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2014/03/20 / Shanan


Spring, you say?  Not around these parts.  We are still raging with cabin fever, so let’s sneak in another instalment of The Symmetric’s Dystopian Book Club before we get all, ahem, happy again.  If you missed the first one, we’re reading contemporary dystopian fiction and pairing it with a stiff drink.  Because if ever there was an excuse to get shit-faced, it’s with a book club (or, you know, while reading depressing stories about future societal downfall).

THE BOOK:  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage International, 2005) is a subtle but disturbing favourite.  It tells the story of three friends who meet at a private school in England, and follows them from childhood through to their ultimate fated ends.  The novel unfolds slowly, and I wouldn’t want to give away too many details — we gradually learn that the story is taking place in a dystopian society in the 1990s, and that it involves the breeding of human clones.  It’s a heartbreaker.

THE DRINK:  I’ve paired it with a spiked punch recipe suitable for sharing with friends. ‘Mother’s ruin’ is the old British slang for ‘gin.’  Here’s the original from Food and Wine.

Mother’s Ruin Punch (makes 8 servings)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup chilled club soda

1 1/2 cups gin

1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice, plus 3 thinly sliced grapefruit wheels, for garnish

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup sweet vermouth

2 1/4 cups chilled Champagne or sparkling wine

In a large pitcher, stir sugar with club soda until dissolved. Stir in the gin, grapefruit and lemon juices and sweet vermouth and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Transfer the punch to a large bowl. Gently stir in the Champagne and float the grapefruit wheels on top. Serve in punch glasses over ice.

Just a note: the movie version of Never Let Me Go, with Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, was actually okay but if ever there was a time to skip the Coles’ Notes and go for the real thing, this is it. I love this book.  Have you read it?

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2014/02/05 / Shanan


This pretty much encapsulates my state of mind this week (and forever?), so my apologies for the late and ‘light’ post today… unintended double entendre? Why yes.

Nihilistic Optimistic by British art duo Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Neon, transformers, 2012.

ps. You can see some snapshots of Sue Webster’s London home via The Selby.  I love her plants and her un-styled collections of books, records, etc.

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2014/01/29 / Shanan


I’ve never actually been part of a book club before, but I hear they often involve, like, your mother-in-law and a lot of red wine. And a book!  Sometimes there’s a book.

With this classic model in mind, I wondered if perhaps we could up the ante a little by deliberately pairing a novel with a tipple?  In the service of highlighting appropriate literary themes, of course. The bleakness of this current winter is mitigated only by my penchant for dystopian fiction – you know, the kind of novel that practically drives you to drink – so I hereby call to order The Symmetric’s first meeting of the Dystopian Book Club.

THE BOOK:  The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2013) describes a digital near-future where a seemingly benevolent tech conglomerate feeds on the public’s desire and complicity for constant communication, connectivity, and affirmation, leading to a world wherein social media participation is mandatory and privacy is essentially nullified. The story follows Mae Holland, new hire at The Circle, and her assimilation into the cult-like company’s culture and philosophy. The novel is not exactly subtle, but it’s a pretty enjoyable plot-driven read that will probably make you squirm the next time you go to hit the ‘like’ button on your friend’s latest baby photo posted on Facebook.

THE DRINK: We’re pairing the book with an alcoholic beverage that goes down easy –  if it tastes good enough you probably won’t realize you’re getting drunk (and/or essentially having your private life stripped away), right?  We’ve deemed it “Ultimate Transparency” for both its see-through appearance and Mae’s decision to “go transparent,” having her every move filmed for the world to watch.  Here’s how to drink (and make) the Kool-Aid, so to speak:

Ultimate Transparency

1 shot orange vodka

1 sugar cube

blood orange juice squeezed from half an orange

ice cubes

old-fashioned glass

Fill glass with ice and pour vodka over top.  Dip sugar cube in blood orange juice and place it on top of the ice. The sugar cube will slowly break apart and insidiously seep into the rest of the cocktail, infusing its flavour (is the metaphor working here? Gosh I hope so).

And now, to discuss:  Have you read The Circle? Holy sh*t do you think all that could really happen?? Do you have a favourite novel you’d like to see given the Dystopian Book Club treatment here?  Pray tell, my friends.

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2014/01/17 / Shanan


Collector’s item, the ultimate film geek-out, an obsessive’s wet dream – all of the above?

I received The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz as a surprise post-Christmas gift from Chris, and I felt compelled to share a glimpse inside this coffee table book with you cast of characters, really because it’s just so damn fun.  I rarely watch movies anymore (weird? but true) and Wes Anderson has kind of been off my radar lately, but it’s been totally compelling to thumb through this volume that so meticulously details each title in his filmography (many of which I adore).  A mélange of previously unseen photos, production stills, storyboards, illustrations, notes, interviews and essays, the collection drew me right back in to Anderson’s idiosyncratic worlds – of private schools, rambling family mansions, submarines, foreign train travel, summer camp.


wes anderson collection royal tenenbaums

I love seeing all the varied pop-culture references that inspired a specific shot, or the way a character was dressed – from novels, other films, music, etc.  There are times when I’ve gushed about the usual suspects: the brilliant melancholy of Bill Murray, the sheer perfection of the soundtracks… that iconic zebra wallpaper in The Royal Tenenbaums. And, there are times when I’ve railed against the intentional artifice, feeling like style had overshadowed substance and storytelling to such a ridiculous degree that I couldn’t bear to watch. Like the films had become parodies of themselves, if that makes any sense.

But ultimately that’s the push and pull of a filmmaker with a strong point of view, a true auteur. And while reading this book, I’ve come away feeling like every title is worth revisiting for different reasons… which I greatly look forward to doing.



wes anderson collection book life aquatic

I will admit to having inadvertently eaten a pot brownie just before seeing The Life Aquatic in the theatre (don’t ask), so this one definitely warrants a repeat viewing.


wes anderson collection book moonrise kingdom

wes anderson collection darjeeling limited film

Chris and I saw The Darjeeling Limited together on our second date.  “Say yes to everything, even if it’s shocking and painful.”


The Wes Anderson Collection is available from Abrams Books.  Do you have a favourite WA movie? Have you ever felt compelled to dress up as Margot Tenenbaum (I won’t judge)?

Photos and styling by Shanan Kurtz/The Symmetric.

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2014/01/10 / Shanan


I’ve admired Finnish artist Nanna Hänninen‘s work for awhile now. There’s something so simple and pure about the splatter of paint, or the action of a palette knife dragged across a surface, but when overlaid on top of her quiet black and white photography, the effect is so beautiful and strange.  The paint feels like a colourful apparition of sorts, hovering in and out of the realm of the photo. I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as I do.

Image above: “People IV”, digital C-print on Diasec, 2012.

Nanna Hanninen Home digital photograph palette knife Finnish

Home (after Viktor Barsokevitsch 1893-1927), digital C-print on Diasec, 2013.

Nanna Hanninen People shadows black white photography palette knife painting

People I, digital C-print on Diasec, 2012.

Nanna Hanninen Finnish artist black white photography palette knife

Pine Tree Diptych, digital C-print on Diasec, 2012.

Nanna Hanninen Finnish artist photography black white Barn palette knife

Barn (after Viktor Barsokevitsch 1912), digital C-print on Diasec, 2013.

You can view more of Nanna Hänninen’s lovely work at her website. Coincidentally I just discovered that The Jealous Curator did a post on her this week as well, so do check it out. Great minds…?