Thursday, July 24, 2008

The sands of time

Whenever I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I visit the Temple of Dendur. Every time.

There's something about the sheer age of the building - and its completeness - that awes me. Every time.

The temple, a tomb for two brothers, is built of massive bricks of sandstone and covered in detailed carvings. Its accessibility - in its own glass temple - is extraordinary; you can walk up to it, around it, into it.

The temple is over 2000 years old - an almost incomprehensible length of time. I mean really, what were they doing 20 centuries ago? What were they wearing? But the Temple of Dendur, given to the USA in the 1960s and first exhibited by the Met in 1978, also shows another timeline. One that brings that timeline of centuries to a tad more human scale.

Carved into one of the pillars of the wharf in neat Roman capital lettering is the name "LEONARDO 1820" and over on the walls of the temple are the names "Belmore" and "Madox" carved two years earlier.

Almost 200 years ago, some young toughs were standing on the banks of the Nile, scratching away at the walls of the temple, leaving their mark. And they were not the first. There is a trail of graffiti on the temple that evidently dates back to 10BC - just 5 years after the temple was built.

Looking at the Temple of Dendur, I see not only the amazing - and it is amazing - sight of a massive and beautiful building constructed long before the time of cranes, engines and concrete mixers (and hard hats), I see the stream of regular people, like me, who have stood looking at the same walls with some degree of the same wonder. Every time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ich bin ein... spargel?

Will our fearless leaders never learn?

George W. created a stir complimenting German asparagus, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal - to the dismay of domestic asparagus growers, who responded by sending 10lbs of good ol' red, white and blue stalks to the capitol for his delectation. (Though, honestly, can't we all just get along? Do they want an asparagus tariff now, for crying out loud?)

When I was little, I lived in Germany, across from a spargel (German for asparagus) field. And being the odd little creature that I was (and I am), while I liked asparagus - I only liked the bottom part of the stem, which made me quite popular at the table, I assure you. These days, I like all of it, and in fact, just the other night I had the most scrumptious asparagus risotto at a restaurant with the most ridiculously long name (Gordon Ramsey at the London West Hollywood). I don't know if the spargel was domestic or imported - but it was out of this world.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I know I have my list...

The first one - and I can so totally blame my sister for this - was Alias. A few years ago, my sister told me I'd like Alias, that I should rent it. Well I did.

I ended up in a room, shades drawn, watching until I couldn't keep my eyes open, pasty white from lack of sunlight - it was not pretty. But I watched two seasons.

My point is - there's good TV, great TV and CrackTV. Which is not to say that CrackTV is not sometimes good or great - Deadwood is great, fantastic, superlative CrackTV. Friday Night Lights, season one - definitely crack. Veronica Mars - the first season? CrackTV, fo sho.

Right now, I'm watching Heroes, and it's up there on the Crack-0-meter, lemme tell you. Even better, for those Netflix-subscribing, PC-owners out there, you can watch for free. Yep, that's right, free. (Well, included in the price of your monthly subscription, anyway.) Check out the "watch instantly" tab up top - there're all sorts of movies and TV shows you can watch on your PC (in IE only, sad to say). For you Mac-users, there are digital rights management (DRM) issues they are still working on. Boo hoo. Heroes, my friends - check it out.

And, according to my dad, The Wire is CrystalMethTV - hence, I haven't dared start the habit (I do have a job, you know).

Monday, July 07, 2008


This is a video you definitely don't want to miss. Click here if you don't see it.
(If there's no link to watch in "higher quality" - click here)

I read about it in the New York Times... then I clicked on it, and started smiling about 15 seconds in, and kept smiling all the way through. Now that's something.

and I am so not the sports fan...

Yet here I was again, for the second time in as many weeks, glued to the TV set.

This time, at least, was not quite as unusual -- I grew up watching tennis with my mom. I have incredible memories of watching Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Lendl, Nastase play and peppering my mom with questions - what's a break point? why do they get to serve three times? how can they hit a one-handed back hand? what's love? (Not, mind you, in the vastly existential meaning of the word.) And then later watching Becker, Sampras, Agassi - often on the phone with my mom from wherever I happened to be.

So here comes Sunday, the Wimbledon finals - and Federer's going for an amazing record - six straight Wimbledon championships. And you couldn't have moved me from in front of the television with a crow bar. Federer plays Rafael Nadal in what John McEnroe is calling "the greatest match ever seen," before ultimately losing it, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.

It is the longest match in Wimbledon history, at 4 hours and 48 minutes, with two rain delays. This was tennis like you dream about. Unreal. Unbelievable. Amazing. Honestly, there aren't enough adjectives. Not to mention, two of the nicest players in tennis history. But it was the tennis that was magical. This was a tennis match that was truly a thing of beauty - worth watching again and again.

Unreturnable serves? Returned. Unreachable shots? Reached. Aces pulled out of thin air at the last possible minute to save the day. Passing shots that must have felt like an assassin's bullet whizzing by. Cross-court shots that cut into the corners by inches. Overhead shots that dug some serious holes in the grass.

It was a tennis match that was as poignant as it was extraordinary - marking the end of Roger Federer's streak of 40 straight wins in a row at the All England Club and his record 65 straight wins on grass - and bringing to a crashing halt his bid to be the first man in well over 100 years to win six straight Wimbledon singles titles.

For the sport of tennis... well, Sunday's match works for me as a response to my question "what's love?"

High falutin?

The other evening, after a most satisfying dinner - burger, fries and a shake (a banana shake no less - seriously, did I die and go to heaven?) - anyway, after that, we decided we should walk for a bit. After all, as you can only imagine, we were a bit, ahem, stuffed.

It happened to have been July Fourth, by the by, a perfectly balmy night, and strolling down the parkway, having just watched several spectacular fireworks displays, I commented, "this is a perfect post-prandial perambulation."

Okay, maybe not the most pedestrian of comments - but it does have a certain mellifluous flow to it, dontcha think? Not to mention rather nice alliteration (to which I have a decided attachment).

I don't know where I first heard the phrase... but I know it means after-meal walk. I looked it up - just for you (okay, for me too) - "prandial" is from the Latin for late breakfast or luncheon - and means of or relating to a meal. "Perambulate" - also from Latin, from per (through) + ambulare (walk) - is to travel, especially on foot (and is also, if you were wondering, where "pram" comes from). So now you (we) know.

And next time you're lucky enough to stuff yourself silly and be in need of a little after-dinner exercise, well, indulge yourself in a post-prandial perambulation, friend, it's quite the perfect way to kick off a little extra digestive activity.