Swearing at Thirty-Six

Busy birthday weekend…

Saturday, one of my friends passed the New York and New Jersey Bars. While there is a whole another part of the bar application that is required in New York, in New Jersey, once you pass the only thing left is to be sworn in. In one of those quaint but nice things in New Jersey, New Jersey attorneys have the authority to administer the oath to new attorneys, so Saturday night we went to Arthur’s Tavern in Hoboken to perform the deed and have some steaks, both of which went well.

Sunday for my actual birthday, P and I went to see the new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire matinee at the local theater. Yes, it was $4 cheaper, but it seemed that there was only one projection guy running three rooms, because there were long delays between the pre-previews, the previews, and the actual show. Much swearing, but the movie finally got on track. Not spilling too many things from the movie, but it was good but dark, and at 2.5 hours, really butt-breaking. It was sort of something of a cross of an intermediate episode of Lord of the Rings with Judy Blume. A lot of horror perhaps more appropriate for October 31 than November, and a lot more adolescent angst perhaps more appropriate for a summer movie. There were several Asian actresses in this one, including the Indian double dates for Harry and Ron, and the unrequited I don’t-know-what scene between Harry and Cho Chang, played by Scottish-Chinese Katie Leung, which lasted all of 5 minutes. I guess I shouldn’t talk, because I have a strong Brooklyn accent and my relatives have strong Carribean accents, but wow, that Scottish brogue was really on. She pretty much looked like my cousin from Toronto, but with long hair. Good movie, but there is obviously more to come.

For dinner, P took me to Babbo, Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant near Washington Square Park. Some restaurants are just marketing — this place actually delivers. Here’s what we had:
1. Free: marinated herbal chickpea crustini – had a garlic-cumin flavor.
2. Babbo salumi antipasti plate – a variety of cured meats made by Mario’s father salami store Salumi in Seattle.
3. Gnocchi with stewed oxtail – amazing! Every cuisine has a archtypical benchmark dish to determine if the kitchen is any good: for Italian food, it’s gnocchi – a dumpling-style pasta. If not prepared carefully, it can either be library paste or rock hard. Prepared well, gnocchi are light, fluffy pillows of pasta flavor. The oxtail is ragu-ed into a stew, and the bones are removed, and then melded with properly prepared gnocchi, and then topped with, as Mario says on his show, “The King of All Cheeses”, grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
4. P had Grilled Lamb Chops with Eggplant and Lemon Yogurt; I had the Duck with persimmion and aged balsamic vinegar. Both were very well made.
5. For dessert, I had a saffron panecotta with cinnamon gelatti, and P had the assorted gelatti and sorbetto. P said that the flavor was very similar to what she had inItaly. They slipped a short candle and a Happy Birthday piped along the top of the plate.
We had a small caraffe (250 ml) of wine, a Montegradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001. According to some websites that I saw, the Valpolicella wines are so underrated, that wineries usually print the appellation in very small print. This was an amazing red wine — it shifted as the courses went along. First it was strong and full bodied; then when we had the gnocchi, all of a sudden, it became spicy with wood notes; then for our main dish, it was fruity and palette cleansing.

Overall, we were very impressed, and a very nice birthday treat by P. Thanks!

Thanksgiving Week Already?

Today’s Sunday edition (11/20/05) of the comic strip “Stone Soup” had a “Herstory” bit – proposing we not accept the theory of relativity as that of Einstein’s but that of Einsteins’ – since Albert’s first wife, Mileva Maric, was the mathematician who did the calculations for Albert back in 1905. She had to give up their first child for adoption (since she was born out of wedlock), care for their schizophrenic son, and put up with his general lack of responsibility and adultery. Plus, when he got the Nobel Prize, he gave the money to her (well, that might have been more because of the divorce settlement, for all we care). Mileva Maric was all but forgotten. I thought this edition was educational.

But, the trend in the historiography of science is apparently to reconsider and acknowledge women scientists. PBS’ Nova had a recent docu-drama “Einstein’s Big Idea: The Story Behind E=mc2” was a bit overdramatic (in between the talking head moments, were recreated scenes of young Albert Einstein in love with Mileva Maric, until he leaves her behind; and the lives of his predecessors on the theories of energy, mass, speed and so on – including a French noblewoman, who was a mistress of Voltaire, cut down at the height of life because of – what else? – childbirth and a successor – a Jewish Austrian scientist who never got the credit for the theory of energy in those little atoms (leading to the nuclear bomb). Although this episode didn’t have great critical reviews from the pro tv critics, I ended up watching it. I thought it was a bit overdone (I mean, really, sex and science?), but fascinating. Heck, Nova even already did an episode on Maric (which I don’t remember watching, maybe parts of it, but it was awhile ago).

This week, I did watch this week’s “Nova” – “Newton’s Dark Secrets.” Ok, so Sir Isaac Newton was the man behind the theory of gravity and invented calulus and all that stuff. But, apparently, he was seriously weird – he got into alchemy (perhaps as an alternative way to approach his study for truth and understand nature and to have power over nature – but still weird ); was a young man who had energy and invested it in scientific study (probably to avoid – umm – sex – was he a prim Puritan?); and suppressed his personal religious beliefs, knowing it did not comply with mainstream thinking at that time (Newton, a professor of Trinity College in Cambridge University – whose seat is now that held by Stephen Hawking – did not believe in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – rather blasphemous at the time). Again, I didn’t like the recreated docudrama parts. But, the revelations of new research and understanding of Newton the man of that time (rather than how we developed the myth of Newton) has been fascinating.

Last week was the Downtown NY Alliance’s Restaurant Week – $20.05 prix fixe at selected downtown restaurants. Friends/colleagues and I tried out Les Halles Downtown and Steamers Landing. Les Halles had great French food; Steamers Landing specialized in seafood – and has an incredible view of the Hudson (right next to the World Financial Center). I like these restaurant weeks, trying out places I really wouldn’t try otherwise for pricing reasons!

NY Times’ Alessandra Stanley observes that the American release of the new “Pride and Prejudice” movie has a different ending than the British release of the same movie:

IT was perhaps a little embarrassing to learn that the British producers of the latest “Pride and Prejudice” released a different ending for American audiences: a swoony moonlit scene of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in dishabille, kissing and cooing in a post-coital clinch. [….]

The loudest protests didn’t come from patriots taking umbrage at the concession to New World prurience. Strict Jane Austen constructionists rose up to lament the sexed-up ending as blasphemy. Elsa Solender, a former head of the Jane Austen Society of North America, said that the boudoir scene “has nothing at all of Jane Austen in it” and “insults the audience with its banality.” The current president, Joan Klingel Ray, a professor of English at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, agreed. “One of Jane Austen’s greatest talents is that she presents sexual tension with such subtlety,” she said in an interview on Friday, as the movie, which had its premiere here a week ago, went into wider release.

And they have a point. The smooches and sappy, made-up dialogue between Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen are more reminiscent of Barbara Cartland’s work than Jane Austen’s. [….] One of the less vaunted joys of Austen is that she is one of the greatest writers in the English language who also happened to write witty romance novels. Women enjoy the love stories in Austen the same way men read Hemingway for the hunting and fishing: it provides guiltless pleasure.

The entire romance novel industry was founded by imitators who tried to adapt and adulterate Austen’s work, starting with Georgette Heyer, who is to Regency romance what Patrick O’Brian is to naval action adventure. [….]

The different endings caused a trans-Atlantic stir, but also a backlash. The film’s director, Joe Wright, chose to cut the final kiss for the domestic market after test audiences in England complained, but kept it for the American market, figuring, not wrongly, that Americans are saps with a lighter allegiance to literary accuracy. Or as he put it, “I guess, in America, you just like a little more sugar in your champagne.”

Some critics in the United States and Britain sneered at the ending (in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane, who is British, called the movie’s brooding romanticism a “Brontëfied” Jane Austen), but most were more indulgent. And Austen fans in England who got wind of the American version were incensed that they had been denied a final kiss.

Yeah, that would be my trouble with current Regency romances – they’re no Austens. It’s more the sex and romance and relationships, rather than social observation and excellent writing. Well, we’ll see what the next version of “Pride and Prejudice” will do. (am I at least glad I’ve read the book a long time ago). I know to keep the stuff separate – I’ll read those Regency romances, sure, but if I want Austen, she’s the classic.

Beijing Day 3

Today was a much nicer day here in Beijing… sun came out, from the 23rd floor, I could actually see something, not a lot but not bad. Needed the warmth because am coming down with a cold, sore throat and sniffles and sneezing :(. Haven’t had that in a while.

Last night’s dinner was interesting. Went to a restaurant specializing in Guizhou cuisine. What that means is goose was prominent. We had goose roasted goose heads, goose intestine, goose soup in clay pot. The other interesting speciality of this restaurant located in Zhongguancun area was dog meat. Particularly dog meat in a hot pot :-o. My friend and I took a pass.

Tonight’s dinner was cool, very interesting variation of the hotpot. Spicy but with hoisin sauced mixed in there. You can choose a bunch of different ingredients that’s cooked in a thick sauce on a hot plate. Yummy. Good winter food. Had to come back early for a conference call, otherwise would have gone in for some spa action… maybe tomorrow. My classmates and dinner mates will probably hit up some Korean food tomorrow night. There’s a little Korean town thing near Zhongguancun and our hotel which we can do. It’s fun.

Seminar is pretty weak but I’ll get my PDUs so I don’t care much. Hit up a supermarket this evening after dinner and got some OJ, vitamin C drops and Halls for my cold. Hope it’s not too late. Can’t afford to be sick :-|.

If it gets too lame, I might join my new friends on a Beijing sightseeing tour…..