Shared meals, sugar sculpture and functional graffiti

I don't know about all of you, but I'm in denial that August is almost here. Though warm overnights aren't my favorite part of summer, I do love the late-evening light in my kitchen ... and I love sharing it with others. So, for those of you in the Bay area, here's an open invitation inspired by the essay on communal meals below.

Any Sunday night that you feel like eating dinner with others, you're welcome to come and eat at my place. All I ask is a little notice: ideally a day, but I could work with a few hours, too. Let me know! I hope to see and sup with at least a few of you soon.

:: our stuff ::
  • Theresa Donohoe, whom some of you know, has two upcoming performances of her monologue (?) "The Girl Who Fell Off Bikes!":
    • July 28 at Berkeley's Marsh Theatre, 2120 Allston Way. $7, doors open at 7.
    • Sept. 15 at SF's Marsh Theatre, 1062 Valencia. $7, 7 p.m. doors there, too.
  • One of Matt's recent projects involves Oakland pastor Rev. Harry L. Williams. As he recounts, after officiating a funeral for a homicide victim, people came up to him afterward and asked for his number, in case they needed him for future funeral services. That experience gave birth to a project called Gone, which he's raising funds to support.
  • "To Sleep, Perchance to Grow": My latest piece for the Art House Blog looks at gardening, naps and structured spiritual practices like the Daily Office and walking the labyrinth. The blog is a project of musician and Civil Wars producer Charlie Peacock and his wife Andi Ashworth. Over the years, they've let me write descriptive, more meditative essays on sabbath (and bourbon); knitting; guitar and the senses; and providential street-finds. I'm always grateful to write for them.
:: visual art & design ::
  • Chinese artist Han Bing takes a cabbage for a walk as part of a traveling game that challenges our notions of value.
  • Banksy left his mark here a few years ago (I think I often see a piece at Broadway and Columbus, for instance), but the Chron reports some works are in jeopardy of being removed and resold.

  • Artist creates work in sugar factory: Before an old New York sugar factory gets razed, artist Kara Walker was asked to fill it with a temporary show. The result: "A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant." NPR reports.
  • Several recent pieces explore and challenge cultural norms for beauty. In the first, a Mills College grad sent a photo of herself to people in several countries, asking them to retouch her so that she's beautiful. In the second, a California singer's hilarious music video "Older Ladies" challenges both our standards of beauty and what sort of bond really draws us to the young and fertile. The one I found most moving, though, surprisingly, was the video for the Colbie Caillat song "Try," in which she and other women gradually go from made-up to the faces they woke up in.
  • What makes a photographer? This NYT assessment of a new Garry Winogrand show that features several photos only discovered after his death raises questions I haven't heard discussed much since my art-school days. "If the photographer doesn’t engage with that image — doesn’t even select it — does it qualify as artistic expression?" If you like this sort of thing, it's a fascinating discussion of posthumous editing and the role of the photographer more broadly. 
  • A drawing of World War I becomes a mural in the French Metro: "The Metro mural [link in French] blows that out to nearly 500 feet — “almost double the length of the Bayeux Tapestry,” observes the Telegraph — stretching the length of an underground corridor. It’s massive, overwhelming … which is, of course, the point."
  • In what some have called "functional graffiti," a Brooklyn designer has started posting simpler, redesigned parking signs that visually explain depict a block's schedule. Here's hoping a change like that catches on.
:: film & television ::
  • Film reviews don't usually give me chills, but Manohla Dargis' review of Richard Linklater's Boyhood for the New York Times did. I suspect we'll hear a lot about this groundbreaking film in the coming months. (Linklater filmed the story over several years, so that you actually see the child actor and other cast members age, the young boy becoming a man.) Let me know if any of you are interested in seeing this. I probably won't get to it unless I make plans, but I'd like to see it.
  • Biola grad Matt Wilson's new film, The Virgins, about a couple trying to consummate their marriage before a deployment, tries to be a "Christian" film" that "show[s] you what being a Christian is like" rather than trying to convert viewers.

  • Alissa Wilkinson now has a blog on the Christianity Today site, aptly named Watch This Way (yes, that's an Aerosmith reference).

  • "Selflessness is not exactly the coin of the realm for late-night talk-show guests. ... Letterman's ratings would no doubt be better if he booked someone with a big movie or TV show more prominently than [Kyle] Carpenter. But he didn't. Instead, he coaxed Carpenter gently through an interview in which Carpenter, in a matter-of-fact manner, told his story. It was great television of a kind we don't see much of anymore. What's more, it was on TV only because it interested Letterman (his interest was genuine to anyone who saw the conversation), and he thought it might be interesting to us, as well." - Bill Goodykoontz  on Letterman's interview with a medal of honor recipient.

    This clip covers Carpenter's call from the president. As best I can tell from a rough transcript, Letterman next had him recount the attack and describe his injuries.
:: tunes ::
  • A dear friend from New York is raising funds to finish her album of folk songs, Wide Awake Dream. She has until July 31. If you like Aimee Mann, St. Vincent or Gillian Welch, check out Cordelia Stephens' music and consider supporting the project.
  • The wonderful Gregory Porter on current music: "I don’t like when people are trying to grab for a cheap reaction in a way. I can pull my pants down and the audience is going to go crazy. You can do things the hard way and say something that intrigues the heart, brain and soul. I’d like to see that. Sex is great, but is that the only thing you got? It can be empty. I’d like to hear things go deeper. I want to hear about your mother, father, nature, you know? Don’t rush just to say something outrageous." (Seriously, if you haven't heard him sing yet, I can't plug his music enough. Such a great voice.)
:: poetry ::
  • Marilyn Nelson's biography of George Washington Carver (which I mentioned last time) was so good I decided to try another of her books. It turns out she used poetry to tell her own story, too, in the memoir How I Discovered Poetry. I'm not far into it, but her meditation on church (as understood in childhood) gave me a good laugh:

    "Why did Lot have to take his wife and flea
    from the bad city, like that angel said?
    Poor Lot: imagine having a pet flea..."

    I won't spoil the end, but you can find it in Amazon's preview of the book (which you should buy!). Nelson's a front-runner for my new favorite poet.
  • "With puns, cartoony satires and asides, Lockwood skewers over and over the idea that sex is the key to happiness, or to the natural, or to the real." -New York Times review of Patricia Lockwood's new poetry collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. (You may remember Lockwood from last month's artRecs.)
 :: reading/food for thought ::
  • How many meals in the last week have you eaten alone vs. with others? If you're single, communal meals may be the exception, but this Atlantic essayist argues that shared meals offer many important benefits. I didn't need a hard-sell on this, but it was a good reminder and challenge to find more ways to share my meals with others.

  • "The Place of Our Affection": Andi Ashworth muses on restlessness and home for the Art House blog.
  • I can't imagine what it must have been like for this reporter to visit the scene of the Malaysian Air crash in the Ukraine, but her article describing the crash scene provides almost a master class in detail. I found it an especially effective way to take the reader there without graphic photos or disrespect for the yet-unidentified dead and their families. Interestingly, Megan Garber reports in the Atlantic that the NYT initially included one photo of a body in its coverage, but later took it down.
  • "Masters of Kindness": This article focuses primarily on relational dynamics within healthy and unhealthy marriages, but some of the insights about what does and doesn't foster intimacy with others -- especially how we apply to their good news -- could apply to other contexts, too.
  • "If you think about your work only in terms of what is generating income for you, I think that work would probably die on the vine." - Teju Cole in an NPR interview on his creative use of Twitter.

  • "The Benefits of Failing French": NYT essay on the cognitive benefits of adult language acquisition.
:: food ::
  • It's a good week when I drink a green smoothie every morning, though co-workers love to tease me about the green to brown concoctions. The Chronicle's Amanda Gold recently reported on the increasingly popular smoothies, comparing blender options and sharing three recipes from local green smoothie purveyors.

  • Each time I write these, I try to share mostly new things (or at least new-to-me things), but Eric Felten's one of those writers I can't help myself coming back to, just because his old Wall St. Journal cocktail columns are such gems. I own his book How's Your Drink, mind you, but sometimes it proves surprisingly brief on cocktails I've had thought for sure he'd write about it.

    Turns out he didn't cover some standard cocktail recipes like the Side Car and margarita until post-book. For the margarita column, it's quintessential Felten, pulling together arcane educational history with D-Day trivia and a skosh of linguistics. How can you not love a writer like that? I still may have to piece together and print out a set of every "How's Your Drink" column he ever wrote; the book doesn't substitute.
  • Weary woman's semi-gourmet pasta: For some reason I've been struggling to find a good meal routine lately — both at work and in the evening. When I do cook mid-week, I gravitate toward the simplest, quickest thing possible. My new favorite is this easy, tasty, QUICK and flexible pasta dish you can pretty much make while the noodles cook.

    Salt and boil water for the amount of pasta desired. While the noodles mince a small handful or so of fresh herbs (I've used a combination of sage, marjoram, thyme and oregano, depending on what I have, but basil would work well, too). Coarsely chop a few spoonfuls of oil-packed sundried tomatoes and a few pitted olives. Once the pasta is done and you've drained it, stir in the add-ins along with a few cloves of minced garlic and enough goat cheese to make a light, creamy sauce. Stir with a fork until the cheese is mixed in and no large clumps remain. Season with salt, pepper and maybe a little lemon juice to taste.