n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
in Olevano.

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because it's been ages since i mentioned *that* magazine.

i don't know.  i could have sworn that i'd been to The New Yorker since March of this year.  but the layout looks brand-spankingly different to me, and according to my latest favorite-site-for-a-while, the makeover's been around since March.

also according to Emily (of the aforementioned and latest favorite-site-for-a-while -- i am liking *her* site-design even more than The New Yorker's...), they were "aided by the wizards of Winterhouse".

over at Winterhouse (whose site i go visit -- of course and immediately -- to see if i can play the "if-you'd-stayed-in-new-york-you-would-have-been-here-by-now" game), i find that the "new design was executed by The New Yorker and CondéNast’s MagNet team, and built with the help of [surprise, surprise] Avenue A-Razorfish".  so, i say to myself, if you'd stayed in New York -- really, probably -- you would have been here by now.

(i am liking the Winterhouse site, also -- but more for all the things it springboards you into: poetry search engine, anyone?)

anyway.  to get back to The (New) New Yorker.  Emily isn't too specific on the redesign itself -- but she links to Jason Kottke, who is.  i agree with Kottke about the default font size and line spacing (one commenter says it well -- "Article length here is larger than most online periodicals and many of the articles turn on a phrase.  This prose needs size and white space and a lot of both.").  i also love that at least two commenters mention the resemblance to nytimes.com: "The impossible-to-overlook similarity [..] makes me think there's a small cabal of black-on-white designers in nyc".

why, yes -- there *does* seem to be a cabal...

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[saturday 30 june 2007 at 17:07:01] []

seek out and attend to what is divine, holy or sacred to you.

the Singapore Hospice Council won Gold (in the Press category), at this years Cannes Lions advertising festival, for the following four-part print series (thank you, Shaggy, for pushing this gently into my line-of-sight):
- "Death"
- "Hi, I've got lung cancer"
- "What can you do if you only have six months to live?"
- "The End"

the sub-category definition (if you look at the winners' pages), was "Public Awareness Messages".

awareness, does not get more personal, either.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[wednesday 27 june 2007 at 17:13:18] []

la promessa.

for the desert island -- if i had to take one piece of prose...


...in English, from Invisible Cities:

"Did you ever happen to see a city resembling this one?" Kublai asked Marco Polo, extending his beringed hand from beneath the silken canopy of the imperial barge, to point to the bridges arching over the canals, the princely palaces whose marble doorsteps were immersed in the water, the bustle of light craft zigzagging, driven by long oars, the boats unloading baskets of vegetables at the market squares, the balconies, platforms, domes, campaniles, island gardens glowing green in the lagoon's grayness.

The emperor, accompanied by his foreign dignitary, was visiting Kin-sai, ancient capital of deposed dynasties, the latest pearl set in the Great Khan's crown,"No, sire," Marco answered, "I should never have imagined a city like this could exist."

The emperor tried to peer into his eyes.  The foreigner lowered his gaze.  Kublai remained silent the whole day.

After sunset, on the terraces of the palace, Marco Polo expounded to the sovereign the results of his missions.  As a rule the Great Khan concluded his day savoring these tales with half-closed eyes until his first yawn was the signal for the suite of pages to light the flames that guided the monarch to the Pavilion of the August Slumber.  But this time Kublai seemed unwilling to give in to weariness.  "Tell me another city," he insisted.

". . . You leave there and ride for three days between the northeast and east-by-northeast wind. . . ." Marco resumed saying, enumerating names and customs and wares of a great number of lands.  His repertory could be called inexhaustible, but now he was the one who had to give in. Dawn had broken when he said: "Sire, now I have told you about all the cities I know."

"There is still one of which you never speak."

Marco Polo bowed his head.

"Venice," the Khan said.

Marco smiled.  "What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?"

The emperor did not turn a hair.  "And yet I have never heard you mention that name."

And Polo said: "Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice."

"When I ask you about other cities, I want to hear about them.  And about Venice, when I ask you about Venice."

"To distinguish the other cities' qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit.  For me it is Venice."

"You should then begin each tale of your travels from the departure, describing Venice as it is, all of it, not omitting anything you remember of it."

The lake's surface was barely wrinkled; the copper reflection of the ancient palace of the Sung was shattered into sparking glints like floating leaves.

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said.  "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it.  Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."


...e poi, in Italiano, da Città Invisibili:

- Ti è mai accaduto di vedere una città che assomigli a questa? - chiedeva Kublai a Marco Polo sporgendo la mano inanellata fuori dal baldacchino di seta del bucintoro imperiale, a indicare i ponti che s'incurvano sui canali, i palazzi principeschi le cui soglie di marmo s'immergono nell'acqua, l'andirivieni di battelli leggeri che volteggiano a zigzag spinti da lunghi remi, le chiatte che scaricano ceste di ortaggi sulle piazze dei mercati, i balconi, le altane, le cupole, i campanili, i giardini delle isole che verdeggiano nel grigio della laguna.

L'imperatore, accompagnato dal suo dignitario forestiero, visitava Quinsai, antica capitale di spodestate dinastie, ultima perla incastonata nella corona de Gran Kan.

- No, sire, - rispose Marco, - mai avrei immaginato che potesse esistere una città simile a questa.

L'imperatore cercò di scrutarlo negli occhi.  Lo straniero abbassò lo sguardo.  Kublai restò silenzioso per tutto il giorno.

Dopo il tramonto, sulle terrazze della reggia, Marco Polo esponeva al sovrano le risultanze delle su, ambascerie.  D'abitudine il Gran Kan terminava le sue sere assaporando a occhi socchiusi questi racconti finché il suo primo sbadiglio non dava il segnale al corteo dei paggi d'accendere le fiaccole per guidare il sovrano al Padiglione dell'Augusto Sonno.  Ma stavolta, Kublai non sembrava disposto a cedere alla stanchezza.  - Dimmi ancora un'altra città, - insisteva.

-...Di là l'uomo si parte e cavalca tre giornate tra greco e levante...  - riprendeva a dire Marco, e a enu­merare nomi e costumi e commerci d'un gran numero di terre.  Il suo repertorio poteva dirsi inesauribile, ma ora toccò a lui d'arrendersi.  Era l'alba quando disse: - Sire, ormai ti ho parlato di tutte le città che conosco.

- Ne resta una di cui non parli mai.

Marco Polo chinò il capo.

- Venezia, - disse il Kan.

Marco sorrise.  - E di che altro credevi che ti parlassi?

L'imperatore non batté ciglio.  - Eppure non ti ho mai sentito fare il suo nome.

E Polo: - Ogni volta che descrivo una città dico qualcosa di Venezia.

- Quando ti chiedo d'altre città, voglio sentirti dire di quelle.  E di Venezia, quando ti chiedo di Venezia.

- Per distinguere le qualità delle altre, devo partire da una prima città che resta implicita.  Per me è Venezia.

- Dovresti allora cominciare ogni racconto dei tuoi viaggi dalla partenza, descrivendo Venezia così com'è, tutta quanta, senza omettere nulla di ciò che ri­cordi di lei.

L'acqua del lago era appena increspata; il riflesso di rame dell'antica reggia dei Sung si frantumava in riverberi scintillanti come foglie che galleggiano.

- Le immagini della memoria, una volta fissate con le parole, si cancellano, - disse Polo.  - Forse Venezia ho paura di perderla tutta in una volta, se ne parlo.  O forse, parlando d'altre città, l'ho già perduta a poco a poco.


thank heaven, for literature.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[wednesday 20 june 2007 at 17:20:19] []

if your father had cancer, would you write about it?

for weeks now, i have not been able to decide.

every night i write.  because i suspect that if i do not, i will snap.  but i write in a notebook (and you can tell it's been a while since i wrote in a notebook -- my hand aches by page two).

every night i re-read the last few nights' worth of pen-and-ink therapy (i am down to my last Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5 Extra Fine -- i don't even know where to get them in Karachi).  and i wonder if i want to blog it, and if i should, and if i can.  most nights i am too tired to run through all the pros and cons there might be, for telling the world, on your personal-and-professional web site, about what it's like living with a father who is living with cancer.  who is -- according to seven out of seven different doctors -- not going to be living with cancer for long.

most nights i balk at having to put that on my blog -- that line about not living for long.

but.  i also think about the questions that are always at the back of my mind, the ones that are coming further and further forward every day.  about what it's going to be like.

i haven't done a competitive analysis about how many blogs are out there that talk you through this.  i can't say i've done all my homework.  but i do know, that when i look online, when i look in the doctor's office, when i look in the books and in the scientific journals -- i find way more information than experience.  information is great.  it tells you what to do.  and in that, it's empowering.  but experience.  experience tells you what to worry about.  and in that, it's like knowing ahead of time, that you're about to go under water.  you can take a deep breath.  you can prepare.  and maybe you're that much less likely to drown.

so.  this is me trying.  come back another day, if you don't want to read about cancer.  maybe tomorrow, i will talk about Calvino.


my father was diagnosed in late February of this year.  i was visiting a friend in Chicago, the weekend i got the final instalment in a drip-fed series of tentative, fragmented, and conflicting updates from my parents in Pakistan.  it took three days and three question-and-answer sessions before they could say the word "tumor" to me.  it took another two days to hear the word "biopsy", and a full week for them to say, on an international phone line, the word "cancer".

i sit here typing, and i am suddenly sympathetic, to what it must have been like for them.  every sentence so far, has knocked a little bit of breath from me.  worse still, it is all i can do not to push down -- hard -- on the backspace key, before going off to read a book.

by early March my parents and i were in Bombay for what is called palliative chemotherapy.  "palliative" is a word you don't ever want to have to comprehend.

there was lots to read in the medical files.

there was (and is) a "large tumor" in his liver.  when i found dimensions in the medical files, they were listed at 7cm X 4cm.  there were also "multiple liver lesions", though i am not sure if this was in reference to cancerous tumors, or in reference to scar tissue from liver cirrhosis.  (my father is also in what they call “Stage III” of liver cirrhosis.  what a statement to put in parentheses.)

there was (and is) another tumor in the abdominal cavity.  and there were (and are) "multiple nodules" in the lungs.  i apologize.  i know the "was (and is)" thing might read annoyingly.  but i feel compelled to include the present tense.

even more than "palliative", i hated having to meet the word "metastasis" -- in all its variations.  i hated not being able to pronounce it right  -- when i would stumble all over the syllables while trying to talk to medical-mile-a-minute doctors.  but i also hated the cop out, of saying "distant mets".  i hated looking it up on Merriam Webster Online -- clicking on the pronunciation .wav file icon -- with my headphones on and my parents asleep in the next room.  and afterwards, i hated the fact that i could pronounce "metastases" and "metastatic" and "metastasized" -- just fine.

it took over two weeks, for me to write my first email, explaining where i was and what was going on.  i said: my father is undergoing chemotherapy for what they’re pretty sure is hepatocellular carcinoma, with pulmonary and gastric metastases.  in (slightly) plainer language that’s primary liver cancer, which has spread to the lungs and abdominal cavity.

i added: while the doctors stress that "every individual ends up making their own timeline" -- the prognosis is not so great, and ranges from 2-3 months, to a more "optimistic minimum" of six months".  that’s with -- or without -- chemotherapy.

in India we chose to try the chemotherapy option.  we knew it was the palliative kind.  and we knew that -- according to what the chief oncologist at Prince Aly Khan had explained -- it offered a 10-15% chance of success, where "success" was defined as a 5-10% increase in the best-case timeline, and where the "best-case" timeline was defined as six months.

anyway, we chose to try.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[monday 18 june 2007 at 22:37:03] []

it's either this, or banner ads for an agriturismo.

so.  there is now a left-hand nav link to PayPal, for what *they* call donations, and what *i* call a Hopelessly Conflicted & Difficult Decision.

i hate it.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[sunday 10 june 2007 at 22:01:36] []

ceci n'est pas une revue de restaurant.

most times when i am in Karachi, Baan Thai on Zamzama is a dependable favorite.  for me, this is saying a lot.  i'm fussy enough about my Thai to know (and care about) the difference between a plate of Thai-ified Chinese (often found cowering undercover of the "pan-Asian" / "fusion" euphemism), and a plate of Thai that wasn't ever anything else -- from the time it was a twinkle in the chef's eye, through the market-run for true-Thai ingredients like lemongrass and the right-kind-of-basil, to your mouth.

like most people who measure a restaurant before careful placement into an ever-important mental world-order of hierarchy, i have my barometer-dishes:  if i'm considering a new Chinese contender, i like to check their fried dumplings.  for Malaysian, every Roti Canai that comes to the table has to compete with the Roti Canai at the Penang on Spring Street, in the fall of 1997.  and as any chianti-blooded Italian will tell you, if the piazzaiolo can't do a decent Pizza Margherita, he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near an oven.

the barometer-dish at a Thai restaurant is often Pad Thai.  for me it's different.  for me it has been a long and luscious, many-plated love-affair with basil and a burning tongue.  a romance that started with the Siam Noodles at Bangkok Garden (Hackensack, New Jersey -- and careful when you pick your Spice Level); that was re-kindled via the Sweet n' Spicy Noodles at Kelly & Ping (SoHo, NYC -- them of the also-fabulous Scallion Pancakes, them of the Hawke-and-Paltrow moment in Great Expectations); that was unexpectedly re-discovered via a Just-For-Me special at Some Place Near The Westin Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama (they're not on the menu so you'll have to ask the very-friendly staff, and they will be wonderful about it); that was kept alive through occasional late-night take-homes of Pad Kee Mao from Lemongrass Grill and Thai Angel (New York and New York); that had an unexpected, unparalleled second honeymoon at Sala Thai in Rome (on Via Topino -- but again, they're not on the menu so you'll have to ask them, and when you do they will wonder if i sent you); that found unexpected passion in the now-familiarly-named Drunken Noodles at Spice (NYC -- again, as usual and of course).

and then last night, i went to Baan Thai on Zamzama.

i cannot really complain.  i should have known it wouldn't work.  heaven knows there were warning signs:  after i'd explained what i was looking for about three times to three different waiters ("i know this is not on the menu, your chef has been kind enough to make this for me before, he does it very well..."), the owner came up to my table and introduced himself.  there were some slightly tense words about the fact that "we cannot deviate from the menu," and that "if my chef has done that before for you i must have a talk with him."  the owner walked away.  i sat and wondered if i'd gotten the chef into a bit of a Thai pickle.

the owner came back, held a few dry noodles under my nose, and asked (slightly condescendingly, i do not lie), if this was what i had in mind.  i looked, and smiled, and explained that usually, the noodles i'd had with this dish seemed even wider, but that this would be fine if they didn't have those noodles, i'd be perfectly happy with these noodles, these noodles would be great -- as long as the dish itself was Pad Kee Mao.  i smiled some more, and tried to look encouraging about this clearly-frightening idea of deviating from the menu...

smiles shmiles.  not only was i given a mini-lecture about how long my new aquaintance had *lived* in Thailand, about how he *speaks* Thai, and about how his *chef* is Thai (i was waiting for him to add -- ergo -- that he *speaks* to his *chef* in Thai), i was also told (slightly more condescendingly, i do not lie), that there are no noodles in Pad Kee Mao, anyway.

ten years of noodles flash-fry before my eyes.  but i am always up for learning, so i try a different tack.  i ask what the word 'pad' means, then...  doesn't that mean noodles?

no, i am told with slightly mounting (and ever-condescending) frustration.  'pad' just means 'dish'.

so, i ask, thinking aloud (and -- i promise you -- really, really trying), how come Pad Thai has noodles in it?

because it *just* does.  that's how it's *made*.

i am a millimeter from asking why my dish can't *just* be *made* with noodles.  but suddenly i realize that maybe i should let go.  i am clearly not in Kansas any more, and i have clearly not come to this restaurant to eat what *i* would like to eat.  there are restauranteurs that are concerned about whether their clients get what they want, and about whether they like it.  and there are are restauranteurs who are concerned about deviating from the menu, and about how much Thai they speak, as opposed to their clients.

so i nod in acquiescence.

the food -- when it comes -- straight-and-true from the menu, is excellent as usual.  the chef -- it should be said -- is faultless.

halfway through my meal, the waiter brings me a note "from the owner".  on it is a list of carefully-written definitions:

i am impressed.  enough to make my own list:
- Chowhound - For Those Who Live To Eat - "Where to find the best Pad Kee Mao (AKA Drunken Noodle) in LA?"
- ImportFood.com - Thai Food, Groceries, Cookware, Asian recipes - "[Pad] Kee Mao is a popular noodle dish served throughout Thailand and the direct translation is 'drunkards noodles'."
- Wikipedia- The Free Encyclopedia - Drunken noodles (or Pad Kee Mao [...] in some restaurants) is a Thai noodle dish very similar to Pad see ew, but with more flavor.  It is made with broad rice noodles, soy sauce, garlic, and usually meat, bean sprouts, and various seasonings.  Its distinctive spiciness is caused by chili and basil."
- E-San Thai Cuisine - "Pad Kee Mao translates to "drunken noodle stirfry," but no one seems to know why."
- evil jungle prince - worshipping flavorful Asian, Korean, Greek, and Mediterranean foods since 2005 - "Pad kee mao is definitely one of my all-time favorite dishes.  I don't remember how or where I first tried this dish, but I find it so vastly more interesting and so infinitely more flavorful than pad thai that I wonder why so few others know about it."

would i go back?  sure.  like i said -- that chef knows how to do his job.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[saturday 09 june 2007 at 14:28:35] []