Monday, March 31, 2008

the clock starts here and now

Currently reading:

Metroland, by Julian Barnes. I remember going to see this film (starring love of my life, Christian Bale, man with the hottest incisors around) at the old movie theater that used to be directly across from the Art Institute of Chicago...oh no! I've already forgotten its name...! Augh! It was such a lovely old theater, it's where I saw my first R-rated movie, I was maybe 9? 10? and my parents snuck me into Short Cuts, the Robert Altman film. I was to ask for the bathroom and head there while my parents bought us tickets and then rendez-vous with them near the entrance, since the ticket-seller never would have allowed a kid of my age to see it. My parents were great, they took me everywhere. I think all that made me grow up a lot faster than kids who stayed home with babysitters all the time, and I'm grateful for that.

Actually, funny tid-bit about Short Cuts -- the movie features Jennifer Jason Leigh as a phone sex, uh, giver? Whatever that job is called. Anyway she refers to oral sex in the film, and when later that week I was reading my Seventeen magazine (told you I grew up fast, I was a 10-year old Seventeen reader) and they were discussing how you can get STDs from oral sex, I had to ask my mom, "How do you get a disease from just talking about sex??" Luckily mom cleared up for me why oral sex is different from an oral presentation, otherwise that would have only worsened the pre-adolescent guilt and confusion about sexuality.

ANYWAY. I saw Metroland years ago at this same theater, and completely loved it -- loved the black & white 1960s sexy Paris nostalgia, loved Emily Watson as Christian Bale's struggling, lonely wife, loved and somehow, even as a 14-year old, identified with Bale's portrayal of a man coming to terms with the suburban life he never wanted for himself.

I found a copy of the book version, written back in the '80s by now-hot-literary-stuff Julian Barnes, in my favorite used bookshop on Charing Cross Road last week and am loving it just as much as the film. Barnes is giving a reading in London this week, you bet I'll be there.

(whew, i've blogged a lot to-day.)

we watch the fireworks drip on some faces

Oh, BB. You make me feel so wee, in an overwhelmingly good way.

more of gorgeous st. james's park

This is pretty much the most unintentionally hilarious burial plaque (is it a tombstone if it's flat?). "He dedicated his life to the abbey -- oh yeah, and also that wife of his or whatever."

houses of parliament

After I got out of the gym yesterday evening, still slightly hungover from saturday's inanity -- did I really stay at that party until the trains began rolling again at 7:30 in the morning? Were there really people dancing around to Daft Punk remixes with horse-head masks brought over from Japan? Was there really that much vodka? Did I really have to drink as much as I did just because it was free? Were people really dressed in gold spandex unitards and did I really unzip someone's (from the back!) because Mark dared me? And how can I find a flat as cool as Sam's?

Anyway -- I planned on just having a little wander around the back streets of Tottenham Court Road area, which then led me through the twisted streets of Soho, and then up Bond Street and up all through Green Park, alighting on Buckingham Palace just as the Daylight Savings Time magic ended and the sun dimmed and it started getting cool again.

I love how walkable it is here, how what can start as a half-hearted stroll can end in covering a lot of London ground and on the way, seeing things that make my chest puff with wonder at all the small lovely things in the world-- candy shops, cute boys in glasses, trendy gay couples parking their motorbikes, book shops closing, alleyways hiding restaurant gems, well-heeled men cusping old age walking down the streets with their arms behind their back, one hand clasping the other's wrist. I don't know what it is about that image that makes me so goofily happy, maybe it reminds me of all the old Italian men wandering aimlessly through all the Sunday streets of Rome when I called it home.

So many un-photographable moments here to capture and keep !

Thursday, March 27, 2008

bears, beets, battlestar galactica.

sublime afternoon at st. james's park

well hello again!

ms. anna came to visit me from madrid this past week, so we've been too busy gallivanting around londontown and watching nine thousand episodes of the office (us) and six feet under in my tiny twin bed for me to update the bliznog.

FACT: i've been best friends with anna for ten years now, and it wasn't until mid-way through college that i learned that she has naturally (beautifully!) curly hair. she straightened her hair so crazily religiously all thru high school that i had NO IDEA she didn't have straight hair until like 6 years into our friendship. that shit baffles me.

omg so anyway! our fun.

We walked everywhere and saw everything. Except for Evensong because neither St. Paul's nor Westminster Abbey had it due to Easter weekend.

Kira-led Tourist Itinerary ran as such: Peter Doig exhibit at the tate britain (again), borough market, tate modern, embankment, oxo tower, camden markets, fish 'n' chips, st. james's park, green park, hyde park, westminster abbey (managed to sneak into poet's corner after closing time, whee!), high tea, eating at my favorite restaurants & drinking at my favorite pubs. and more, but i'm in a hurry to go see the new Lars von Trier film at the ICA right now so more later.

This will pretty much never get old.

scones & rosehip tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace. sssssooooo gooooood.

between buckingham palace & green park, eerily quiet for a monday

st. james's park pond

Friday, March 21, 2008

i have heard the mermaids singing, each to each

Spring would be complete if i had these shoes. Finally, some ankle boots that make me want to climb aboard. They remind me of drop-waist '30s dresses and Edwardian-era English countryside picnics.

You know how when you see an item of clothing, you envision what kind of person you could be inside the design, what kind of things you would do and read and see? Well I really would go on an English countryside picnic in these shoes. I would head to the outskirts of Cambridge, just like I did years ago when I studied there for a summer, I would bring a blanket to sit on and read Forster or Eliot, recalling the tears that sprung into my professor's eyes during seminar when he discussed Eliot's fellow Symbolist poet Jules LaForgue's untimely death. How lovely and strange it is to be in a land where these writers can spring back to life, either via professorial tears or in the literary-sodden landscape.

Oh, I can't wait for spring, picnics & sunny days & spring...

{listen to t.s. eliot read his magnificent 'the lovesong of j. alfred prufrock' here}

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells

Thursday, March 20, 2008

making friends.

Welcome to Installment I of trying to make friends at my new job. I'm the only native English speaker, so maybe sarcasm, however cheerfully intended, was not the best tack. It was after 5pm and the lovely Chinese bloke still had "lunch!" as his away message on our company IM server.

(5:07 PM) kira: you must be eating a really, really good lunch. : )
(5:08 PM) coworker: my lunch is always a sandwich
(5:08 PM) kira: haha i'm kidding -- your status on spark says you are still eating lunch
(5:08 PM) kira: so it must be really good to last this long
(5:08 PM) coworker: one bagle and 4 slices of bread


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


My happiest recent news is that Londonist blog accepted me as their newest contributor. In case you haven't been before, Londonist is part of the worldwide "ist" blogs, including among them Seattlist, LAist, Chicagoist, etc. Now I'll have another forum for sharing my explorations of what art, culture, food, drink, and general mirth this lovely city has to offer.

My first piece is here, on the Tate exhibition of my new favo(u)rite artist, Peter Doig.

Snowscapes are viewed as though between the blink of an eye, and wintry watery scenes portray shadowy figures.

His compositions are truly stunning, these small photos serve his complex canvases no justice. His work reminds me of the poetry of fellow Canadians Elizabeth Bishop or Margaret Atwood, who also explore the tension between the fear and awe that nature inspires.

My husband walks in the frosted field
an X, a concept
defined against a blank,
he swerves, enters the forest
and is blotted out.

–Margaret Atwood, The Wereman.

At the Tate thru April 27th. Photos courtesy of the Tate website and Liverpool Art Museum website.


I've been obsessed with this since I first came across it last November, and now that i've finally figured out how to share videos on here, you can obsess over its brilliance, too.

MIDI music on this incredibly cool, minimalist interface: gimmegimmegimme!!!!! it's only available in the UK so far, and i think it's only (!) around 1200 quid. Not bad for the newest instrument on the market. Thanks, brilliant Yamaha inventor guy. You rule.

Monday, March 17, 2008

ok, yeah.

i'm staying.


Friday, March 14, 2008

ok, i lied.

I might just stay here next year. I'm still trying to work this all out in my head, what direction I should take my next Big Life step in, and where I belong, but i feel like it would be silly to throw away a UK visa that's basically being handed to me as part of the International Graduate Scheme. Basically, the UK is working to encourage students from abroad who get their postgraduate degrees here to stay and find work. We get a year-long visa (for the lofty price of something like 300 quid) and THEN hopefully find someone to hire us, rather than the other way around which is how it usually goes.

I'm still not completely at home in London yet, but I know that I like it more each day, especially now that it's light out for more than three minutes out of 24 hours. And San Francisco will always be there for me, and hopefully most of my friends will still be there too.

Anyway, it's what I've had on my mind lately. We'll see.

Saturday, March 08, 2008





I have actual (laughter) tears in my eyes now. and yeah, i have overactive tear glands that make me cry every time i laugh, SO WHAT. anyway it just gets better over at BarackObamaIsYourNewBicycle.

wait, possibly more awesome -- the flipside over at:




Tuesday, March 04, 2008

i'd be safe and warm, if i was in l.a.

:: i had to delete all the photos off this post because it effed up the html of the whole blog for some stupid effing reason ::

It took me about 4 months, but I've finally found my favo(u)rite spot in London: the Candid Arts Cafe, located just around the corner from the Angel tube stop in Islington. For all its literary history and England's reputation as the definition of 'cosy,' London has a serious dearth of cosy cafes, of independent, local spots to head to in the afternoon and cuddle up with a book. It wins on pubs, but loses on cafes.

A diamond in the rough, Candid Cafe is the sweetest one I've found: located on the 3rd floor of an old buildling with dusty windowpanes allowing as much light as London clouds will allow, four massive velvet couches to sink into with a book, candles lit everywhere at 5pm, and fairy lights set all a-twinkle around 6, I couldn't have conceived of a better place to go snuggle with a book and a soy latte. It's magical in the afternoons or the evenings, when a lovely bottle of red can be had for ten quid, and the soups are delicious.

Last time I was there they played Pink Floyd, this time it was the Mamas & the Papas:

all the leaves are brown
and the sky is grey
i'd be safe and warm
if i was in l.a.
california dreamin'

and then, i came home to an email from my dear sweet l.a.-located juliet, who made me go all warm and fuzzy with love with "you are my favorite friend ever and always. <3" that's us up there, the night i graduated from college.

anyway it all made me realize that califorrrrrrrrnia (i'm comin' home) (joni mitchell) is where i have to make my way to in autumn. i like it here, am almost even loving it, but i belong in sf next year and goddammit, so it will be. so, sweet jew-liet cap-yew-let, you & i will be in the same state as each other come autumn if i have anything to do with it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

you ain't no fungi.

Someone rather new and special drew this for my wall. It's the first creative piece anyone has ever made expressly for me, and it makes me quite happy. He once saw a punk rocker crying on the 253 bus featured in the drawing, which is the bus that traverses the piece of London between our homes. The bear is modeled after Bea the bear, my faithful moozling companion since '83.
I love it, especially the cool contrast of styles.

I'm listening to NPR tonite, and it's making me homesick something awful. I miss listening to jazz in the car with my dad on long rides to the suburbs, I miss driving down the awe-inspiring stretch of Lake Shore Drive between its northern-most tip and downtown, I miss walking Logan Square boulevard with mom and tahti on the way to a pumpkin latte.
Listening to poetry online is making me feel better about my world, though. I just discovered that you can listen to readings at the Poetry Foundation website. Yosef Komunyakaa and Elizabeth Bishop are responsible for the words wafting around my room this Sunday evening. Lovely.
A stroll around Kensington...

sunday shopping ...

... in Covent Garden, where i picked up this rad-ass vintage 60s bikini. After unsuccessful stabs at finding something that caught my fancy at Rockit vintage, h&m, and various other boutiques where I coveted plenty but could afford nothing, Mint Vintage Clothing was our last stop before catching the bus home, and it proved to be just the ticket -- I fell for this bikini immediately. I've been wanting a fun, Gidget-inspired vintage bathing suit for over a year now but haven't found The Perfect One until today...! I tried it on, and despite the RIDICULOUS breast cups - pictured here, after I removed them from the lining --

i knew it was love, love, love. But seriously, wtf is up with those breast cups. What were they THINKING in the 50s and 60s? They made my chest protrude in the most unnatural, goofiest, dominatrix-slash-floral manner that I had to have Samantha come feel me up behind the curtain so she could see why I was laughing so hard to myself in the dressing room.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

sugar baby.

[Photo courtesy of Buttercup Cake Shop website]

I can't wait til meg gets her ass back to london in june so that we can go check out Buttercup Cake Shop(pe) and gorge on sticky toffee, banofee, and Elvis (peanut butter frosting!!!!) cupcakes. There's no one else like meg (ok, except for certain female members of my family, and Diane) with whom to revel in food-love. It's probably 87% of the reason we made such fantastic roommates.
I'm salivating just reading the review of the shop on this cupcake blog (um, amazing idea. An entire blog dedicated to cupcakes. Why did i not think of that? .... oh, right. i'd be a whale after a month of blogging. I'll stick to posting about london life and music and fashion and art and other pretty things i like for now.).
England has a reputation for tea & cake, but it must be said, every cake or cupcake i've had here has fallen short of miraculous. England makes "fairy cakes" over cupcakes, which have a very dry cake base and the icing has no butter, so it's basically dry cake topped with hard sugar. Sure, delightful for one with a sweet tooth like mine, but it ain't no American cupcake. Which is why I'm excited to try Buttercup's -- they make American cupcakes, with moist cake & buttercream frosting, with nods to the English palette -- sticky toffee flavours and the like.
I might not be able to wait til June to try this. Methinks a wee taste test is in order....
Desserts that England does oh so right:
Custard pie (oh. my. god.) - tiny flaky pastry shell cups filled with delicious, smooth, milky sweet custard with a perfectly brulee'd glaze.
Fruit cake with icing, I think I'm among 1% of the population who loves this shit.
Borough Market's famous brownies
Almond/fruit/cake combinations.
Scones, obvs.
"Lardy cake" at a bustling wooden cafe across from Spitalfields Market. Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet...?