Monthly Archives: February 2012

Preparing for Richard

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Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is such a treat. It’s faux crumbling interior is so cosy and there are no bad seats in the house. And they also send out a very informative email to get you prepared for each show. A mixture of blogs, interviews and production notes so you can make the most of the experience. Tomorrow I will get to enjoy some Kevin Spacey genius in his title role of Richard III.

So, I thought I better get some reading done so I can slip into the World of Shakespeare with ease. Fingers crossed.

BAM sent me this gem of a link. Start with Sir Ian McKellan’s description of the opening speech. My goodness it is fun.

Sir Ian McKellen

Death of a Salesman

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman has recently climbed up onto the Ethel Barrymore stage on Broadway to revive this Arthur Miller classic.

Let me reiterate. Phillip Seymour Hoffman of “Scent of a Woman”, “Flawless”, “The Savages” etc. etc. is ON STAGE NOW in a legendary New York based play by the man Miller. Needless to say I was booked well in advance. No care or thought to cost.

Eager to make the most of my experience I speedily ordered a used Penguin paperback on Amazon and kept my fingers crossed that it would arrive in good time. The performance is Thursday night. The book arrives Tuesday evening. The race is on. Luckily I have an uncomfortably early appointment with the orthodontist on Wednesday, so slim paperback in hand, I begin my commute to the Upper East Side clinic. By lunchtime, gripped by the anguish of Willy Loman and his family’s disappointments I am on the final page. The clue is in the name and yet my heart is wrenched out of my chest as I imagine the headlights come on and the car revving up as Willy drives away to his demise.

In my mind I already know Biff, Willy’s eldest. A failed football player who doesn’t get into college after flunking math (a subject in the singular here), Biff has drifted around the country since he graduated high school, trying to “find himself”. He works on farms, with horses. He is strong. Tanned. Masculine. Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network” and “Never Let Me Go”) takes up the role here. Ermm he is not the Biff I had in mind and I am dubious. His physique is too slight. He is faded, true, but he doesn’t seem commanding, magnificent enough for the part. But the verdict?

Completely nailed it. By Act Two, when he begins to really interact with his father and we see their struggle with guilt, love, respect and the loss of it, I am mesmerised and torn up inside watching them fight for those good old days of comradeship. His debut on Broadway? I say “roaring success.”

Biff’s younger brother, Happy (Hap), is also an attractive athletic specimen (and he is actually just that. Mmm rippling biceps). His presence on stage is wonderful. Do I sense a crush coming on? Probably yes. The rest of the cast was faultless too. But I probably shouldn’t detail them one by one. Could get boring. But well done Mr Casting Director. The 1940s truly came alive on stage. Linda Loman generates as many sniffles from the audience as the boys and their father. Her trembling hands as she battles to bring father and sons back together, back to love, is powerful. And these people really know how to cry. Can we just take a timeout to comment on the crying? Genuine agonising weeping was the theme of the evening and whoever was coaching that should get a medal. If there are such medals for such feats.

Now. I am sure you are all wondering. No mention of Phillip Seymour Hoffman? How strange. Was she disappointed? Was she overwhelmed and distracted by the true-to-Miller set design bringing the written word to vivid life? Or was she simply smitten with the bicep built Hap and his chiselled jawline?

Nope. I was saving the best ’til last. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (PSH for convenience), you have successfully infiltrated the Ashbridge Family core. Many have tried and failed but you, among a few select others, get us all riled with admiration. For years we have watched and rewatched “Scent of a Woman” (not least for the “Hoo haaa” of Al Pacino). We have snuggled up with M&S biscuits and Cadbury’s Buttons and praised you on screen. Sister Jo even queued for over 5 hours at the Toronto Film Festival to hear your gruff, intoxicating tone discussing your craft (disregarding the looks of bewilderment from her peers no doubt).

Like Biff we would love you no matter what. Isn’t it amazing how film and theatre can do that to a person? Can make you buzz from top to toe and ache with inspiration. PSH, the front left stalls gasped as you tore down that anemic Bernard with your ferocity and I smiled to myself. Didn’t you know he had it in him? We did.

Valentine’s Day in a Commerical Wonderland

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Will there be anything in the post? Do I even care?

Ha silly question. Of course I do. I want all of the chocolates and I really love flowers (hint hint), even though they die all too soon. So, this disgusting display of over sentimental fluff that is being bulldozed over the city (and world) today is absolutely fooling me.

So far I have done pretty well. A red Gatorade for breakfast. A card from one of the girls at work who printed it off in front of me. Pink Champagne for our special lunch at the Rockefeller University (surrounded by really old Nobel Prize winners. Who said romance was dead?) and an insane amount of squidgy chocolate cake. Delusional bliss.

Saint Valentine. Go you.

True love is either a violin playing goat OR two elephants having a smooch. Probably.

Trading in Pork. Yes Please.

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It may not be news to anyone but I have no clue about trading. To me, the stock exchange is a big building downtown with one of the larger American Flags hanging outside. In fact, have you ever read any analysis of the current economic climate on this blog? You have not. Indeed, I avoided Occupy Wall Street like the Plague for fear of having to discuss something out of my comfort zone (please do not then assume that my comfort zone consists mainly of sugar consumption and performance opportunities. This blog focuses on the trivial yes, but also the more serious adventures of my current life).

But one thing I have learned during my time here in the Big Apple is that pork is a commodity (could I have unearthed a subconscious link underlying the city: it is a known fact that pork and apple are so finely partnered!). Take Momofuku for instance. Pork Belly Bun aka Pork Bun (see below). Truly, gobsmackingly irresistible.

Let me first state, for relevance purposes: I came to this city as an ‘almost veggie’. I was near prepared to give up on meat entirely, finding that I very rarely craved a wedge of lamb, a slab of beef or a pulled shoulder of pork.

Sunday Roast? Urh…. I’d take it or leave it (after first scoffing the Yorkshire Pudding that is). But now one year in and I am the carnivore I clearly always dreamed of being. I am a meat monster. I have no shame in admitting that I have frequented Momofuku Noodle Bar on numerous occasions, perhaps too many to count. I now willingly wander into barbeque establishments and order from the menu, always leaving juicy, meaty, greasy sauces dripping from my chops. I hunt out the best burgers in the city (see The Spotted Pig and The Breslin) and I consume chicken (but not turkey. Turkey is a cheap meat), as if the chicken world were in peril.

But most surprising, for me (as no one is asking you to consider this too deeply), is that my love of pork is off the scale. The pork adoration scale. Last night I adventured to Brooklyn’s Fette Sau, for no other verb will do, and devoured most of a pork’s shoulder. Did I stop for breath? I certainly did not. Upon discussing this realisation with a certain mother, being the only human disposed to listen to my ravings, I was further amazed to learn that pork has a long-time connection to the trading market. And for that I felt like it may serve to boost the intellectual property of my blog.

So, for the factual bit:

Pork Bellies, or the cured carcass of a slaughtered pig, usually account for roughly 13.5 percent of the carcass weight of the hog.  The belly is removed from the carcass and cured in a heavy salty brine solution and put in cold storage to eventually be sliced into bacon.  Bacon, the end result of the pork belly, is unique among meat products in that it has no substitutes.  The major factor effecting Pork Belly prices is the number of hogs being slaughtered and the demand for bacon.

The most important factor affecting the supply and price of Pork Bellies is the current live stock situation: feed costs and profitability considerations, the number of hogs and pigs on farms, and the birth rate of new pigs.  Other important supply considerations are weekly hog marketing at major markets and cold storage figures.

First and foremost, it is best that you understand exactly what it is you’re trading, traders:

pork bellies:

  1. trade 40,000 lbs of frozen cut-and-trimmed pork per contract.
  2. have a minimum “tick” size of 2.5¢ per hundredweight, or $10.00.
  3. trade on the floor from 9:05am to 1:00pm Central.
  4. have contracts in the months of February, March, May, July, and August.

lean hogs:

  1. trade 40,000 lbs of lean hog carcasses per contract.
  2. have a minimum “tick” size of 2.5¢ per hundredweight, or $10.00.
  3. trade on the floor from 9:05am to 1:00pm Central.
  4. have contracts in the months of February, April, May, June, July, August, October, and December.

It is important to understand the above information when trading as it is all fundamental; no one wants to be embarrassed!

Trading pork bellies and lean hogs – apart from the fact that they are separate markets with individual specifications – is not too different from trading anything else. Many markets have basic trading seasons in which certain products are produced and/or sold in higher quantities than in other times of the year. While it may seem simple to follow this seasonal trend, it is not quite as simple as buying during one point of the year and selling during another. Certain reports that come out (for pork bellies and lean hogs, a very important report is Hogs and Pigs, as distributed by the USDA quarterly) may provide critical information that may help you with your decision-making when the time comes to trade. Most importantly, never feel rushed; just because a news headline informed you that there was a small outbreak of disease among hogs in China or that pig production in the Midwest is slowing, there is no reason to act hastily. Always do your due diligence by checking and double-checking everything you see and hear!

The summer driving months from Memorial Day to Labor Day marks the height of fast food consumption, and the height of bacon consumption.  The period is known in Pork Belly circles as the BLT season.

The fast food industry is becoming increasingly more important to the demand for Pork Bellies.  As these behemoths of the food industry feature bacon on a sandwich, the demand for bacon increases dramatically.  With the introduction several years ago of breakfast menus to the fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and the like, the fast food industry has become an ever increasing consumer of bacon and Pork Bellies.  Since the busiest time of the year for the fast food industry is during the summer season, it is no surprise that this traditionally strong demand period sees the largest number of bellies moving out of cold storage for slicing than any other season of the year.

data courtesy of http://www.commodityseasonals.com/pork_belly_futures_1.htm and http://www.bellycommoditytrading.com/different-ways-to-trade-bellies.html

And if you got to the bottom of this mammoth blather of pork-related information I have probably put you off. But I urge you. Pork is making it big in the city. Go find some.