vendredi, mars 30, 2007

sweet jesus

This gives the words "this is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me" a whole different flavor.
I think it's sacrilegious that he wasn't made out of dark chocolate.
Chocolate Jesus exhibit canceled: NYC gallery inundated with angry calls ahead of display during Holy Week
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:33 p.m. PT March 30, 2007

NEW YORK - A planned Holy Week exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ was canceled Friday amid a choir of complaining Catholics that included Cardinal Edward Egan.

The "My Sweet Lord" display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan, said Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director. Semler said he submitted his resignation after officials at the Roger Smith Hotel shut down the show.

The six-foot sculpture was the victim of "a strong-arming from people who haven't seen the show, seen what we're doing," Semler said. "They jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions."

But word of the confectionary Christ infuriated Catholics, including Egan, who described it as "a sickening display."

Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

"It’s not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing — to choose Holy Week is astounding," he said.

The hotel and the gallery were overrun Thursday with angry phone calls and e-mails about the exhibit. Semler said the calls included death threats over the work of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who was described as disappointed by the decision to cancel the display.

"In this situation, the hotel couldn't continue to be supportive because of a fear for their own safety," Semler said.

The sculpture was to debut Monday evening, the day after Palm Sunday and just four days before Roman Catholics mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The final day of the exhibit was planned for Easter Sunday.

The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and features Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. Unlike the typical religious portrayal of Christ, the Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.

Cavallaro is best known for his quirky work with food as art: Past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella, spraying five tons of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home, and festooning a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of processed ham.

Via Leo

'roo time again

Leo and I are bonnaroo bound again this summer with Ash, James, and co.
Indie Study: A music festival preview - Independent Study
Ready for a rock ’n’ roll road trip? See everyone from the Beastie Boys to Sonic Youth to The White Stripes at three of this year’s best music festivals.
By Marry Mulholland
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 1:46 p.m. PT March 29, 2007

You’ve set your watch forward an hour, the official spring equinox has passed, and you’re beginning to feel that you should be flipping burgers on the back porch rather than stuck in drive-home traffic. This can only mean one thing: Festival season is almost here.

While Europe dominates the big summer music festival circuit, U.S. festivals are increasingly shouldering their way into music-fan radar with shocking band reunions — the Jesus & Mary Chain will headline next month’s sold-out Coachella Festival in Indio, California — and impressive line-ups. The excitement of seeing 20 beloved bands in one place over a matter of days can outweigh festival cons (crowds, sweat, expense and port-a-potties).

For the festival beginner, the Pitchfork Music Festival (July 13 to 15) makes for a gradual introduction to the scene. Taking place in the urban headquarters of snarky, taste-making online music news site Pitchfork, and at a fraction of typical festival cost (a super affordable $35 for a two-day pass), the camping-averse can taste the drunken, dehydrated fruit of a summer festival and recuperate in the confines of a Holiday Inn. While Pitchfork is yet to announce its complete festival line-up, a sampling of their eclectic favorites — from husky-voiced pin-up Cat Power to coke-dealing hip-hop duo Clipse ­— promises a worthwhile weekend for the music blog addict.

In collaboration with the British festival All Tomorrow’s Parties’ “Don’t Look Back” Series, Pitchfork will present Sonic Youth performing their seminal 1988 album “Daydream Nation” in its entirety, start-to-finish. If you can stop hyperventilating for an hour or so and fork over your lunch money for this extra Friday night ticket ($15), this show will add teeth to the “once-in-a-lifetime” cliché.

Gorge yourself on music
If mid-summer humidity isn’t your thing, you may opt for the temperate grandeur of the Pacific Northwest in spring: the Sasquatch Music Festival, takes place at western Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater over Memorial Day weekend (May 26 to 27). Besides its bold trio of mainstage headliners — Bjork, the Beastie Boys and the Arcade Fire — Sasquatch boasts an enticing array of newer artists.

The Gorge may be just big enough to accommodate the Zeppelin-inspired guitar thunder and howling vocals of Brooklyn power-psych-rock trio Earl Greyhound. And its green canyons may also be the ideal setting for the wistful Saturday morning pop of Swedish multi-instrumentalist Loney, Dear, and the gruff, bluesy campfire songs of San Francisco guitar-and-drum duo Two Gallants.

The smallest of Sasquatch’s three stages, the Yeti Stage, is largely devoted to showcasing regional favorites — with the impeccably taut, impossibly catchy Strokes-y rock of Seattle trio The Blakes most recently added to the roster.

Heavy-hitters hit Tennessee
If you’d rather choose from a menu of international superstars, the Bonnaroo Festival is this summer’s heavy hitter: The Police, Tool and The White Stripes all headline this four-day extravaganza in Manchester, Tennessee. Beyond its cast of indie-bands-gone-huge — Franz Ferdinand, the Decembrists and Wolfmother among others — the festival-goer willing to hang out at smaller, less crowded stages won’t be disappointed.

When the pale, glasses-wearing quartet Hot Chip line up behind keyboards, they’ll bring an electro-pop dance party that belies their computer engineer look. Scruffy Philadelphia band Dr. Dog, also renowned for their live show, will play their blissful, Beach Boys-inspired rock, intertwined with three-part harmonies and co-frontmen who alternately recall Joe Cocker and Ringo Starr. And if you need a break from the sunshine, don’t miss the harrowing melancholy of Austin, Texas’ drone masters the Black Angels.

So start saving your money, looking up cheap flights and befriending that neighbor with the fancy camping equipment. Pitchfork, Sasquatch and Bonnaroo are all guaranteed bets for a memorable summer weekend — and if you can’t swing the trip this summer, there’s always next year.

his demigodness

Don't call him ‘sir’: U2's Bono knighted
U2 frontman receives British knighthood in joke-filled ceremony
The Associated Press
Updated: 3:51 p.m. PT March 29, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland - Irish rock star and global humanitarian Bono became a knight of the British empire Thursday — and joked that his youngest son thought he was about to become a Jedi instead.

Bono, 46, was named a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in an informal, laugh-filled ceremony in the Dublin home of British Ambassador David Reddaway.

“You have permission to call me anything you want — except sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that’ll do,” he told reporters afterward.

Because he is an Irish citizen, Bono won’t have the title of “sir” before his name. That honor is reserved for citizens of the United Kingdom or British Commonwealth countries. Ireland left the Commonwealth when it became a republic in 1949.

Reddaway paid tribute to Bono’s work as a campaigner against poverty and disease in Africa — but first asked whether he was disappointed that becoming a knight no longer involves a sword or kneeling.

“Please, I wasn’t expecting you to kneel,” said Bono, his hand on the ambassador’s shoulder.

Accompanying the rocker were his wife, Ali, and their four children — Jordan, 17; Eve, 15; Elijah, 7; and John, 5. U2 guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton also attended.

John was disappointed that his dad wasn’t presented with a light saber, said Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson. “He thought I was becoming a Jedi.”

Bono sported lapel pins for two of his previous European government awards, the Legion d’Honneur from France and the Order of Liberty from Portugal.

Such official accolades “really help me get through a few doors I wouldn’t get through. And that’s the truth, that’s the way the world is,” he said.

jeudi, mars 29, 2007

this i believe: old age is not guaranteed

My friend Karl wrote this as his submission to NPR's "This I Believe." I heard him read it today at Toastmasters and was blown away. I hope it is accepted.
I believe that old age is not guaranteed.

Gray hair, retirement, and 4 o'clock dinners are a privilege, not a birthright.
I don't believe I have 80 years to make my dreams come true. I may only have 80 more days. I may have less.

See, I believe I will die.

I don't welcome it, but I realize the rules of the game. I accept the fact that I'll run out of time before I run out of life to live. I live each day believing today is a blessing, and tomorrow's a gift.

Believing in death doesn't shorten my life. It extends it because it helps me cherish
yesterday and the day before.

Fitting my core belief into so few words is intense
I hope moving forward my ideas make sense

And that they grip you like tires that provide traction
and move you and prompt you to take some action.

This speech is like life, you don't have enough time
to strengthen my message, I've decided to rhyme.

Each word pulls more meaning, when nested in verse.
Here's my main point in this speech, there's nothing worse

then falling so deep in your routine that you're numb.
Taking blessings for granted is foolish and dumb.

They may be sunsets, or sunrises, your family or friends,
when they've moved on you've missed them and can't make amends.

So click off the tv, and move past the drama
call and connect with your dad or your mama.

We're surrounded by miracles both large and small
a life filled with meaning appreciates them all.

Go climb a mountain, or maybe just walk in the park.
Or drink tequila with your best friends til morning light replaces the dark.

See there aren't guarantees, you don't get a next chance.
Is your life a toe tapper, or are you living a dance?

What's your life's soundtrack? is it jazz or hip hop?
Are you living to muzak, or do you make your life rock?

You're the one who knows best, you're the player on stage
Have you made peace with the bad times, or are you carrying your rage?

We all have regrets and wish there were things we could undo
But forgive yourself and realize they're what made you, YOU.

Today please breathe in the best smells, and take care of yourself
your best chance for long life is to practice good health.

Tomorrow's coming up soon, yesterday's already gone.
and we can all try and stop it, but times keep moving on.

It's time to get out the want ads, or pull out the map
finally book that vacation or tell the boss "no more crap."

Carpe diem's the motto I implore you to seize
for your days here are precious. This, I believe.


The only thing about life that makes me hold out the hope that there might be a God behind all this, and a God worth worshipping at that, is the fact that often life just seems to have an amazing sense of humor behind all the nastiness. My rational brain thinks this is nothing but chance. My more artistic side wonders.

lundi, mars 26, 2007

about as open as a burka

Having lived with several roommates and a boyfriend whom I married and divorced, I've had my own adventures in domesticity.

The old me was pretty intolerant ... just ask my ex. I wasn't keen on having Betty (his 1960s mannequin-cum-art project who wore a gas mask that was a prop from my ex's days in an industrial band) in the living room. There was also the matter of his Mr. Yoshida (yes, "there really is a Mr. Yoshida") box art that I eventually framed, but still didn't want in the common areas. In the end, our incompatibilities weren't just about his kitsch-and-post-industrial, plexiglass-and-steel aesthetic and my love of wood and natural fibers.

Nowadays, I'd like to believe that I'm more willing to accept an aesthetic that differs from my own. I suspect that the next time I shack up with a significant other, I'll be willing to paint walls and rearrange rooms and cabinets. I'll also be open to getting rid of some furniture in favor of buying things together. Part of it is that spatial equality will help make it seem less like one person moving into another person's space and more about making a home together.

But let's be honest ... I'm not above upgrading my stained old couch and equipping a kick-ass kitchen, one shared object at a time.
Close to Home: Welcome to My World, O My Beloved. Don’t Bring Your Stuff.
Published: March 22, 2007

WITH age I widen, and not just bodily. Recently, despite the fact that I’ve never lived with a romantic partner before, a surge of affection — affection underscored by 44 years of on-and-off loneliness — led me to invite my boyfriend, Greg, to move into my 800-square-foot Greenwich Village apartment.

To honor the occasion, I proposed that we take a page from the playbook of Joan Crawford, who replaced all the toilet seats in her home after each of her marriages. At Bed Bath & Beyond one Thursday night, I told Greg, “Let’s pick the bath towel that’s going to represent the Greg Years.”

After Greg nixed a variety of Wamsutta offerings — terming them “not nice enough for our symbolic relationship towels” — and I clucked in disapproval at some slightly wanton Nicole Miller numbers with sparkly silver threads in them, we finally bought some fluffy white Lenox towels, 70 percent cotton and 30 percent bamboo. The Greg Years: Fluffy, White and Threaded With Bamboo.

It took us four years to get to towel-buying. In the past I’ve wiggled out of living with a partner largely because I work at home, but also because I am self-involved, mercurial and comfortable eating dinners of frozen waffles in my underpants. In 1997, when Jess, my boyfriend of eight years, got a job in Los Angeles, I commuted back and forth across the country for a year, unable to let go of my apartment in New York: I had to have an out. Even with Greg, with whom I started to think about settling down after just a few months, I worried that the carrot, once eaten, might taste like a stick.

Because my apartment is actually two railroad-style apartments joined by a walk-in closet, it lends itself to bifurcation, and in our early discussions about living together we — well, mostly I — talked about “my side” and “your side.” Knowing that we could close the door on one another in the unlikely event that things soured was my anxiety’s prophylactic. I spoke of the benefits of a living arrangement like Woody and Mia’s, when they lived on either side of Central Park, but then realized this might not be the best example.

I knew that in an ideal world, I would give Greg half of the apartment. But I am something of a pack rat, and as soon as I started the week-long process of cleaning out my closets — which I had not done in 16 years — I quickly saw that one-half was overly optimistic. I waved a warning flag, and Greg nimbly rallied, giving many of his furnishings away to friends and charities.

Even his remaining things, however, would require vetting. Because he was moving into established décor, it was clear, at least to me, that some of his possessions and furnishings would blend well and others wouldn’t. I was inviting Greg and the cats to live with me, but I was not inviting the drunk bandolero in the black velvet painting, nor his donkey, nor their friend, the bug-eyed Joey Heatherton lookalike with the teardrop the size of her head. However, I did want all Greg’s reference books (he is a former New Yorker fact-checker, and these tomes might do much to maintain standards). I like to think that I’m broad-minded and open and welcoming, and that my hand-carved Balinese animal heads and my gilded pier mirror and my portrait gallery of paintings and my Moroccan kilims and my collection of dried fruit and dried garlic “characters” bear this out. But I’m about as open as a burka.

Reader, how did I broker these subtle divergences of style and taste? Two words: tap dance. When he proposed building shelves or rearranging furniture, I masked my resistance with a lot of aggressive head-nodding. He could have died from the encouragement. But my subsequent inaction betrayed my true desires: no shelves and no furniture rearranging. Passive aggression triumphed.

I soldiered on with my closets, unearthing, among other things, an uncashed check for $17.48, and then another for $7,632. My cheeks burned with shame. Next, an obscured shelf held a large drinking glass full of loose change, and then 12 more such vessels, which together would yield $722.51. Encountering all this hidden, hoarded money fairly screamed “life lesson” to me.

Greg and his two cats, about whom I’d fretted, moved in seamlessly, aided by a corps of grunting, shoulder-y men. On the first night, all my anxieties about the cats melted when the needier of them, an oddball Siamese named Hot Rod, fell asleep in my arms: once you have Pietà-ed, you cannot look back. I was a father now.

But on Night 2, sitting with Greg in the living room after dinner, I had the strange sensation that he was waiting for me to initiate conversation or an activity with him, so I stood and walked into the bedroom, where I started putting photos in my scrapbook. Five minutes later, Greg showed up bedside, with a puzzled expression. “I’m trying to escape the guest-host paradigm by ignoring you,” I explained.

He smiled bleakly. “Thanks,” he said.

Two days later I upped the ante by preparing a meal for myself without asking him if he, too, was hungry. “See,” I wanted to say, “it can be fun to ignore each other!”

I wondered if there would be a backlash to my declarations of independence. But the closest that Greg, ever forbearing, has gotten to dissent was his comment about a heavily faded piece of pale pink lace that I use as a curtain: “This is a little matronly for me.”

“But I apply powder to it nightly,” I protested. Down came the curtain, replaced with a colorful silk throw Greg’s mother had given him.

He has also cast a few aspersions at my predilection for low-yield interest rates. This was only to be expected, I’m sure; not everyone understands the appeal of having 38 pounds of nickels at hand.

It is now Night 79, and Greg and I have yet to have a squabble or a cross word with one another. We have, however, had a telephone conversation about toothpaste preferences, and a discussion about the eerie textural similarities between sisal rugs and Triscuits. Moreover, I live in fear and awe of a man who recycles envelopes and stray magazine subscription cards. (That slight tug you feel at the bottom of this page of newspaper you’re reading? It’s Greg, eager to start bundling.) But we have our bath towels, and together we will build a bamboo forest where cats can doze and I can make extravagant displays of ignoring the man I love. We haven’t used the terms “my side” and “your side” in over a month. The Greg Years: They’ll probably last forever.


"A chef is a sorcerer who dispenses happiness on a plate."
-Chef Bernard Guillas

dimanche, mars 25, 2007

d&g ad hits a nerve

Talk about monumentally awful marketing. This almost leaves as bad a taste in my mouth as Häagen-Dazs' "cortez invaded for it" ad. No wonder NOW included the Dolce & Gabbana ad in the "Love Your Body: Offensive Ads" campaign this year.

And for the record, I'm a huge fan of toppling cultural taboos. I also think that South Park and Family Guy rock.

Dolce & Gabbana Pulls Controversial Ad
D&G ad (above) which appeared in Esquire and elsewhere, kicked off a storm of controversy.
March 07, 2007

By Sandra O’Loughlin

NEW YORK -- A Dolce & Gabbana ad that appeared in the March issue of Esquire and in other countries around the world has been pulled following protests in Italy and Spain.

The ad, which shows a woman in a menacing situation on her back in a tight black dress and spiked heels as a bare-chested man holds her down by the wrist with four other men looking on, raised the ire of consumer groups in the U.S., Spain and Italy.

The New York offfice of the company did not return calls to Brandweek seeking comment on the ad’s withdrawal, but Stefano Gabbana, a partner in Dolce & Gabbana, has indicated that the image does not represent gang rape or violence but rather an erotic dream or sexual game.

Still, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, finds the portrayal disturbing. “It is a provocative ad, but it is provoking things that really are not what we want to have provoked,” she told Brandweek. “We don’t need any more violence.”

Marketers Struggle With the 'Dark' Side
February 20, 2007

By Sandra O'Loughlin and Steve Miller

NEW YORK -- A woman, fully clothed in a tight dress and spiked heels, lies on her back, hips raised as a bare-chested man holds her down and four other men look on.

The menace in the situation is underscored by the fact that the woman is blankly unsmiling and some of the men appear to have slight sneers on their faces.

It isn't clear what is happening. Has he knocked her down? Is he about to strangle her? To some, the print ad from fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana suggests gang rape. To others, it's a matter of a fashion-forward brand publicizing itself.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, found the ad surprising and disturbing. "It's in Esquire, so they probably don't think a stylized gang rape will sell clothes to women, but what is more likely is that they think it will get them publicity," she said. Esquire did not respond to calls for comment by press time.

"It's a provocative ad but it is provoking things that really are not what we want to have provoked," Gandy continued. "We don't need any more violence." NOW is considering some form of protest, and will include it on the "Love Your Body: Offensive Ads" portion of its Web site. D&G reps declined comment.

D&G's ad is just the latest attempt among marketers to mine darker themes in their advertising. Last week, Volkswagen pulled a TV ad that featured a man about to commit suicide by jumping off a roof—the latest in a surprising number of suicide-themed ads lately.

Even beer ads, once an oasis of 'Whassup'-style good cheer, have succumbed to a more biting brand of humor. Remarking on a Bud Light Super Bowl ad that showed a man bashing his friend with a rock during a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and a Coors Light ad in which a man hacked off the bride's head in an ice sculpture to cool the beer, The New York Times detected a new theme: "Anything that delays a man's beer drinking is bad and must be eradicated, be it women, best friends, jobs, pets or children. In other words, whatever you have to do to get more beer, do it . . . as quickly as possible."

Marketers have long used sex and humor in their ads to generate interest, but such black humor, not to mention dabbling in rape and suicide, appears to be a phenomenon confined to this decade. Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, blames the usual marketing bugaboos—splintered media and short attention spans—for advertisers' new interest in darker fare.

Thompson said marketers are also trying to catch up with programs like South Park and The Family Guy that make sport of toppling cultural taboos.

"This kind of outrageous material is today's lingua franca," he said. "One would expect ads to follow."

Though D&G's ads are informed by popular culture, it's likely the brand is following the tradition of another Italian fashion brand, United Colors of Benetton. Throughout the '80s and '90s under former creative director Oliviero Toscani, Benetton ads famously have shown a nun kissing a priest, a newborn baby still attached to the umbilical cord and a man dying of AIDS, among other provocative images.

Since 2000, Benetton creative has been handled by Fabrica, a communication research center Toscani helped establish, and has alternated between conventional product campaigns and social themes such as volunteerism, famine and portraits of apes.

Margaret Duffy, chair of strategic communications at the Missouri School of Journalism, sees another influence: Calvin Klein's ads in the '90s featuring models that many thought were meant to evoke emaciated junkies.

"Despite all the hue and cry, most people felt it did not damage the brand but caused so much publicity it really wasn't a negative experience," Duffy said of Klein's ads. "From the standpoint of the brand, Dolce & Gabbana is not Ann Taylor. It is expected to be edgy and out there. If they're not pushing the envelope a little bit, they're probably not doing very good advertising."

Raul Martinez, CEO/executive creative director at AR, New York, has devised D&G ads since 1996, with the exception of the ad in Esquire. Martinez said communicating the brand's assets is the primary concern. "If you look at the Dolce & Gabbana brand in the first 10-15 years, you have a brand that is completely focused on communicating its Italian, in fact, Sicilian, heritage," he said. "It is coming from a very Latin, passionate, emotional and sexually charged space."

While "Sicilian heritage" may explain away provocative ads for some, others are at a loss to explain why suicide is popping up more and more as an advertising theme. VW's ad was one of many recent ads that refer to the taking of one's life. A current spot for, for instance, features a flock of office workers who leap off a cliff to avoid a training seminar.

In another ad, a group of wives shame their husbands who are about to jump off a building over Washington Mutual's free checking.

And of course, there's the General Motors Super Bowl spot featuring a forlorn robot that appears to "off" himself by jumping into dark waters after being let go from his assembly line job. Though GM and VW pulled their ads, reps at and WaMu said the ads have run without incident.

Suicide has popped up as an ad theme before in this decade. In 2001, Ikea ran an outdoor ad in which a depressed gnome—this was in Germany, understand—was lying on a rail track with ad copy that read: "An end to feeling grumpy—Ikea is coming." In 2003, Honda ran an ad in Australia that showed an older model Accord driving itself off a cliff, distraught over the allure of the newer model.

The recent spate of ads with suicide content "has to be a coincidence," said Gary Topolewski, a Detroit-based ad veteran who has worked on campaigns for Jeep and Apple. "Suicide is something that is talked about fairly freely, as in, 'I'm going to kill myself,' something that people say in sort of a kidding way," he said. A climate of sensitivity and a broader distribution base via the Internet has made what was once edgy into something that may be construed as insensitive, he added.

Suicide prevention activists claim an ad could tip over someone on the brink of the act. "These are showing methods, and can contribute to 'copycat' suicides," said Robert Gebbia, executive director-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

In the face of such criticism, Wally Snyder, president/CEO of the American Advertising Federation, advises advertisers to resist the urge to keep up with racy South Park-style humor and hard-R subject matter.

"I salute the clients' move to say, 'This isn't worth it," he said. "Sometimes, it just doesn't advance the product. This is not like literature or the movies. This is a business proposition and we have to take it very seriously."
Via Vanoosheh

he's gay, you know

I've never fallen for someone who was openly gay. I have, however, fallen for guys who might as well have been gay, because they were completely unavailable to me (emotionally or otherwise). And, of course, there's the fact that I've dated a few men who I swear are gay and just haven't come to terms with it yet.
Modern Love: If We Met in a Former Life, Maybe He Was Straight Then
March 25, 2007

He’s gay, you know,” Bonnie said.

We were sitting on stools at a bar on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, surrounded by Amstel Light bottles and cigarette smoke.

“Really?” I gasped.

“Really. And not just gay. Very gay.”

From across the bar, Brian caught my eye again and we gazed at each other lustfully. Bonnie had introduced us only moments before, and I was struck by the “love at first sight” lightning bolt.

Of course, I had felt such lightning bolts before. At 25, I couldn’t yet fathom relationships built on trust and mutual compromise; I saw only fables and romantic comedies. Love, I was convinced, happened in a lust-filled instant, and there was no mistaking it for anything else.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Bonnie and made my way to Brian’s side.

“Oh, my God, Bonnie just told me,” I blurted to him, knowing I didn’t need to finish the sentence. I felt confident that the lightning bolt hadn’t only struck me; from the moment Bonnie had introduced us, Brian and I hardly had taken our eyes off each other. The news about his sexual orientation felt worse than disappointing; it actually seemed intrusive, like it was infringing on the course nature wanted us to take. “Is it true?”

“It is,” he said. “I mean, I always have been. But maybe — I don’t know.”

That opening, combined with the sight of his sparkling hazel eyes and perfect cheekbones, was enough for me. “I’m buying us shots,” I announced, certain that my bar order was the only thing we needed to reach the next step.

Though Brian was, in fact, “out,” he fit my profile of what I imagined a sartorially straight man might look like: he was dressed in a button-down shirt, gray slacks and basic black non-designer shoes, with no product in his hair.

And there was the matter of the eye contact we kept having — not to mention that he seemed far more interested in cornering me for one-on-one conversations than other gay men I had met, who would start off talking to me alone but then trot me over to their friends as if I were a show-and-tell item, usually urging me to be “fierce” and funny.

By the end of the night, I was pretty sure this was love, and when I reconnected with Bonnie, she gave me all the confirmation I needed. “I can’t believe it,” she said, shaking her head, “but Brian is into you, too. This is just too bizarre.”

With that, I went up to Brian to say goodbye, and he asked me out for the next night. I nodded, giddy, and we kissed goodbye — on the lips, in the bar, with seemingly no worries over who might see. What kind of a gay guy does that?

I figured the conversion process was more than halfway through.

When I was getting ready for Brian to pick me up the next night, I found myself more excited than I had ever been for any other date. There was something fabulously intense about an attraction so deep that it transcended the standard definitions of sexual orientation. The notion of a date with a regular old straight guy, who wouldn’t have to sacrifice or defy anything to go out with me, seemed downright dull in comparison.

Over steak and red wine, Brian and I wasted no time in psychoanalyzing his past. He told me about a traumatic incident in his adolescence involving his then-girlfriend and his brother, and how it led to feelings of betrayal and shame that he didn’t know how to handle. Soon after, he hooked up with his first guy.

“My God,” I said, pouring more wine for him. “You’re not gay. It’s just that a traumatic event made you think you were gay.”

Brian shrugged.

I leaned in so that our faces were inches away from each other.

“Maybe I’m bisexual,” he said.

I was willing to accept that. After all, this transition back to straightness might be slow for my new boyfriend.

I nodded and he kissed me — a real, passionate kiss.

After dinner, we went to a bar across the street, and although it wasn’t a gay bar, we immediately ran into two gay guys we both knew. One of them, Matt, was hostile to me, even though he had been quite friendly when I met him a few months earlier and he had been hitting on one of my gay male friends.

When Brian went to the bathroom, Matt turned to me. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“What are you talking about? You mean, with Brian?”

“Of course I mean with Brian. What kind of game do you think you’re playing?”

“We’re just hanging out, nothing to get worked up about.”

In truth, I imagined that Brian and I were setting new standards of what love could be, but I knew Matt wouldn’t make an appropriate confidante.

Anyway, shouldn’t I be the one concerned that Brian might be playing games with me? After all, I was doing what I had always done: going out with a man. Brian was the one betraying his group.

WHEN Brian came back from the bathroom and Matt went off to smoke, I told him what had happened. He shook his head. “We used to date,” he said of Matt.

I should have known; Matt probably wouldn’t be the last of Brian’s exes to have a problem with our transcendent love.

Brian and I went back to my apartment, where I opened a bottle of wine and we both lighted cigarettes. Soon we started kissing. As we kissed, I started to move Brian toward my bedroom, but when we got to the door, he stopped. “I don’t feel comfortable doing anything more,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, feeling like he was suddenly backing out on the courageous and important journey we were taking together.

“Look. That’s all I want to do.”

“No pressure,” I said, kissing his neck.

Brian calmed down, and as we cuddled I tried to erase from my mind the notion that I was someone who puts pressure on men in bed. After a while, we just lay there trading cigarettes and sad stories about our respective dysfunctional families and the times we had been in love or thought we had been in love, doing the postcoital thing without any coitus.

We fell asleep spooning, and during the night I had a dream that took place in Washington, which ordinarily wouldn’t have meant anything, except that when I told Brian about my dream, he said he was born in Washington.

That sealed it: We were soul mates who had been together in previous lifetimes. Given my weakness for storybook love and my well-established history of spontaneous passion (my third date with one guy was, essentially, a move from San Francisco to Los Angeles to live with him), this seemed the only possible explanation for our unlikely and illogical connection.

When I shared these thoughts with Brian, though, he only smiled warily.

Over breakfast, he took a deep breath and gave me the apologetic look I had been dreading from the beginning. “I think you’re fantastic,” he said. “But I have to tell you: I really think I’m gay.”

“But. ...” I sputtered. “What about what you were saying about being bisexual?”

“I know I said that,” he said. “But after last night, I think I realized that it’s not true. I’m just gay.”

“But you’re attracted to me. You said it! A few times!” Horrifyingly, I found myself on the verge of tears.

“I know. And I do think you’re very attractive. But I just can’t do this.”

Unconvinced (or in full denial), I later stopped at a spiritual bookstore in West Hollywood that I had passed many times and barely noticed. I was looking for some comfort, some explanation, some confirmation that what I had experienced with Brian was as real and important as I thought it was.

And there, among the collections of crystals, affirmations for inner children and books about creating your own destiny, I found it, the book I had subconsciously been seeking: “Only Love Is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited,” by Brian Weiss, M.D. That fact that the author’s first name was the same as my soul mate’s only confirmed that this was the book for me.

I had never been one for self-help or spiritual books, but I was riveted by every word of “Only Love Is Real,” which explained that not everyone was comfortable with the notion of previous lifetimes, let alone the concept of meeting and falling in love with the same person over and over again. I hadn’t exactly been comfortable with it, but now, with Brian, I had come around.

Brian would come around, too, I thought, as I underlined and dog-eared passages and pages I found significant.

THAT night I carried the book along to dinner with Bonnie, certain she would support my exciting new discoveries.

But she, who was as logical and wise about love as I was dramatic and superficial, just shook her head. “Anna, you’re going on no sleep, ranting about how you’ve fallen in love with a gay guy, clutching this crazy book,” she said. “I’m worried about you.”

I slipped the book back into my purse and willed myself to talk about something besides Brian.

I wish I could say that Brian came around. But as days passed without even hearing from him, and then weeks, I had to confront the inevitable.

In the end, it would be months before we ran into each other again, at a bar in Los Feliz, and this time when our eyes met he glanced at me with embarrassment — the kind of look I imagine a straight guy might give a gay guy he accidentally ended up in bed with one night when he was feeling experimental.

“I’m so sorry for getting you all mixed up in my confusion,” he said. “I was going through a rough time then.”

A rough time? Confusion? I had so many questions, but my ego and pride (not to mention my suspicion that he wouldn’t have any answers) kept me from doing anything but smiling kindly. “It’s O.K.,” I said. “I understand.”

And I did. Sort of.

Not long after, I came across “Only Love Is Real” in my bedside reading pile and promptly tossed it into the trash, thereby letting go of both Brians at once.

Our love, of course, hadn’t been real, those previous lifetimes had all been in my head, and the only lightning bolt to strike me was the undeniable reality that, with all due respect to Kinsey’s sliding scale of sexual orientation, sometimes gay really means gay.

Anna David, who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., wrote the novel “Party Girl,” to be published in June by HarperCollins. This essay is adapted from the anthology “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,” to be published in May by Dutton.

right size me

Will Diners Still Swallow This?
March 25, 2007


RICHARD SNEAD came up through the restaurant industry when bigger was better.

He earned his managerial stripes in the fast-food industry as Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s waged war over who could offer bigger burgers, more fries and larger cups of soda. Few questioned the strategy, not even after casual dining restaurants embarked on their own supersizing battle in the 1990s.

Now Mr. Snead is breaking ranks. As chief executive of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide he has chopped portion sizes at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson’s chain known for calorie-rich items like deep-fried potato skins stuffed with Cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream. In a closely watched experiment, Friday’s will see whether diners will order what it calls “Right Size” portions that, on average, are about two-thirds the size of the usual serving.

“I firmly believe that the consumer is demanding a change,” said Mr. Snead, who is 55 and has a runner’s trim build. Many consumers are tired of huge portions, especially on weeknights or at lunch when they do not want to indulge, he says. The time has come, he says, to think smaller. But, he added, “I’ll be honest with you, it’s scary.”

Mr. Snead has good reason to be concerned.

The strategy of serving consumers smaller servings has a lamentably unprofitable history. Many restaurateurs remember far too well what happened to the Ruby Tuesday chain in 2004 after it trimmed some portions and started printing nutritional information on the menu of calorie-packed burgers, steaks and ribs. Consumers complained about the changes, and after about five months, Ruby Tuesday plumped the portions and provided nutritional information only when asked.

“Even if they don’t eat everything on the plate,” said Richard Johnson, Ruby Tuesday’s senior vice president, “they like that it’s a generous portion.”

While the success of Friday’s smaller portions is far from certain, its heavily marketed Right Size campaign is among the boldest efforts yet to address problems in the restaurant industry that many had considered insolvable: How do you sell the idea of giving people less food? More important, how do you make money at it?

Shrinking portions puts restaurants in a bit of a pickle. Customers have come to associate huge quantities of food with value, a proposition that makes reducing portions difficult. Restaurants also point out that even when consumers say they want smaller portions or healthier choices, they often do not order those options.

Restaurateurs point out that while they offer huge servings, they also offer consumers a choice of some smaller entrees, whether it is a single cheeseburger or a half order of pasta. But the reality is, the smaller offerings are rarely promoted and are often not as good a deal for the consumer, compared with the larger servings.

“We had competitors who shrank portion sizes, and it’s just been a catastrophe,” said Clarence Otis Jr., chairman and chief executive of Darden Restaurants, whose chains include Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Mr. Otis added: “Our portion size, I don’t know where you go.” Most restaurants would like to make servings smaller, he said, “but customers are resistant to it.”

WHAT makes Friday’s portion-cutting different is its extensive advertising of ten menu items and its decision to offer them at significantly lower prices. A “Right Size” Jack Daniel’s Chicken Alfredo, for example, has 40 percent less fettuccine, a third less chicken and half the sauce of the full-size portion and, at $7.99, costs 30 percent less.

Mr. Snead says he has accepted the fact that his average check on the reduced portions will be smaller too, but he is betting that they will be offset by more customers.

Friday’s is bucking a decades-long trend of ever-larger portions in packaged goods and at restaurants. Some portions at fast-food restaurants are now two to five times larger than those of the 1950s, researchers have found. While statistics were not available for casual restaurants like Friday’s or Ruby Tuesday, there is little doubt that their items, too, have grown significantly bigger. Mr. Snead recalled that about a decade ago, his chain, worried about the enormous portions at the fast-growing Cheesecake Factory, changed from round plates to ovals so it could pile on more food.

Many restaurants are still marketing the enormousness of their servings: Denny’s Megabreakfasts, Hardee’s Thickburgers and Ruby Tuesday’s Colossal burger, to name a few. Chipotle advertises its 1 1/4-pound burritos with this description: “The first half is fun. The second half is masochism.”

McDonald’s and Wendy’s have dropped their “Supersize” and “Biggie” menus amid a flood of negative publicity, including the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” in which the filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate only from McDonald’s menu for a month.

But a soon-to-be-released study by Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, and Lisa R. Young, a dietician and adjunct professor there who has tracked the history of the supersize phenomenon, found that Wendy’s simply renamed its “Biggie” drink, at 32 ounces, a medium; a large drink now contains 42 ounces.

Perhaps no restaurant chain has flaunted its portions more than Burger King. In the last two years, it has introduced a Triple Whopper, the BK Stacker with four beef patties, and an Enormous Omelet sandwich, which is a sausage, bacon and cheese omelet on a bun. But that seems small compared with its Meat ’Normous, a breakfast sandwich that the company pitches with the slogan: “A full pound of sausage, bacon and ham. Have a meaty morning.”

Burger King’s advertising turns its eat-more menu into a basic tenet of manhood. In a recent ad campaign for its Whoppers, a man ditches his date at a fancy restaurant, complaining that he is “too hungry to settle for chick food.” Pumped up on Whoppers, a swelling mob of men pump their fists, punch one another, toss a van off a bridge and sing, “I will eat this meat until my innie turns into an outie,” and, later, “I am hungry. I am incorrigible. I am man.”

Americans are eating about 12 percent more calories a day than they did in the mid-1980s, according to government statistics. The percentage of Americans who are overweight, meanwhile, increased to 66 percent in 2004 from 47 percent in the late 1970s. Hardly anyone believes it is a coincidence that Americans became fatter at the same time they began eating out more than ever and restaurants supersized their portions.

Although packaged-food companies have scored a hit with 100-calorie servings of soda, cookies and chips, the idea of cutting back on serving sizes at restaurants is rarely on the table. “Everybody has a vested interest in trying to make you think that what you eat is more important than how much you eat,” said Ms. Nestle, who wrote “What to Eat” (North Point Press, 2006), which criticized America’s obsession with large portions.

But when it comes to restaurants’ reducing those portions, she said: “They don’t want to do it because it brings in less money. They have no incentive to do it.”

Indeed, it is the economics of reducing portion size that makes it so risky. Larger portions are so profitable because food is relatively cheap. On average, food accounts for about a third of the total cost of running a restaurant; such things as labor, equipment, advertising, rent and electricity make up the rest.

So while it may cost a restaurant a few pennies to offer 25 percent more French fries, it can raise its prices much more than a few cents. The result is that larger portions are a reliable way to bolster the average check at restaurants.

Ms. Young, the dietician and researcher, cited Starbucks as an example. The costs of renting the space, paying the baristas and buying the espresso machines and stirrers are significant — but the same regardless of size of the drinks. And it does not take much more coffee to brew a 16-ounce “grande” than it does to make a 12-ounce “tall.” But the price of a tall regular coffee at a Starbucks in Times Square is $1.70, while the grande is $1.89, or 11 percent more.

“If they can make a few extra pennies by having you buy a bigger size, that adds up to a lot of money,” Ms. Young said, adding that it was no accident that Starbucks’ 8-ounce “short” is no longer on the menu, though a customer can request one.

But run the formula in reverse, and smaller portions translate into lower profit margins. “It’s half the food, but you still got all that labor,” said Mr. Otis, the Darden chief executive.

Then there is the psychological impact on the consumer. “So it’s a half portion but the pricing is still 60, 65, 70 percent of a full portion,” Mr. Otis said. “People would rather have a full portion.” Mr. Otis added, “It’s hard to take a consumer there.”

Restaurant chains that want to reduce portion sizes also face considerable skepticism from Wall Street. Investors want to see steady growth in sales from what are called comparable stores, those restaurants that have been open for at least a year. To get that growth, a company has to increase the number of people coming through the door or what they spend.

“If you shrink portion sizes, you kind of have to reduce prices,” said John Glass, an analyst at CIBC World Markets. “A lower check drags down comp-store sales. What you hope is, you offset the check with higher traffic.”

Mr. Glass added: “It’s been a difficult sell on Wall Street. It does work but it takes time, and we all know that investors are focused on the short term.”

Would T.G.I. Friday’s promote smaller portions if its parent company were not privately held? Mr. Snead hesitated before answering. “I’m not sure,” he said, then added, “I don’t think so.”

It is hard to pinpoint when the restaurant industry figured out that it could cash in on larger portions. But the late David Wallerstein, a theater manager from Chicago and a longtime director of McDonald’s, is sometimes credited with the super-sizing trend. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Wallerstein realized that customers were reluctant to buy two bags of popcorn because they felt gluttonous, but would happily buy one jumbo bag.

He later persuaded Ray Kroc, McDonald’s legendary leader, to use the same strategy with French fries, and the race for ever-larger portions was on, according to a book by Greg Critser, “Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World” (Mariner Books paperback, $13).

Then, in the mid-1970s, a Coke representative tried to sell 7-Eleven on the idea of a 32-ounce cup for its struggling fountain-drink business. Dennis Potts, a midlevel manager at 7-Eleven at the time, said he thought the cups were “absolutely insane” because they were so big, but he accepted two free cases and gave them to a store to try.

The next Monday, the franchisee called, asking for more cups. The Big Gulp was born. The 32-ounce drink cost the same as a 16-ounce bottle of soda, then about 40 cents.

Since that time, 7-Eleven has offered an even bigger Big Gulp, the Super Big Gulp (at 46 ounces) as well as bigger coffee portions, bigger hot dogs, bigger bags of chips and bigger candy bars, and customers have snatched them all up, said Mr. Potts, whose last position before retiring was vice president for merchandising. “There is nothing magic about it,” he said. “The customer gets a good value, and the retailer makes more money on a per-sale basis.”

Larger portions may be a better value, but they inevitably cause even the most disciplined customers to eat more than they would if the portions were smaller. Researchers have repeatedly shown that the bigger the portions, the more that people eat. A study at Pennsylvania State University, for instance, found that consumers who were given 50 percent more of a pasta dish ate 43 percent more than those with a smaller portion. Similar increases were shown when researchers offered bigger portions of potato chips, deli sandwiches, popcorn and soup.

“If it’s there, people are going to eat it, and they aren’t necessarily going to notice it,” said Barbara J. Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State.

Professor Rolls’s research did uncover another aspect of food psychology that may help the T.G.I. Friday’s plan. Consumers do not notice when minor changes are made, like a little less food or slightly less calorie-dense food. “The message to the restaurant industry is they can take energy density down,” she said. “You can take size down a bit. You can take out fat. A lot of fat doesn’t need to be there for taste. I would suggest they start with small changes.”

A TASK force sponsored by the federal government issued a 134-page report last summer that urged the restaurant industry to help consumers eat less. The report cited a chain of family-style Italian restaurants, which it did not identify, as an example of how it could be done. Instead of reducing portion sizes, the restaurants substitute vegetables for more calorie-dense food like pasta on some of its entrees, according to the report.

The chain is Bertucci’s, with about 90 restaurants along the East Coast. But as it turns out, it is not quite the perfect model. Bertucci’s did add more vegetables, but it still had all the pasta as a side dish. “We re-engineered the plate based on what customers were telling us,” said Stefano Cordova, executive chef for the chain, which is based in Northport, Mass.

One surprising recent change has come from Cheesecake Factory, which has built its reputation on enormous portions. Starting last summer, it greatly expanded its offerings of “lunch size” portions and “weight management” salads.

“People are buying them like crazy,” said Howard Gordon, senior vice president for business development and marketing. “The comments we are hearing from guests are, ‘We love to have the option.’ But they still love their cheesecake.”

At Friday’s, the decision to reduce portions was prompted not by any industry report or nagging by nutritionists. Rather, the company recognized a slump in the casual dining sector that started about a year ago because of factors like higher gasoline prices and fast-food restaurants’ offerings of better-quality food. Some analysts say consumers may also have grown bored with casual restaurants because they are so similar.

Mr. Snead says the reduced portions are part of an effort to “contemporize” Friday’s image. “We’re trying to lift it from this old perception of fried foods, old brown bars, junk on the walls,” he said.

The idea surfaced about seven months ago, when Friday’s senior managers gathered to discuss the looming problem and began talking, he said, about “consumer needs that the category has been afraid to do in the past.” Reducing portion size was one of those previous taboos.

Industry research found that 51 percent of adults believe that portion sizes in casual dining restaurants are too big. Among women, the number is higher: 63 percent. But, Mr. Snead said, the reaction of Friday’s executives had always been: “Oh yeah, you say that, but when you come in, you say, ‘Where’s the stuff?’ ”Friday’s turned to focus groups that told them many consumers felt cheated by half portions. As a result, the Right Size portions are usually about two-thirds the size of the regular entrees.

Mr. Snead showed off the Right Size portions one recent morning outside Friday’s test kitchen, where they were lined up on a long table next to the traditional-size portions. The traditional portions are served in white bowls, with the smaller ones on plates that are about the same size, but red, which helps to mask the size differences.

Mr. Snead gestured toward a full-size salad. “Oh, my God. It looks like a haystack,” he said.

THE Right Size portions are not exactly dainty. The half rack of ribs, for instance, is served with the same amount of French fries as the full rack, with onion rings on top as garnish.

While the primary goal of smaller portions is to lure more customers, Friday’s is also hoping that consumers who eat them will have room left for appetizers and desserts. It turns out that one of the unintended consequences of huge portions is that customers are often too stuffed to order anything else.

Though the campaign is only a few weeks old, Mr. Snead says the early numbers show that the smaller margins on the Right Size portions have so far been offset by higher traffic. The smaller “cedar-seared salmon” on pasta looks like a hit, though some others may be tweaked or scrapped in favor of new Right Size entrees.

Mr. Snead does not know if he has it exactly right yet, but, he said, “I’m staying with this.”

jeudi, mars 22, 2007

no light at the end of the tunnel

Leo: You might like an evening to yourself with nothing to do... : )
That is, except catalogue pictures, burn music files, study for your classes, worry about the [faculty] strike ... : P

Me: Of course I'd like an evening to myself with nothing to do. I'll put that on my calendar for the 13th of Floopuary, 2000never.

west indian girl at winston's

They're amazing. Join Leo and I at Winston's tomorrow night for the show in OB.

tying the knot

I've agonized over giving friends the right wedding gift, but this takes the cake. Also, bucking the 100-day proposal tradition seems like a damn good idea to me.

D/Ophy: Where's my suit?
In South Korea, tying the knot has plenty of strings attached In South Korea, tying the knot has plenty of strings attached
By Norimitsu Onishi
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Click here to find out more!

SEOUL: When two young television stars called it quits only 12 days after their recent wedding, their very public and acrimonious divorce shone a rare spotlight on the underside of marriage in South Korea.

Lying in a hospital bed with a broken nose, Lee Min Young accused her husband, Lee Chan, of domestic violence, causing much hand-wringing in the country's media and blogosphere. But as accusations and counteraccusations flew, an equally heated debate arose over another reason cited for the breakup: wedding gifts.

According to accounts in the South Korean media, the bridegroom's father said he received a gold-plated spoon among the gifts from the bride's family, but said he merited at least a silver spoon. The bride's mother, in turn, complained bitterly that her daughter deserved to live in a more spacious apartment than the one chosen by the bridegroom.

The divorce showed how, perhaps more than ever, choosing the right wedding gifts for the new in-laws is fraught with pitfalls in South Korea. Shop for a plasma television set that is too small, and the bride's family risks offending the bridegroom's family. Other misjudgments can lead to strained relations between the two families or, at its extreme, a premature divorce.

Traditionally, the bridegroom or his family was expected to provide the newlyweds with a home that the bride and her family were expected to furnish. A bride's dowry was compensation for being taken care of for the rest of her life. Nowadays, changes like the rising status of women, the country's growing wealth and, not least, skyrocketing real estate prices have complicated matters.

"In the past, simple and useful gifts were given," said Han Gyoung Hae, a professor of family studies at Seoul National University. "But now the price of the gifts has become more and more important, especially among the country's new rich.

"If, traditionally, the gifts were meant to tie families together, now they are meant to show off how rich you are. The phenomenon is an expression of how materialistic South Korean society has become."

Gifts started becoming lavish along with South Korea's rising economy in the 1980s. Then, in the 1990s, families of brides began giving sums of money outright, said Kim Joo Hee, a professor of family culture at Sungshin Women's University in Seoul.

"But it's become customary for the bridegroom's family to return half of the money," Kim said. "If they don't, it could lead to confrontation."

The anguish over choosing the right wedding gifts, though perhaps most intense among the wealthy, is shared by all social classes, Kim said.

"A woman from a poor family may have to work and save for her marriage, instead of relying on her family, but she will face similar problems over gifts," Kim said.

What underlies the gift exchanges is that, despite South Korea's high-tech exterior, marriages are still unions between families, and parents remain deeply involved in the final selection of their children's spouses.

"Marriage is a whole family thing," said Lee Hyo Yon, 28, an official at the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency who married recently. "And gifts are such an important part of it that some couples even break up before they ever get married. The family of one friend of mine gave $30,000 to the bridegroom's family, but they said that wasn't enough."

Lee said she was lucky because the family of her husband, Kim Young Seok, an engineer at Hyundai Motors, was extremely easygoing. The couple's courtship followed a common course among members of their generation. They were set up by a mutual friend who, according to custom, will now be presented with a suit, or the equivalent, in gratitude.

Their first date was at an Italian restaurant in Kangnam, a fashionable district in southern Seoul, and Kim later impressed her by going to pick her up at the airport at 2 a.m. after a business trip. Like many men here, he proposed on their 100-day anniversary.

The young couple will live with the bridegroom's parents for the time being. But his parents have already bought an apartment for their son and his future wife. "We're three brothers in my family," Kim said. "So my parents bought each son an apartment years ago for their future marriages."

As for Lee, she is bringing over a new king-sized bed. Unlike many other mothers-in-law, hers was not interested in receiving any gifts.

"That in itself caused my mother and me to worry," said Lee, who earned a master's degree in management from New York University. "Maybe we really weren't doing enough. One day we even took my future mother-in-law to a fur coat store and asked her to let us choose one for her. But she refused."

Experts say that the rising status and income of professional women, like Lee, has also led to the recalibration of gift-giving. For instance, in the case of the television stars, the actress was doing better than her husband.

"Women are more educated, sometimes more so than their husbands, and are working," Han said.

"That gives her side of the family a bigger voice in the marriage, and it complicates gift-giving."

The current real estate boom in Seoul, as well as South Korea's particular rental system, has also increased the burden on today's bridegroom. The selection of an apartment that is not up to the standards the bride or her family had expected, as was the case with the actress's mother, can lead to recriminations.

"If the bridegroom's family is affluent but does not buy an apartment for the newlyweds and just rents one instead, that can cause problems," said Kim, the professor of family culture. "That means they chose not to buy one, and gifts from the bride's family must be adjusted accordingly."

Renting is not cheap, either. In South Korea, instead of monthly rents, landlords usually demand a lump sum of money, which they typically invest, returning it at the end of a two-year lease.

In Sanbon, a suburb of Seoul popular among newlyweds, renting a typical apartment of less than 65 square meters, or 700 square feet, requires a $75,000 initial payment for a two-year lease, said Kim Won Jong, a real estate agent there.

The apartment chosen by Lee Chan, the actor, for his wife was more than 90 square meters and located in a more fashionable neighborhood. But the actress's mother said her daughter was worth a 170-square-meter apartment.

"That," said Kim, the agent, "is a palace."

why david was fired

It scares me when I see the black and white ways in which our current administration looks at the world. The "if you're not with us, you're against us" attitude makes it nearly impossible for individuals to do the right thing. That's especially ironic in this case, because David Iglesias' job was to enforce the law.
Why I Was Fired
Op-Ed Contributor DAVID C. IGLESIAS
Published: March 21, 2007

WITH this week’s release of more than 3,000 Justice Department e-mail messages about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, it seems clear that politics played a role in the ousters.

Of course, as one of the eight, I’ve felt this way for some time. But now that the record is out there in black and white for the rest of the country to see, the argument that we were fired for “performance related” reasons (in the words of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty) is starting to look more than a little wobbly.

United States attorneys have a long history of being insulated from politics. Although we receive our appointments through the political process (I am a Republican who was recommended by Senator Pete Domenici), we are expected to be apolitical once we are in office. I will never forget John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, telling me during the summer of 2001 that politics should play no role during my tenure. I took that message to heart. Little did I know that I could be fired for not being political.

Politics entered my life with two phone calls that I received last fall, just before the November election. One came from Representative Heather Wilson and the other from Senator Domenici, both Republicans from my state, New Mexico.

Ms. Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politically charged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving local Democrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may not legally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking to Ms. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges — the cases Ms. Wilson had been asking about — before November. When I told him that I didn’t think so, he said, “I am very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead.

A few weeks after those phone calls, my name was added to a list of United States attorneys who would be asked to resign — even though I had excellent office evaluations, the biggest political corruption prosecutions in New Mexico history, a record number of overall prosecutions and a 95 percent conviction rate. (In one of the documents released this week, I was deemed a “diverse up and comer” in 2004. Two years later I was asked to resign with no reasons given.)

When some of my fired colleagues — Daniel Bogden of Las Vegas; Paul Charlton of Phoenix; H. E. Cummins III of Little Rock, Ark.; Carol Lam of San Diego; and John McKay of Seattle — and I testified before Congress on March 6, a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Not only had we not been insulated from politics, we had apparently been singled out for political reasons. (Among the Justice Department’s released documents is one describing the office of Senator Domenici as being “happy as a clam” that I was fired.)

As this story has unfolded these last few weeks, much has been made of my decision to not prosecute alleged voter fraud in New Mexico. Without the benefit of reviewing evidence gleaned from F.B.I. investigative reports, party officials in my state have said that I should have begun a prosecution. What the critics, who don’t have any experience as prosecutors, have asserted is reprehensible — namely that I should have proceeded without having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The public has a right to believe that prosecution decisions are made on legal, not political, grounds.

What’s more, their narrative has largely ignored that I was one of just two United States attorneys in the country to create a voter-fraud task force in 2004. Mine was bipartisan, and it included state and local law enforcement and election officials.

After reviewing more than 100 complaints of voter fraud, I felt there was one possible case that should be prosecuted federally. I worked with the F.B.I. and the Justice Department’s public integrity section. As much as I wanted to prosecute the case, I could not overcome evidentiary problems. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. did not disagree with my decision in the end not to prosecute.

Good has already come from this scandal. Yesterday, the Senate voted to overturn a 2006 provision in the Patriot Act that allows the attorney general to appoint indefinite interim United States attorneys. The attorney general’s chief of staff has resigned and been replaced by a respected career federal prosecutor, Chuck Rosenberg. The president and attorney general have admitted that “mistakes were made,” and Mr. Domenici and Ms. Wilson have publicly acknowledged calling me.

President Bush addressed this scandal yesterday. I appreciate his gratitude for my service — this marks the first time I have been thanked. But only a written retraction by the Justice Department setting the record straight regarding my performance would settle the issue for me.

David C. Iglesias was United States attorney for the District of New Mexico from October 2001 through last month.

mercredi, mars 21, 2007

straight, but not narrow

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

— Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller
The legal, financial, political, and social discrimination that my gay and lesbians friends endure alternately saddens, bewilders, and infuriates me. I was ranting about it the other day when a colleague asked why gay rights are such a hot-button issue for me when I'm "dating a man."

My answer is simple: I speak up because it's the right thing to do. Inequality (especially institutionalized inequality) is counter to everything in which I believe. Democratic ideals are the closest I get to a religion, and equality of access and status before the law are fundamental for democracy to work.

To be fair, it goes beyond that. Given a choice, my own personality is such that I invariably favor the underdog and champion the cause of David as he fights Goliath.
Why do straights hate gays?
An aging 72-year-old gay man isn't hopeful about the future.
By Larry Kramer, LARRY KRAMER is the founder of the protest group ACT UP and the author of "The Tragedy of Today's Gays."
March 20, 2007


Why do you hate gay people so much?

Gays are hated. Prove me wrong. Your top general just called us immoral. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is in charge of an estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian troops, some fighting for our country in Iraq. A right-wing political commentator, Ann Coulter, gets away with calling a straight presidential candidate a faggot. Even Garrison Keillor, of all people, is making really tacky jokes about gay parents in his column. This, I guess, does not qualify as hate except that it is so distasteful and dumb, often a first step on the way to hate. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama tried to duck the questions that Pace's bigotry raised, confirming what gay people know: that there is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us.

Gays should not vote for any of them. There is not a candidate or major public figure who would not sell gays down the river. We have seen this time after time, even from supposedly progressive politicians such as President Clinton with his "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military and his support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, it's possible that being shunned by gays will make politicians more popular, but at least we will have our self-respect. To vote for them is to collude with them in their utter disdain for us.

Don't any of you wonder why heterosexuals treat gays so brutally year after year after year, as your people take away our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood? Why, even as we die you don't leave us alone. What we can leave our surviving lovers is taxed far more punitively than what you leave your (legal) surviving spouses. Why do you do this? My lover will be unable to afford to live in the house we have made for each other over our lifetime together. This does not happen to you. Taxation without representation is what led to the Revolutionary War. Gay people have paid all the taxes you have. But you have equality, and we don't.

And there's no sign that this situation will change anytime soon. President Bush will leave a legacy of hate for us that will take many decades to cleanse. He has packed virtually every court and every civil service position in the land with people who don't like us. So, even with the most tolerant of new presidents, gays will be unable to break free from this yoke of hate. Courts rule against gays with hateful regularity. And of course the Supreme Court is not going to give us our equality, and in the end, it is from the Supreme Court that such equality must come. If all of this is not hate, I do not know what hate is.

Our feeble gay movement confines most of its demands to marriage. But political candidates are not talking about — and we are not demanding that they talk about — equality. My lover and I don't want to get married just yet, but we sure want to be equal.

You must know that gays get beaten up all the time, all over the world. If someone beats you up because of who you are — your race or ethnic origin — that is considered a hate crime. But in most states, gays are not included in hate crime measures, and Congress has refused to include us in a federal act.

Homosexuality is a punishable crime in a zillion countries, as is any activism on behalf of it. Punishable means prison. Punishable means death. The U.S. government refused our requests that it protest after gay teenagers were hanged in Iran, but it protests many other foreign cruelties. Who cares if a faggot dies? Parts of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. are joining with the Nigerian archbishop, who believes gays should be put in prison. Episcopalians! Whoever thought we'd have to worry about Episcopalians?

Well, whoever thought we'd have to worry about Florida? A young gay man was just killed in Florida because of his sexual orientation. I get reports of gays slain in our country every week. Few of them make news. Fewer are prosecuted. Do you consider it acceptable that 20,000 Christian youths make an annual pilgrimage to San Francisco to pray for gay souls? This is not free speech. This is another version of hate. It is all one world of gay-hate. It always was.

Gays do not realize that the more we become visible, the more we come out of the closet, the more we are hated. Don't those of you straights who claim not to hate us have a responsibility to denounce the hate? Why is it socially acceptable to joke about "girlie men" or to discriminate against us legally with "constitutional" amendments banning gay marriage? Because we cannot marry, we can pass on only a fraction of our estates, we do not have equal parenting rights and we cannot live with a foreigner we love who does not have government permission to stay in this country. These are the equal protections that the Bill of Rights proclaims for all?

Why do you hate us so much that you will not permit us to legally love? I am almost 72, and I have been hated all my life, and I don't see much change coming.

I think your hate is evil.

What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.

And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.

You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.

bully for pete stark

I'm a secular humanist and agree with this op/ed piece.
God's dupes
Moderate believers give cover to religious fanatics -- and are every bit as delusional.
By Sam Harris, SAM HARRIS is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."
March 15, 2007

PETE STARK, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.

Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."

Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.

The truth is, there is not a person on Earth who has a good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in a cave. And yet billions of people claim to be certain about such things. As a result, Iron Age ideas about everything high and low — sex, cosmology, gender equality, immortal souls, the end of the world, the validity of prophecy, etc. — continue to divide our world and subvert our national discourse. Many of these ideas, by their very nature, hobble science, inflame human conflict and squander scarce resources.

Of course, no religion is monolithic. Within every faith one can see people arranged along a spectrum of belief. Picture concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness: At the center, one finds the truest of true believers — the Muslim jihadis, for instance, who not only support suicidal terrorism but who are the first to turn themselves into bombs; or the Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.

Outside this sphere of maniacs, one finds millions more who share their views but lack their zeal. Beyond them, one encounters pious multitudes who respect the beliefs of their more deranged brethren but who disagree with them on small points of doctrine — of course the world is going to end in glory and Jesus will appear in the sky like a superhero, but we can't be sure it will happen in our lifetime.

Out further still, one meets religious moderates and liberals of diverse hues — people who remain supportive of the basic scheme that has balkanized our world into Christians, Muslims and Jews, but who are less willing to profess certainty about any article of faith. Is Jesus really the son of God? Will we all meet our grannies again in heaven? Moderates and liberals are none too sure.

Those on this spectrum view the people further toward the center as too rigid, dogmatic and hostile to doubt, and they generally view those outside as corrupted by sin, weak-willed or unchurched.

The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists — men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin's Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals — who aren't sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally — deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.

People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?

There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faith — but there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know.

Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.

Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.
Via Leo

save the good stuff for drinking

Cooking with wine (the essentials):
  1. The cheap stuff is just fine.
  2. Beware wines with tannins, as they will affect the flavor of the dish.
  3. Don't use a sweet wine when the recipe calls for a dry wine.
It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine
Published: March 21, 2007
IN the beginning, there was cooking wine.

And Americans cooked with it, and said it was good.

Then, out of the darkness, came a voice.

Said Julia Child: “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”

And so we came to a new gospel: Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

For my generation of home cooks, this line now has the unshakable ring of a commandment. It was the first thing out of the mouth of every expert I interviewed on the subject.

But it is not always helpful in the kitchen. For one thing, short of a wine that is spoiled by age, heat or a compromised cork, there are few that I categorically would not drink. (Although a cooking wine, which is spiked with salt and sometimes preservatives, has never touched my braising pot.)

And once a drinkable wine has been procured, trying to figure out whether it is the best one for a particular recipe can seem impossible. How much of the wine’s subtler qualities will linger in the finished dish? How much of the fruit flavor? Does it matter whether the wine is old or young, inexpensive or pricey, tannic or soft?

Two weeks ago I set out to cook with some particularly unappealing wines and promised to taste the results with an open mind. Then I went to the other extreme, cooking with wines that I love (and that are not necessarily cheap) to see how they would hold up in the saucepan.

After cooking four dishes with at least three different wines, I can say that cooking is a great equalizer.

I whisked several beurre blancs — the classic white wine and butter emulsion — pouring in a New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a perfume of Club Med piña coladas, an overly sweet German riesling and a California chardonnay so oaky it tasted as if it had been aged in a box of No. 2 pencils.

Although the wines themselves were unpleasant, all the finished sauces tasted just the way they should have: of butter and shallots, with a gentle rasp of acidity from the wine to emphasize the richness. There were minor variations — the riesling version was slightly sweet — but all of them were much tastier than I had expected.

Next I braised duck legs in a nonvintage $5.99 tawny port that reminded me of long-abandoned Halloween candy, with hints of Skittles and off-brand caramels. Then I cooked a second batch of duck legs in a 20-year-old tawny port deliciously scented with walnuts, leather and honey. Again, the difference was barely discernible: both pots were dominated by the recipe’s other ingredients: dried cherries, black pepper, coriander seed and the duck itself.

Wincing a little, I boiled a 2003 premier cru Sauternes from Château Suduiraut (“The vineyard is right next door to Yquem,” the saleswoman assured me), then baked it into an egg-and-cream custard to see whether its delicate citrusy, floral notes would survive the onslaught. They did, but the custard I made with a $5.99 moscato from Paso Robles, Calif., was just as fragrant.

Over all, wines that I would have poured down the drain rather than sip from a glass were improved by the cooking process, revealing qualities that were neutral at worst and delightful at best. On the other hand, wines of complexity and finesse were flattened by cooking — or, worse, concentrated by it, taking on big, cartoonish qualities that made them less than appetizing.

It wasn’t that the finished dishes were identical — in fact, they did have surprisingly distinct flavors — but the wonderful wines and the awful ones produced equally tasty food, especially if the wine was cooked for more than a few minutes.

The final test was a three-way blind tasting of risotto al Barolo, the Piedmontese specialty in which rice is simmered until creamy and tender in Barolo and stock, then whipped with butter and parmigiano. Barolo, made entirely from the nebbiolo grape, is a legendary Italian wine; by law, it must be aged for at least three years to soften its aggressive tannins and to transform it into the smooth aristocrat that fetches top dollar on the international wine market.

I made the dish three times in one morning: first with a 2000 Barolo ($69.95), next with a 2005 dolcetto d’Alba ($22.95), and finally with a jack-of-all-wines, a Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon affectionately known to Trader Joe’s shoppers as Two-Buck Chuck. (Introduced at $1.99, the price is up to $2.99 at the Manhattan store.)

Although the Barolo was rich and complex to drink, of the seven members of the Dining section staff who tasted the risottos, no one liked the Barolo-infused version best. “Least flavorful,” “sharp edges” and “sour,” they said.

The winner, by a vote of 4-to-3, was the Charles Shaw wine, which was the youngest and grapiest in the glass: the tasters said the wine’s fruit “stood up well to the cheese” and made the dish rounder. “It’s the best of both worlds,” one taster said, citing the astringency of the Barolo version and the overripe alcoholic perfume of the dolcetto. The young, fruity upstart beat the Old World classic by a mile.

“I’m not surprised,” said Molly Stevens, a cooking teacher in Vermont whose book “All About Braising” (W. W. Norton, 2005) called for wine in almost every recipe.

“If it had been short ribs, you probably wouldn’t have been able to taste the difference when the dish was done, because meat and wine work together differently,” she said.

This might explain how the chef Mario Batali got away with pouring an inexpensive California merlot into the beef with Barolo served at Babbo, as Bill Buford observed in “Heat” (Knopf, 2006), his account of his work at the restaurant.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Batali said he preferred to cook with Barolo when he would be drinking Barolo, saying that “the resulting comparison of the raw, uncooked wine and the muted, deeper and reduced flavor of the wine in the finished dish ... allows more of the entire spectrum of specific grape flavor, a dance on the ballroom of the diner’s palate.” (He did not dispute Mr. Buford’s assertion, however.)

Mark Ladner, the executive chef at Del Posto, Mr. Batali’s restaurant on the fringe of the meatpacking district, sees several hundred dollars’ worth of aged Barolo stirred into its version of the risotto, a signature dish, every week.

“My brain tells me it should matter,” he said, “but once a wine is cooked I’m not sure how much even a discerning palate can tell.

“When I make the dish at home, I use a dolcetto d’Alba — a simpler wine from the same region — and honestly I like it even better.”

The difference between Barolo and dolcetto does reveal one hard rule of cooking with wine: watch out for tannins. Found in grape skins and seeds, tannins are bitter-tasting plant compounds that can give red wine and tea some desirable tartness but become unpleasantly astringent when cooked. (Barolo, young Bordeaux and northern Rhônes are examples of very tannic wines.)

“I wouldn’t cook with Barolo even if I could afford it,” said Bob Millman, a longtime wine buyer for Morrell & Co. in Manhattan.

“Tannins are what get you into trouble in cooking,” Ms. Stevens said, because they are accentuated and concentrated by heat. “For reds, err soft,” she said, and choose a wine with a smooth finish.

Are there any other hard rules for choosing wine for cooking? One: don’t be afraid of cheap wine. In 1961, when Mrs. Child handed down her edict in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” decent wines at the very low end of the price scale were almost impossible to find in the United States.

Now, inexpensive wines flow from all over the world: a $6 bottle is often a pleasant surprise (though sometimes, still, unredeemable plonk).

“Often customers come in looking for an inexpensive wine to cook with, and when I steer them to our $5.99 and $6.99 Portuguese wines, which are perfectly good for most dishes, they are uncomfortable with it,” said Gregory dal Piaz, a salesman who specializes in wine and food pairings at Astor Wines and Spirits in SoHo. “They think it is just too cheap.”

At the other end of the price scale, the experts agree that it is wasteful, even outrageous, to cook with old, fine and expensive wines.

“Let’s take the most horrifying example, a Romanée-Conti, among the most subtle and aristocratic wines on the planet,” Mr. Millman said. “There is no way that its complexity and finesse will be expressed if you cook it, even for a minute. The essential flavors that make it a Romanée-Conti will be lost.”

Ms. Stevens said that she divides the vast and bewildering universe of wine into Tuesday night bottles and Saturday night bottles, and that she cheerfully cooks with whatever Tuesday wine happens to be open.

“I really resent opening a bottle just because a recipe calls for a quarter cup of something,” she said, “but the acidity of wine in cooking really is irreplaceable. You can’t just leave it out or sub in another liquid.”

Plain dry vermouth, she said, which lasts indefinitely, is her standby white for cooking. (This was also Mrs. Child’s solution. Red vermouth, however, cannot be used in recipes calling for red wine; it’s too sweet.)

Before these cooking sessions, I would have been suspicious of a recipe that casually called for “Sauternes or another dessert wine,” as Nigella Lawson’s custard recipe does. I still would not swap in a sugary ruby port for drier tawny, or pour Manischewitz into a coq au vin — sweet wines and dry should be kept in their places.

But beyond that, cooking with wine is just that — cooking — and wine is only one of the ingredients that give a finished dish its flavor. Aromatics, spices, herbs, sugar and especially meat and fat tend to erase the distinct flavors of wine.

Mr. Millman, the wine buyer, maintains that cooking with wines that have the same terroir as the food produces the best-tasting results, but Mr. Ladner, the chef, isn’t so sure.

“In my head,” he said, “it tastes better and I like it more, but I wouldn’t like to put it to the test. I like the romance of cooking with wines of the region. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

mardi, mars 20, 2007

a new, greener harry

Environmental fans of Potter can breathe slightly easier. After the 100% recycled Canadian version cut into Scholastic's profits last time, the publisher has come around. This time, the book's going to be published on paper that's at least 30% post-consumer waste fiber. Still no word on whether the wands come from sustainable-growth forests, though ...
Harry Potter, Friend of the Forests
March 20, 2007, 4:17 pm
By Mike Nizza

Harry Potter, Friend of the ForestsWhen Scholastic announced that it would be printing 12 million copies of the final Harry Potter book, the number inspired more awe than practical concerns. Chiefly, where is all that paper going to come from?

The answer came today: Sixty-five percent of the 16,700 tons needed for the launch will be manufactured from forests approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, a group that sets global standards for sustainable forest-keeping, according to their site.

All the books will contain contain “a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber,'’ or paper that has been collected for recycling.

For more details, read the news release on, and click on something there while you are feeling green.

The Associated Press remembers criticism for Scholastic in 2005 that may have led to the shift:

Greenpeace and other environmental groups complained that Scholastic wasn’t using enough recycled paper [in ‘’Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'’] and urged consumers to buy copies from the Canadian publisher, Raincoast Books.

Scott Paul, who works on forests for Greenpeace, today expressed his approval to the A.P., while assuring readers that “many of the Harry Potter fans worldwide have been able to enjoy the books on FSC-certified paper.”

Phew. Now everyone can worry about more important things, like what’s going to happen to Harry!
Via The NY Times