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Vicky’s Class of 2017 December 20, 2017

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

December 20, 2017




   Just forget it.

   It’s been three weeks since the show aired in the U.S. and I really, really, really didn’t feel like posting anything about the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai. So let’s just say that I’m doing this out of commitment to a revered Cyrano tradition to cover the show, even though it was a terrible telecast.

   Whoa yeah…the 2017 telecast has the UGLIEST EDITING of any VS Fashion Show I’ve ever watched…ugly enough that it gives many viewers headaches because of how haphazardly the video footage was cut and pasted together.


Only Candice’s opening walk was given proper treatment by the video editors.
It was downhill after that.


   Forget about the Chinese model who unfortunately tripped and fell in her home town (cheers to Ming Xi for getting up and braving the incident).

   Forget about how the mix of musical performers felt like a mish-mash of Styles (pardon the pun Harry, but your music doesn’t fit this show) in the wake of the People’s Republic of China’s arrogant Communist authorities banning Katy Perry from performing for VS in Shanghai.

   Forget that these same self-righteous Commies banned Gigi Hadid from walking on the show over a non-issue.

   Forget about this being Alessandra’s last walk on the VS runway (cheers to you, Alessandra, for all the great years you gave us).

   Forget about Behati being absent for the second consecutive year (pregnant two years in a row) and that Candice was actually pregnant while she was walking this year (which means she’ll be forced to take a leave from the 2018 show).

   Forget that even the return of Kylie Kloss couldn’t help save things.

   Forget that this year’s show was just ONE BLOODY HUGE MESS. Just try.



[ To read last year’s post about the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, go to Vicky’s Class of 2016 ]






Parable of the Starfish March 28, 2016

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

March 28, 2016




   Perhaps you’ve already heard the Parable of the Starfish.

   It’s a parable that I tell from time to time at Cyrano whenever the occasion of wine and friendship allows. It is a story that says what I believe about life, making it a story that I wish for all true friends of our little neighborhood wine shop to believe in too. As we say at Cyrano, we don’t have customers. We just have friends. And we like to make a difference in their lives, one friend at a time.

   I first encountered this story a long time ago. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to tell it properly. Just yesterday, I read a different version of it on the web, and it is such a poor version that it squanders the power of the parable’s message. So I will re-tell the parable here and be as faithful as possible to the story that I remember.

   Here goes…



    [ SPOILER ALERT – The moral is that you should do what is good because it is good; you do what you can, then you let it go. Thus, even if you can’t make a difference for everyone, you can still choose to make a difference for anyone. ]



   A man was walking on the beach.

   It was a sunny day but just the day before, the beach had been battered by a freak storm. As the man kept walking on his path, he was confronted by the constant sight of marine debris strewn in front of him, all of which had been violently churned up by the raging winds and waves. What struck the man was the realization that most of the debris was actually made of hundreds upon hundreds of starfishes, which littered the length of the beach. Having been carried far away from the water by the storm, these starfishes were now stranded, doomed to perish under the blazing sun.

   It was then that the man noticed that in the distance ahead, a stranger was busy at work along the seashore. As the man continued walking, his every step drawing him closer, he observed the stranger going back and forth from the beach into the shallow water, each time returning to the shallows with something in his hands. Eventually the man arrived there and he walked up to the stranger to ask what was happening.

   “I’m returning the starfishes to the water,” said the stranger politely as he picked up yet another stranded starfish. “Otherwise, they’ll be dead in a few hours.”

   The man was astonished by the stranger’s answer. “But there are hundreds of them,” said the man to the stranger. “Maybe thousands.”

   “I know,” said the stranger as he carried the starfish with him towards the water.

   “But there’s no way you can save them all,” said the man with resignation. “Even at best, you can only save a few of them. How can what you’re doing possibly make a difference?”

   The stranger simply stood in the shallows, displaying the starfish in the palm of his hand as he gave his reply.

   “It makes a difference to this one,” said the stranger before placing it safely beneath the tide.





Wine Friendly Poetry November 10, 2015

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

November 10, 2015



   “You want to do one more poetry reading (in) November?”

   That message to me was texted by the founder of the Drunk Poets Society, which I am happy to say has made a merry home for itself at Cyrano. I gladly consented to the request. It’s been a while since the wine-loving Society had a poetry reading here, and with schedules beginning to tighten as we approach the sprint to year’s end, we realistically have only one more evening to do this before the holiday season partying takes over our nightly preoccupations.

   The theme for this planned evening? Romantic poetry, of course.

   I’ve said it before: wine is passion, words are love. If there is any storytelling indulgence that befits a wine bar hideaway which bears the name of a romantic poet, it is romantic poetry. And since this is the Society’s last poetry reading planned for the year, I’ll indulge in offering this wine friendly poem by my own hand, so that anyone that evening may read it aloud as amorously as one pleases.

   Enjoy the poem, Cyrano friends.





More Than Words



My lady,
I know our words are a joy to us each evening,
these sweet conversations,
sprinkled with moonbeams and starlight,
of friendship and warmth heartfelt to the heavens.
Yet I cannot deny
my quiet yearning,
knowing that to honor you
restrains me in your presence.

More than words,
‘tis my wish to be with you, freely and affectionately,
to vow upon this ring
of golden moon and diamond starry sky.
More than words,
‘tis my wish to hold you through the night,
whispering in your ear my ungentlemanly desire,
that I may see my own intent returned through your gaze
with burning tenderness.

My lady,
do I speak beyond my reach?
I pray you hold not my confession against me.
But know this:
You are the treasure of my heart.
And whensoever you brave your fears,
to accept me completely,
I shall confirm my sincerity with my lips upon yours
and make you mine.

Oh my love,
I ask that you have faith,
for I have conquered torments
that have felled lesser men.
More than words, believe in me,
and we will slay your fears together,
my strength making yours greater,
my hope sending yours higher,
my love and yours lifting us always, ever free.



Alexander Sawit
October 24, 2015






Kendo Lost in Translation October 3, 2015

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

October 3, 2015





   I was reviewing old commentaries on this blog when I realized that one discussion – a visitor’s comment followed by my own reply – actually deserves to be elevated as a post in its own right. The discussion is attached to a post written several years ago entitled, How to Practice Kendo Without Thinking, in reaction to which a visitor raised the issue of confusion when translating Japanese martial art terminology into English.

   Asian martial arts (especially Japanese ones) are popularly seen by the public as sources of “hidden knowledge”. To be honest, however, a lot of these esoteric teachings are needlessly made difficult to understand by their custodians. This is because Asian masters traditionally explain many of their teachings using indirect answers, philosophically expressed through “flowery” concepts. Further, masters often do not pass all their secrets to their disciples, leaving succeeding generations of instructors to figure things out on their own, which in turn can result in successors misinterpreting the original concepts.

   Scholarly research reveals that such misunderstandings also happen in Japanese kendo. In modern kendo, two concepts that many students and even instructors frequently misinterpret are the Empty Mind (mushin 無心) and the Unified Strike (ki ken tai ichi 気剣体一).

   In the original post, these concepts are presented in simplified form, purposely without Japanese terminologies and deconstructed to make them less confusing to a general audience.

  Here is the visitor’s comment and my reply (if you haven’t seen the original post, read How to Practice Kendo Without Thinking).



    [ SPOILER ALERT – In the interest of establishing absolute clarity for kendo practitioners so that there could be no possible misunderstanding, even though this is spoon-feeding it, the discussion’s main message is this: without Empty Mind, you cannot deliver a Unified Strike. ]



    Dang Trinh – October 24, 2011

    Hi Alex,

    Regarding this passage:

    “At the risk of sounding grandiose,” Ishida reflected, “I’d say the ultimate goal is to master a strike in which the mind, sword and body are united as one.”

    I have just been informed that the word “mind” is the incorrect translation of “ki” in kendo. What Ishida sensei mentioned was ki-ken-tai no ichi, a fundamental concept in kendo, which means the union of spirit/energy, sword and body/movement.

    “Ki” is a common idea in Eastern martial arts, which refers to the flow of energy in a body. This idea does not exist in Western sports nor martial arts, therefore it’s hard to find a proper translation for it.
    However, I think the word “mind” can be misleading.

    Just want to let you know. Cheers 🙂



    Alexander Sawit – October 24, 2011

    Hi Dang,

    Thank you very much for your comment as it is always great to hear from martial artists who walk the noble path.

    Regarding the translation of “ki,” I shall offer the following explanation.

    In Ki Ken Tai Ichi (気剣体一), the kanji character “ki” (気) is the representation for “energy.” The English translators of the documentary “Kendo’s Grueling Challenge” knew very well that this is the literal translation of “ki.” However, this literal translation is misleading if it is not understood in proper context.

    In the context of Ki Ken Tai Ichi, “ki” does not refer to the general circulation of energy in the body but refers specifically to the warrior’s “mental energy” — the clarity of focus that makes a warrior’s mind totally resolved in the face of death even as others around him are descending into fear and panic on the battlefield. It is the warrior’s mental resolve that initiates the strike, therefore if his resolve is filled with doubt then his strike is also in doubt.

    This is precisely the reason why the English translators of the documentary interpreted “ki” using the word “mind.” Even Ishida, in the quoted passage about delivering a unified strike, was referring to a mental thing. “The more you’re self-conscious about it,” he pointed, “the less possible it is to deliver.”

    To put it simply, “mental energy” is the more precise interpretation of “ki” in the context of Ki Ken Tai Ichi. It is just more succinct and meaningful to translate it as “mind” for the martial artist.

    Further, the kanji character in question, “ki” (気), has variations in meaning. In addition to being a representation for “energy,” it is also a representation for both “spirit” and “mind.” This is not surprising considering that in Japanese culture both “spirit” and “mind” can exist as a harmonious concept. Hence, in Ki Ken Tai Ichi (気剣体一), it is absolutely correct for “ki” to be translated as “mind”.

    Let’s put it this way as martial artists:

    Weak MIND = Weak SPIRIT

    Strong MIND = Strong SPIRIT

    You can not have a strong spirit if your mind is weak. You will not have a weak spirit if your mind is strong.

    At the end of the day, it is faithful training that expedites this mental resolve. So please accept my best wishes for your training and continued advancement. And since this is a kendo discussion on a wine blog, I guess it’s only fitting that I say…”kampai!”





FHM Asks Stupid Questions August 31, 2015

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

August 31, 2015



Screenshot of Max Collins, FHM Philippines Cover Girl for March 2015.



   Here’s good news: we now have FHM Philippines on Cyrano’s video playlist.

   Having started a tradition of screening the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the wine shop, it now makes sense to add FHM Philippines to our “bar friendly” playlist of videos (in other words, this is the kind of eye candy that both guys and girls actually enjoy watching together while drinking). Local FHM frequently produces outstanding content nowadays for upload to their official YouTube channel, so all we’re doing is selecting the right stuff for the viewing pleasure of our kind of wine crowd. Judging from the reactions of Cyrano friends during the past week, these videos are already a hit.

   Now, here’s the bad news.

   I don’t usually feel the need to act as a grammar cop. But when a predominantly English language magazine as popular as FHM Philippines keeps displaying the same grammatical error in its videos, I can’t help but wonder what the editors are doing. When you teach the wrong thing, your followers will learn to do the wrong thing. If FHM’s young, social-media savvy readers adopt the magazine’s wrong grammar as part their everyday language, it’ll be a headache to correct them once they’re set in their ways. Just think of how difficult it is right now trying to fix their Pinoy-style telephone speech when they put someone on hold, saying, “For a while…”

   Here is FHM’s offending onscreen headline with its grammatical error, shown in five versions (as featured in FHM’s monthly series “Stupid Questions” on YouTube):

    “FHM Asks Stupid Questions to Arianny Celeste” (August 2015)

    “FHM Asks Stupid Questions to Valeen Montenegro” (July 2015)

    “FHM Asks Stupid Questions to Arny Ross” (May 2015)

    “FHM Asks Stupid Questions to Patricia Javier” (April 2015)

    “FHM Asks Stupid Questions to Max Collins” (March 2015)


Screenshot of a YouTube episode of “FHM Asks Stupid Questions”.


   It’s embarassing. FHM Philippines has been saying it this way on its videos for over a year now (the oldest episode of “Stupid Questions” that I found on their YouTube channel is that of Beauty Gonzalez, FHM’s August 2014 cover girl). In a bygone era, this kind of high-profile copy error for a major brand would have merited the courtesy resignation of the officer who approved it.

   We live in different times. So for the benefit of FHM Philippines and its readership, allow me to demonstrate why that headline is annoying to the normal English speaking world (to make it easy, I’ll rephrase it in question form).

   WRONG: “May I ask stupid questions to you?”

   CORRECT: “May I ask stupid questions of you?” or “May I address stupid questions to you?


FHM’s teaser for next month’s cover girl.


   Take a hint, FHM Philippines. We’re fans of your videos, so please fix the way you’ve been phrasing your headline before it’s too late. Otherwise, I fear that the day may come when one of your readers will appear at the shop declaring, “Can I ask an intelligent question to you about wine?”





Right as Rain May 23, 2015

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

May 23, 2015





   I don’t know if you have faith in the meaning of dreams. Truly, how do you trust those dreams that come to you when you are unawake, trust that they could possibly tell you the right answers to all the right questions you never even knew you were asking?

   I have that kind of faith. Which is why once I understood the meaning of the dream I had the other day, I realized that I had to speak up for it to the Cyrano community. If anything, I should have spoken up for this a long time ago.

   I had a dream about Rain.

   To the many of you who have been my Cyrano friends since the opening years of our little neighborhood wine shop’s existence, I know you remember who Rain is. Back then, you could not have missed encountering this very petite woman, whose sweet disposition belies a most unassuming alpha-female personality – intimidatingly intelligent to some, soul-searchingly artistic and cultured to most, devotedly nurturing to a special few (incidentally her given name, Veronica, originates from the Athenian name Pheroníkē, meaning “she who brings victory”, a perfect compliment about Rain’s leadership in the corporate world). Often, she used to drop by for a quick visit as I and my kid sister were running the shop, or stay with us for the entire evening over a bottle of wine or two. In other words, you all knew that if you wanted to be part of the Cyrano family in those days, Rain was in the package deal, because you knew she was my girlfriend.

   But this dream of mine that I had the other day…

   It caught me by surprise. I know how to interpret my dreams, and when I awoke that morning I immediately found myself lucidly reflecting on it. Dream though it was, this is the first time I’ve seen Rain in six years. It’s been that long since we moved on with our separate lives.

   While I won’t reveal what happened in the dream – all I can tell you is that in addition to Rain being in it, and me of course, there were two supporting female characters whose presence drove the sexual tension in the story – it’s enough to say that I awoke with a restless feeling, telling me that something very meaningful had been messaged to me. I just needed to be honest with myself to understand it.

   So I was honest with myself. And now, I sincerely appreciate what my dream was telling me.

   You see every once in a while, I still hear whisperings about Rain within our Cyrano community. Unfortunately, not all of these comments have been kind. I can only assume that for whatever reason, a few of you really did find her to be that intimidating, even aloof. One Cyrano friend even felt relieved enough to confess to never really liking my ex-girlfriend, and seemingly tried to encourage me to feel the same way. It’s unfair. Yet in the face of such unsolicited advice, I always kept quiet. I always let the comments slide. I chose to deflect any discussion, partly because I saw no point in dignifying an argument over something that was already concluded, but also because I wanted a private matter to stay private.

   Qui tacet consentire videtur (“He who is silent is presumed to agree.”). That was my mistake.

   It all makes sense to me now, Cyrano friends: my dream was telling me to acknowledge her, to do so wholeheartedly, and to do so in a way that is meaningful to our real life story.

   To begin with, most of you weren’t aware of Rain’s legacy to Cyrano Wine Shop, that she played a crucial role at the exact moment Cyrano first came to life a decade ago. We were driving home after dinner, when I was pleased to announce the name I had chosen for the new bar I was planning to open. But just to feel reassured about my choice, I asked for more suggestions. Supportively, Rain suggested Salute, after I said Romanza was the winner among the name studies. I like to think it was the psychologist in her speaking, because she then hit the nail on the head: Rain asked me to consider naming it after a fictional character or historical figure. “Well, if I do that,” I said jokingly, not realizing that I was about to say the name of someone who is both a historical and fictional hero, “I might as well call it Cyrano de Bergerac.” From that moment on, the spirit that lives in that name has been championing my intent, empowering Cyrano friends to be the romantic adventurers that you are.

   Shortly afterward, she came onboard, although not as a business partner. My associates and I formed a business relationship with her and her associates, in which we all agreed to occupy the unusual space I found – an unlikely place that we turned into arguably the most desirable bar location in the city (no one had ever before thought of this location, which originally had no outdoor access, as the perfect place for a bar until we transformed it). Thus, our two groups shared the burden of the lease and operated two separate establishments under one roof (our wine shop in the front room, their spa in the back room). It was this vital arrangement, conceived and implemented by Rain, that finally made everything feasible.

   So take my word for it. Without Rain, Cyrano Wine Shop as you know and love it would never have happened.

   Yet none of that is the real message of my dream. So I am clearly telling you now that I dismiss with prejudice whatever misconceptions my silence may have fostered among you about her. Because even though things didn’t work out for us in the end, Rain is even now someone who is very dear to me.

   Truly, I never got to tell you just how special she is. I know what real dignity in this world is made of, and I am grateful for having met in her a woman of substance who is so wonderfully, beautifully genuine. The world relies upon many different measures of authenticity, yet even if only for her unwavering integrity and her personal courage, it gladdens me to tell you that Rain is one of the most heroic women I have ever known.



   This is how I think of her. This is what she means to me. It is important to me that you know this, Cyrano friends, and remember it always.

   In the end, whether or not you yourselves have faith in the power of dreams is a matter of your own personal determination. I only ask that you have faith in the message of mine. Wherever the happy Cyrano family may be, Rain will always be one of us. I can already feel that every true Cyrano friend will be more than glad about my clarity.

   If I may happily say so, it’s a feeling that’s as right as rain.





[ Related reading: Our Fantasy Wine Shop in Batanes ]

[ Related reading: Heroes and Heroines ]





American Girl’s Footsteps March 17, 2015

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By Alex Sawit

March 17, 2015



   I don’t often receive internet ads that pique my interest. It’s not that I generally dislike internet ads. It’s just that, despite sophisticated tracking of online traffic by internet companies, most of these ads still feel like messages in bottles, cast into the worldwide ocean to arrive out of sheer luck on the shores of my laptop. Just like in the real world, not every message in a bottle really amounts to anything more than litter on the beach interrupting you as you surf.

   But after I uploaded my post entitled The Kiss with the American Girl, the following ad started showing up on my browser:


   I remember thinking, “Hey, that was fast,” when it first greeted me on my web-based email page. Then the next day, it appeared on my favorite sports website. Before I knew it, this charmingly relentless promotion of Hotel Berchielli and its beautiful view of the Arno River was showing up almost every day on the websites that I was visiting. Clearly, I had caught the attention of the advertiser’s algorithm, which I attribute to all the online research I had been doing to learn more about American Girl in Italy. More than a month later, the ad still shows up regularly when I’m online, and even though I presently have no timetable for visiting Florence, I continue to welcome the ad’s appearance with genuine amusement, as well as gratitude for the constant reminder.

   Because ad or no ad, I definitely want to see the American Girl’s hotel.

   To recap from my earlier post, Hotel Berchielli in Florence is where photographer Ruth Orkin and fellow American Ninalee Allen (better known by her married name, Craig) were staying while on separate travel adventures through Europe in 1951. The two hotel guests befriended each other and went on a one-day photography excursion of the city, resulting in the famous American Girl photo.

   In the process of researching the backstory of that iconic photograph, however, I stumbled across another one of the photos taken that day in Florence, captured on the same roll of film in Orkin’s camera.

   Here it is:



   It’s a shot of Ruth and Ninalee (taken perhaps by one of the new local friends whom the girls met while on their picture tour), showing the two waving from the balcony of their hotel, just above the front entrance where the name “Albergo Berchielli” decorates the doorway. Marvelously, the camera has collected the exact moment of their unscripted celebration, the girls having just returned to the Berchielli in triumph after a whole day of fun and adventure around this captivating city.

   More than the moment, it captures the instant of Ninalee’s vivaciousness, showing to us that she is uninhibitedly embracing the joy of living life in the present. For this reason, whenever I look at this old photograph, it makes me feel as if it was taken just moments ago. I sense something real in what Ninalee has imparted of her passionate spirit, as if something unbound is reaching out of the picture to greet a new friend across time and space, making past and present feel meaningless.


Other than the removal of outdoor lighting fixtures and
the addition of tempered glass inner doors, the entrance of
Hotel Berchielli looks the same today as it did in 1951.


   I compared the photographed location of Ruth and Ninalee against contemporary images of the same balcony, which is still directly above the Berchielli’s front entrance and still offers guests one of the loveliest riverside views of Florence. It gladdened me to see that its appearance and that of the rest of the hotel’s frontage is almost exactly as it was in 1951.

   Timelessness is the treasure of every heroic sentimentalist. So if you fancy a visit to Hotel Berchielli with that in mind, on top of all the obvious reasons for visiting one of the most romantic cities on earth, by all means follow in Ninalee’s footsteps. With good vino in hand, stand where she stood…see what she saw…and feel what she felt.



The balcony offers a view of the famed Ponte Vecchio (partly visible in the distance).
Outside the door beside the EU flag is the exact spot where Ninalee was waving.





[ Read the original post, The Kiss with the American Girl. ]





The Kiss with the American Girl February 14, 2015

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By Alex Sawit

February 14, 2015



See our poster of The Kiss on the wall, above the wine racks?


   Last week, I received this email from one of our all-time favorite Cyrano friends (if you haven’t seen her at the shop yet, Lanie’s the Chinese-looking version of Aussie actress Sarah Snook with glasses on). The email was simply entitled, “Poster”, and the entire text read as follows:




   The link sent me to an article posted the previous week under the heading “That’s Me in the Picture: Ninalee Craig Photographed by Ruth Orkin in Florence”. Written by Ninalee Craig, the article recounts her adventure as a young woman in that city, during which she was famously photographed on the street being ogled at by a swarm of Italian men.

   I picked up our email conversation from there.



    Hey, thanks for emailing this link!

    Weren’t you telling me about this photo before?  I just finished some more reading on this American Girl in Italy photo by Ruth Orkin and it turns out that the subject, Ninalee Craig, was wearing a bright orange shawl on that day in Florence.  This detail isn’t appreciated by the public because the photo is in black & white, but that shawl helped paint a laser beam target on the young (Ninalee) that must have caught the attention of admiring eyes from a zillion miles away.

    Here’s a photo (of Ninalee) from 2011, wearing the original orange shawl.



    You were the one telling me about it in the shop, no?



    Nah, it wasn’t me.  Maybe it was Fatima or Dian?  I vaguely remember someone trying to talk about it because of the Robert Doisneau poster of The Kiss on the shop wall, but I’d never seen it until now.



    I thought that was (the) poster on your wall. Not The Kiss.


   It was a welcome case of mistaken identity.

   Even though our poster of The Kiss by the Town Hall has actually been on display at the wine shop for many years, I easily appreciate how it was confused with American Girl in Italy. As it turns out, Orkin’s snapshot is frequently compared to Doisneau’s, such that the former is widely regarded as the nearest rival of the latter for the honor of being the most iconic photograph in history. “American Girl was rumoured to be the second-bestselling picture of all time,” wrote one art critic, “after Robert Doisneau’s famous The Kiss.”

   “The world that I was trying to present,” Doisneau once explained, hopeless romantic that he was, “was one where I could feel good, where people were friendly, where I could find the love I wanted. My photos were proof that this world could exist.”

   Both Doisneau’s and Orkin’s photographs passionately express the same post-war sentiment – Doisneau composed his shot in Paris in 1950, while Orkin snapped hers in Florence in 1951. With Europe emerging from years of reconstruction and austerity, Parisians and Florentines felt the freedom to once again celebrate daily life with amorous generosity, renewing something special that had always flourished in two of the most captivating cities in the world.

   The difference is that, while both pictures convey the same reawakening feeling of the era, American Girl is best celebrated as a romantic symbol of mis-adventure.

   “It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time,” happily explained Ninalee during an interview in 2011, in which she corrects the popular misconception that she was being harassed. “Italian men are very appreciative, and it’s nice to be appreciated. I wasn’t the least bit offended.”


American Girl in Italy


   Back in 1951, Ninalee was exploring Europe as a carefree 23 year-old solo traveler (something that she says was far more unusual for a single young American woman to do in those days). Arriving in Florence, she befriended an equally adventurous fellow American, 29 year-old photographer Ruth Orkin, who happened to be staying at the same hotel. With great excitement, both girls went on a daytime excursion around the city, with Ninalee as the camera subject. At six feet tall and with eye-catching, non-Latin features and complexion, she caused heads to turn wherever she went, setting the stage for that famous shot with those men on the street.

   “Oh, and that poor soul touching himself,” she further revealed in her article posted by The Guardian. “I was used to it. It was almost like a good luck sign for the Italian man, making sure the family jewels were intact. When it was first published, that was occasionally airbrushed out but I would never consider it to be a vulgar gesture.”


Ninalee asks for directions from an attentive military officer.
Even the guy on the bicycle can’t help looking back.


Definitely no WiFi yet. Still, Ninalee says the American Express
office was the place to pick up the latest news from the States.


Posing through a beaded curtain next to the magazine covers.


Flirting and being seen to do so with style has always been
a fashionable sport in this town.


Going for a spin with her new friend…in his MG!


Ruth Orkin and Ninalee on the balcony of Hotel Berchielli,
having just returned from a fun-filled day.


   Of course, Ninalee is gregariously clear about where she feels her picture stands among the most famous photographs in the world.

   “The most famous! Let’s get it right!”

   Then again, it doesn’t really matter if ever one is more famous than the other, does it?

   I can have The Kiss with the American Girl at the wine shop. Even though they’re two different pictures set in two different cities, both heroically stir the same romantic spirit in all of you who are truly Cyrano friends.

   Happy Valentine’s Day, folks.





[ Read the follow-up post, American Girl’s Footsteps. ]





Seven Beauties – No. 7 “Siren” July 12, 2014

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By Alex Sawit

July 12, 2014



This is the 7th profile in a collection of archetypes called “The Sexy Seven”, which was specifically created for a male audience. To read the introduction, go to Time-Out for Seven.


[ EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the potential for trademark dispute, the original name for the No. 7 archetype has been changed. Henceforth, this archetype among The Sexy Seven is named “Siren”. (July 24, 2014) ]



Profile No. 7:


   The Siren


      Nature:           Mischievous

      Motto:             “If it feels good, do it.”

      Love Quote:   “How bad could it be…if I amuse myself with thee?”


Sci-fi heroine “Deja Thoris, Princess of Mars”
illustrated by Leandro Oliveira


Nothing enlarges a man’s…self-esteem like the adoration of a beautiful woman – one who makes him feel like he’s the center of the universe. Just be careful if she’s the Siren. It may feel like you’re playing with her, but she’s the one playing with you. Be very careful. She has a taste for toying with men’s hearts, in which case she’ll play with her food before devouring it.

Other women rely on a signature move to secure a man’s undivided attention. But the Siren? All she has to do is sit quietly at her laptop, minding her own business at her neighborhood Starbucks, without make-up, dressed modestly in a t-shirt and jeans, sporting a simple, long ponytail…and the air will be so heavy with her sex appeal that guys can’t breathe or think of anything else (notice the stolen glances whenever she reaches up to fix her ponytail, letting down her hair in a manner so voluminous and shapely that she seems pornographic to her admirers).

Make no mistake: the Siren is the most sexually intense among the seven beauties. This gives her the power to stimulate those around her, making them feel passionately about anything she wants them to feel passionate about. Hence, her friendship is a glorious inspiration to writers, painters, composers and other creative individuals. She’s artistic herself, allowing her to channel her sexual energy into her own work.

But it’s a two-way street. She needs lots of stimulation in return to restore her equilibrium. It’s a need that compels her to get a fix wherever she can find it and she’ll play by her own rules to get her pleasure as instantly as possible. On a sweltering evening, she’ll jump straight into the pool without bothering to change indoors first (she likes skinny-dipping anyway). On a chilly night, she’ll bust open the lock on your liquor cabinet with a voluptuous laugh and, before you can answer, uncork that bottle of Armagnac she knows you were saving for a special occasion (she’ll tell you that she is the occasion).

Now you know why she’s trouble. She likes to play with fire. It’s therefore no surprise that the Siren has a reputation for being a serial heartbreaker (or worse, a homewrecker). Still, if that doesn’t scare you off, maybe you’re the one who can unlock a meaningful relationship with her.

The key is stimulation. It’s a two-way street, remember? She fills others with passion and needs lots of it in return to replenish herself. That’s why she goes back and forth between two kinds of men. She adores being with a gentle, sincere guy whose heartfelt talent she can enflame. But she also goes for a rude fellow who can fire up her uninhibited desires (she likes party animals and tricksters, but her favorite is a wild lover). If she sticks to one of them exclusively, the relationship will either stagnate or explode in a blaze of destruction. What she needs is a man who is both guys in one person. Good cop, bad cop. A gentleman who reciprocates her sweetness during the work week, then turns into a rogue who gets bad with her on weekends.

Still not scared? In any case, here’s a tip to help you figure out if you have what it takes to be her guy: she loves a man who can really make her laugh.


[ To review all seven female profiles, go to Time-Out for Seven. ]





Seven Beauties – No. 6 “Stylist” July 11, 2014

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.
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By Alex Sawit

July 11, 2014



This is the 6th profile in a collection of archetypes called “The Sexy Seven”, which was specifically created for a male audience. To read the introduction, go to Time-Out for Seven.



Profile No. 6:


   The Stylist


      Nature:           Impeccable

      Motto:             “Perfection is a work in progress.”

      Love Quote:   “Let’s do this right.”


Disney’s magical heroine “Elsa the Snow Queen”


When it comes to the art of living, the Stylist has the touch. It’s that certain something, that je nais se qois, so elegant that it’s almost magical. Her touch makes anything desirable.

Consider the Duchess of Cambridge, whose classic yet sensational look inspired women around the world to emulate her – a phenomenon the media called “the Kate Middleton Effect”. With her preference for mainstream clothing brands over trendy, expensive designer labels, she created impeccable beauty that became both aspirational and attainable for young women. “In her relatively short time in the public spotlight,” commented one news service not long after her marriage to Prince William, “she has influenced what twenty-somethings all over the world wear more than some starlets in their whole life in the limelight.” Of course, guys remember just how impeccable Kate looked when she stole William’s heart, walking on the fashion show runway in a see-through lingerie dress that had her future husband whispering to a friend, “Kate’s hot!”

Agreed. Whoever she may be, the Stylist is so tastefully hot, she’s cool.

Naturally, her coolness extends throughout the world of good taste. Everyone trusts her blog recommendations, from her favorite neighborhood spa to that hole-in-the-wall sushi bar she likes going to. And with her gourmet sensibilities, she has the makings of a sophisticated restaurateur.

Your kind of girlfriend? If you’re happily in a relationship with the Stylist, congratulations. Her touch brings multi-tasking neatness to the chaotic details in your everyday life as you speed to and fro about your work. She’s the best at putting everything perfectly in place.

But you already knew that. That’s why you asked her to renovate your cluttered apartment – if she’s an interior designer, even better. While you’re at it, ask her to teach you the subtleties of ikebana that she mastered, so you can use it to impress your hosts on your upcoming Tokyo business trip. And when you fly back, be sure to bring that Zen painting she asked for, because she wants to frame it above the fireplace she’s installing in your living room.

Uh, fireplace? Don’t argue. She has a thing for hearths. Besides, it gives the two of you a sexy excuse to snuggle warmly over that ultra-premium bottle of Hibiki 21 Years Old Japanese whisky she’s saving to welcome you home with.


[ Next profile tomorrow: the Siren ]