Category Archives: Recommendation

LINK: A Restaurant in New Orleans.

Tunde Wey

A lunch counter, actually. It’s called Saartje, named after the given name of a South African woman who became better known as the Hottentot Venus, and it serves Nigerian fare, dishes like Woloff rice and fried plantains. But the chef, Tunde Wey, has bigger things in mind than just food.

The linked story, in the Washington Post, explains why Wey charges people of color $12 for lunch (and they can choose to take a percentage of the stand’s profits when the project is over, or not), and gives white people the option of paying $12 or $30, the larger figure representing the local income disparity between the races.

Wey is taking no profits from the stand, and has a Tulane student conducting post-lunch interviews, collecting data about why diners chose the option they did. He’s a cook, but this is also a sociological experiment.

Putting a face on the ways racial inequality persists seems pretty important, especially in a way that touches people emotionally. The story does a good job of amplifying those feelings, and where they come from.

Recommended: I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

A movie on Netflix you probably haven’t heard of.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a pretty terrific piece of work.

Here’s the Netflix link.

If you want comps, Blood Simple and Blue Ruin come to mind, but this movie is sweeter than those. And no less hard.

It stars Melanie Lynskey, who is terrific. This is star making.

Directed by Macon Blair, his first film.

I could describe it, I guess, but really what you need to know is this movie is really well made. It combines genre stereotypes with stereotype breaking tropes. There is violence and very little dialogue, but it is more thoughtful than action-y.

It’s not perfect. Some of the characters are too broad. Some of the scenes don’t score perfectly.

But partly because of Melanie Lynskey and partly because of the craft of the production, it is highly recommended.


Governor Cuomo, Sir! A Way Better Idea for Penn Station.

Yesterday the Governor of New  York, Andrew Cuomo, announced a new shopping mall and Amtrak station adjoining the James A. Farley Post Office Building, across Eighth Avenue from the current Madison Square Garden. Call it the new Penn Station.

If you’re not familiar with New York you have no idea just what a disaster the current Penn Station, which currently resides under the Garden, is. For one thing, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad all come through the station, which is a tangle of platforms and stairways and levels, all with low ceilings and a sense of crushing crowdedness.

screenshot-2016-09-30-23-30-17For another, it isn’t the glorious station that was built in 1910 and graced the site for 50 years before it was ingloriously torn down by greedy developers, a move that sparked New York’s historic preservation movement cum bureaucracy those many years ago.

If you are familiar with the station, you know all its horrors, but you might not guess that 650,000 people arrive and leave from it every day. It was designed to handle about 200,000.

As someone whose portal into the city when I was growing up was Penn Station, it was always a miserable place to be. Its dismal surroundings were ameliorated somewhat by the fact that you were either leaving or coming, you didn’t linger longer than necessary in Penn Station. Still, sometimes the wait was long.

I don’t know if it is by coincidence or plan, but the New York Times today has an elaborate suggestion for how to fix Penn Station. The beauty of the plan, which was developed by the architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, is to leave the massive cylinder that is Madison Square Garden intact, but to do away with all the innards.

screenshot-2016-09-30-23-32-00No concrete shell, no hockey rink, no basketball court. No stairs or escalators. The shell would be replaced with something called blast-proof glass, and the space would be open to the sidewalk. No doors!

Though in cold weather the station may be sealed off by temporary walls. But the idea is that the sun beating down on a giant glass building would work like a greenhouse.  Anyone who has ridden the escalator up with a full complement of luggage to the door on Eighth Avenue and 32nd Street knows how nice the elimination of door would be.

In any case, the Times presentation of this idea, written by Michael Kimmelman, the paper’s architecture critic, is not only beautiful, but it is beautifully presented. If there’s a reason to move from print to digital now, this is it.

And I’m not showing any of it. Be surprised!


The best video you’ll see today. Or tomorrow, but don’t put it off.

I’m not sure why it is. It seems to be a promotion for a band called the Avalanches, who have a new album coming out. It’s called Soda_Jerk vs. the Avalanches and was made by someone named The Was, I guess. But really, you should just watch it. Really, you have to block off 13 minutes and watch it. And don’t worry if you don’t know the Avalanches or don’t like the Avalanches. The film is the thing, as you’ll see (and hear, the soundtrack is great), and it’s amazing.

UPDATE: I hope you didn’t put it off, because the video seems to have been pulled. That’s a shame. Sure it was a copyright mess, images copped from scores of films, but they were reassembled in the most extraordinary way by The Was.

Here’s the screenshot Vice has illustrating its now linkless story. It doesn’t get close to showing how cool this video was (is). I dare call it the greatest video ever made. I hope we find a legal copy.


Bipartisanship Isn’t for Wimps. A link.

Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. In this past Sunday’s New York Times he takes on the problem of polarization in the United States. This leads him from an old joke about two comedians in a boat, to the Dalai Lama, and a call for warmheartedness.

It’s well worth a read. I couldn’t agree with him more.


Molly Lowe’s Redwoods

Pioneer Works is an art space in Red Hook Brooklyn.

Discovered/Founded/Developed by an artist named Dustin Yellin, Pioneer Works is a building, artist studios, a public space, a gallery and a garden.

What I know of Yellin’s work, he’s taken cut outs of mostly Victorian imagery and layered them between sheets of glass, so they become 3-d collages. I won’t mince words. These sculptures are beautiful and mind-blowing.  And impossible to photograph. You have to be there.

Redwood’s is the installation of three on-site pieces in the Pioneer Works gallery. The photo only hints at their grandeur. The real payoff is the movie, which is an hour long, has no dialogue, and is about a young woman, presumably Lowe, finding a way to tell her family’s history through the fragmented memories of her  demented grandmother.

The movie uses face and hand masks and lots of plastic design to render the story in a really real way and really unrealistic way. With emotion, but also with the understanding that emotions and memories get confused. That’s part of the story.

A Saturday afternoon well spent.
2016-03-12 16.26.41

The Horror

I’m a great fan of Ben Fountain’s novel, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which Matt Richtel writes about in this piece about recent vets of the US’s foreign wars and their discomfort with being thanked for their service.

Richtel’s story is a reminder that our government gave up on a conscripted army after the Viet Nam war because it was an inefficient and politically troublesome way to wage war, especially unpopular wars that go on for a long time. Something our military seems to be very good at.

And our volunteer veterans are the citizens who face the consequences of this perpetual war, including deployment and redeployment, life and death risk, debilitating injury, and the prospect of facing a lifetime being reminded that service ends up being a democratic dividing line rather than an adhesive.

Richtel makes this point more lucidly than I ever could by telling the story of a hand shake, and what came after.

LINK: A Modern Library

Screenshot 2015-02-01 09.33.29 The Internet Archive is one of the most spellbinding places online. To visit is to get lost in the world wide web’s past, or to revisit a concert one was at 30 years ago, or more recently (for me) to play Lemmings again for the first time since the early 90s. You might call that a waste of time, or you might call it a reminder that we march on, leaving our past behind. Which isn’t always to the good.

Playing games is the cookie that lures you into IA’s new operating system in a browser emulator, but Andy Baio explains in this article that the main dish (pardon the metaphor) is the ability to access and utilize all that data that have been lost as these old operating systems became outmoded. If you can get the files off the floppy disks.

LINK: The Bears Are Hungry

Screenshot 2015-01-29 09.14.32It is important when out in the woods to keep bears from eating your food, both because you want to eat your food, and because the more bears associate food with humans the more dangerous they become to people.

This excellent survey of the current state of keeping bears from eating your food is a must read if you hike and camp, or if you are interested in the ability of bears to solve problems. That’s just about everyone, right?