19 June 2006


This tiny sushi place recently opened up around the corner from our apartment. It's run by the same folks who run Ping Pong, across the street, which is a tiny pan-Asian place. The scene is just a little too hip for the likes of me (as is the scene at Ping Pong), but the fish is fresh and tasty enough that we've been back four times in three weeks.

Drawbacks: a bit pricey, pounding music, spotty service, indifferent (and pricey) non-sushi items.

What I mean about service: when my mother-in-law ordered a scallop handroll, it arrived with the scallops cooked. What's with that? Upon complaint, the waitron agreed, O yes, it's cooked. As if sushi places normally cook scallops for handrolls.

On another occasion, I ordered salmon, mackerel, and white tuna over the phone (for delivery). We got salmon, regular tuna, and white tuna. Upon complaint, Victor was told they thought I said maguro. I understand that "mackerel" and "maguro" could sound similar over the phone, but I made my order in English.

Regarding non-sushi items: we keep trying stuff from the "japas" (Japanese tapas—get it?) menu, too, but have found nothing worth getting again (nothing, really, worth getting the first time). So far we've tried wasabi noodles, jalapeno (!!) miso soup, and sunomono (normally a great favorite of ours). We will keep trying, because sibling Ping Pong does such a good job with its small plates, but we are losing hope.

Our repeat visits in spite of these minor but irritating drawbacks testify to the quality of the sushi. We will just be increasingly careful about how we order.

3317 N Broadway
Open daily, 4 PM to midnight

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Col-ubas Steakhouse

Victor and I were biking yesterday and stopped at a very pleasant café off Granville that turned out to have a not-very-impressive menu. So after reading the paper there for a couple of hours, I was hungry. We took an exploratory ride south on Clark and parked by a cluster of restaurants in Edgewater. After due consideration, we stopped at Col-Ubas Steakhouse, having never tasted Colombian food, and having a fondness for Cuban.

This place is definitely not for vegetarians, but omnivores will be delighted. We shared a mixed appetizer plate (platillo variado) that included a Colombian beef empanada, ham croquetas, fried yuca, and tostones. We also ordered a papa rellena. This was all very delicious: crispy and savory. But the highlight of the meal was definitely the steak sandwich (pan con bistec), which was just perfect: marinated steak, savory sauce, sautéed onions, crisp grilled bread….One of those sandwiches you must finish eating, no matter how full you are. All this goodness for under $15.

Col-Ubas also offers an extensive menu of dinner items that includes traditional Cuban dishes like Ropa Vieja and various Colombian combination plates (mostly mixed grills). We are eager to go back to try some of those. Also, I'm tempted to try their lunch buffet, offered weekdays from 11 AM to 3 PM, for $5.95, with a different selection each day.

Col-Ubas Steakhouse
5665 N. Clark Street
Ph. 773-506-1579
Fax. 773-506-1579
Open daily: Su 8 AM to 8 PM; M, W, Th 8 AM to 9 PM; Tu 8 AM to 5 PM; F, Sa 8 AM to 10 PM.

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For years I have been familiar with the term "Rashomon" more as a cultural touchstone than as a dramatic or cinematic artifact—a sort of super-signifier of the idea that everyone has her own way of seeing the same situation: truth is in the eye of the beholder.

So I had always thought that Rashomon (the film) showed that different people could accurately account for the same event in profoundly different ways. The movie doesn't quite live up to this expectation. Each of the four accounts (of a woman's rape and her husband's death) could be simultaneously true only in the most metaphorical sense. Really, there are three contradictory and self-serving accounts, and one account likely to be closest to the truth because the speaker was not involved—the events he described didn't touch upon his ego.

"Rashomon," then, refers less to multifaceted truth than to how we reshape reality as we remember it, to preserve our sense of self. Rashomon (the movie) is beautiful and engaging; directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune in a very stylized performance. The DVD includes a short, interesting introduction by Robert Altman.

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09 June 2006


I just checked for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes and was rather stunned at the poor reception it got. Victor suggested I see it without him after he read he description on the Netflix wrapper:

…[Plath and Hughes'] marriage was rocky, and they eventually separated in 1963 when Hughes broke her heart by taking on another lover. Crushed, Plath committed suicide by sticking her head in her unlit oven.

Sylvia isn't as bad as all that. The tensions of a romance between writers are well portrayed. But the movie was irritating in its (lack of) analysis of the roots of Plath's depression. Often she just seems like a nutcase. The central relationship is treated as a great love that would have been ideal, if only Ted had been faithful and Sylvia hadn't been bonkers. Ugh.

The film shows none of Plath's humor and little of her intelligence. Upon her marriage to Ted, she becomes a caricature of the jealous wife, with no self-consciousness, which is hard to believe.

Still, Sylvia is worth seeing if you've any interest in Plath or Hughes. Gwyneth Paltrow is a pleasure to watch (amazing how much she looks like her mother, Blythe Danner, in this), and Daniel Craig is magnetic as well.

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A Chicago Addition to My Life List

There's more nature available in urban Chicago than you would think. Sure, the most common wildlife here is probably the pigeon, but the city is full of surprises. For example, earlier this week I was walking along the lake shore and heard an unfamiliar noise: some kind of bird call. I looked around and saw some fluttering around a couple of huge white bird condominiums.

My first purple martins!

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Where Has Louis Begley Been All My Life?

The question is the more facetious because I've tried to read Louis Begley before and couldn't get anywhere. But in the past couple of days I've read Wartime Lies and As Max Saw It and was wowed by both. Begley is a splendid writer, and Wartime Lies (a Holocaust story) is particularly haunting. I'm now anxious to read his other books.

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Updike in Person

John Updike has never been my favorite writer…my taste runs to styles less lapidary and more immediate—but I couldn't miss seeing him at the Harold Washington Library Sunday afternoon. While not my favorite, he's certainly a writer I've admired, and how could I not? He's an icon of contemporary fiction—I don't think anyone else is so consistently serious, prolific, and good.

So I took a friend to see the great man—elderly, as he called himself: raised in the Depression as my parents were. He talked a good deal about his new novel, Terrorist, and also spoke interestingly about writers of later generations than his own. It seems that younger writers lack staying power: they shoot their wad with their first book, which is usually extremely impressive in its ambition, and they typically fail to meet their early promise.

I find myself wanting to argue one side or another of this, but it's just silly: why argue a generalization?

Asked if writing is easier for him at this stage, Updike spoke of the challenge of finding fresh material. Indeed, a number of his recent books have felt to me like self-challenges: let's see if I can write a magic realist novel; what happens if I novelize Hamlet from his mother's perspective? Terrorist sounds like a similar writerly dare.

But when my friend expressed skepticism at this 70-year-old man's ability to convincingly portray a teenage Islamic fanatic ("I can't imagine it, how could he?") I pointed out (and reminded myself) that getting into other people's heads is Updike's job.

So Terrorist is probably a very good read and not necessarily worse for being the result of a thought experiment.

Still, it's not at the top of my list.

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