Finally tried Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Chinese restaurant 66 last night. I've been curious to taste JGV's take on Chinese food ever since it opened. I went in with high hopes since I happen to think that for a city so obsessed with Chinese food (and with so many Chinese people), New York sure has a lot of crappy Chinese restaurants. In fact, one of my least favorite things to hear from friends is: "Hey! Let's eat Chinese tonight!"
So I was hoping maybe a super chef like Jean-Georges could bring a much needed boost to the sorry state of New York City's Chinese food scene. And no, I'm not bigoted enough to think that only a Chinese person can make great Chinese food. A great chef is what it takes, and if he happens to be Alsatian, then so be it! And for what it's worth, most of the kitchen staff is Chinese (save for a couple of whiteys).
So, I pulled the trigger and paid for a pro Flickr account. In all my years on the net, I have only paid for a web service one other time. That was in 1996 for ESPN back when it was called "ESPN SportsZone" (with the URI espnet.sportszone.com, remember that?). At that time, all their columns were part of the Insider premium content, only news and scores were free. I continued subscribing annually until it went to all free content a few years back (around '99 or 2000?). Then, a couple of years ago they slowly started having premium content again, but I haven't re-subscribed as most of what I read on ESPN are still free. But at this rate, as they gradually put more and more columns behind Insider access, I'll probably end up subscribing again before long.
Anyway, this post is about Flickr, not ESPN. I've only played with Flickr a little bit these past couple of weeks, but I've seen enough to want to give them some money (USD41.77). The way I'm using Flickr now as a moblog, I didn't really need to upgrade to a pro account, certainly not before I have 100 photos in my photostream (the free account only displays your last 100 photos). But it's a cool product from a cool company, so I thought: "Why not?" The clincher was that they are based in Vancouver, my adopted home away from home. Buy Canadian!
See my photostream at Flickr (at the moment, it's mostly photos from my crappy cameraphone).
Just watched 宮崎駿/Hayao Miyazaki's latest—ハウルの動く城/Howl's Moving Castle and it didn't disappoint. (Well... I did think the ending was a bit too deus ex machina for me, but that's a minor quibble. I mean it is a fantasy after all.) I won't know how I'll rank this amongst Miyazaki's masterpieces until I've had some more time to mull it over and watch it again. I do know this: I was spellbound by this magical tale for 2 hours.
Unlike most of his other works (i.e. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), this movie's not an original story. Instead it's based on Diana Wynne Jones' novel of the same name. I've never read it (or even heard of it until today) and supposedly this is a loose interpretation. Anyway, in this story you'll find: a young girl in a 90-year-old's body, a fire demon who powers a moving castle (my favorite character!), a kid who can transform into a tiny old man with a huge beard, an old witch with a neck that looks a little like Jabba the Hutt, a wizard who turns into a giant bird (voiced by 木村拓哉/Takuya Kimura, last seen canoodling with 王菲/Faye Wong in another wonderful film, 2046), a scarecrow that hops around, flying battleships, and so many other wonderful and weird things that make up Miyazaki's trademark style. I think it's best to just go in with a clean slate and enjoy the magical ride so I won't rehash the plot (kind of hard to do anyway given the complex multi-layered story).
Howl's doesn't open in the States until June 10th in NY/LA (blame Disney).
And if you read Chinese, this is the best fan site I've found so far (well, in English or Chinese anyway): 移動城堡台灣興趣版
Despite my previous claim that "The Gates" is close to being completely horrible, I went back to see it again this past weekend. This time, I entered the park through Harlem Meer (at 110th and 5th) and my reaction was much more positive. Maybe I was able to appreciate it after I got the player-hating out of my system. Or maybe up around the northern part of the park it just didn't have the crush of people that the below-reservoir parts had (there were less people up there on a Saturday afternoon then there were on a Tuesday afternoon below 86th). Or maybe the area around Harlem Meer is just an exceptionally beautiful part of the park (where I almost never go since it's so far up there).
Between my two visits, I more-or-less have seen every part of "The Gates" and the installation around Harlem Meer area is definitely the best. The gates worked well with the topology of the area and seemed to be placed less monotonously than elsewhere in the park. This last point I'm not sure, but that's how it appeared to me. I still don't think the project's that great overall, but at least I hate it less.
If you haven't gone out to see it yet, you should. Good art or not, it's still an interesting and impressive (in the sense that it was done at all) installation. You have a few days left to see it and make up your own mind about it. Make sure you enter the park through the Harlem Meer and avoid the crowd in the lower parts of the park.
My 阿嬤 (ah-ma/paternal grandmother) passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 2, 2005 at home in Taipei with my 阿公 (ah-gong/grandfather) at her side. She was 81 years old. These are some photos from her funeral.
I know I said I wasn't going to put these up because people might find them in bad taste. But after looking over the photos, I decided to share them after all. As LT reminded me: When did I ever care what other people thought? True dat. This is my way of remembering an important event in my life. Plus I think the photos are pretty interesting, to boot.
Most poignant photo: My 阿公/grandfather looking over at the proceedings.
See the full gallery: Grandmother's Funeral [ 23 photos ]
I was in Taipei for two weeks beginning of the year to attend my grandma's funeral. While that is not a happy event, it did bring together my family which is spread out over three very-far-apart cities (New York, Vancouver, Shanghai) and that was a good thing. Here's a whole load of photos from those two weeks.
I have decided not to put up shots from the funeral itself because while I don't think so, some may find those in bad taste (or at least depressing). Changed my mind.
Friends & Family in Taipei [ 76 photos ]
These are some of my favorite shots from the set:
- Dad, grandpa and uncle walking
- Yuyang avoiding the paparazzi
- Ma chatting with grandpa
- My parents and Yutai looking for our old apartment
- Ma cooking
Incidentally, from mid-September to mid-January, between all the trips I was taking, I actually spent three more days in Taipei then I did at home in New York. Just FYI, not that you asked.
[Update: 嘉嘉說上面那張很像《無間道》... 你說呢? 哈哈]
Four of my Gropius House photos have been published in a new book by Taschen titled simply Gropius. It's from their Basic Art Series and lists for US$9.99 (buy it from Amazon). It's a 96-page soft-cover book introducing Walter Gropius and his most important works. It may not be one of Taschen's fancier volumes, but it's comprehensive and has lots of photographs (some quite good). These are the four shots of mine featured in the book:
- View from garden: on page 74, full page picture
- View from southwest: on page 76, half page picture
- Front side: on page 77, small picture
- South side of the house with the terrace over the living space: on page 79, small picture
I know I said I would put these up a few days after I went to see it... Three months later I've finally got around to it. And I still have a huge backlog of photos I need to put up from all the trips I've been taking recently.
[From Figure/Ground] I was enchanted by this building the moment I saw it. The building's glass facade set on a diamond-grid reminds me a little of my other favorite building I saw this year: Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library. Speaking of whom, I wonder how jealous Koolhaas is that neither of his Prada "epicenter" designs is remotely as successful as this one by Herzog & de Meuron.
I love the way the random mix of convex, concave and flat glass panels generate a constantly changing perspective of the products and the shoppers inside. It's as if each panel is another page in a live-action Prada catalog.
It's been exactly one week since we got back from Italy. I've tried to let the experiences and memories settle a bit before writing this wrap up (okay, I was just tired and didn't feel like it).
So, how was the trip? Sadly, not great. Believe me, it gives me no pleasure to be contrarian (as everyone else I know who has gone to Italy absolutely loves it), but I simply didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped.