning, and a couple of ladies were loading their bulging Prada shopping bags into their black limo which was waiting behind us.  A Brinks armored truck was parked on the other side of the street, while several armed guards were delivering/picking up cash.  Several regular cops walked by without paying us any attention.  We thought, if the day could get worse, we could be caught in the middle of a gun battle between the guards and armed robbers.  That did not happen.  But, the traffic cop might come back and write us another ticket.  Perhaps, we could tell her that the car would not start.  I wished I tried to start the car while she was asking me for the license, then at least I could use waiting for assistance as an excuse.

We needed help.  Because of our impending move, Sue did not renew her AAA membership which expired last month.   We cannot call them.  Murphy’s law – we never required their service in the last 5 years until yesterday.  Since this car had never developed any problem, we have no experience with Acura’s roadside assistance program.  It turned out to be easy, and the person on the phone was calm and reassuring.  I guess the person must have dealt with many people who were stranded in the middle of nowhere in bad weather at night.  “Pop-A-Lock” with a 718 area code was assigned the task – estimated time of arrival was 45 minutes.  I thought, with that wait time, the traffic cop was surely going to get us again.  Our assistance was coming from Queens or Brooklyn, having to brave bridge or tunnel traffic, to rescue us in downtown Manhattan.  Are there any car mechanic in Manhattan ?

Thankfully, the battery in my cell phone was freshly charged as they called back several times to assure us that help was on the way.  We missed lunch – a hot dog stand was situated right in front of us – but we had no appetite anyway.   They called – the ETA was pushed back by 10 minutes, but the guy finally came; the traffic cop did not.  He was a locksmith but contracted by Acura to jump start cars.  His cables connected our cars for 3 minutes and the Acura started right away.   We got home around 5 pm without any incident.  What a day !

The bad day was not completely bad.  We were not charged by Acura as the cost of jump starting was below the $100 limit above which we would have to pay.  The car has been fine since.  I drove it out to do errands yesterday and today with frequent starts and stops.

I am treating the parking ticket as a souvenir from the big apple.  Been there, done that, got caught.  – C

Shortly before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government made an attempt to improve the translation of Chinese menu by publishing guidelines and samples.  I have to track that down as it would be quite a fun notice to read.   Finding and deciphering these hilarious English menu is now a sport.  The following is an excerpt from a light-hearted article on Chinese food culture written by Fuchsia Dunlop.  I blogged about one of her books in an earlier post: “gristly, slithery, slimy, squelchy, crunchy, gloopy”


Terrible mistakes on Chinese restaurant menus provoke the mirth of foreigners all over the world. Who could forget being offered “burnt lion’s head” for dinner? A quick internet search brings up reports of such delicacies as “benumbed hot Huang fries belly silk” and “the fragrance explodes the cowboy bone”. My own personal favourite is actually from the chic pink-and-white packaging of a biscuit whose name was translated as “iron flooring cremation” (a one-by-one literal translation of the characters tie ban shao, which should have read “baked on an iron griddle”).


Burnt lion’s head is actually sauteed giant meatballs in a brown sauce.

As a matter of fact, the “fragrance explodes the cowboy bone” is one of my favorite dish. It is really veal rib chops stir-fried in very high heat with scallion and a brown sauce.  Sorry, I cannot find a picture of it online but this packaged brown sauce for Cantonese stir-fry could probably be used to make the dish.

For the full article that explains “chicken without sexual life”, “husband and wife’s lung slices”, and many others, goto:   FT.com / Food & Drink – Unsavoury characters.

This is part 6 and the end of the High Line: I ♥ NY series. Links to earlier posts: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

As seen in photos posted earlier, the sunset was beautiful but it got completely dark by around 5:30 – 6pm.  Some of the rooms of the Standard Hotel had their lights on and the hotel looked like a massive pixelated icon in the sky.  Through the window of a room near the top, I saw someone jumping and bouncing up and down on what must be a bed.  At that time, the High Line was navigable only by certain strategically-placed illumination providing pools of cool white light.  The park and its surroundings took on a mysterious, organic and yet hi-tech, alien atmosphere.

By 6pm, the park had gotten much colder than the afternoon, and most people had left.  My camera battery was running low because of the frigid temperature and it had to be warmed up periodically in my pocket.  Here are the last few pictures before my camera gave in as we were lured towards the bright lights and warmth of the shops below the park.  We ended the day dining on the famous burgers at the Corner Bistro – another NYC destination.


This is Part 5 of  High Line: I ♥ NY.  Here are links to Part 1, Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

A segment of the High Line runs through the Chelsea Market complex which was a Nabisco factory (maker of Oreo cookies).  At this point, the park is a space lit by purple-blue lighting, and under the high ceiling is a scattering of chairs and cafe tables.  They ought to hold outdoor DJ parties here during the summer.  It can become one of the seasonal sights of NYC  like PS1 Warm Up! during July and August, or ice-skating in Bryant Park during Christmas.

The Chelsea Market buildings now house the Food Network studios, many food stores, and two Iron Chef-owned restaurants (Morimoto by Masaharu Morimoto and Del Posto by Mario Batali).  I made my first Tom Yum Koong soup from a kit bought from a Thai food wholesaler here (the kit contains a recipe, spice paste, fresh chili, galangal and kaffir lime leaves).  Hale & Hearty makes all their soups here (a chain of soup stores that is extremely popular for lunch in midtown Manhattan; I was a regular until my office moved).  “202” is a lively cafe/brasserie with tables mingling with racks of Nicole Farhi’s clothes (reminded me of London).  We had brunch here with Thad a while back just before he moved to San Francisco.

The last time I went to the market, they had a couple of stores selling highly decorated cupcakes – a kind of designer takeout fun food.  Here are some pictures of cupcakes from one of the stores (Is that I “hug” NY ?) :

This is Part 4 of High Line: I ♥ NY – my series on the many reasons why we love NYC.  Here are links to Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

We went to High Line on Boxing Day late afternoon.  Entering the park from its south entrance on Gansevoort Street, we walked north to the end of Section 1 near 20th Street.  As you can see, Section 2 extending northward up to the streets in the 30’s, is still under construction.  By the time we started walking back, it was dusk already and the crowd was thinning out.  I was thinking about this song by Groove Armada when selecting the pictures for this post – think of it as a soundtrack.

From a photographer’s point of view, some of the best times to take pictures, especially portraits (think Sports Illustrated swimsuit models) is in the afternoon when the sun is setting.  But it is a race against time.  Personally, I like the colors of photos taken when the indoor lights are just turned on while there is some residual natural light in the background.  This type of pictures is technically challenging and requires a fast lens, and sensitive sensor.  The following are a few of my weak attempts using a point-and-shoot:




DBGB’s menu is primarily designed around small plates for sharing.  The section labeled “Links, Bangers, Saucisses & Wieners” features, you guessed it, sausages from around the world, but even from countries that do not make sausages, e.g. “Thai”, which contains green papaya, basil fried rice, chili sauce, quail eggs.  Another section of the menu is labeled “Tête Aux Pieds” which included tripe, pig feet, veal tongue and bone marrow.  They also serve entrees (nothing exciting) and burgers (apparently quite popular).  They also stocked many beers by local microbreweries, tastily described in language usually reserved for fine wines.  Hence, beer mat, shown above.

We had Veal tongue sauce gribiche in egg dressing, fingerling potatoes (no picture) and the following, all of which were good:
#1:  HAMACHI & YELLOWFIN TUNA – finger lime, citrus-vodka gelée, blood orange, heart of palm

ESCARGOTS – persillade custard (think dirty green creme brulée, taste ok), tomato, almonds & mushrooms, it also came with a piece of baked pastry which looked like a cage that sat on top.  Not garlicky.


TUNISIENNE – lamb & mint merguez on a bun with mint yogurt, cucumber & red onion – I think someone should start selling this item on lunch carts around town, it would be a hit.

BEEF BONE MARROW with katz’s pastrami, watercress, pickled mustard seed, rye bread toast

GÂTEAU RUSSE AUX CHATAIGNES – chestnut mousse & black currants (the yellow-orangey smudge is actually a gold flake)

After a day of bargain hunting in downtown Manhattan, IT and I decided to crash DBGB Kitchen and Bar on Bowery (photo above by DBGB).  This new restaurant by Daniel Boulud took the space of CBGB (Country, BlueGrass, Blues) which had a long history in the music scene of NYC.  In its heydays, The Ramones, Blondie, and many punk rock luminaries played there. CBGB hosted the first American gigs by The Police in 1978.  The club’s awning also says OMFUG, sounds dirty, doesn’t it ? (see photo below from CBGB‘s Wikipedia entry).  According to the founder Hilly Kristal, OMFUG stands for Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers; and a gormandizer is a voracious eater of, in this case, music.  I knew about the place but never attended any concerts there.

It was a saturday night.  The restaurant was packed.  Without a reservation, we managed to snatch a table in the bar area (the table was for 4, but had we got a table for 2, it would have been too small to hold what we ordered).  The main dining room is surrounded by shelves of kitchenwares (some used by world famous chefs like Alain Doucasse and local heros – David Chang), and behind the shelves are open kitchen spaces and a fresh seafood serving station heaped with ice.  The bar area is surrounded by a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors on which are written today’s specials or etched with culinary quotes by famous people.  I copied a few of the quotes here:

Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.  – Luis Buñuel

It was quite a challenge to make people eat crab ice cream. – Heston Blumenthal

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf

To still be in business after 400 years of celibacy, you know that the Trappists must make damn good beer.  – Patrick Allen

Cooking should be a carefully balanced reflection of all the good things on earth.  – Jean et Pierre Troisgros

Ham and eggs – a day’s work for a chicken, a life time commitment for a pig. – Anonymous

Pictures of our food will be posted tomorrow.

This is Part 3 of 5 of High Line: I ♥ NY.  Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

I was looking forward to the opening of the High Line, and even recommended out-of-town friends to visit it.  But somehow I managed not to go until last week.  My punishment was that all the vegetation that grew naturally between the tracks appeared in their least vibrant, hibernating forms.  I guess I will have to come back to NYC in the summer !

In the park, the railway theme is cleverly expressed in the design details of many of its fixtures.   For example, the elevation view of the park benches and the drinking fountain suggest graphically branching railway lines at a terminal.  The lounge seats are in segments and can roll along tracks, like train carriages.

These pictures show the vegetation, old train tracks, and architectural fixtures in the park.

This is Part 2 of High Line: I ♥ NY.  Yesterday’s post is here.

Looking westward, the High Line offers direct view of Hudson River and New Jersey.  The view is interrupted by a few old factory buildings to which the elevated railway was connected, and new office and residential buildings designed by star architects. In the photo, a lighted seating area of the park (dark rectangular frames with lights on top) can be seen in front of the buildings.

The High Line provides a view of the south side of the IAC building by Frank Gehry.  The NY Times reviewed the building in 2007:

Glimpsed between Chelsea’s weathered brick buildings, its strangely chiseled forms reflect the surrounding sky, so that its surfaces can seem to be dissolving. As you circle to the north, however, its forms become more symmetrical and sharp-edged, evoking rows of overlapping sails or knifelike pleats. Viewed from the south, the forms appear more blocky. This constantly changing character imbues the building’s exterior with an enigmatic beauty. (click here for the full article)

Across W19th Street from Gehry’s IAC building is Jean Nouvel’s 23-storey luxury condos – known as “100 11th”.  According to the condo’s web site:

The building’s gently curving curtain wall of different sized panes of colorless glass – each set in a unique angle and torque – will sheath one of the most meticulously customized, high performance residential addresses in the nation. This dazzling window pattern will frame splendid views from within the tower while producing an exterior texture that serves as a poetic analog for the vibrancy, density and changeability of New York City.

A few years ago, we visited the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.  Among the museum’s three buildings, we loved Jean Nouvel’s building the most (the other two were designed by Mario Botta and Rem Koolhaas).  We did not have a chance to get close to these two buildings, but judging from a distance on the High Line, I prefer Frank Gehry’s.

The High Line park is designed by James Corner Field Operations (lead architect) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. ☜ Do check out Diller Scofodio’s fancy web site and user interface.

The Hudson and New Jersey

IAC Building on West Side Highway

Chelsea Piers’s driving range (left), IAC building, and 100 11th; vegetation on High Line (front)

IAC Building

On Boxing day, IT and I went to the High Line.  It was a good day to visit the park as the wintry weather was less prohibitive than Christmas eve, and even the sun came out.  These B&W historic pictures are borrowed from the official web site of the High Line.

The High Line is a public park built on abandoned, elevated freight railway tracks that ran along the lower west side of Manhattan. Built in the 1930’s, the railways had been in active use until the 80’s.  Only section 1 (out of 3) of the park extending from the meatpacking district up to Chelsea (20th street) is completely developed.  The park has been hailed as one of the urban landscape architectural triumphs in New York, despite early fears that property developers would turn it into a shopping mall.  It was opened to the public in summer 2009 and is beloved by locals and visitors alike.  The park’s entry on Wikipedia is here.

In late afternoon, holding back the urge to continue our bargain hunting in Soho, we took a cab up to Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district where the park begins. There were quite a lot of visitors on the High Line on that day.  In the summer when it first opened, I read in the news that the crowd got so large that only small groups are allowed to enter the park.  Only in NYC where entrance to a public park is controlled like clubs in the same area with bouncer and velvet rope.  We wandered up to the park and headed northwards taking many pictures.  The space and views were fantastic – it’s another reason why I ♥ NY.  I will post some of the photos here in a series of five posts.  First up are pictures of the views from the High Line, and a street map of the area.  -C

Gansevoort Street / Washington Street Entrance

Standard Hotel

Looking eastward down W14th Street

Bridge over 10th Avenue, Chelsea Market buildings

Tenth Avenue and W18th Street

Northern Spur, Chelsea Market building

Well, that’s all folks for the Telepan series.  We liked Telepan’s food so much that they were on our short list for this year’s New Year’s eve dinner.

Pictures of the earlier courses can be found here:  #1-#5 and #6-#10.

#11 –  Quince Granita Parfait (quince, yoghurt cream, toasted almonds and prosecco) is my dessert which I liked a lot.  Coming from someone who is generally not a dessert eater – this is a real compliment.  It came on a little bed of ice and the prosecco was poured in at tableside.  Wonderfully light and refreshing.

#12 – crunchy peanut butter & milk chocolate gianduja, peanut brittle ice cream, huckleberry gelée

#13 – brandy bread pudding, brandied cherry ice cream, brandy sauce

#14 – assorted ice creams (including pumpkin flavor)


Happy New Year !

Wishing You All The Best in 2010.


What Matters Now – Things to think (and do) this year. Seth Goldin asked a group of internet writers to contribute something on this timely topic.  He collected the output and made them available online in the form of a free e-book.  The e-book contains one key concept per page.  Interesting stuff.  I hope the snippets of insight associated with each concept might help people shape their new year resolutions and change something somewhere for the better in the future.

Page 42 is about “Adventure” and shares the spirit of this blog.  I particularly like the following:

Go slow; gaze absentmindedly and savor every moment.

Invest now in future memories.

Resolve to leave the screens of your virtual world momentarily behind, and indulge your senses with a real world adventure.

There are a total of 82 pages in the e-book.  Since the ideas are not in any particular order, you may want to preview the whole set or jump around by switching to tile mode (see bottom right side of window). It is also available as a free downloadable PDF here.