Saturday, March 22, 2008

Calling Resonance

Another lovely day in Turkey. I am honest when I say that I would be perfectly content to never leave this house. The whole family is so sweet, hospitable and caring. I think I will be endlessly thankful. Ayten told me this morning that her mother says I am "calm and profound like a river." I really love that comment :P We spent the morning sleeping in a little and enjoying the sun that bursts out from the rainy clouds of yesterday. Allie, Chris and Shivani arrived some time in the night after I collapsed promptly at 9pm. I was so happy to see them in the morning and share this experience with more people.

We ventured out to the airport to pick up the last of our comrades, Karol, and then headed to a seaside strip of town next to the Ortaköy Mosque and the Bosphorus bridge. This bridge looks something like the Golden Gate bridge in structure and actually Chris and Shivani both say that Istanbul sort of looks like San Francisco with minarets. Besides eating more lovely food (a cookie with sesame and licorice seeds and a sandwich that was something like a glorified hotdog), I wandered into my first mosque and heard the Call to Prayer for the first time. The call makes you want to stop, it is entrancing, resonating through all parts of the city. We are slowly uncovering the city of Istanbul and we will get to the real gems soon enough, letting the 5-times-a-day call to prayer become a part of our daily ritual.

So we are relaxing tonight after the wonderful food-eating and the notorious waiting-in-traffic. Gearing up to be rid of jet lag and touring a little more.

PS I tried to upload photos to no avail :(

Friday, March 21, 2008

My First Delight with Turkish

An overloaded cab, a bumpy ride, a security-check scuffle, a long layover and a sleepy giggly plane ride later, and Ayten and I found ourselves in her native Istanbul, at last. Somehow I am still up, although I've probably had only 4 or 5 hours of sleep in the last few days or whatever. What time is it? Gee, I dunno: 12:45 in Boston? I don't care about Boston, I'm in Istanbul. And here it's 6:45. How long will I last?

I've been trying to learn Turkish, or pick up a few words here and there. I tried to absorb the lessons from off YouTube, perused the language sections of my Lonely Planet book, and tried to pronounce every sign that I saw coming off the plane and driving back to Ayten's with her father. Although I understand little of what the parents are saying, the warmth of the family reunion knows no words. They are both such lovely people, happy, joking, caring. I am so thankful to be staying with them in a very lovely home.

My first introduction to Turkey though, I think was in the meal I shared with Ayten and her parents shortly after we came home. It started off with a yoghurt-based soup made with olive oil, rice and mint called (Yayla Çorbası; yae-lah chor-bas-eh). It was exactly what I needed to combat the jetlag, exhaustion and general discombobulation. Following warm comfort with explosions of various flavors was a Turkish Tabbouleh only spicier! (Kısır; keh-sehr) You eat it with lettuce and somehow it is less dry than the traditional tabbouleh I've had. Another mouthful of goodness. There was a sweet/spicy/tomatoey dish that also sat on the table and made my stomach rejoice, but whose name I can't reproduce. It had navy beans maybe? Who knows. And then there was this bread covered in meat, that is very similar to the Armenian lahmahjoun (with the same name in Turkish). All in all, a savory introduction to the wonders of Turkish cuisine.

Rambling? Maybe. Forgive me, I left Boston 18 hours ago and have had little sleep. More later? You bet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


It's one thing to do one type of cuisine well. And it is quite another to perfect two different national traditions. The latter would be the aim of fusion cooking, take two types of food and create a new culinary experience altogether. I remember going to a fusion restaurant in New York called Tabla (although I probably went when I was 11, so my palette wasn't quite as developped). I went to another self-proclaimed fusion restaurant last night in Boston with a bunch of friends for Restaurant Week. Mantra claimed to be Indian-French fusion.

While Restaurant Week should allow restaurants to flex their pan-wielding cooking muscles, it often leads to simple stock dishes. That set aside, it is lovely to be able to visit upscale restaurants at more reasonable prices and have a reasonably well-cooked meal in a swanky locale.

And swanky Mantra was. Set in what looked like a renovated bank, the funk-music-blaring locale featured everything from reflective stainless steel, flowing shimmering orange curtains, a larger than life buddha, an intricate wood dome-like structure and marble. The bathrooms get quite a bit of press, but it isn't anything ingenious or phenomenal: just a four-sided cube with two urinals and two sinks... a little off-putting.

Anyways, the food. I had a fine meal: salad in a parmesan ring, grilled sirloin over broccoli and fancy mashed potatoes, a creme brulee. If you are going to do Indian-French fusion, I should be able to taste either culture's signature taste or flair in every bite. Not so much. Don't get me wrong, the food was quite good and worth the money. However, I'm not exactly sure I got a real taste of what Mantra was all about. I felt like French and Indian just lay side by side on the menu, and side by side on the plate. If this was Fusion cooking, the blowtorch that welds the two together was definitely non-operational. The creme brulee, for example: chocolate cardamom... sounds exciting no? sounds fusion? To me, it was nothing more than chocolate pudding with a slightly crispy top. I did not taste the cardamom, if only but a hint. I did not get my satisfying creme-brulee crack on the dessert's surface. French, Indian... I was left somewhere else altogether.

Fusion aside (which I think was the point), I had a lovely time last night with all the roommates, it isn't often we bond and hang out all together. At least someone was fusin'.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Twenty-five Russian-ringing tons...

Yesterday, I participated in the ringing of the Lowell House bells with the Klappermeisters and Klappermistresses. Every Sunday at 1pm, the bells ring for about 15 minutes and, what I didn't know, is that anyone can be a part of it, and ring the bells too! The bells actually come from Russia and are one of the five complete sets of pre-Revolutionary bells in existence around the world. Altogether, the bells weigh 25 tons. These bells are not finished after they are cast, in the Russian tradition, so their resonances have many more pitches in them. The bells actually come from Russia's equivalent of the Vatican and were saved from destruction. Lowell house acquired these monumental instruments during the house's construction in 1930 and has proudly rung them since Easter 1931.

The bells though, are actually going back to Russia this summer. In June the bells will be taken down and shipped back to their motherland. Silicon casts were made of some of the bells and Harvard will be getting exact replicas when the bells are taken down. So up until the last ringing of the bells at Commencement, I can happily participate every Sunday at the top of Lowell House belltower and ring bells like the one below (I actually did ring it!). When the motherbell rings, the resonance lasts a good minute afterwards, as if the air vibrates. All in all, a great way to finish off a weekend of post-thesis celebrations.

Wash With Like Colors.

I can't help but feel, in this town called Boston, that color just doesn't bleed into daily fashion. It may be the fact that it is still cold and wintery, but, in my opinion, that's no excuse to be a little experimental with color.

The problem, however, may lie in the availability of color on the market for men. That's why you don't see men like this everyday:
(taken from March GQ, seen on The Sartorialist:
I feel like this sort of thing happens all the time in a place like Rome or Milan. It just infiltrates the culture.

Yesterday, I went shopping for the first time in a very long time and did some visual research. With Chris and Ayten we went to a few stores that caught my eye: Banana Republic, J. Crew, FCUK, and United Colors of Benetton. BR is always a great place for nicely made, elegant clothes. They even have a new eyewear line, a bit pricey but nice shapes.
Steering away from collared shirts because I own every last one on the planet, I rediscovered their t-shirts (well made with subtleties of indefinable unsolid color) and got one in a vibrant mustard yellow (among others; ). Looking at the palette of the store however, the colors were mostly drab. Is it symptomatic of the market, are men just supposed to be more subtle?

Walking into J. Crew, colors were practically screaming from the walls, jumping up and down excitedly, dancing quite happily. Summer collection anyone? While the colors for the most part are too outrageous to pull off, walking into J. Crew with a selective eye could pull off a really nice ensemble. I fell in love with a color combination of a pink shirt, a thin navy blue sweater and a brilliant knit tie (something I thought died in the 70s). I had looked at J. Crew online and their selection wasn't as vivid as in person. Goes to show you, online just doesn't cut it. To be truly daring and creative, you have to put in a little leg work.

At United Colors of Benetton, an Italian store by which I sweat, there was some demure color and some interesting accessories. A dull dirty pink seemed to be the color they were pushing on the racks. And a short that caught my eye, that I had spotted on, was basically a jean short. Now, it isn't a short short or anything. It basically looks like a jean that ends right above the knee. I don't yet know what to think... thoughts?
Finally, at FCUK, there was a popping orange and some more edgy fashion. I noticed a neon yellow creeping into the clothes at Boss displayed in the window. Is color coming back in such full force that it will be neon and wild? Have we gone for a cartoon colored world? All I am advocating for is a healthy increment of the color wheel in every man's daily fashion.

All that shopping and research has made me want to clean up my wardrobe, clean up my life and live with a little more daily creative flair. Once spring hits, there's no telling what this kid will be rockin'.

Keep an eye out. Rock on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Manifesto for the Fashionisto

Lately I've been feeling like experimenting with fabrics, finding new cuts to traditional clothes, tracking down a pair of equestrian boots and continuing the whirling color dervish of my wardrobe. But looking online, to some established clothing labels (H&M, Club Monaco, J. Crew, Banana Republic), I feel anything but inspired.

Women have tons of choice simply in the variety that one label offers, but also in the proliferation of sites that have popped up all over the web marketing affordable designerware. Men don't have this outlet, men have polos, jeans, and t-shirts. If we want to be casual and fashionable in terms of the accepted tradition, forget it. Men are relegated to the sartorial sphere.

I am not complaining completely, I love suits and I love the variety that comes within this form and the multiplicity of possibilities matching tie to shirts to pants to shoes to vests to socks and so on.

What I desire is that men have an outlet to express their rebellious fashionisto. Maybe spruce things up with accessories, dip back in the past and revived those traditions that could work today. But all the fashion world seems to encourage is: slap on a pair of jeans and find the one t-shirt that will fit. There is no emphasis on the variety of male silouettes, no attention to detail. If a guy wants to accessorize, get a different belt, wear a few chains, put on a sweatshirt.

I am urging for more. Think outside the box, see what the women are doing, take off gender labels on acceptability of what you wear (from color to fit...). Bring dandy to a new level, think outside the seam.

Monday, March 10, 2008

poetry in progress

This week's inspiration for my poetry workshop comes, wonder of wonders, from writing my thesis...


A shush falls over my body as I compose
the words of my next unwritten poem. I let phrases
grow into sentences, like birds of a flock
landing on the wire of the page, one following
the other to its perch. But I must maintain
the silence because my pen has not yet reached
its final end, silencing the rush. The words still drift
and fall into place, like icing sugar leaving the strainer
before it hits the cake. My body turns cold
and delicate, as if my muscles have been turned inside
out to catch words like mosquito paper. I am afraid
to breathe too loudly, sound makes the whole
process collapse. If I am not careful, I could lose
an unborn dream. The words could float back
up, and never return again.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Reconceptualization of Space!!

Stefan gets ideas in the shower. This I've learned.

This morning was no different as I ruminated of a night spent procrastinating and not finishing up chapter 2. And somehow naked in the shower, I realized that one paragraph in Chapter 1 talking about de Chirico's learned lessons from Paris. Reconceptualization of space.

It just hit me, bubbled to the surface, as if wreckage from a sinking ship. And then it hit me, this is a good idea. I started saying the phrase out loud. "Reconceptualization of space." And then more ideas flew in, I could footnote this and that, oh good, oh snap Stefan. "Reconceptualization of space."

But then I said, well what the fuck are you doing?, your computer's in the next room. I shut the shower. I dried off. I brushed my teeth. "Recog-epuli-ation of pace" And rushed to my computer to write myself a little note in Chapter 1.

So now I can go to work (I have to earn actual money sometime), knowing that my idea has been captured and recorded.

And later I'll write about the reconceptualization of space.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

if you're tired, go to sleep

yesterday i went to bed at 8.30pm. I was tired! I've been pouring so much energy into my thesis, refining its argument, tracking down the bits, that every tuesday, after my heaviest day of classes, i feel exhausted. One night I think I watched three episodes of Cashmere Mafia in succession.

So last night, I just went to sleep. I woke at 5.30am (9hours of sleep!) to make up for the work I didn't do. So far, I feel rested and ready to tackle the day. I'm not very sure I can lead this type of instinctual life very much longer...

I take it wherever I can get it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

metaphysical painting, cookies, cookies, metaphysical... whoa

I realized that the only thing I can really talk about is my thesis. That seems to be all I think about these days and all I spend my time doing.... besides eating... and sleeping... and watching videos on youtube...

yesterday was a particular feat. chapter 2. perhaps my worst chapter. the word metaphysical shows up perhaps 85 times. It's not good. The problem had been that I was trying to use de Chirico's writings to demystify what he meant by metaphysical. But... his writing is so vacuous and unclear that I, in turn, became vacuous and unclear. So I was clear-cutting that section of my thesis and feeling intensely frustrated.

Luckily, dinner happened at the apex of frustration. And with dinner, brought lovely company and a mindspace outside the thesis. Then writing was smooth sailing.

But that's not the point (happy conclusion, the end, right?)... In my afternoon of frustration, slashing de Chirico's quotes that I had translated, I got up from my computer and paced a little (walking always helps me think). My thesis, see, is about de Chirico and the work he produced during WWI, especially those paintings which have a close referent to the city of Ferrara where he was. There is an increased prevelance of the city's Castle, its local bread (ciuppietta), its local cake (pampepato) and the Jewish-Ghetto-made cookies. I propose that the artist is at the height of his metaphysical painting style in Ferrara and also exemplifies the central philosophies of modernist painting, all done in an effort to seek solace from WWI.

So in my moment of frustration, what did I do? I got up and paced, and found the... cookies... the italian cookies... that my mother had brought the day previous, leftovers from the Venice-themed gallery opening of which she was a part.

Do you see it? Metaphysical painting, Jewish cookies... Stefan eating Italian cookies.... whoa, meta.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

starting the motor, finishing the thesis

less than two weeks. I keep telling myself that there is no time to slack off, there is no more time left for that at all. but still, i take my time.

I am working on perhaps the most difficult chapter of the beast, also known as Fabrizio, today. It is the second chapter that deals with all the theoretical stuff about de Chirico's metaphysical painting. It's crazy stuff. I just need to make things clear and readable. We'll see how that'll happen.

Trying to take little baby steps after having spent yesterday with my Mom. She was in town (yay!) and we had lunch together, saw Herbie Hancock host Cultural Rhythms and witness all the ridiculous talent that exists in this community, and then had dinner. It was truly wonderful to have the mother around, having family around is always a beautifully comforting and sustaining presence.

So, for now, the words are flowing, I must get back to the chapter... oh god...

Saturday, March 01, 2008


It's been a long time. It's been like half a year. I haven't been writing. I'm going to say I've been writing a thesis, but that is not an excuse at all.

Honestly, I've missed this forum of writing- it's where I feel most comfortable, it's where I like to share details of my life, my thinking, my art. A friend of mine danced up to me at a party last night, a friend with whom I was very close way back when in Freshman year, and she said she used to have the blog bookmarked. But then I stopped. And then she deleted it.

Why did I stop is really the question I should be asking... This blog became so much of a routine while in Italy, a daily IV-drip that made me feel satisfied with life, a healthy dose of self-reflection. Then, when I changed my location, I changed my routine, I had a language I could rely on, friends that were scattered about, and familiar surroundings. So I stopped writing, I stopped sharing...

I'm sorry.

I will write more often. And this will be my penance.