Tuesday, 26 April 2016

How to Make the Perfect Risotto


Who cares about art. From now on, I'm turning* this blog into a cooking blog.

And since I've recently had a good chance to cook risotto, Italy is where we shall start. After all, Italy is all about food (besides Dante, opera, fantastic cocktails, football and a million other things). In fact, the nearest I've come to dying of gluttony was not far from Piazza del Campo a few years ago. Basically, food is essential. And you are no kind of man if you can't make the perfect risotto.

So. Here we go.

Risotto. Risotto with mushrooms. 


First thing you should get is wine. White wine. Don't go for anything fancy. Simple table wine (dry or semi-dry) will do. 200ml. Could be a little more, but don't overdo it - could turn out sour.

Rice. 300g. Arborio is perfect, but you can't go wrong with camolino.

Mushrooms. 300g. Call them champignons if you wish to.

1 onion.

Soya sauce. Mix it with H₂O. I'd say 50ml per one liter of water.

Cheese. Grate it. You won't need much. This is for embellishment purposes. And for the taste, too.

Butter. Plain butter. 100g of it.

Salt (essential).

Saffron (inessential).

What else you will need:

A stewpan and a pair of hands. If you don't have a stewpan, fuck it, use a decent frying pan. If you don't have hands, boy, you're in trouble. 

Estimated time:

47 minutes.


Act I.

Put butter into your stewpan. Or frying pan. Or whatever it is that you are using. Fry the chopped onion until it turns a little brown and starts to give off that smell.

Act II.

Add mushrooms (chop the wankers beforehand) into it and fry some more (water from the mushrooms should all go). Throw the rice into your stewpan. Or frying pan. Or whatever it is that you are using. Cook it all for a couple of minutes and do not forget to stir!


Pour wine as well as your water mixed with soya sauce into the rice. When half of wine and soya water have evaporated, add salt and a pinch of saffron.

Act III.

Keep stirring. Cook it all until rice is ready. In the event that the rice is not ready yet and the wine and the soya water are all gone, add some more soya water and/or wine. Keep doing it until you feel that the perfect risotto is ready. Then sprinkle it all with a sensible amount of grated cheese.

The End.

Perfect background listening:

The Band - Music From Big Pink

By the time "The Weight" arrives, you should already be pouring white wine into your rice.

To be served with:

Wine. Good wine. Red, white, rosé. Good wine. Never drink cheap wine. In spite of what the name of this site might be telling you.

*Im not.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

О Венгрии

Дело не только в венгерских фильмах (среди которых "Сын Саула" - один из лучших). Не только в венгерском вине с его болезненным послевкусием. Даже не в языке, который непонятен до такой степени, что вызывает безумные ассоциации.

Недавно один человек, который часто бывает в Будапеште, очень долго рассказывал мне о красоте венгерских женщин. Об этом трудно промолчать. Voluptuous. Слово, к которому мы пришли. Если бы венгерские мужчины хорошо говорили по-английски, они изобрели бы это слово.

Потрескавшиеся памятники, на которые непременно хочется забраться. Деревья, которые пахнут деревьями. Сладкая кукуруза, от которой чувственно сводит зубы. Даже тот бесконечно толстый человек в порванных штанах, который сидит на корточках в центре старого города и проигрывает (или выигрывает? все происходит так быстро) сотни евро иностранным туристам. 

Кажется, в Венгрии все voluptuous. Все, кроме белого вина.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Son Of Saul

Last year, in Dachau, I only needed to close my eyes for a second or two. It all came so vividly: gruesome roll calls, desperate men shot from watchtowers. Seventy years on, Dachau was emotional torment. It was Arvo Pärt's "Cantus In Memory Of Benjamin Britten" blasting through your soul, ripping you apart, crumbling every cell in your body.

Of all the books I've ever read on Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps, Primo Levi's If This Is A Man was the one that stood out. It was basic, it was unadorned. The details it gave stuck like painful splinters, relentless, never letting go. Fiction has never done it for me, and neither has Hollywood. Schindler's List was powerful but safe. The Pianist was Polanski with no edge.

Son Of Saul, Hungarian award-winning film from last year, is a film that does it. It gets you right inside, it drags you through one day and one night of a Sonderkommando (I would highly recommend Martin Amis's 2014 novel The Zone Of Interest). It's the smell, the naked bodies, the breathing, the ovens, the dirt and the half whispers you half understand. "Put it down". "Take out the pieces". Son Of Saul is the sort of film where these words are taken for granted.

It. Pieces. 

And then you say to yourself: it really did happen. Oh God it did. Because you tend to forget. You are not heartless or ignorant, it's just that you are not supposed to understand. They simply let you in for an hour and a half. For one tormented emotion that we must all share. For the devastating smile that will make you wish to bring back something that you never really had.  

Friday, 15 April 2016

Bird. Beast. Butterfly.

I'm old school.

Which is a cool way of saying I'm old-fashioned – but fuck it. Old school.

"Cartwheels" by Patti Smith makes me dance slowly around the room. Makes me feel enchanted by the changes this world cannot control. Makes me imagine a dog running in my direction, in beautiful slow-motion, looking as if it's either going to lick my face or swallow me alive.

Makes me think of my old school and how once a month I would not go home but get on a bus and travel to a different part of town. The hostile part, the one you knew nothing about. With a rough equivalent of three dollars in my pocket. Which was all the money I had for a month. I paid the man those three dollars for a copy of Beggars Banquet. Or Pet Sounds. Or Face To Face. Or whatever it was. And then made the long journey home to spend the next few weeks singing along to "Stray Cat Blues" and going insane each time I heard the acoustic riff of "Street Fighting Man". I knew there was no money left in the month and so I had no chance of hearing another album any time soon. It was a different emotional level. Music was not two seconds away. You fought for it. And I'm not even being nostalgic.

So it was changing. The world was a bird, a beast, a butterfly. The question was how to stay emotional with the art and with the people. Because social network didn't cut it. All emotions it offered were bogus at best. Really, you could crucify yourself in social network – I wouldn't care.

Bird, beast, butterfly – you could be anything. Just take your pick. Or better still, you could be all of them at once. It's fascinating to follow the backlash that people like Germaine Greer and Ian McEwan are facing due to their views. Due to the stubborn need to see boundaries where they no longer exist. Or so it would seem. Transsexuality, they argue, is dubious at best. They accept some of it, but they don't accept all of it. Good for them – these people, for all their advanced ideas and challenging views, see postmodernism as a finite thing. They see boundaries. It's like they believe that one day Vladimir and Estragon will wake up to a new dawn. That the boy will give a different message. That Godot will appear, in flesh and blood. Good for them. You don't accept the world if you accept all of it. You're just pissing in the river.

They are not hysterical and they are not indifferent. It's not that they are afraid of the changing world. They just try to make sense of it, which is precisely what the hysterical, indifferent world doesn't want to see happen. It lacks depth and suffocates all emotion. Because there are no emotions where boundaries don't exist – there's just one shapeless sea of hysteria and paranoia.

Best you can do is to try and see them for what they are: the bird, the beast and the butterfly. 

'The world is changing, your heart is growing'. That's a great line. It has a swing to it. It's also a little improbable  which, when the dust settles, is exactly what distinguishes great art.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Conversation

It was a gift. The ticket was taking me to a completely different film. From a different director. From a different era. And yet I arrived fifteen minutes before my film was scheduled to start and wandered, totally unknowingly, beyond the black curtain.

Dark room, one or two confused stares, and the big screen of Gene Hackman smashing a small statuette of Jesus Christ. 

This was how it happened. I was hypnotized by those final six or seven minutes and knew straight away that however good my film would turn out to be, it's The Conversation I had come to see. David Shire's beautiful score, Gene Hackman playing the saxophone and a sinister political mystery that I still can't get out of my head.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

March: 5 Albums


How do I describe it? This album has literally seduced my soul. I must have listened to it more than a hundred times over the past month, and I'm still feeling dizzy about every fucking second of “Slick Black River From The Rain” and its final lyrical punchline. They used to sound like a cross between Orange Juice and Monochrome Set, now it's all laidback melodies, sharp lyrics (seriously, what an eye for detail these guys have) and the word 'crocodile' used here in different context in three different songs. "Don't Worry My Friend" could be their best ever. That song is worse than cocaine. 10/10, A+/A+, whatever.

IGGY POP - Post Pop Depression

I'm as shocked as anyone else, but this is Iggy Pop's best album since late 70s. Focused songwriting, powerful Bowie-esque vocal performances and, completely unexpectedly, one of his greatest vocal hooks ever in "American Valhalla". Elsewhere, "Chocolate Drops" is dangerously playful and "Paraguay" has one hell of a coda. Great record. Seriously. Queens Of The Stone Age are just bloody awful, so it's nice to have another Josh Homme-produced album that is this good. 8/10 

WUSSY - Forever Sounds

'What happened to the one that I adore? She killed hundreds, maybe more". I've said this before, but Wussy is Robert Christgau's best (and only) gift to the world. Admittedly it was one of his snotty reviews that made me dig out the brilliant, brilliant Funeral Dress. Best thing about Forever Sounds is how much great songwriting there is behind the murkiness and the noise. Keep discovering. Oh and the Big Lebowski-inspired "Donny's Death Scene" is beyond gorgeous. 8/10

EMMY THE GREAT - Second Love

Early days, but as of now Second Love is my pop album of the year. The opening "Swimming Pool" charmed me in, and the record barely let go. Gabriel Bruce guests. The style is there. Beautiful homogenous sound, too. And the melodies that reach amazing heights on "Social Halo". In an ideal world people would dump Lana Del Rey for stuff like this. 8/10

VIOLENT FEMMES - We Can Do Anything

The reviews haven't been flattering, but that's just fucking unfair. We Can Do Anything sounds like they never went away, and I mean that in the best way possible. Catchy, quirky, well-written. Honestly, the only problem with the album is that it's badly frontloaded and the final four songs let it down slightly. Still, you can't deny what came before. "What You Really Mean" is a beautiful Dylan-esque aberration and "Issues" is the best combination of awkward and glorious I've ever heard. 7/10 

P.S. Oh, and Robert Pollard's new album is reliably good, The Coral's latest is disappointing and kendrick lamar has released something or other.

Friday, 1 April 2016

A Season In Hull

"A Season In Hull"

A season in Hull, I wait for the sun to stop shining
And I get out of bed, I reach for a pen and start writing


And now when I close my eyes I see kicking chorus girl legs
I see black and white photographs hanging from little wooden pegs

"The Coaster In Santa Cruz"

You were kind to me in the mustard seed hours
In the hangover showers

"Slick Black River From The Rain"

I feel the pull of the morning
I want the sun to catch me working

"Thin Lizzy Live And Dangerous"

I would meet you in the rain
At the gaping mouth of brick lane

"Don't Worry My Friend, Don't Worry At All"

You held the world with tears, you hanged the world in vests
From one garden to another, lighting endless cigarettes

"Tropical Fish"

Somewhere in the distance children are singing
Singing are children distance the in somewhere

"Memphis Slim In Paris"

Besotted with the blues, befuddled with booze
He takes the stool there at the piano

"Flow My Tears, The Musician Said"

You can play my ribcage like a xylophone

"A Letter From Hull (Dom's Song)"

I came here by car from London
Where buses snort like horses

"The Pharmacy Cross"

While in the market squares around pigeon shit fountains
Teenagers made molehills out of perfectly good mountains

"Hot Rain Riding On The Salt Lake"

You wrapped me up in a silk sheet
The way an eyelid flutters ‘round the dream 

"David In A Field Of Pumpkins"

In a field of pumpkins I find myself down on my hands and knees 
Sucking rainwater from the leaves