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Soccer noir

02.01.19 Posted in Sports by

Max Garrone | Max Garrone

How did we get back to this?

Last week’s Samp/Udinese match offered lots to discuss, at least one bogus penalty, Quagliarella’s bid at history, why attendance is low at Italian matches. Amidst all of these distractions I found myself wondering about the state of hair in the Italian game. There is a cluster of guys with the frosted look which always comes across as a bit shaggy because of the variability in hair growth and dye aging and then, then you have a cluster of guys who have embraced the Suavecito look replete with a severe part, which feels like it hasn’t been in style since noir.

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Quagliarella’s suavecito look.

There’s Quagliarella himself as Exhibit A but Stefano Oakaka is an equally forceful exponent of the look on the other side of the ball. Between them the hair product outlay must be enormous. Trend or exception?

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Stefano Okaka in a shot that doesn’t quite do justice to his suavecito style.


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A pound for your book

02.01.19 Posted in Books by

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Volume 46 in the Penguin Modern series.

One of the tiny and great discoveries of our trip to England this Christmas which continues to illuminate our lives more than a month later is the Penguin Modern series. These are tiny books, so slight that they really do fit into your back pocket with nary a bulge, and are full of literary inspiration. The series starts with MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and ends 51 volumes later with Wendell Berry’s “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,” which should give you a sense for their publishing arc. It bends through a bewilderingly diverse and scattered set of literary voices. There’s Borges but also the sorely under-read Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, even John Berger. The diversity of voices is amazing. It feels like a university unto itself.

By necessity they’re all small works but hardly slight. The series is a keen rinder of the virtue of limitations because just the few pages of Borges’ “The Book of Sand” brought back so much, not only the story itself which I hadn’t touched in years but Borges’ playfully speculative voice. Little inspirations like this spark connections, I’d forgotten just how influential Borges has been: Think of Eco, David Foster Wallace, an entire canon of speculative fiction.

And then there’s the design – a stern reminder of joy in physical objects. So small but so visually striking that ever time I see a volume, I compulsively pick it up, flip through it, read a page, before putting it down. As with the Penguin series of old design consistency is critical but this time out it’s an absolutist vision; every volume sports the same color, font (ITC Avant Garde Gothic), and layout. The entire series is even offered as a boxed set. That faith and investment in design and power of publishing is sorely missing from most of our lives.

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The font on full display.

My only regret is that we only bought six of them. The whole series looked positively luscious lined up at the Tate Modern and bookstores like Daunt. Shoulda coulda woulda. What do we need to do to get Penguin to launch the series over here?


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Too bitter, even for an amaro

01.08.19 Posted in Spirits by

Elisir NovasalusMax Garrone | Max Garrone

On their website they describe it as “To be taken after meals to help digestion, changes in climate or season, quench the thirst of a hot summer’s day, or as an irreplaceable friend in everyday life.” Which is quaint and nice but try as I might over the past months I haven’t been able to find a productive use for Cappelletti’s Elisir Novasalus because it’s just so damned overpowering.

This despite it having the deck stacked in its favor. Just admire that bottle. Admire the font. Admire Cappelletti which is responsible for pumping so much energy into the world of amari and offers a jaw dropping assortment of grappas, liquors, and their eponymous apertivo. Plus it’s a family company with deep roots in the Trentino producing everything in a very san sano traditional manner.

You could politely describe it as challenging or distinctive but I’ll try unpalatable exactly because it completely washes out your entire mouth and makes it impossible to taste anything else for quite some time afterwards. Thinkng that there must be a cocktail application, I started with basic combinations to see if half an ounce might work with an ounce of whiskey. No? What about something sweeter? No? What about something more acidic? Ultimately you either have to love it for being Elisir Novasalus or admit that you can’t stand it because there is no way to meld it into a cocktail.

This is obviously a taste from another time and place so far out of my taste universe that I just can’t find a place for it. Thank god that Cappelletti keeps it around as a simple reminder of what was once normal because we need these reminders and gastronomic challenges. This is officially the learning bottle, the one that gather dust until the earthquake or some other unsuspecting soul reaches for it in a time of need.

 


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Film in the digital era (Episode…..)

10.29.18 Posted in Media, Movies by

Art film GIF on GIFER – by Dagdallador

The news that FilmStruck is closing down isn’t exactly surprising but it does strike a chord because, aside from MUBI, it was one of the only streaming services to focus on curating movies outside of the mainstream. If you go to iTunes, Netflix, or Amazon you’ll see plenty of movies on offer but most of them are blockbusters, copy cats, or self produced, and most of it is TV.

The strange thing is that iTunes actually has many of the movies from Filmstruck, they’re just impossible to find because they don’t focus on that segment and don’t focus either on curation or personalized recommendations. This is yet another of those huge digital blind spots, we may have access to more media than ever before, finding it is another thing. Just imagine if you didn’t even know to look for it to begin with?


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Kitchen Work – Food writing’s quiet revolution

04.19.18 Posted in Food, Media by

Kitchen Work editionsMax Garrone | Max Garrone

Kitchen Work is a delightful food journal because it turns all the food media standards on their head. You won’t find it on most magazine racks, in fact the only place I’ve seen it is where I discovered it on the shelf at Ritual on Valencia tucked away among the rest of the merch. A cluster of plain little booklets called out to me and what a find, it’s a culinary journal produced by Heirloom Cafe’s Matt Straus not 100 feet from my office here in San Francisco’s Mission district. Things like this make you believe in the Mission as an enduring cultural face despite the radical changes in the past two decades.

The journal embraces the form. There aren’t any photos, just a stray illustration or two. It’s almost entirely focused on text, the voices of its authors and their earnest stories of the culinary world. They range all over the place from encounters with wine makers to the stray recipe wrapped in memoir, and lots of memories of working in kitchens. There’s a delightful digression on the joys of eating in museum cafes because they’re great social meals, you look at art, stop to dine and discuss art which only enhances what you saw before and will experience later at the same museum. But also a very clear headed account of how a winery loses its identity when it sells to investors. That story, and much of the identity of Kitchen Work, is such a stark reminder of how we all say that we value individuality but don’t take the trouble to really engage with the messy nature of it. There’s a reason corporations run the world. They proceed on the illusion of consistency.

There is a simple nobility in focusing on food without making too much of a fuss about it. Eating and cooking really can be that simple. And the fact that the complete absence of all the trend driven writing feels slightly subversive is a clear clue that they’re on to something. Why focus on the avocado toast when there’s a more important story about cooking and politics? There’s much more of that sort of thing here and they don’t take themselves too seriously which makes it all the more readable.

Since it’s only in print, you’ll need to subscribe today to get a look.


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You shall know us by our billboards

04.18.18 Posted in Movies, San Francisco by

Max Garrone | Max Garrone

Truth or Dare

Hopping out of the Bay Area bubble is always an experience but this past quick trip to LA was a keen reminder of just how dominant technology has become here because the billboards are all completely different in LA. Here everything is about Apple’s latest iPhone campaign, SAS services, Internet security, and start ups I’ve never heard of. LA is full of billboards promoting all the movies and TV shows that I’ve only read about. That saying about advertising to the people paying for the advertising has never rung truer.

 

 


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Next time you think of pitching something outrageous

03.13.18 Posted in Food by

I’m trying to imagine Jonathan Gold’s pitch to his editors; the one that got them to foot the bill for his trip to Copenhagen, a meal at the new Noma, and sundry other pursuits.

There were moments when my trip to Copenhagen last week seemed like a stroll through a panopticon, with a sense that everyone I ran into, from the customs agent in the airport to the barista who made my cortado in the morning knew exactly why I was in Denmark, and had both strong and conflicting ideas about it. If you drink in natural-wine bars, fancy hay-smoked mackerel with your ramen and gravitate toward the kind of taverns where the bar snacks might include cod’s tongues or mead-glazed cauliflower, Copenhagen can seem like a very small town.


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He eventually turned to running marathons.

03.13.18 Posted in Obituaries by

And many other pursuits including piano but especially brain surgery. Read Charles Wilson’s obituary to get a glimpse at one of those amazing polymaths that I’m always reading about but never seem to meet in person. Here’s a sample:

Dr. Wilson sometimes worked in three operating rooms simultaneously: Residents would surgically open and prepare patients for his arrival, and he would then enter to seal an aneurysm or remove a tumor before moving on to the next case.


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Obit du jour: Joe Frank

02.03.18 Posted in Obituaries by

Don’t know how I missed this one till now. I grew up listening Joe Frank on late night radio. It was  all about his dead pan intonation and minimalist sound design pulling you into these odd stories that just went and went. They still enthrall me.

Life, Mr. Frank once said in a monologue, is like being in a restaurant on a first date with a woman you’ve long admired. But “there is a waiting list and the names will be called in alphabetical order — and your name is Zarathustra.”


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Obit du jour: Patton’s driver

02.02.18 Posted in History, Obituaries by

Francis ‘Jeep’ Sanza, Patton’s driver in World War II, dies in Napa at 99

From the preparations for D-Day, in May 1944, right up through the landing at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the final push into Germany, Sanza was at the wheel of an open air Willys-Overland with the four-star general in the passenger seat, tapping at the windshield with his riding crop.

“Everything he did I saw,” Sanza said during a video interview for Profiles in Valor produced by the American Veterans Center. “He was very good to me. He never scolded me when I was driving him.”