February 2009 Archives
I’ve noted before my fondness for good-guy rancher Bill Niman and his wife, Nicolette Hahn Niman. Now it is my duty to note that Nicolette has a new book out, the endearingly titled Righteous Porkchop. (Why couldn’t I have come up with something like that, rather than the much-maligned title The United States of Arugula?)
Nicolette’s book is that rarest of things: a readable, non-finger-wagging public-policy book. In large part, this is because she has framed the book as a memoir, recounting the road she took from single-gal East Coast environmental-advocacy lawyer and vegetarian to married California cattle rancher. (Niman Ranch’s hogs, and therefore its actual righteous porkchops, are raised elsewhere.) Along the way, we learn that Nicolette was reluctant to let herself fall for Bill Niman because he has a mustache. It must be said, though, that Bill is one of those rare contemporary men who can carry off a mustache without looking like a desk sergeant or an adult-film actor.
Anyway, if you care about where your animal protein comes from and enjoy facial-hair drama, you should pick up Nicolette’s book.
This is a good week to pick up Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood, a modestly priced Penguin paperback anthology of VF’s exhaustive film reportage over the years. There are two pieces by me in it, and further articles from more credible professionals like James Wolcott and Peter Biskind. And look, Richard Schickel raved over the book in the L.A. Times!
My two articles are pieces I spent a good deal of the late 1990s reporting, one on the making of Cleopatra–still the most expensive movie ever produced, in dollars adjusted for inflation–and another on the making, and tragic unmaking, of Orson Welles’s second film, The Magnificent Ambersons. I’m delighted that Mr. Graydon Carter chose to anthologize these two articles, because I have received lots of e-mails asking where these articles can be found, and I’ve been appallingly delinquent in archiving my own back catalogue on this Web site. The Ambersons article isn’t up, and the Cleopatra one, I’ve noticed to my consternation, is missing its ending paragraphs on this site.
So pick up Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood to get the proper reading experience. I enjoyed doing those pieces, interviewing a lot of people who have since passed on (Hume Cronyn, Carroll O’Connor, Robert Wise, to name a few) and familiarizing myself with the perilous, hairpin-turn roads of the Hollywood Hills, where midlevel midcentury film people apparently went to die.
Last fall I taped an interview with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the delightfully dulcet host of the syndicated radio program The Splendid Table, that somehow didn’t end up airing until Valentine’s Day. You can listen to a podcast of it here. (Mine is the last segment.) I was on with Lynne to promote my humor book The Wine Snob’s Dictionary, but I unwittingly provided some consumer service when she asked me about affordable wines and I sang the praises of cheap red Spanish wines from the Jumilla region. (Pronounced who-ME-ah, though some Wine Snobs actually say jew-MILL-a.) In particular, I mentioned a $12 bottle that drinks like a $40 bottle.
I’ve since gotten lots of queries on what wine in particular I was talking about, so here’s the deal. It was an Olivares 2006 Jumilla Altos De La Hoya (Olivares being the producer, Monastrell being the grape varietal). And it indeed cost $12. My local wine merchant, Rob Allen of New York Vintners, goes so far as to say it’s the best wine under $20 he has ever tasted. Rob doesn’t have the 2006 vintage in stock anymore, but he has the equally good 2007, which sells for a little more, $14 a bottle. And it’s still a bargain. Wine, in my opinion, is not one of those things you should give up in these hard times. Order a case of affordable stuff like this and give up your premium cable channels, or declare a one-month iTunes moratorium. I swear it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
Read all about it here.