Category: Film

Savory times

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006 | All Things, Film, Friends

I headed to the McBurney Y alone after work to pick up this week’s abundant vegetable share: cucumbers, string beans, scallions, Early Jersey Wakefield heirloom cabbage, Perpetual spinach, fennel, Summer squash, Red Ace beets, Orient Express eggplant, and Summer savory. Quite a haul – and since SYB passed on his share this week, all for me.


Savory is a member of the mint family, native to the eastern Mediterranean and is primarily known for its two main types: Summer savory (which I received) is an annual; Winter savory, a perennial. Summer savory is milder and sweeter than the winter variety and used more often in cooking.

The Romans used savory as a food seasoning long before they used pepper; their soldiers introduced it to England during Caesar’s reign, where it became established for its culinary uses and its medicinal properties. The colonists brought savory to America.

The old English word “saverey” was derived from the Latin “satureia” – meaning “satyr’s herb.” Satyr — the half-man, half-goat creature in Greek mythology renowned for its lechery — associates the herb with its aphrodisiac powers. Over the centuries, savory was considered the herb of love, used to augment physical fervor. The German’s word for the herb focuses instead on its use as a natural digestive aid. Bohenkraut, means “bean’s herb”; besides enhancing bean flavor, one of the components of the herb is known to combat the problems generally associated with legumes. Savory also has been used over the years as an antiseptic. Herbalists recommend topically applied savory for instant relief of wasp or bee stings.

With my canvas sack filled to bursting with fresh vegetables, I trudged up Seventh Avenue to meet CS in Chelsea for a preview screening of the new Woody Allen film, Scoop. By the time we arrived – over an hour in advance of show time – the line had snaked across West 23rd Street, past The Hotel Chelsea. Free movies always seem to draw people in droves, unaffected by poor early reviews. Still, Allen had recently proven himself still capable of making a watchable film, and since we couldn’t be certain that we would be shut out of the theater, we decided to wait it out as the lines of potential audience members grew steadily behind us.

Just before 7:15pm, the theatre hit full capacity. As it turned out, CS and I weren’t all that close to the cut-off, so there were many others who’d waited in line longer than we and were denied admission. The very apologetic studio assistant came outside to break the bad news, bearing an armful of consolation swag. To make up for our not being able to see the film, we were given Scoop-emblazoned reporters notebooks.


We took the subway back to our respective homes and made plans to reconvene at our local watering hole. Bartender Paul was working again (Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays), as was the new $15,000 air conditioning unit. Which was a very good thing, given the string of recent steamy nights. Paul greeted us warmly, and even comped us a drink — our first buyback! — so we’re well on our way to becoming regulars.

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Friday, July 7th, 2006 | All Things, Film, Friends

M met me for lunch downtown this afternoon, freshly bronzed off her trip to Mexico. Over yellowfin tuna salad, she regaled me with lavish tales of poolside shenanigans and $60 Don Julio Real shots.

Later that evening, I met S, SC and CS for an outdoor movie in Hudson River Park, the 550-acre greened refuge spanning the five mile stretch between Battery Place and West 59th Street, and the largest open space development in Manhattan since Central Park. Since breaking ground in 1998 — and still ongoing — the city has rebuilt the formerly dilapidated far West Side into a series of docks, boat houses, lawns, beach, walkways and granite bike paths. Quite a massive undertaking, if like me, you recall the scene here from the Crack ’80s.

But the best parts are the public piers, some of which extend up to 1,000 feet into the Hudson River, offering unimpeded views of the water and… well, Jersey. Pier 46, where tonight’s screening was set up (while the Tribeca pier used in years past is undergoing reconstruction), is located in one of the first segments of the park to open to the public (Spring 2003). Hard to believe that this prime real estate was condemned and sitting unused just five years ago.

“Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” was the first of the Friday night RiverFlicks this summer. I’d somehow missed this movie in its original theatrical run in 2005, so was very much looking forward to finally seeing it, and happily, Nick Park did not disappoint. Inexplicably, I found the “Bun-Vac 6000” sequences [Check it out: QuickTime or Windows Media Player, courtesy of Dreamworks] with the absurdly twirling bunnies, particularly hilarious. As one would expect, the screening was well-attended by the stroller set.

River Flicks


The low-tech stop-motion clay animation stood in interesting counterpoint to Disney Pixar’s “Cars,” which I saw last Sunday evening with B and TR, in all its CGI glory.

After the film we stopped briefly at West Lounge, just up the block from the pier. Only briefly, because the music inside was being blasted at distracting and ridiculous levels… though I did get to hear Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” for the first time in ages. Yes, the original and not the Pavement cover. Maybe in honor of the group’s sold out(!) appearance at Irving Plaza last week, 20+ years after that tune first made its mark?

“Faaaaate. Up against your wi-ill….” I still love it.

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Thursday, July 6th, 2006 | All Things, Film

After picking up and dropping off my weekly haul of vegetables from Stoneledge Farm, I headed down to the IFC Center to catch the 9:00PM screening of “Worldplay,” the documentary about the colorful subculture of hardkore crossword aficionados.

The IFC Center opened in 2005 in the space years-abandoned by the famed Waverly Theater in the weeks after September 11. It’s actually a rather depressing and still gritty (for the Village) stretch of Sixth Avenue — flanked by tattoo parlors and adult video stores — but the space, to me, is vastly more charming than the megaplexes in the Squares — Union, Times and Lincoln. Clean, intimate screening rooms with well-cushioned seats, pre-feature shorts, real butter on the popcorn, an above average theatre cafe, and no commercials mixed in with the trailers. Well, no corporate commercials… the theatre is actually rather relentless in their self-promotion and IFC-branding.


The film itself was fun (and humbling!) — and inevitably called to mind 2002’s Spellbound, another film I enjoyed.

Besides the expected ensemble of gloriously word-nerdy characters, one of the most interesting segments in the movie focused on the (in)famous New York Times crossword that appeared on Election Day morning, Tuesday, November 5, 1996. If you are not familiar with the story of this puzzle – or would like to try your hand at solving it before reading further – check out this link.

The controversial combination of clues asked for the “Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper (!)”, which seemed to require the puzzler to predict the outcome of the 1996 presidential election. Many were shocked that the Times would be so reckless and bold (albeit in the crossword) as to call the election while the polls were just opening that morning. The amazing — and truly brilliant — twist was that both “CLINTON ELECTED” and “BOBDOLE ELECTED” were valid answers, fitting within the grid. So clue #39-DOWN (“Black Halloween animal”) could be eitherBAT” orCAT”; #35-DOWN (“Trumpet”) could be “BOAST” or “BLAST.”

Wow. Will Shortz called it the most amazing crossword he’d ever seen, and I would be hard pressed to argue. I tip my hat to you, Professor Jeremiah Farrell!

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