Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ways of Seeing

Somehow I lost a contact lens on Thursday night. It was the last lens I had for the worse of my two bad eyes. So I have been wearing glasses since then. It takes my regular glasses plus reading glasses for me to thread a needle, much to my boyfriend's amusement.
I assume going back to wearing glasses for awhile is good for my eyes. I'm fairly careful of them (wash them every day), and they aren't too scratched. But I don't see as well without the contact lenses, particularly detail. I had a bad reaction to them last year (it turned out to be the solution I was using), and my ophthalmologist told me that was it. If I develop a reaction to the current solution, then no more contacts. I see this current lens deprivation as a foretaste of that inevitability, and I don't like it. With any luck, I can pick up my new, special-ordered lenses from Cohen's on Friday, and happily be done with this for awhile.

My Favorite Blog, Part II

There is a memorial to Robert Guskind on Gowanus Lounge (see sidebar). There was also an article about him and the fate of the blog in Sunday's Times (link above). Opinion seems to be split on whether the blog should go forward. I for one think it should. It was originally very much in Bob's voice, but as he added more collaborators over the past year, that changed. My bog-reading is not the same.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Favorite Blog

My favorite blog was edited by a man I've never met, Bob Guskind (though I have emailed him several times). Bob cast a wide journalistic net for Gowanus Lounge, all about and all over Brooklyn. Moving to Brooklyn was difficult for me, after 20 years in Manhattan. I was forced to leave because I couldn't find an apartment I could afford with room for both my bed and my books. But Gowanus Lounge made the transition possible. I was an avid reader of it- every weekend I'd plow through the week's postings. And Guskind was a kind man- it showed through his writing.
This morning I received multiple emails from the neighborhood listserves I'm on that Guskind was found dead in his apartment yesterday. Above is a link to the somewhat snarky Brooklyn Paper obituary. It's not clear what the cause of death was. I didn't know him except through his writing, but in that respect I feel like I knew him very well. The photo is by Louise Crawford.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


There is the oddest description of animal cruelty I've ever read in the February 23rd issue of the New Yorker (link above, but you have to register to read it in the archives). Katherine Boo writes a Letter from Mumbai about the airport slums juxtaposed with the opening night of "Slumdog Millionaire." In describing the daughter of the man who owns the local whore house, Boo writes about her brother "who was ugly and liked to make lizards smoke cigarettes before setting them on fire." And I thought the kid I heard about who executed cats on a scaffold was weird.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, KW

I didn't realize it until I heard it on the radio just now, but today is Kurt Weill's 109th birthday. He is one of my favorite composers. A cantor's son, he studied composition with Busoni, wrote many great songs, not to mention Die Dreigroschen Oper, and married Lotte Lenya twice. Weill died when he was 50- not old by today's standards- in 1950. Perhaps Weill alone of all the German emigres became an American artist- he embraced American musical theatre in a way that Mann did not embrace the novel, for example. And his work still resonates; not just Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," but Teresa Stratas' interpretation of "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" and Elvis Costello's "Lost in the Stars." Not everyone likes Weill, but I think he's unfairly neglected. Have you ever heard Walter Huston sing "Venus and Mars" from Knickbocker Holiday? Or Lenya herself sing "Surabaya Johnny"? Or Mary Martin sing "It's Him"?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Noble Bundt

My sister-in-law and I used to joke a lot about bundt cakes. They were extremely popular in our youth, as were cake mixes. I didn't make a cake from scratch until was nearly 30, and then only because my friends from college mocked me relentlessly about Duncan Hines. Eventually I discovered that cakes from scratch do taste better, and I got really into German and Austrian baking after multiple trips to Vienna. My sister-in-law and I have tried to duplicate the Mohr im Hemd she had at the Cafe Griensteidl 12 years ago many times.
Today, I had to dig out my bundt pan. I am making my boyfriend a chocolate cake from the Imperial Austrian cook book for his birthday, and it's not a layer cake. And I was reminded of the history of the bundt. Two members of the Minneapolis branch of Hadassah, Rose Joshua and Fannie Schanfield, asked H. David Dahlquist (founder of Nordic Ware) to manufacture a mold so they could bake the cakes of their European childhoods, not solely American layer cakes. Mr. Dahlquist complied, and the bundt pan emerged in 1950. It was a substitute for the many and various molds used in European baking. I assume that if you were Jewish and trying to get out of Europe in the 1930s, you may well have had to leave your baking molds behind. My grandmother had a quite impressive collection of cake molds herself, but by the time I needed them, they were in a landfill somewhere. So again, I rely on the bundt. It also works for gugelhopf (also called kugelhopf), a pound cake that a Dutch friend swore her father had for dessert every night, so I'd make it for her birthday.