Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hey hey, a disclaimer!

Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Beneath his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be...
Isaac Davis in Woody Allen's "Manhattan"

New York, New York (So good they named it twice)
from "New York, New York" Gerard Kennedy

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City's the place where - 
From Lou Reed, "Walk on the Wild Side"

If I'd lived in Roman times,
I'd have lived in Rome.
Where else?
Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.
John Lennon

After my last post, Eat yer heart out, other people, I received a number of comments and emails from people who were quite horrified by the loneliness of the close distance New Yorker.

Perhaps I've been in New York too long and used to the New York wise-crack; perhaps I'm out of touch with those all-too-serious others ...

And so here is A DISCLAIMER. An explanation, a put-in-context sorta thing ...

Let's start with THE BRUNCHES.

Hey guys, there's a number of New York brunch places who are VERY INTERESTED in taking bookings for cancelled brunches. Better a cancelled brunch, than no brunch at all ... After all, these are hard economic times and beggars can't be choosers.

But seriously folks ... a hundred years ago there was a T.V. show back in OZ called "Hey Hey it's Saturday". There's even a wiki entry about it. So, HEY HEY, please don't think that all we New Yorkers do is have brunch, watch the T.V. and have our nails painted.


We do in fact do a lot more.

And in any case, what do people elsewhere do on weekends?

Today I picked out five random people, and asked them about THEIR Saturday.

Person One (Madge) - an Aussie living in the U.K. Madge was busy picking up hemp (the textile, not the Indian kind) to hand-make birthday presents for  her friend.

Person Two: C (Melbourne) was dropping in on her parents and learning to touch-type so she could participate in FaceBook.

Person Three X (New Jersey) : was sleeping in and then cataloging her DVD collection.

Person Four N (Perth): was doing nothing whatsoever - although she claimed that she was enjoing THE VIEW. (I THINK she meant the television series.)

Person Five: (Dunkeld, Victoria, OZ) was researching the difference between cities/places with "New" in their names - compared with places which are as "gateways" to somewhere else.

New York is my favorite city in the whole world, and believe me, I've been to upwards of 100. The only city that comes close to New York is Calcutta, followed closely by Melbourne Australia.

I realise I take the mickey out of New York. Like an old friend or sibling, New York is easy with criticism and parody.

So you see, having a cancelled lunch is really not so bad.

And having a cancelled lunch in THE BEST CITY ON EARTH, is to die for.

And to have it with expertly freshly painted nails, is even better.

And so as my dear old uncle Pete says - I don't know how else to say it, except louder.

In your dreams, babe!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eat yer heart out, other people!

Ruby's Nail Parlor - [Korean language in quotes ]
Ruby: You late.
Elaine: I know I know. I didn't have change for the bus and they don't give change in this city. So they threw me off the bus
Ruby: "That's a shame". You'll have to wait for Lotus now.
Elaine: How long do you think this will take. I have a millllioooon things to do.
Ruby: "Mustn't keep the princess waiting. Princess in a big hurry." "No change for bus" "Poor princess."
Elaine: What?, uh?
Ruby: Nothing, won't be long.
Lotus: "Princess wants a manicure."
Sunny: "Oh lucky me."
From the Seinfeld episode, "The Understudy"

"Maya, come have dinner with me. I know this place that's so trendy the waiters insult themselves"
Woody Allen in "My Dinner with Woody" (1997))

What do New Yorkers do on weekends? Or, more particularly, what do New York women do on weekends?

Contrary to what many people might think, what we do is more or less the same thing, weekend in, weekend out.

Take Saturdays for example. Saturdays we sleep in, getting up round midday just in time for brunch.

I used to be in a Brunch Group, till I got dumped.  Or maybe I'm still in the Brunch Group and am not dumped at all. It's hard to tell in this town.

In any case, it is OK to brunch alone. Not like in Lygon Street Carlton (Australia) where waiters look aghast when they see a singleton arrive, and spirit you away to the back of the restaurant, hiding you behind a potted palm. Dining alone in Melbourne is so uncool.

I love New York. No one cares if you are by yourself. Probably because most people here are. By themselves, that is. Waiters here don't bat an eyelid, and escort you to one of the many tables for one.

After brunch it's the nail salon. There are nail salons in nearly every block in New York. Manicures, pedicures, nail polish, magazines - in an all-women atmosphere. It is comforting. Like a spiritual chicken soup.

In summer I have green tea pedicures. In winter I have manicures. I love the row upon rows of nail polish in every color imaginable. It's like being back in elementary school and getting a new box of Derwent coloured pencils.

Most nail salons have "loyalty cards" which you collect until you have ten and then you get a free manicure. The cards are laminated and are in bright colours - sort of like the swap cards we baby-boomers had when we were children in the olden days. Simple pleasures.

After the nail salon, it is off to the gym to work off the calories put on at brunch, a little shopping maybe, and then home in time to order in,  and for me at least, some social life.

Social life is usually done in New York over the phone, although email is an acceptable alternative. I use the phone because I'm a phone sorta gal - or more accurately because my Australian friends aren't into email. Some of them only check their email once every three weeks - something unheard of in New York, or anywhere else in the world I suspect.

Tonight I am calling my friend C.  C lives in Melbourne and we have known each other for yonks.  It is easy to call C. I COULD call one of my two New York friends but I called them last week and there's a certain protocol involved in calling New York friends that I've yet to come to grips  with ... I don't want to overstay my phone-welcome,  and in New York it is better to err on the side of not phoning. Not phoning is cool. Not phoning is point ten on the pretentiousness meter.

So you can see, life in the Apple is a thing all of its own. And it is no wonder that the rest of the world envies us!

Eat yer heart out, other people!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mayor of Keyfood #1062

Wells R is the King of Keyfood Supermarket #1062
From my Google phone app, FourSquare February 24th 2010
Eleven hundred bucks for Sushi already. That's a lot of dead fish.
Nick Fifer in "Scenes from a Mall"
"I am not like the Leader of the Opposition. I did not slither out of the Cabinet room like a mangy maggot...
Paul Keating Australian Labor Party Prime Minister 1991 to 1996.

A person called Wells R has taken my position as Mayor of the Keyfood Supermarket on 2nd Avenue. I am shocked. Being Mayor of the Keyfood Supermarket was my first public office position since I was secretary of the Australian Labor Party's Federal Electorate Assembly of Corangamite a hundred years ago.

I didn't much like being the secretary of the Australian Labor Party's Electorate Assembly of Corangamite, because you had to join a FACTION. American readers will be bemused at this because the American political system doesn't know about PARTY LOYALTY. So a quick education ... Australian readers please skip the next paragraph.

Australia has a two party system like America. The Labor Party is like the American Democratic Party, in philosophy that is. It is what Americans call "liberal". The second party is the Australian Liberal Party which is like the American Republican Party.

In Australia we say "small ell liberal" meaning NOT the Liberal party but liberal as in enjoying freedom, which is what George W was on about although he was not a small ell liberal. The right wing faction of the Australian Labor party is called the Centre Unity. The members of the Centre Unity are economically liberal (small ell) but socially conservative. They are called Centre because they are centre of left. American readers should have no trouble with this, as it is is similar in concept to Americans calling the middle part of the east of the United States, "the South" because it is south of New York. The physical south of the US is sometimes called the Mid West for reasons I cannot fathom.

Keyfood cashier ticker Feb 24 2010.
Confused. Don't be. It will shortly become clear.

The Australian System is not counter-intuitive like the American one. If you join a party in OZ you are LOYAL or you will be EXPELLED.

In the Labor Party (and I realize that I've gone over the one paragraph, but it was necessary, and I like to show my Australian readers that I haven't forgotten the land of my birth), in the Labor Party, although joining a faction was mandatory, I didn't join one as I spent a long time making up my mind, and by the time I had made up my mind as to which faction to join, I'd left.

The reason I didn't want to join a faction, was that once you did, the people in the other factions HATED you. They'd sneer at you when you walked past and say nasty things about you in their faction meetings. I hate meetings as well, which was another reason not to join a faction. But the main one was that I don't like having ENEMIES. The factions in the Australian Labor Party hated each other more than they hated the Liberal Party.

After leaving the Labor Party I had nearly two decades out of public office until I became, for about one week, the Mayor of the Keyfood Supermarket #1062. To explain: there's a cell phone app called FourSquare and when you go out, the local places, stores, museums and so on, show up in the app. If you go into one of those places, you can click in and a counter somewhere in cyberspace gets incremented.

The person with the highest score for any particular place becomes "mayor" of that place. And so there I was until Wells R got in on the act and beat me by one point.

Tonight I went to the supermarket after work. I thought - great idea for a story. I can show my non New York readers what a New York supermarket is like, how much things cost and be educational for a change. However dear readers, all you will get this time are the digital images I prepared for you, as explaining the Australian political system took up too much space.

But before I go, I continue to get emails from people asking about the Brunch Crowd

I cannot answer emails individually as there are too many. So here is the Brunch Crowd update.
Green Bags at Keyfood
I strongly suspect that the the Brunch Crowd held a secret cancelled brunch last weekend and did NOT invite me. The reason I think this is that I bumped into two of the Brunch Crowd members this week separately and on on two separate occasions, and BOTH acted extremely suspiciously. BOTH mentioned food and restaurants. One even murmured something about a possible brunch sometime in the future and then pretended she was just coughing and hadn't said anything.

The other did (for some inexplicable reason) a mime of someone calling on the telephone. This person held up a pretend telephone receiver to its ear (I am careful NOT to divulge the gender) and said "ring ring please pick up". I just said no I wasn't playing, but it wasn't detered and it asked me out to dinner, conspicuously leaving out the other members of the Brunch Crowd. Suss to say the least ...

I will continue to keep you updated, and my next story WILL REALLy be about New York supermarkets.

K C Juliff
EX  Mayor of Keyfood #1062 (February 1 - 7 2010)
EX Secretary Corrangamite Federal Electorate Assembly

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Pretentiousness Meter

Anyway, well before Kath & Kim came onto the scene, chardonnay socialist was a fairly popular insult. They just took it to the next level.
Reader commenting on Australian chardonnay is fighting back

Black currant, blackberry cobbler, baked pear and blackstrap molasses complement each other in this phenomenally balanced, syrupy yet clean and sweet cup.
from Stumptown Coffee Roasters' blurb on Kenyan Gaturiri Reserve

The New Yorker, I've met with their cartoon editor and I got him to admit that that cartoon ... MADE NO SENSE ....
Elaine Benes in the Seinfeld episode, "The Cartoon"

Parody of New Yorker Cartoon #1 (+8)
I'm developing a Pretentiousness Meter. Of course, I'll need a good name for it and it'll be under wraps until I market it. But it is sure to be a top seller.

And you, my dear reader, are privileged to read about it in this SNEAK PREVIEW.

The idea for my Pretentiousness Meter came about when my friend Babs popped over last night for a New York dinner party for two. On the menu were - items of your choice from Nina's Argentinian Restaurant take-out menu. And just in case any of you are ever in New York, we don't say "take-out" or "take away". We say "delivery" (Pretentiousness Meter score plus five).

Babs had brought a bottle of Lagar de Costa AbariƱo 2008, but we needed to chill it. Not wanting to wait for our alcohol fix, I told Babs that I had indeed some white wine already chilled. Oops. I could have bitten my tongue off. For too late I realised - it was ... Chardonnay.

How did a bottle of Chardonnay even happen to get into my fridge I do not know. Chardonnay. How could I? Chardonnay is at level minus one on the Pretentiousness Meter.

Chardonnay used to be very popular at working class dinner parties in Australia circa 1995. Its popularity took a nose-dive when Kim of the Australian "Kath and Kim" asked for it at her husband Brett's office party, pronouncing it as "cardonnay".

BRETT: "It’s not cardonnay, Kim, it's chardonnay. Chardonnay."
KIM: "Oh alright, chardonnay! CHARDONNAY! You pack of chunts!"

Main Street (+2)
Chardonnay is now known by the cognoscenti, as the wine with an image problem. Chardonnay - it is right out there with "color by numbers", another minus one on my Pretentiousness Meter. I actually have relatives who have been known to color by numbers. My Auntie Vi did a loverly rendition of Van Gogh's Sunflowers. It took pride of place in her kitchen next to the three flying ducks in the wall.

Sometimes pretentiousness scores "wrap around". Ceramic flying ducks on walls, for example. Once the height of Aussie kitch and hence around minus one on the Pretentiousness Meter, they are now acceptable as satiric culture-comment, scoring a healthy positive eight. Cardonnay may well follow in the same path. How very "in" it may be, to deride the lower classes with a slumming it dinner party in South Yarra, a bottle chardonnay sitting in the middle of the oh-so-tastefully-arranged table.

Working-class chic. But not in America.

In America the working class has completely disappeared. I'm not sure WHEN this happened. They were certainly here when I first arrived. They ate hamburger helpers as mains and were married to their cousins.

And then - it's a case of now you see them now you don't.

They have been replaced by "the Middle Class" or "Main Street".

Parody of New Yorker Cartoon #2 (+8)
Main Street" isn't really a street of course. It is where people live who don't belong in Wall Street. These people are the "middle class". In Australia we'd call them "aussie battlers".

Aussie battlers don't "do brunch". "Doing brunch" is around plus three on the Pretentiousness Meter. Cancelling brunch however rates a 6.5. My friends in the New York Post Menopausal Sorority Brunch Club (thanks, Bill) average a positive seven. But I suspect they all aspire to plus ten.

The middle class of America now eats hamburger-helpers for mains and many of them do not have health insurance or jobs. In light of this, one can only wonder at the plight of the American working class. It isn't surprising that they are hidden from view.

A New Yorker cartoon comes in anywhere between a plus eight and a plus ten on the Pretentiousness Meter. New Yorker cartoons are "Leunig sans whimsy". The phrase "Leunig sans whimsy" scores a perfect plus ten.

The plus ten for New Yorker cartoons is for those cartoons that make no sense whatsoever; cartoons that give a new dimension to the meaning of obscurity. Some however look like they just might in a teeny-weeny way, have some meta-meaning for UCLA graduates. These register a plus eight. Or even less.

Coffee beans that have a vintage, or the word "reserve" in their names get a plus nine. People who know the elevation of the land from whence their coffee beans came, get a plus seven. People who use the word "whence" get a plus six. And people who spell out numbers when they write them, a plus seven.

You might like to rate your friends on my Pretentiousness Meter. Most of my friends are high-end and high maintenance. There is a positive correlation between pretentiousness and personal maintenance cost.

By now you might be wondering what my Pretentiousness Meter will look like. What will it be made of, and will it come in different colors?

I'm not giving the show away just yet. But I CAN let you know the following:

It WILL have a iPhone app. It will NOT have an iPad app as having a Pretentiousness Meter is very pretentious and having an iPad is not.

It will be green. And cool. That doesn't mean it will be colored green and cold. That would be so UNpretentious. It will be made of olyethylene terephthalate (+8). Cradle to cradle stuff.

It will NOT have a cradle.

It will be child-friendly.

It will NOT have a manual, or instructions of any kind.

It will not come in beige and will NOT be sold to anyone who has a shag-pile carpet.

It will not have a YouTube promo.

I will shortly be taking orders.

Stay tuned.

Postscript: Chardonnay socialists may NOT apply!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Talk about chutzpah!

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
From Highway 61 Revisited", Bob Dylan 1965

A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like -- and of what we are called to be. Only God 'makes' saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation.
From Kenneth Woodward in Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't and Why"

Pope Benedict XVI approved sainthood for Mother Mary MacKillop on Friday, making the woman known for her work among the needy Australia's first saint.
Yahoo News February 19th 2010

Australian hippies contemplating their feet, circa 1968
Some things I can almost "get" when it comes to religion. A Gerard Manley Hopkin's poem. Van Gogh's Starry Night, a Vivaldi concerto ... but recently I've come across a few things that really stretch one's credulity.

Last month I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII of England. There's a fair bit in it about the corruption of the Catholic clergy in the sixteenth century - indulgences and so on. But I came across something I'd never heard of before - people paying money to human beings, get friends and relatives out of purgatory before their release date - sort of an early parole. And we thought Ponzi schemes were bad!

Talk about chutzpah and taking the cake.

And then along came the Baptist missionaries from Idaho who went to Haiti after the terrible earthquake of January this year, and took "orphans" across the border into the Dominican Republic. Only they weren't orphans. And no one had given them permission to leave the country with the children. Speaking of the children the leader of the arrested group, Laura Silsby, told CNN, "they really didn't have any paperwork ... I did not understand that that would really be required." Yeah. Sure. Tell it to the judge... Which she did.

American hippie buying junk food circa 2008
"God is the one who called us to come here and we just really believed that this was his purpose," said Carla Thompson, another member of the group. It reminds me of silly kids in school when caught, telling the teacher, "another boy told me to do it." But blaming god who can't answer back, that's a bit below the belt.

Third time lucky and the week closes with the first Australian saint being proclaimed. Looks like some people haven't progressed since the sixteenth century. Saints aren't even real so how can one be made one posthumously? It's not like electing a president. I just don't get it.

Australia's saint is named Mary MacKillop and she comes with excellent credentials, having been excommunicated from the Catholic church in 1869. Pope Benedict is batch-processing her along with five others — from Italy, Spain, Poland and Canada. It is heartening to see that German efficiency is alive and well.

"This is a great honor for Australia. I offer a heartfelt expression of appreciation to the wider Catholic community," Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday. It is obvious that he's been too busy watching the Winter Olympics and thinks that getting a sainthood is part of some sort of international competition. A pity. I had such high hopes for him (Rudd, not the Pope).

Talking of things spiritual and "unseen" - in the sense of not being able to be touched, measured or experienced ... I've had a few emails lately from readers asking about the brunch crowd and am I still "dumped?"

I am happy to tell y'all that no, I am not dumped. And even if I was, I am now RE-INSTATED. Brunch is definitely back on the New York agenda. And THIS weekend, just to make it really real, we are not going to plan it and THEN cancel it. We are cancelling it first. "Pre-cancelling" - for busy New Yorkers who don't have time to wait.

I am REALLY looking forward to it this time. Stay tuned, for updates.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer

I dunno. When I need a plumber I look up the Yellow Pages on-line, or ask around and find a plumber that someone recommends. When I have a dental problem, I go to my dentist or maybe to my orthodontist. When tax time is due, I contract my tax accountant.
And so it goes on. I'm happy enough to pay for the services of these people. Yes, sometimes I complain a bit about the cost, but when push comes to shove, these are the people I trust to my plumbing, teeth and relationship with the IRS.

So what's with those people who feel that they can write their own computer programs - well let's step back a bit; they WOULD write their own computer programs but they just don't know how to. So can we help? Us I.T. professionals that is. Gratis of course.
For surely, if they DID know how to do it, well then they would. But they can't. So can we please help them out?

I can just imagine if I contacted my tax accountant and asked her to show me how to submit my tax forms, gratis. I don't know why certain people have this idea about computer people. Do they think we sit around waiting for a computer problem to drop in our lap? That we love spending our spare time working for nothing on someone else's computer problem?

Believe me, we do not.

Of course it's not only computer professionals who have this problem. I have a good friend in Australia who is a dress-maker. For some reason some people think that C is just sitting around waiting for people to ask her to sew for them. For nothing. It is as if they are doing her a favor - supplying her with fabric, needle and thread.

What I'd like to know, is what do we say to these people who want us to work for zero remittance?

And on a completely different tack - why do some Australians think that Australians are special - more special that is than Albanians, Americans and Sri Lankans, for example.

To illustrate, I had an email the other day from an acquaintance. Recently, he's been berating me on FaceBook because I don't think iPads are the best thing since sliced silicone wafers. His email was about the colourful Australian idioms as delineated in "Aussie English for Beginners" - apparently published by Australian National University.

I read some of it. Aussie-speak, I read, is distinctive and COLORFUL. French and English people just speak. Sans color. Gray-color perhaps. But Australians are COLORFUL. For example, Aussies say special things such as "a kangaroo short in the top paddock." OKayeeee .... I get it.

"Aussie English for Beginners" is written by some guy called Bruce Moore. It even boasts a cartoon illustrating an extremely colorful Australian phrase - a "stubby short of a six-pack."

I think me mate is taking the mickey. Coming the raw prawn ...

On the other hand, it just might be that he has tickets on himself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Foodies, Gerunds and Being Cool

I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli
George Bush

I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick. Not wounded. Dead.
Woody Allen

It is getting hard being an acceptable 21st century person. Honestly I can't keep up with it all.

Recently I started on the foodie thing. I'd read about foodies. Foodies are "in". They aren't as "in" as iPads", but they are more "in" than anything else I can understand.

Foodies are people who appreciate food. Not very politically correct (think of all the starving people as my mum reminded us when I wouldn't eat my stale bread) I have to say. But who cares about that, when food is the topic.

Foodies can eat anything, as long as it is, well, a foodie thing.. They can eat French food full of cream and egg yolks. That's OK. As long as it is correctly "plated". And "plating" is itself an art. "Plating" is I think, a gerund. But more of that later.

Plating means presenting food on a plate in an appetising way. "Plating" which is a verb, comes from "plate" which is a noun. Hence the gerundicity. You can't just slop the food on the plate. And you cannot go to the opposite extreme and plate something to make it look like a Van Gogh or a Pollock. I was watching "Chopped" on TV the other night and some poor chef contestant who had been criticized for his maladroit plating, tried a little bit too hard in the next round. "We aren't looking for a painting," one of the judges said.

So you must not slop the food onto the plate, but you must also be careful to suppress any creative urge. The middle road is the way to go, or so it seems.

I've taken to watching the foodie shows. "Chopped", "The Last Restaurant Standing", "The Worst Cook in America" - there's a never ending supply. I suppose it's some sort of substitute for a social life. If you can't beat it, eat it. Whatever.

And so tonight I was somewhat struck by a news thing on CNN, about one Jamie Oliver. I'm not a Jamie Oliver fan. For starters (or should I say, appetizers) I'm not impressed by a grown-up calling himself "Jamie". I have a good friend James, who lives in London. He's 23 and when he was two he was known as "Jamie". But he's a grown-up now. Not so Master Oliver.

Jamie Oliver has recently (Bad diet shortens life spans, raises health costs, says Jamie Oliver) criticized American food. So what, you might think. But think again. Jamie Oliver is from England.

English food. Is it a cuisine? I don't think so. The upper echlons of English society eat cucumber sandwiches. Can you imagine? The "lower classes" eat bangers and mash - choose your poison.

And pick on your own country Jamie! We are too busy recovering from our culinary inheritance - of English "food".

Jamie, I'm really trying to understand. I do try to look at it from your side.

All I can say is, "Deary me, Jamie, the new world really should take an iceburg lettuce leaf out of your cookbook."

When in Rome ...

Monday, February 08, 2010

On Books, Nooks and Kindles

Johann Gutenberg's use of movable type, in 1454, to print his magnificent 42-line Bible proved to be a seminal moment in human history.
University of Oxford
The first library for Oxford University [...] was housed in a room above the Old Congregation House, begun c.1320 on a site to the north of the chancel of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin [and in 1488 had a ] collection of more than 281 manuscripts, including several important classical texts.
History of the Bodleian
Julius Caesar, traveling in Gaul, found it useful to fold his scrolls concertina-style for quicker reference, as the Chinese also later did.

I don't remember when I bought my first Kindle, but now that I have it, I'd never be without it.

I take it everywhere I go - locally to and from work and around Manhattan on weekends, and to the gym. I took it when I vacationed in Stockholm last year. And it went with me to Detroit and around the Great Lakes in Michigan last fall.

At first I'd be the only one on the subway car or on the bus, who was reading from a Kindle. But in the past few months I've seen perhaps half a dozen other Kindle readers. And believe me, the numbers will multiply.

Interestingly, it is the avid readers who benefit most from owning a Kindle. A huge library is at our command. We can buy books, read them and leave them at Amazon. Classics, "out of copyright", such as all the novels of Jane Austins and Tolstoy are free. The Kindle's viewing screen is paperback size and is not back-lit, so there's no eyestrain. It's like reading ink print on paper.

You can annotate, bookmark and highlight text. I like the Kindle's "sample facility" which is the equivalent of opening a book in a store and glancing through the first pages. Free - and you get about a chapter downloaded in minutes if not seconds.

Reading in the Olden Days
Still there are doubters and naysayers. I hear comments like, "but I just love my paper books." I regard such comments as irrelevant. There's no one saying you can't have hardcovers or paperbooks. Just as no one told the sixteenth century people in Europe that they couldn't have illuminated manuscripts. And no doubt from 100 AD to 400 AD "codices" (pages rather than scrolls) were regarded with suspicion. I can imagine some guy in a toga lamenting the move to pages of papyrus from scrolls, sometime around 100 A.D.

This morning I finished reading Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. I was on a bus about four blocks from work. I hit my home button on my Kindle to see what books I had waiting there. None interested me at the time and so I did a query on Hilary Mantel. A list came up just as the bus came to the stop nearest my work. I closed my Kindle.

Eight hours later on my way home I read sample pages of the books in my waiting list, along with those from Manetel's latest novels, which I'd queried in the morning. I chose Mantel's A Change of Climate: A Novel, bought it for $9.95, downloaded it, and read about half a chapter, until I was at the stop nearest home.

Yep. A Kindle ... or Nook ... or any electronic reading device is a must for voracious readers.

On the Gentle Art of Cancelling

Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.
Send my credentials to the house of detention.
Jim Morrison
Another misconception is that an order is canceled when you hit 'cancel' on your computer.
Arthur Levitt
David Burke's restaurant is at 135 East 67th Street (between and Park and Lex). Preparations for our brunch there this weekend started a few weeks ago when the brunch crowd met at Ed's Chowder House.

"Let's do this regularly," said one of us. "Yes," we all agreed. And let's ask a new different person each time so that it isn't always just us. And let's go to a different place every time. And let's take turns in choosing the restaurant.

Such enthusiasm.

New York Advertisement
It turned out that I was "it". I was the one to contact the new person. I wasn't to CHOOSE the person. The other brunch people did that. It was my job merely to invite him. "You do it," I was commanded. "You know how to contact him."

Do the others even KNOW a man, I asked myself nastily. But I did it. Sent off an email and was answered with alacrity.

Pleased that we still had our feminine charms, we called each other confirming, setting the time, booking the place ...

Social events in New York are like that. Very New York. Lots of pre-event noise and bravado. An alien visiting from another planet would understandably believe that it was actually going to happen. The social event, that is.

But of course there's another element to New York social occasions. They are subject to CANCELLATIONS.

Of course, social occasions anywhere can be cancelled, but New York cancellations are special. I remember shortly after I'd arrived here, reading in the New York Times about cancelling. A high cancel rate means that you are popular. After all, you can't very well get cancelled if you weren't invited in the first place.

Back of Burke's
So I was pretty pleased with myself when S emailed me to inform me that she was cancelling brunch at David Burke's restaurant.

But I'm obviously not the seasoned New Yorker I thought I was. I interpreted the email as informing me that S was unable to make it. I didn't realize the whole brunch was off. I emailed back confirming the brunch minus S, and was told in no uncertain terms that the whole deal was off.

One out, all out. It must be a rule. It's a bit like being in a union, I suppose. But I was still a little bemused. Americans don't BELIEVE in unions. Or do they?

I phoned 'S'. "Don't you understand," she said. "If I can't go it isn't happening!"

"Are you the queen? We cannot meet without you?" I said. "Sorry I didn't realize."

"You are something else," I was told. "Something else". This I gather means that I am a little weird. Well I know that.

So now I will have breakfast at home and wait eagerly for the next cancelled brunch.

It is such fun being a member of a New York group!