Category Archives: Animal Attraction

Al Pacino

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Pacino and Cannavale discuss their salesman prowess

I can’t honestly think of a better title for this post. It’s Sunday evening and I have just finished watching the second feature in my Al Pacino film marathon. Scent of a Woman is of course a classic (and don’t just take my word for it. Pacino got an Oscar for his role) and it has left me exhausted, with a bit of a headache really and absolutely amazed that last night I was 8 rows away from the great man himself.

An impromptu, reckless Broadway purchase yesterday morning, I spent a crazy sum of money for the privilege of sitting near to Johnny, not far away from Frank (Slade and Serpico), hey and of course in touching distance of Michael Corleone (if I nipped out the row and ran really quickly, and before anyone tackled me, to the stage that is!). Last night at 8.05pm, for those of you not following along well, there were 8 heads between me and Tony Montana! And now, as meringues bake in the oven, I am trying to piece together the surreal blur that was Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway.

[The meringues are a desperate attempt at consuming sugar, since my only source comes in the form of cane and with a dozen eggs in my fridge and not much else I have had to resort to Delia Smith meringues to get me through my movie run this evening.]

I was sat very snuggly between two large-ish men. One, I noticed after a few moments sat next to him, was quite clearly drunk (he fell asleep and mildly snored at points but luckily the prolific shouting on stage kept that to a minimum), and all around me, tourists. You know the type. Buying Broadway tickets for the main star! Cheeky so-and-sos. As the curtain was raised and that man sat in a makeshift Chinese restaurant, with a fellow actor, we heard a scream from the back of the orchestra,

“I love you Al Pacino!”

Tourists! By Jove it is hard work going to the theatre with all this rif raf!

Anyway what about his voice? It was all there. His intense eyes, his hair, his expressive mouth as he repeated his lines over and over. Mr Al Pacino is on stage people. STOP COUGHING!

The play was good (well it does have a Pulitzer). Mamet’s dialogue is excellent. It has a similar feel and frustration to Death of a Salesman and I was really impressed with the fast paced exchange between the actors. I had watched a preview online, in the few hours before the show, and some actors had commented on the musicality of the script. I saw that in action. Bobby Cannavale was wonderful. Playing Pacino’s Ricky Roma (from the 1992 movie–earning Pacino a Best Supporting nomination in the same year he won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman) he really made an impression on me. I also loved seeing Richard Schiff (The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) in real life. A little behind on the series (by almost a decade) I have been religiously watching West Wing episodes, most nights now for the last few months, and feel very close to the cast. So seeing, possibly my favourite, only EIGHT heads away was divine.

My buddy Schiff (Tobes)

I really cannot say much else. The whole evening was like a dream. Al Pacino has been a staple legend in my household since I was a little girl (less Serpico, more Scent of a Woman before you blame my parents) and just like with Dustin Hoffman, and with Jane Fonda, I was all of a flutter.

Al Pacino, I may not entirely remember last night, but you were definitely worth every penny.

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Affectionately called “Face Smashing Time”

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It is 4am now. I am not asleep as I probably should be but I figure I won’t need to be much awake for the activities of the 1st May 2012. Dramatic? Me? Surely not.

At least the birds are awake. Best part of the day some say. Not usually me however and I think being asleep would be my preferable option right now. The orange glow of a cloudy Big Apple sky hovers over the city that never sleeps. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind an apple right now. Starving. Mainly because I was told no food after midnight. No I dont want an apple. If I had a choice I think I would have a cheese danish from Le Pain Quotidien. It is sort of breakfast time. I could definitely put away a full English fry up too. But alas it is not to be. Crunching on buttery toast will be have to be a hazy dream sequence for a few weeks. And then you’ll just have to hold me back. Crispy bacon. You don’t stand a chance.

In 2 hours or so it is OR time for me (fingers crossed for dishy George Clooney lookalike). Operating Room 3rd floor. Same Day Surgery.

I have not been nervous about this whole furore but now, slightly delirious with lack of sleep, I am imagining all the possible pitfalls my surgeons might face (Accidental pun. Check me out in the early hours!) Silly really. I should be thankful for the carpentry Dr B is going to perform ON MY FACE. And yet I am wondering whether this was  totally necessary?

After all Bugs Bunny still made it?

Right. 4:21am. Maybe a little snack?

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.


Finally Meeting Alec

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It was my birthday yesterday and I was excessively enthusiastic for near-30 digits. As if getting an excess of presents and sugar was not enough I was also able to fulfill a (lifelong?) dream to meet the man. Mr Alec “he is just too cheeky” Baldwin, as I was reliably informed by Giles, would be reading from a book in a SoHo bookstore. 7:30pm.

Fingers crossed

As always, I had taken on a little TOO much for one day and was then presented with the opportunity to rush downtown immediately after a squash match to see Baldwin himself in the glorious flesh! Could I resist? I could not.

Completely hyper with anticipation, I ran between court and subway stop, skipping stairs to save valuable minutes. Seeing a train pulling in, I swiped the metro card and dove into the carriage. The doors slid closed and I realised, with comic timing and to much dismay, that I was actually being directed UPTOWN. I sometimes do this. Jump on trains without thinking. Panicking I urged the train silently on to 68th St, hopped out, sprinted at full pelt upstairs, over and back down to the reverse platform, panting at this point and tearing my new scarf (birthday present) from around my neck, to the effect of cooling my overheated person. Can we get some air down here? Luckily, and perhaps as an act of fate, the next subway arrived in less than 2 minutes. I, flustered, bundled myself on with my endless baggage and plonked myself down on my bottom to wait. Sitting for 20 minutes with only 25 minutes to go before the Baldwin show, I was a little nervous. Toe tapping anxiously I could do nothing but rest, patiently. But as I approached my planned destination- Broadway-Lafayette- I realised that the subway didn’t stop there. An optical illusion on the map. And I remembered I had done this once before. But a poor product of evolution as I am, I had learned not a thing. And the train kept rolling on. DOWNtown.

Eventually resurfacing at Spring St I rushed up to Prince St to meet my co-adventurer and stumbled on and in to the appropriate bookstore.

The queue was winding, and the floor below, where Mr Baldwin was in session, was full to the rafters. They announced that there was a one in, one out policy for the reading. They were currently at capacity. And we must simply live in hope. But hope is a magnificent thing and always wins out. So soon enough it was my turn and without pause or care (Alec B tends to make a celebrity nuts monster out of me. I must work on that. Sorry G), I trundled down the few steps and positioned myself rudely between some new neighbours. Now calm that my goal would be achieved I sorted my ruffled self out. Dropped my bag, undressed to the boundary between decency and other, and practiced tip toes to get THE BEST view. A couple of other actors were also reading. ER’s Mr Green/Goose (aka Anthony Edwards) read about his private plane trip around the world. Nice. Another lady talked about Morocco. But the main event was still to come. I am getting goose bumps as I type this. Mr Alec “the magnificent” Baldwin was up next. A huge cheer roared in this low-ceiling book emporium as the big man stepped up to the mike.

Looking trim and magical he proceeded to read from his chapter on his loathing of L.A. He said absolutely nothing really but all the while, with his sultry voice, he entertained us all with his gripping prose. I was tippy toed for all of it, dodging an annoying little man who spent most of it taking pictures, and not just taking it all in. I think this is what I needed. To see real celebrity-loving nutbars was a jolt back to Earth. I love you Alec Baldwin, and my heart skips a beat when you giggle, but that was enough now. After all celebrities are really just people (some of them are just steely blue-eyed gods!)

Magnificence in human form?

Friendly Fires

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My first concert in the city (10 months in-oops) was this week. Invited by a new resident tourist in the city, let’s call him Giles, we ventured after work to the lonely food vacuum that is Hell’s Kitchen. Our venue for the night was a large warehouse get-up namely Terminal 5, resembling not at all an airport terminal but quite fitting nonetheless for a music venue.

Having never heard the band (this is no reflection on them I am somewhat clueless) I had eagerly caught up on their hotly admired repertoire in the pre-gig 48 hours build up. Quite the fan now I was a little too excited to see them in action and moreover actually to see what they look like. I was NOT to be disappointed. After a strange warm up act that managed to bring cousins and neighbours up on stage with them to bop around, the Friendly Fires entered stage left and I was delighted.

The lead singer, Mr Fires (aka Ed Macfarlane), was immediately the focus of my evening. His mesmerising, energy fueled (simply joyful) dance moves were the main spectacle. His extraordinary motion affected me greatly. It was verging on addiction by the end and I was unable to contain my delight at all. At points it was tantamount to hysteria.

Verdict on Friendly Fires? Impressive. The enthusiasm and clear love of the music was contagious and the crowd in Terminal 5 were as frenzied as the band.

It was a late school night but a memorable triumph overall.

I love you Mr Fires!

My Family and the Whales

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Provincetown (P-town) is decked out in rainbow flags. The standard I am normally used to displays both stars and stripes, but alongside it here is the colourful banner of gay pride.

P-town Main Street

“Legalise Gay Cupcakes” emblazoned on a t-shirt warrants a photograph humorising the ever real battle for this basic human right (Go New York and Gay Marriage-P-town will be proud).

What flavour icing do they have? Not that matters much to me of course.

P-town sits on the tip of Cape Cod. We find, to our delight, that not only is a gay patisserie legal here but also a boat ride out into the Atlantic deep to float among the many pods of humpback whales that journey up here to feed over the summer. And although it is clear to a regular reader that I am not one to turn down a sugary product, the latter, in this case, is the true calling for the trip to this remote, sun kissed spot on the Cape. Sun cream effectively applied and maximum dosage of motion sickness drugs consumed, my family and I embark on our bumpy journey across the ocean. Sneaking on Dolphin IX, part of the Dolphin Fleet that comes highly recommended due to their strong scientific background in whale-y studies, we were delighted to jump up from the waiting list and board the stern of the ship. And as our vessel shoved off and out of the harbour, under the cloudless sky above, we were eager to find out what our trip would bring in terms of whale-like sightings, if any.

And there they were. Sharp sprays emerged from the water surrounding us, followed by the slow, elegant rolling of the humpback whale as each one dove back underwater. The water was black, reflecting the hot afternoon sun in all directions and as the boat slowed and came to a leisurely chug, the passengers watched in awe as jets appeared one after the other, in packs, pods of humpbacks, as they spent their days diving deep to feed and then resting on the surface; friends and family in tow. Our boat was rocking gently on top of the waves respecting these immense, yet silent, mammals that steadily paddle here. Spending their winters in the waters around Puerto Rico (good decision) these monumental creatures travel all the way up the East coast to feed so that when the winter comes they just don’t have to (less stress, great idea!). We learnt quickly that to search the horizon for a surge of air and water meant a whale or two and soon pods of these magnificent creatures were cruising past us, getting closer each time. An occasional wave of a pectoral fin and a jokingly teasing flutter of their fluke (tail bit) as they descended again had the whole boat in awe. Really the whole experience was a bit surreal. The magnitude of these powerful mammals coupled with the graceful movement through the water was quite mind-blowing. The only communication between these novice whale watchers was their collective “ooohhh’s” and “ahhhh’s” as monstrously magnificent creatures appeared and reappeared above the waves at such close quarters all around us.

A humpback whale is an impressive sight and pods of pods of them more so. P-town is the place to go if you are that whale inclined (chuckle, giggle, stop) and we will just have to wait if my sister’s more professional approach to photography yields better, more accurate images than my own.

A fluke? Or did my camera just catch a lucky break?