30 July 2008

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

Here is a list of my most-listened-to artists over the past two years:

Let's focus on the one with a name so long it won't even fit on the line. I first heard Margot & the Nuclear So and So's two years ago when my friend Lauren sent m : e a track of theirs. I liked it very much and played it on every road trip I went on that summer. Why I never investigated more is beyond me: last year I heard another one of their songs (Skeleton Key) on a friend of a friend's MySpace page and was blown away (and finally downloaded their album, The Dust of Retreat). If you've never listened to this band, please do so right now. They are in the middle of a tour and you'll probably have an opportunity to see them live; they put on an amazing show.

I got to see Margot this week at Bowery Ballroom (last time I saw them, it was at Mercury Lounge when it was very cold out). I was happy to see the crowd at Bowery this week more than twice the size of that one! I immediately stopped by the merch table to see if their new album was out on vinyl yet. I got to chat with Erik (he plays guitar, violin and lap steel guitar), and he told me that two albums are coming out in September within two weeks of each other called – ready for this? – Animal and Not Animal. Amazing! To hold me over, I got their latest EP, The Daytrotter Sessions.

Margot EP

The show itself was super, as I expected. About 60% of it was new stuff that I had not heard; it made me really excited for September. Some guy proposed to his girlfriend, Roxanne, halfway through it via the band. We never found out her answer, which was sad but it was a cute moment nonetheless.

Something I really like about this band is that every single person in it – there are eight – looks like a caricature to me, with a completely different look and a seemingly different personality; when coming together to play music though, they blend together perfectly. As you could probably guess from the instruments Erik plays, they have an interesting sound that brings in trumpets, keys, the lap steel, there are cellos on the album, a variety of percussion instruments, and more into their songs.

Things seem to be expanding a little, too: the tracks they played from The Dust of Retreat seemed a little more upbeat than the recording (which has so many beautiful melodic layers it literally makes one want to turn the music into liquid and float in it). On the other hand, the EP I bought is a very quiet and pretty interlude that I can picture waking up to if you're the only one in your house and the sun is streaming in through the plants on your windowsill. I can't wait to hear Animal and Not Animal, to say the least.

29 July 2008

Origami bookmarks

Back when I asked everyone what they used as a bookmark, my friend Shanna mentioned origami bookmarks that her husband knew how to make. Recently, she learned how to make them herself and sent me an envelope full of them!

Japanese bookmarks

I really admire Japanese craftsmanship and the incredibly varied patterns of paper that are used for origami. Aren't they beautiful?

Japanese bookmarks

Shanna was also generous enough to include some vintage photographs that she knew I had an interest for; including a tintype (which I had never heard of or seen prior to this – they have the coolest feel and sound when you clink them down onto a table)!

Antique photographs

A million thanks go out to Shanna for these treasures. I would never have guessed that you had just learned how to make the bookmarks – they're perfect.

23 July 2008


Last week, I ordered a rubber-stamped Moleskine cahier from Deborah Champion's Etsy shop, Champignons. It came yesterday.

I love it.

The imagery is John Tenniel's, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I've always loved this story and its imagery and I love rubber stamps, so this was perfect (I was about to buy a new Moleskine to use as a journal anyway). There were other cover scenes to choose from, but I loved that this one said "Curiosities" on it.

Deborah shipped the journal in a little plastic sleeve with a hard back, probably in case the postal service was less than gentle with it. She included a handwritten note and a couple of her business cards.

Thank you, Deborah!!

There is great attention to detail; the rabbit's pocket watch is stamped to the inside back cover, where the pocket is.

Inside cover

Back cover

Deborah has other great things in her shop, like cameos and pretty illustrations and watercolors. Check it out, I highly recommend.

22 July 2008


I got the coolest tip from Photojojo last week. It was for Opacity.us – a collection of Tom Kirsch's photography from abandoned places. There are hospitals, penitentiaries, hotels and cemeteries in this haunting portfolio. In his words, "This is a lonesome alien world whose dark corners and peeling walls have gotten a hold of me and many others; this affinity for derelict structures and often dangerous excitement is the core essence of urban exploring, in my opinion."

Photojojo put it well:
The results are stunning: a million shades of rust, ghostly-lit interiors, broken sinks, mirrors, typewriters, rotting pillows, a red barber’s chair that looks as new as the walls around it look old. Piles of tiles and wallpaper rot next to the room of broken wheelchairs. Birds nesting in a breaker room. Al Capone’s prison cell, just as he left it.
Here is the shot of Capone's cell they mentioned (definitely nicer than some other cells I have seen):

Tom's photos are beautiful and sometimes a little wistful (respectively, below – I want to bring that piano back to my house and love it forever).

This site's definitely worth a visit; there are dozens of buildings to sneak into and hundreds of photos of them. The fact that he only relies on natural light coming through broken windows and cracks in the walls & ceilings really adds to the eerie mood behind these and almost makes you feel like you're there.

21 July 2008

Weekend mochi experiment

I had adventures with mochi blocks this weekend. I don't know the correct term for them, so that is what they will be called.

First, let me explain mochi (I know many of you know what it is, but some might not). It first entered my consciousness in 2004 because Super Milk-Chan talks about eating rice cakes all the time. These aren't the dry, crumbly kind that Americans eat when they want to lose weight or "be healthy" – she's really talking about mochi. According to wiseGEEK,
Mochi is made by soaking short grain glutinous or sticky rice overnight, cooking it, and pounding it into a sticky paste. The paste is molded into shapes...
I think the most mainstream form that we're used to here looks like this:


That one is filled with red bean paste. This stuff is very popular in Japan, as I increasingly saw when I was there in April. My cousin's wife in Nagasaki made me the most delicious snack one day called isobe maki. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted. It involved mochi blocks (again, remember, they probably have a better name but I don't know it). They are little individually wrapped rectangular blocks of the stuff; they look like mini bars of soap. When cooked, they expand a little and get very chewy and sticky. They were wrapped in a specific way (she had to teach me) in two sheets of seaweed, and dipped into this thick mixture of soy sauce and sugar. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Last week I randomly saw a package of these blocks in an Asian Market and squeaked of happiness.

FOUND them!

I immediately also bought seaweed sheets. This weekend, I tried making isobe maki. I was nervous, because all I remembered my cousin saying was "cook in pan." So, I tried that. Good thing there aren't too many ingredients.

An experiment. Here goes nothing.

I was going on very fuzzy memory at this point. All Hiroko told me three moths ago (three months ago?!?!) was "Cook in pan."

It worked! I had also remembered how to wrap it in the seaweed.

I remembered how to fold the two sheets around each other!


I was so excited and delighted by this that I made it in a different way the following morning for breakfast. This time, I boiled it (to not have the cooking oil taste) and ate it with honey and strawberries. This was inspired by my friend Jess' mother, who used to make it with honey for her before school tests as a child so that the information "would stick to her brain more." Cute, yes?


Now the tiniest lesson imaginable: The Japanese word for "delicious" is "oishii." Pronounced "oi-SHEE."

19 July 2008

Flavorpill + absinthe

Two nights ago, I was invited to Santo's Party House to taste Flavorpill's new signature summer drink, Orange Fresh. The star ingredient was Le Tourment Vert absinthe.


When I walked down the stairs from the entrance, a table of samples in test tubes and absinthe booklets was waiting.

At the foot of the stairs

First of the night.

The stuff was pretty good and tasted very potent (not necessarily "strong," but very... something. Flavorful (ha)?).

For an hour, the lovely bartenders made a variety of cocktails with Le Tourment Vert and DJs spun. Afterwards was a party called Été D'Amour and featured the Rapture DJs & DJ Dominique. I didn't stick around for the party, but the absinthe tasting alone was worth the walk down to Chinatown. It was lovely to see some familiar faces and enjoy the drinks. "I don't think people realize that this stuff is 100 proof. People are drinking it like it's just a drink," Sascha said at one point. He was right, I began to feel wonky and left. I sauntered into a tree on the way home.

The next morning, I realized that there was a lot more in the booklet than I had thought. It unfolds into a beautifully-designed timeline history of absinthe. The other side features a bunch of different cocktails you can mix with Le Tourment Vert.

Leave behind. Looks like an innocent little card at first.

Unfolds into a thorough absinthe timeline. And cocktail recipes on the back!

Closeup. Swimming in a pool of absinthe seems tingly.

For those who weren't at the party, the timeline and recipes can be found here.

17 July 2008

Summer in BK

Words cannot express how much my mood changes in the summer. It's partially due to the fact that I have mild S.A.D. (who doesn't?), but I think it's mostly Brooklyn's fault. All of the best times I've had in the past two summers have dealt with Brooklyn-centered activities that took place outside. Last summer, it was the rooftop BBQ my friends had by the water. Here are some highlights from this year so far:

Dinner at River Café with my visiting parents
Brooklyn & Manhattan bridges

Walking to an outdoor restaurant after work with my roommate and close friend, Laura
A little overboard

Walking around the park
What summer in BK is like.

What summer in BK also looks like.

Seeing The Virgin Suicides this week at McCarren Park Pool (it was part of the L Magazine's Summer Screen, which I recommend checking out before they fill the pool with water again)
Filling up

Virgin Suicides

This weekend is the famed Siren Festival in Coney Island, along with yet another dodgeball, slip n' slide, food and beer-filled JellyNYC Pool Party featuring Liars, Fuck Buttons and Team Robespierre. See what I mean? Get thee to a nunnery Brooklyn this summer and you'll see what Chuck Welch meant when he said "BK to the fullest."

16 July 2008

Coffee shop chalkboard signs

In the past several months, I have been taking photos of chalkboard signs outside of coffee shops. Very specifically: Sweet Farm and El Beit in Williamsburg. These two shops started out being next to each other, and I wasn't sure how each one would do, competition-wise.

After a while, each shop ended up claiming a firm position in my mind because of the stuff on the ever-changing chalkboard signs outside each store. El Beit tended to focus a lot on dreamy imagery like tiled teddy bears, coffee mugs with wings, clouds, etc. Endearingly cute but not in a cloying way. Sweet Farm liked to use puns and a little bit of absurdity that made me laugh. I for some reason can't find any of the El Beit photos and I can't imagine why, but here are some from Sweet Farm:

Sweet Farm


I just found this on my phone

Much to my dismay, I noticed a few months ago that Sweet Farm was gone and had been converted into something called Penny Licks. I don't know if they have really figured out who they are yet, but for now they tend to focus on pretty writing that makes me want dessert. I guess that's a good strategy for a place that has sweets.

Penny Licks - replaced Sweet Farm

Yesterday, I wondered if maybe El Beit decided to take some of the silliness that Sweet Farm used to use. This is what I saw over the weekend:

The first big word I ever learned...

I assure you that I am making this whole thing out to be more than it really is (the personality of coffee shops and such). I bet it's just the same guy who does the board each day and he has a fun personality. Ditto the other shops. Oh well, nice to daydream.

Unofficial Olympic Shirt

Some exciting news from my friend Ed in Hong Kong (this Ed). The first product coming out of his side project, SCHOOL is out - the Unofficial Olympic Shirt. As he puts it:
A t-shirt that really embraces the value of the Olympics - UNITY. We haven't paid multi-million dollar sponsorship deal so you won't see rings nor mascots on any of our shirts. Instead we've woven all participating nations into one piece of fabric. 888 of these limited edition shirts were lovingly made with the finest cotton to commemorate the event opening on 08.08.08.
The design is really great: it strings all of the nations into a double helix-style design (a further symbol of us all coming together).

The shirt comes in marshmallow white, cotton candy blue and cotton candy pink.

You can get it for $45, free worldwide shipping, no tax. Pretty amazing, I love the colors, meaning and can't wait for mine. Great stuff, Ed!

10 July 2008

Spring/summer 2006 journal

I grabbed this from my bookcase last night; I was bored and wanted to read something. I didn't know until I started reading it that it's my journal from spring /summer 2006.

Spring /summer 2006

There is some work in there from my final semester @ Adcenter, stuff I was thinking about, notes from my interview at Naked and other things. It was so fun to read; I scanned a few of the things in there this morning. Here are a few...

When I was brainstorming for this blog! My anonymous commenter will just love that I wrote "richness" on this page.

I didn't write down who said this... hilarious.
Didn't write down who said this either. tsk.

Scare yourself once a week; I loved hearing that. I think this was at the planning conference in Miami that year.
I live by this.

Living in the sky

It's like opening little time capsules of your thoughts, going through old journals like this. If anybody is inclined to do the same thing (flip through & scan), I'd love to see.

Thank you, Alex!

The beautiful Alex came back this week from a month-long sabbatical in France; she was working on her thesis at our Paris office. This is one of the things she brought back with her:

I love Alex

It says a bunch of things about the origin of my name, what my lucky number, day and perhaps flower are, etc. She said it's a ruler, but I think I'll use it as a book mark. I love this, because I have never been able to pick up any souvenirs with my name on them in places when all my friends did on class trips and things. Thank you, mon ami :)

Stay tuned, I found one of my old journals last night and there are a bunch of neat things in there from a couple years ago.
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