A Taste of France in the English Village

In our pre-Thanksgiving gathering in the English Village, I had the pleasure of sampling Nutella and banana crepes. Tasting these thin, French pancakes was to be transported to Cafe Les Deux Magots in Paris, France. Crepes are an ideal savory breakfast to be eaten slowly at an outside café on a warm day.

There is little that can beat the pairing of banana and chocolate to begin with. But with the added hazelnut sensation in the Nutella, the combination becomes a delicate yet flavorful trifecta. Crepes are a traditional French breakfast made from thin batter composed of wheat and egg. In America, crepes are more often prepared with creamy spreads, roasted vegetables and sometimes meat. Americanized crepes are also prepared as delicate desert, often topped with powdered sugar or other sweet tasting garnishes. The crepes sampled on this day in the English Village were most reflective of the traditional French style, that falls somewhere between a breakfast and desert.

These particular crepes did not come from the tedious homemade process and had previously been frozen. However this did not diminish from their quality. A light layer of Nutella was spread over these delicate pancakes and thin banana slices were placed in between the layers. If I were to change one aspect of this desert, it would be for the layers of Nutella to be even thinner, seeing that the crepe is the main part of the meal and the chef would not want to diminish the traditional French flavor with extraneous toppings.  Along with this, the banana slices would have to be thinner as well.

The three flavors of banana, hazelnut and milk chocolate are all relatively mild and don’t strike the taste buds by themselves. However together, the tropical flavor of the banana complemented the mixture of hazelnut and chocolate in the most satisfying way. This crepe would also have been easier to eat if it had been rolled into an ‘o’ shape. Aside from details about presentation, the tastes fit together perfectly. Hemingway and Picasso would have been pleased if these banana Nutella crepes were served at a Parisian café, as they make a perfect breakfast for an elite intellectual.

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California Design: Living in a Modern Way – LACMA

The California home is where the boundary-absent, open minded and experimental heart is.

Currently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,  “California Design,” an exhibit part of the Pacific Standard Time project, has been on display in the Resnick Pavillion since Oct. 1. The exhibit tells the story of how California history has influenced the construction of the first California homes. The easy-going yet resourceful nature of California remained a constant theme throughout the four color-coded sub-exhibits of “California Design”: Shaping, Making, Living, and Selling. The objective of curators Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman was to explain how colorful California culture and Hispanic influence have seeped in to the entire makeup of California homes built between 1930-1965.

Furniture with cushion and soft curves, an assortment of dynamic Latin-influenced wall art and a vibrant collection of colorful ceramic dishware make up the “Shaping” quadrant of the exhibit. One unforgettable piece of garden art, Greta Grossman’s “Screens” (1952), is meant to show the fusion of the living and dining areas that was trending during this time of modern Californian architecture. Suspended in the mesh screen are primary colored spheres. The screen in this exhibit encapsulates the abolition of boundaries and the desire for openness. These ideas were celebrated in post World War II period. During this time, democracy and freedom were valued and were translated into the composition of the Californian home, as seen in this piece.

Much of the exhibit, especially the “Making” section was dedicated to describing the resourceful ways in which designers used war surplus materials such as airplane nose cone fiberglass and iron rods in the construction of household furniture. Early California home design was centered around experimentation and accessibility. “Living,” described the content of the California home as democratic, in that it was designed to be achieved by people of modest means. This was catered to the needs of the influx of urban Angelenos.

“California Design” calls Southern California homes, “middle class utopias.” “Living” celebrates household items that were reflective of the laid back California lifestyle. Bold patterned necklaces amongst other jewelry is on display as well as modern style kitchenware, authentic surf boards, the first 1950’s Barbie Dream House, and even Dick Van Dyke’s Avanti automobile. California Design is a truly captivating exhibit, especially for those native to California. I left with a sense of pride as well as a newfound knowledge of California’s home design history that has been so heavily influenced by Mexican aesthetic style as well as post WWII sentiment that has translated into the design of the Southern California home.

The exhibit came to a dissatisfying close, seeing that a gift shop half the size of the exhibit itself blocked me from the exit. Items replicating the authentic prizes that California Design consists of were for sale, as if to offer a little piece of Californian history to a buyer. Nonetheless, “California Design” organizes its numerous artifacts that represent the lived experience of Californians in an accurate, selective way that generates a true appreciation for the golden state.

Screens. Greta Grossman (1952)

Necklace in "Living" section

Surfboards

Living room in "Living"

 

 

My mashup. #swag

This mashup is an encapsulation of the positive, transformative messages that appear somewhat (but are significantly less represented) in contemporary pop music that I would like to see more of. The clips of songs were made using YouTube, iTunes, and GarageBand and were chosen through my observations and critical response to mainstream music. The songs are not all present on the radio, and I believe that their rhetorical messages should be the ones that listeners are exposed to. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes is me singing and playing guitar.

Almost Famous (2000): Review

Almost Famous is a dream come true. Directed by Cameron Crowe, this film is the 2000’s take on the 1970’s coming of age story of William Miller, aspiring rock journalist. William is talented, honest, and intelligent. But here’s the twist. He’s a floppy haired 15-year-old with holes in his tennis shoes. William becomes wrapped up in a fantasy-come-to-life when he lands a job with Rolling Stone Magazine to accompany fictitious rock band Stillwater on their cross country bus tour. The overarching quality of this film is the idea of being “almost there.” William Miller is almost old enough to be honest about his age without embarrassment in the crowd he runs with. Penny Lane continues to pursue her almost relationship with Russell Hammond, the (married) lead singer of Stillwater, the band almost famous enough to be on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. The film in itself is almost realistic enough to be credible, but still remains a rock and roll fairytale in the viewers’ eyes.

The movie values bravery and mild rebellion in the name of fun. It also values intellect and loyalty, two ideals that define the character of William Miller, played by Patrick Fugit, who is the protagonist of this happy go lucky fairytale that still remains a favorite, feel good film after ten years.

The plot of Almost Famous is centered around young William’s adventure on the road way from his home of San Diego, with Russell (played by Billy Crudup), and the rest of Stillwater’s hard-headed crew. Accompanying them is the unforgettable fur-coat wearing, quaalude-overdosing “band aid” Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) who becomes the apple of William’s eye. Penny is only 16, and differentiates herself from a groupie in that, “Groupies sleep with rockstars because they want to be near someone famous. We are here because of the music, we inspire the music,” she most unconvincingly explains to William. Penny is a ‘70s fashion statement in herself, with her large rings and wavy carefree blonde hair. The costume design in the film is another example of the realness of the characters.

Penny Lane is a costume choice made by Crowe to show how young, misguided women imitate what they believe a groupie should be like. Penny wears a heavy faux-fur coat, purple spectacles, and chases Russell, claiming she is not in love and that she is here only for the music. Although she aims to be seen as nonchalant and independent, her youth and realness as a young woman comes through time and time again, as she loses Russell and when William discovers her real name, “Lady Goodman.”

Character choice in Almost Famous is what brings the film so close to the heart. Lester Bangs, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman is the almost too realistic, pot smoking, cursing, devilish-angel on William’s shoulder who guides him through the entertainment journalism industry, advising him to stay away from Hollywood because he is too innocent and pure. The conflict between the band members, and William’s mother’s concern for her son are other examples of real human emotion that shine through in this film.

According to IMBd, the music budget for Almost Famous was $3.5 million (whereas the music budget of most films are less than $1.5 million). Boy does it show. The film starts out with Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” the first of 50 other featured songs that contribute to the flower child compilation that is the soundtrack. The best music-related scene is when Stillwater and company are on the bus after a particularly heated argument, and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” comes on the radio. Scowls turn into laughter as the band one by one joins in, belting the lyrics to this classic. Once again, we are reminded of how music is a powerful, unifying force that brings us together.

Almost Famous is a small, sugarcoated distortion of what the real world of music touring is really like. Ask Nikki Sixx, notorious bassist of Motley Crue what the worst that’s ever happened on a U.S. tour. I bet he wouldn’t reply with, “I took acid at a high school kids’ party, yelled ‘I am a golden God,’ and leapt from a rooftop and landed safely and unharmed in a swimming pool,” like Russell Hammond does in Almost Famous in an attempt to exemplify the hard and fast partying lifestyle of a rock lead singer.

Regardless, Almost Famous is essentially about following your heart and never letting go of your passions, no matter how absurd they may seem. And that is something very real.

Feist – Metals

If Metals were to be objectified, it would be a ballerina’s tutu, feathers, a pair of mittens, sunlight peaking through a dusty window of a wooden cabin, and solidified snow on dirt. 35-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist has produced a soundtrack to wintertime. Metals could serve as background noise for a brisk walk in Central Park during the holidays, or be the soundtrack playing whilst purchasing a Christmas tree. However ultimately, the album is about finding clarity and peace after what seems to be a messy and violent heartbreak.

“Bad in Each Other,” the first and most melodic track on the album is about the pain associated with bad timing in relationships. It echoes the frustration of heartbreak and the hollowness of lost love. This driving, tribal ballad reflects when a passionate relationship turns ugly. This sentiment is also present in Anti-Pioneer, “The past arrived too late/To change the future’s fate/But even now when the false is true/A single colour still seems possible to you.” Feist’s voice is reminiscent of a loon crying out in the afternoon heard from a distance. Her crooning vocals are accompanied by rhythmic jazzy piano, light guitar, and soaring violin melodies with an occasional angry clash of cymbals. This album is very percussive.

Cymbals and tribal sounding drums end “Bittersweet Melodies,” a track that also features her the gentle hum of her singing with piano notes that scatter the song like snowflakes. Language about nature, birds, grass, graveyards, dirt and shadows show no surprise seeing as it was recorded in the mountains of Big Sur. “Cicadas and Gulls” is a lullaby that sends chills up the spine with vague lyrics and drifting, airy vibrato. The intangible nature of this album is intended for absent minded listening and little interpretation.

“Big sky, tiny bird” is a line from “Comfort Me,” the final song on Metals. The album is encapsulated in these four words. Metals in its crooning entirety is about feeling lost and insignificant in the aftermath of failed romance, but still, a glimmer of wintery hope remains.