Is it possible to be an unhealthy Vegan or Vegetarian?

As my regular readers know, I’ve begun the process of transitioning my ‘eating preferences’ from vegetarian to something that I would have called vegan a few days ago but I’m now realizing is not vegan.

It’s something else.

There is no convenient label for what I’m trying to do, but I’ve also realized something kind of terrible in the last few days also… it’s possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian or vegan.

That’s blasphemy to many, I’m sure!

But please, before I start getting annoyed comments from the folks that have adopted vegetarian and vegan eating habits, let me explain what I mean. You may even agree with me.

First, let’s start with the basics. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you’re not eating meat and that helps dramatically reduce unhealthy saturated fats from your diet. That’s for sure. It’s an excellent start on a road to better health.

Next, if you are vegan, you are further reducing saturated fats by eliminating both eggs and dairy products. Kudos to vegans who are off both eggs and dairy and consuming much less saturated fat. Yay!

HOWEVER.

What I’ve noticed in many of the vegetarian and vegan recipes online is that there is a new boogie man hanging out and readily made available to veg-peoples: processed “veg” alternative foods.

Would you like some fake veg-meat? Or how about some fake veg-cheese? Sure, you can have that… and along with it, tons of oil, sugar and chemicals to preserve it on the shelf.

Want some fake sour cream? Non-dairy ice cream made out of tofu? Oh yeah, that’s our best seller.

See, the thing is… I don’t want to eat that fake chemically laden, oil enriched, sugar coated stuff.

I don’t want to eat food that will stay on a shelf for a month and not go bad. The food we eat should be alive, and if you don’t eat it, it dies and can’t be eaten if you want to stay healthy.

The food industry is SO damn sneaky. They want to make consumers feel really good about their food choices (while charging them a whole lot more than the “regular” products because it’s “healthier”) and so they provide them with plenty of opportunities to buy stuff that, frankly, I don’t see how it’s better for you over not eating it.

THAT is the key.

If you compare eating MEAT, vs. eating fake processed veg. food on the supermarket shelf, I’m sure the argument would be … HEY, this is HEALTHIER than MEAT!

Okay. So what?

Is it healthier than NOT eating the fake veg thing you have in your hand and eating… I don’t know, a carrot? An apple? A carrot and an apple?

And the answer to that is NO, eating fake veg thing is NOT healthier than eating an apple. (Okay, okay, an organic apple.)

Also, and I’m sorry people, I have to point this out… eating baked goods with dark chocolate, raw sugar, wheat flour and oil is not “health food” either.

Imagine… a vegan nightmare…

Breakfast: eat a bowl of sugar coated shredded wheat, with some sugar laden rice milk for a “healthy” vegan breakfast.

Lunch: I can have a baked potato with fake veg cheese, fake sour cream, and fake bacon bits. (I cannot make this stuff up, I’ve seen the recipes and it looks gross.) As my desert, I’ll have chocolate chip cookies with soy milk.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now, if I’m not doing that and not eating the way some veg peoples do, what am I doing?

WHAT I AM DOING:

WHAT I AM NOT DOING:

  • I’m avoiding as much processed food as I can, which is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding using processed oils in my food (yep, even olive oil), although again, this is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding high fructose corn syrup, and avoiding as much sugar as I can (yes, including things like raw/organic honey. It’s still sugar.)

In case you are wondering what the hell am I eating… here is today’s sample:

Breakfast: oatmeal with slivered almonds and two tablespoons of chia seeds (omega 3’s)

Lunch: Half of the following:

Can of Amy’s Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup (minimal oil) with this other stuff I added:

half can of whole kernel corn (no oil, salt or sugar); half can of diced tomato (no oil, salt or sugar); and half of one sweet potato cut into cubes, and one half cup of cooked Reinzi “i bambini” Fusillini with spinach and zucchini (ingredients: duram wheat semolina and 25% vegetable puree.)

Dinner: Finish soup from lunch. Handful of fresh raspberries. One fresh persimmon.

(Cheat item: Pomegranate Blueberry Mash sparkling water drink with fruit juice concentrates and crystalline fructose… sigh. 40 calories per serving, but that’s just my justification.)

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I don’t mind telling you…this transition is very freaking hard… so far.

But the fresh raspberries tasted AMAZING tonight, and I think I can expect to start tasting food differently now … if I’m serious about getting off the other stuff I’d been putting in my body.

How about you?

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It’s Sick, How Healthy I Am

Yes, after over a year of being a vegetarian, I am disgustingly healthy. Even my doctor says so.

And while it took me several months, initially, to get over not being able to eat bacon and fried chicken, I’m now fully adjusted to not eating meat. However, as a vegetarian, I’ve continued eating eggs and dairy (cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, ice cream.)

That’s not all. I’ve also given up drinking caffeine.

I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I had a mean diet cola beverage habit and addiction. After giving that up, I realized all my morning fog and grogginess was due to caffeine. The very product that helps you “wake up” and gives you “energy” is the SAME product that makes you tired later in the afternoon when it wears off. If you don’t ingest caffeine, this cycle of up and down stops. When you feel tired, you’re actually tired.

What do I drink now, you may ask? Answer: Water. Lots of it. (If you do too, your digestive system will behave itself very nicely as it processes your meals.)

I also take vitamins. Everyday. A multi-vitamin, a B complex, and extra Vitamin C (500 – 1000 mg.) Sometimes, for an extra boost, I take an Omega 3 supplement. For people who aren’t taking vitamins but who want to start, I suggest beginning with a complete multi-vitamin of your choice.

I do not take the “best” vitamins on the market, and that’s because I’ve decided to take gummy vitamins. Why gummy? Because they’re extremely easy to take; I don’t have to swallow a pill… which means I will actually take them everyday. If you don’t like swallowing pills, you may also want to consider gummy vitamins or chewable vitamin C, for example.

And yes, now I exercise regularly too. Nothing crazy, I’m not out doing Ironman competitions…but I am walking 4-6 miles several times a week. Walking is good for you, easy to do (do you sense my theme?) and the only “equipment” needed is a pair of sneakers. Walking is easier on your joints than running, although it is also less aerobically intensive and therefore doesn’t burn as many calories.

Coincidentally, other “stuff I don’t do” includes drinking alcohol. I was never a drinker (maybe with the exception of one sip of champagne at a wedding) so I don’t miss it; nor do I miss the calories that get added to your diet when you drink.

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But now I am thinking about going some extra steps. And these steps will be more difficult and challenging.

I’m strongly considering giving up eggs and dairy. Just as it took me several months to give up meat, I’m not planning to go “cold turkey” (haha) on eggs and dairy.

My first step on this journey is giving up butter and liquid milk. Giving up milk is really easy for me because I don’t drink it. If I want a milk substitute, almond milk tastes great. Butter is also relatively easy because in cooking I use olive oil, but I do like the occasional piece of toast with butter that I’m now planning to “sacrifice.”

Eggs, on the other hand, are a HUGE DEAL. Giving up eggs is like… I don’t know. It’s big. Eggs are the last vestiges of “giving up meat” in my diet.

No more fried eggs!

No more omelettes!

Just like with chicken, I’d guess that when it comes to eggs I might slip up for a while. Maybe I’ll go to an egg white system before I wean myself off eggs, I’m not sure. I don’t mind admitting, it seems a bit scary, but I think I can do it.

ALL of these things are taking me down a path towards… ve… veg……… oh man, veganism. I’ll be one of those totally wierd, vegan hippies.

How did this happen?

Well, for starters, I FEEL BETTER.

I HAVE MORE ENERGY.

I am HEALTHIER now than I’ve been in years.

And yes, I’d like to lose even more weight than what I’ve lost to date.

Hell, I’d like to LIVE LONGER.

And while I’ve been investigating all this stuff, I recently came across a documentary that sums up some of the scientific literature behind why this works. It’s called “Forks Over Knives.” It’s interesting to watch, if this area is something you want to know more about, so I’d recommend it.

In the meantime, even I can’t believe that it’s possible to be even healthier than I am right now, which is pretty downright disgustingly healthy.

But I’m gonna try.

A World Trade Center Milestone!

I’m overjoyed to report that the inside tunnel FROM the PATH train at World Trade Center TO the World Financial Center has re-opened as of: TODAY!

Tunnel entrance from the PATH Train at World Trade to the World Financial Center

Tunnel entrance from the PATH Train at World Trade to the World Financial Center

It has been twelve years since the nightmare of 9/11 and this is the first time that “the old way” of getting from one of side of the West Side Highway to the other side without having to go above ground has been replaced.

Exciting Signs of Progress!

Exciting Signs of Progress!

And how it’s been replaced is beautiful. The “tunnel” is made of white marble, and winds its way from where folks exit the PATH and arrives at a bank of five steep escalators, that look exactly like the bank of escalators that USED to be there … the ones you’ve seen in movies, if you’ve seen movies about NYC that had “Wall Street” themes from the 70’s and 80’s.

When you arrive at the top of the escalators, low and behold, you’re in the Wintergarden area of the World Financial Center overlooking the harbor and the Hudson River promenade which faces Jersey City on the other side.

I nearly cried when I got to the top of those escalators today. I’d been doing the commute from the World Trade Center to the World Financial Center back in the late 90’s, and seeing the tunnel and escalators restored today was very emotional for me.

Aside from the beautiful way the tunnel has been constructed, the rest is not much to look at because Brookside, the building management company which runs the World Financial Center” is still undergoing extensive renovations.

But gliding down that tunnel today, I saw the glimmers of a bright future ahead.

Top Secret Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

As with most things in my life, even black beans is a story.

In the past year, I’ve been practicing vegetarianism. Once in a while I come across a food at one of my local Jersey City take-out places that I fall in love with and crave. So it is with a particular Latin American take out spot in my neighborhood that makes the most heavenly frijoles negros (black beans) I’ve ever eaten.

Those beans are so damn good, I was determined to crack the code on them so I could replicate the flavor at home.

One of the first and easiest steps was to look up recipes on the interwebs. There are tons of them, most of which I don’t like, and which I knew didn’t match what I was getting locally.

The take-out black beans I get have an almost creamy consistency, and had nothing in them except disintegrated cilantro, and some magical blend of spices I needed to decode through some alchemical testing in my laboratory… er, I mean kitchen.

It turns out that the base flavor profile I was looking for hinged on an all-important ingredient: vinegar.

Yes, vinegar is used in the making of black beans. I think people who don’t cook them would be surprised to know that is what creates a tart undertone to the beans and makes flavor explode in your mouth with each delicious bite.

But not just any vinegar will do. Oh no.

Goya Distilled White Vinegar - a top secret ingredient

Goya Distilled White Vinegar – a top secret ingredient

I know this because I had to try out several kinds until I found the right one that matched my local take out. Not surprisingly when it comes to humble dishes simply prepared, this vinegar is the least expensive on the market.

I can buy a bottle of Goya Distilled White Vinegar in a plastic bottle for 85 cents, which is more than enough for many pots of yummy black beans. (I’m also saying do not use “cider vinegar” because I’ve noticed a lot of internet recipes call for it. It doesn’t taste right.)

The other ingredient you must have is fresh cilantro. If you don’t have it, don’t make the beans. The flavor profile won’t be right. Period.

Okay, here we go.

This recipe is one of my favorite “riffs” on frijoles negros and has some traditional elements and other flavors I enjoy too. This version of the dish is more acidic / tart because of the ingredients I prefer; but feel free to make your own riff too.

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TOP SECRET FRIJOLES NEGROS

  • 1 can of Goya Black Beans – do not drain liquid (29 oz.) (Reserve 2 tablespoons of beans from the can in a separate dish)
  • 1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes – do not drain liquid (14.5 oz.)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh Cilantro, well washed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 2 Tablespoons – Goya White Distilled Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons – olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 fresh lime
  • water (as needed)

Dice the med. size onion and set aside. Mince the 3 cloves of fresh garlic and set aside.

In a pot, empty most of the contents of the can of Goya Black Beans, including the liquid (minus 2 tablespoons of beans) and immediately add 2 Tbsp of Goya White Distillied Vinegar.

Bring the heat up enough to allow the beans to slowly start to bubble.

Chop the cilantro (including the stems) and mix it into the pot, and cover.

Once the beans have begun to bubble, add the can of diced tomatoes with liquid, mix, and re-cover.

In a pan, put 2 Tbsp of olive oil and bring up to saute heat. Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and stir rapidly – just enough to permit it to perfume. Add salt and pepper, mix.

Stir the onion and garlic mixture into the pot of beans, and re-cover.

Slice the fresh lime into quarters. Squeeze the juice from two lime quarters into the pot, stir the mixture, and re-cover again. (Discard the actual limes, do not put them in the pot.)

Allow the beans to continue cooking, and take the 2 tablespoons of beans you reserved and put them into a bowl and mash them thoroughly. Add the mashed beans into the pot. The mashed beans will create a creamy consistency.

The beans can stay covered on the stove with their flavors blending together for many hours, with the heat very low, as long as you keep checking the pot. If the amount of liquid is too reduced, add water until the consistency is where you want it. (I prefer my beans to be pretty liquidy with lots of delicious broth.)

Before you’re ready to serve the beans, squeeze the juice from the remaining two quarters of fresh lime into the pot and mix thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy!

Cultural Gluttony: BB King, The Armory Show and more

This week I’ve binged on culture and this post covers my wanderings.

I saw BB King and Robert Cray live, went to the 100 year retrospective on the Armory Show at the NY Historical Society, and saw blues artist Joe Nemeth for his one night NYC performance.

I've got a golden ticket!

I’ve got a golden ticket!

Read on for details!

BB King and Robert Cray – live at the State Theater

BB King is now 88 years old, and I’d never seen him play live, so it was a treat to see him this week.

His eight piece back-up band, consisting of 4 horns, a keyboardist, drummer, base player and guitarist were great, and from their ages I’d say they’ve been playing with BB a long, long time.

BB with the band - 8 pieces!

BB with the band – 8 pieces!

The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ is an intimate setting, and for my $100 (USD) ticket I got a seat in the “front balcony” of the theater, above the main hall and overlooking the stage. I could see what was happening on stage clearly, but I wasn’t close enough to get good cell phone photos. Still, you can see some of the stage set-up… :-}

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Robert Cray and his band opened the show with a one hour performance of some of his classic popular blues hits like Strong Persuader, but I’m sorry to say he never played Smoking Gun, probably his biggest hit. Still, Cray’s voice and guitar playing are top notch.

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band

It occured to me, during Cray’s set, there’s a reason why he made it as a professional. His stage presence is strong but easy going; he’s so obviously a talented and capable musician.

After Cray’s band finished, the re-set up process created about a 45 minute intermission before BB King’s band came on.

Once BB’s band came on, they played two numbers without him as a warm-up, and then he joined his band and played perhaps five or six songs total to finish the evening.

BB likes to patter with the audience and joke around, which fans know if you’ve seen videos of his performances or listened to his live albums. This performance was no exception, and BB delighted in leading the audience in a sing-a-long of “You Are My Sunshine” and then kidded around with some of the folks down in front near the stage.

It was extremely charming that as his band was playing When the Saints Come Marching In to end the show, BB didn’t really want to leave the stage. People rushed to the front of the auditorium to shake his hand, take his photo and get his autograph… while they still can.

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

I can’t blame them – BB King is a living Blues legend.

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The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution – new show at the NY Historical Society Museum

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

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Cutout of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

Cutout of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

I’d been greatly anticipating seeing this show at the NY Historical Society and finally got the chance to go yesterday. The show will be up until early 2014, so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase

Travel Tip: Since it’s only the second weekend since the show opened, I’m happy to report it was crowded. Still, tickets are readily available at the museum, you may not need to reserve them online. (I called the museum to check on ticket availability and was told to come in.)

Matisse - Blue Nude - 1907

Matisse – Blue Nude – 1907

This retrospective show is very small compared to the original Armory show, which had hundreds of artworks. In fact, the entire NY Historical Society coverage consisted of two galleries, while a third gallery covered pieces shown “soon after” the Armory show but not from the show itself.

Still, the curators of this show have gone to lengths to explain the original placement of the artworks and the cultural context for the showing of these works. One thing that fascinated me was the curator’s emphasis on how the artists were found for the show. Half of the works at the original show were American, the other half European. There is a lot of good reading material in the show too, and if you’re interested, there is a catalogue for sale.

What surprised me most about the show was that many of the works shown were not only “not shocking” they were traditional landscapes and portraits. It turns out that the organizers of the original Armory show were trying to show viewers an art trajectory, from the classical European, to the American point of view, and then the big divergence with Cubism and Fauvism and so the traditional works were a purposeful lead in, to help the viewer acclimate to what they saw in the final gallery.

Van Gogh - Mountains at St. Remy - 1889

Van Gogh – Mountains at St. Remy – 1889

This final gallery was the only section of the original Armory show which showcased the “new” works, and the public was shocked by them due to their bold colors, multi-varied perspectives, non-traditional forms and in some cases content.

One of my favorite “put-down’s” of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was that it looked like a “splinter salad.” The reaction was clear: critics of this art were severely challenged to understand the new forms.

Although today’s viewers will likely not be shocked by the Matisse, Duchamp, Gauguin and other paintings and sculptures they see, it’s good to be reminded how new art forms CAN shake viewers up, and CAN challenge them to think about art in new ways.

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Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues, Thurs, Oct 17th

What can you say about Terra Blues on Bleeker Street in NYC except that it’s a Blues Institution. This venue attracts top talent from all over the world to come and play blues, and yes, sometimes the acts are only in town one night – as was the case with Joe Nemeth, a blues harmonica player and five time Grammy nominated musician.

Joe Nemeth - Blues harmonica and lead singer

Joe Nemeth – Blues harmonica and lead singer

Nemeth and his band played a funky blues first set, and then… the electrical power went out for the amps in the back of the stage.

Nemeth was undaunted by the set-back, and sent his band offstage to take a break, while he decided to sing solo, just a boy and his harmonica, and he brought down the house.

Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues in NYC (bad lighting!)

Joe Nemeth and his base player too at Terra Blues (bad lighting!)

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However, after his one solo song, the power had not come back on, and so he too took a break. Unfortunately, many in the audience didn’t wait for the electrical repair and got up and left. Since it was only Thursday night, and I knew I had a busy few days ahead (to see BB King the next night, and then off to the Armory show too) I also decided to call it a night.

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

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The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

Does it look like I was sitting right next to the stage? Because I was at the very first table next to the stage. I could have almost reached out and touched the lead guitarist’s cowboy boot!

Enjoy!

New flash fictions, Ozone and Belongings, up on Camroc Press!

I’m very excited to announce Ozone and Belongings have been published by Barry Basden, Editor of Camroc Press Review. This is the first time my work has appeared in this journal.

Camroc Press’s editorial emphasis is work that has a deep emotional focus.

These works are in company with several other pieces I’ve gotten published this year that I’ve challenged myself to write since they explore territory that goes far beyond what I’ve written in the past. It’s difficult to be so “naked” in front of a reading public, but it’s taught me about honesty in my work to “go there.”

I hope you’ll take a moment to read these pieces here: http://www.camrocpressreview.com/2013/10/carol-deminski.html

A permanent link to these works will be available on my Published Stories page.

Jazz Jam Jersey City: Mon Nights at the Brightside

Jazz Jam JC - the guys I know: Jordon on piano and Noel on drums, cool cats both!

Jazz Jam JC – the guys I know: Jordon on piano, Noel on drums, and Sam on the base!

If you happen to be in Jersey City on a Monday night, and you happen to want to HEAR live jazz, or better yet you want to PLAY live jazz… swing on down to the Brightside Tavern on Monmouth Street and participate in the Monday Night Jazz Jam.

Entrance is FREE, and the music runs from 8pm through midnight. If you feel like a snack or dinner, the Brightside serves food, and of course the drinks flow all night long.

Each Monday night is different, but to give you a sense of what was “on” tonight, there was a ton of talent: 3 piano players, 2 drummers, 3 upright bass players, a guitarist, 2 trombonists, 2 sax players, 3 jazz singers, and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting… and I left before the jam ended.

Musicians or singers can come in at any time and grab the sign in sheet.

A jazz singer croons a lovely tune at the Monday night JC Jazz Jam

A jazz singer croons a lovely tune at the Monday night JC Jazz Jam

Given how close Jersey City is to NYC, some Monday nights the talent is top notch. I’ve heard musicians at the jam that stopped in to play, and then headed out on tour to Europe or Asia.

Other nights, folks come in that just want to have the experience. They may not be full time professional musicians, but they’ve got the chops to get up on stage and play in front of an audience.

There are a lot of things to like about this jazz jam. Unlike many venues in NYC, this setting is very casual and cozy. Even if you’re coming in for the first time, people are extremely friendly and you’ll likely feel at home within ten minutes of being in the room. The audience is very supportive of the various players and singers, and there’s a lot of clapping (and when needed, hooting and hollering too!)

I’m glad to have access to such a fun venue in my local stomping grounds. If you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood for jazz on a Monday night, you should definitely stop by…

Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough

Tonight I attended an opening reception at the Scandanavia House for Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough.

Vilhelm Hammershoi - DETAIL - Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Vilhelm Hammershoi – DETAIL – Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Scandanavia House – which is part of The Nordic Center in America – is located in a swanky mid-town neighborhood on Park Avenue in NYC. I’m bringing this up because while this opening was certainly about Danish paintings, it was at least as much a New York City-centric event than anything else. Yep, it’s good to be home. When I filed into the auditorium in the basement of Scandanavia House, I felt like I’d been put into a time machine from earlier in my life when I used to work in this neighborhood. All around me were men in suits and women with serious jewelry. These men and women obviously had a lot of money; they were attending this event to help pay homage to the personal art collection of former Danish Ambassador (from 1981-83) of John L. Loeb, Jr.

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Ambassador Loeb, who seems to be in his … 70’s? … has amassed the largest collection of Danish paintings outside of Denmark, and is an ardent supporter of the arts, including the two co-curators of this exhibition, the five additional staff assistants that helped put the show together and the printing of a “handsome catalogue,” I was informed by one of the curators during his lecture. In addition to the opening event tonight, there will be ongoing events, like docent tours, etc. from now through the end of January 2014 when the exhibition closes.

PS Kroyer - Self Portrait - Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

PS Kroyer – Self Portrait – Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

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PS Kroyer - Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

PS Kroyer – Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

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In the lecture, the curators presented the concept behind the show, which is staged in three parts, one for each display gallery: The Academy; The Land; and The Modern Breakthrough. The Modern Breakthrough represents when Danish painters thought about:

the psychology of the individual, the role of the environment on identity and the ways in which the act of painting itself could be used as a medium through which emotions could be expressed and society renewed…

The opening image, my detail of the figure hanging out the window looking into a courtyard by Hammershoi, is an example of a piece within the Modern Breakthrough.

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior - full painting

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior – full painting

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Here are some additional images from The Academy gallery…with some information from the curators.

Jens Juel - Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

Jens Juel – Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

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Joel Ballin - 1882 - Study of a Model - Young Girl Undressing

Joel Ballin – 1882 – Study of a Model – Young Girl Undressing

During the lecture, we were told that the Danish Art Academy was one of the first (if not the first?) to have women models come and pose nude, rather than just male models.

The curator’s description in the gallery reads:

This work, painted in CW Eckersberg’s life class at the Academy records some of the professor’s most important pedagogical innovations. Traditionally, studies of the human nude had been conducted exclusively with male models, and only in the artificial light of candles or lamps. The point was to not represent life but to evoke an imagined realm of ideal beauty. Eckersberg … brought female models into the studio and instructed his students to paint them in the light of day and in realistic domestic settings.

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Christen Dalsgaard - DETAIL - Young Girl Writing

Christen Dalsgaard – DETAIL – Young Girl Writing

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So if you find yourself on Park Avenue near 38th Street between now and next January, you may want to stop by and see these Danish paintings from the private collection of the former Danish Ambassador. While you’re at it, pick up a handsome catalogue documenting the Ambassador’s collection by expert curators and enjoy the show….

A New Way of Looking at Sex: My Thoughts on Don Jon

I highly recommend the new film Don Jon, which marks the directorial debut of well known actor Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Levitt plays the lead character, Don Jon (with the obvious reference to Don Juan,) a devout Italian Catholic guy from New Jersey who is a gym rat, has dinner with his family every Sunday after church, and spends Saturday nights clubbing with his “boys” and finding a random woman to lure home to his pad to have sex.

Oh yeah, he also has a rabid addiction to internet pornography. This addiction is the central issue the character must deal with in the film and come to understand how it is affecting his relationships with women.

And while this sounds like it could be an episode of Jersey Shore, there is something more to this character that we come to understand toward the end of the film, about his vulnerability as a man.

Both of the primary women characters in the movie are played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson as the “10” he meets in the club and who becomes his girlfriend; and Julianne Moore, a woman damaged by life’s circumstances who Don Jon meets in a class when he goes back to school. Tony Danza also gets a star turn as Jon’s father, and although Danza’s performance is spot on, the character is written as an “macho Italian old-fashioned NJ guy” sterotype.

What I liked about the film was its unflinching look at how a guy like Don Jon relies on pornography, despite the fact that he’s having regular sex with real women and how he explains (in voice overs) that he still believes the pornography is better than the women he is having sex with (since real life cannot compete with the perfection of a fantasy on a screen.)

And what Don Jon finds out, in the end, is that the new way of looking at sex is the old way of looking at sex: it means most when it’s with someone you care about. And while that may sound like a sappy hollywood ending, I assure you its not.

In the new world, sex is about caring, but it doesn’t come with the trappings of fairy tale weddings, babies and perfection… it comes through a deeper emotional understanding which means Jon’s giving up the one-sided nature of being a voyeur in his own life.

Ice Cube Trays

Earlier this year, I assumed sometime over the summer, perhaps June or so, my refrigerator broke and I needed to buy a new one. Before writing this post, I decided to look at the receipt to see whether it was June or later.

Consider me shocked.

The refrigerator was delivered at the end of April.

I’ve been on the road for so many weeks this year, I’ve totally lost track of time. And now, after getting home from five consecutive weeks away, I’m trying to restore some semblance of order in my life, but it hasn’t been easy.

There are a bazillion little things that I need to do and have not been doing because I wasn’t home to do them. Of course there are the obvious tasks like sifting through weeks worth of mail delivered while I was away (barely started), or getting some groceries (got a few things), or less tangible tasks like re-adjusting once more to this time zone (not going well).

And then there are other tasks, insidious tasks, that lead to a lack of comfort in my life. And until I take care of them, they don’t get done and I live without.

Thus, the lack of ice in my home.

You see, I bought a refrigerator that needed to be a certain size to fit up the stairs of the 100+ year old building where I live. And the model I got has an automatic ice maker. That would be lovely, if I could hook the refrigerator up to a water source to produce the ice – but I can’t – because I live in a 100+ year old building that wasn’t constructed to provide a water source to a refrigerator 100 years in the future. And so, when I bought the refrigerator it did not come with “old fashioned” ice cube trays.

And it is very easy to buy ice cube trays. You just go to the store and buy them. But when you are home for 48 hours, have to do laundry, pack a suitcase and run to the airport again, there is no time to dedicate to the frivolity of ice cube trays. The lack of ice at home is inconsequential in those circumstances.

You may laugh when you see how shocked I am that I have not had ice in my house since April, but to me, it is a serious matter. It means that in so many ways, my life is frayed at the seams and I must expend significant energy to get my home life back on track.

So it was, last night, that I decided I wanted to find the most decadent ice cube trays I could find for my empty freezer. I toddled over to my neighborhood Bits, Bytes and Beautification and found a regular set of ice cube trays (sadly, I only had to pay $2.99) and another set of tiny half-inch cubette ice cube trays for another $2.99. When I got them home, I filled each tray with bottled spring water and slid them onto the shelves.

It was a miracle to have ice in my water today. I haven’t had ice in my drinks at home in six months.

Now you’ll have to please excuse me, I have some mail to read, laundry to wash, and a suitcase to put on the shelf… for now.

Carolfornia – a ramble about life on the road

I have been on the road for five consecutive weeks now, and I’m ready to go home. And I will go home pretty soon, later this week, for a few days anyway and then go back out on the road again in week six.

This is the most consecutive weeks I’ve spent on the road all year, and it wasn’t something I planned, it was a variety of stuff that came together, serendipitously, that caused me to have this much travel at once.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I enjoyed some of the travel a lot. I’ve stayed in decent digs, been to lovely cities, had some great weather, and pretty amazing food at times. But, I am weary.

I’ve made a promise to myself, which I hope I can keep, that after six weeks of consecutive travel that I will be able to get off the road for at least two consecutive weeks.

Do I seem obsessed?

I think I am getting a little obsessed … with the idea of sleeping in my own bed.

I know I’m getting obsessed with the idea of cooking for myself. I have elaborate fantasies of re-stocking my empty refrigerator, instead of just having a jar of lime juice and a bottle of water on the door, and a plastic container of sesame seeds on one of the shelves. I want to buy blueberry yogurt, and cucumbers and green olives. I want to luxuriate in the idea that if I don’t eat these things within 48 hours that I won’t either have to give them to the neighbors or throw them away, because I will be in my apartment more than 48 hours.

This is just a ramble post. I don’t have any deep insights about life on the road, or balancing my life (my life is clearly not balanced these days) … so let’s call this an expression of my desire to keep the same ground under my feet for enough days for me to feel ‘settled’ for a bit, into what most people would see as a boring routine, but what I choose to see as a re-initiation into my home life.