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L is for Little Boy
Japan is cool and superfun! Come see the exploding subculture of Japan at Japan Society (333 E. 47th St). The exhibit features Otaku subculture and its role in cinema, performance art and design. See the Rinko-Gun Theater company perform Yaneura (Attic) listen to improvisational electronic music by Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! Reliving 1970s samurai manga and movie serial Lone Wolf Club (Kozure Okami), plus dance and lectures and art work like Kiddy Elephant Underwear by Chinatsu Ban!
M is for Minamoto Kitchoan
The Japanese tea ceremony is serious business, involving very strict procedures and protocols that go back for centuries. If you find yourself involved in one you’ll likely be offered some wagashi, traditional Japanese cakes made from rice flour, azuki bean-jam and sugar. Wagashi have been around for over 2,000 years and feature all of the same Japanese attention to detail and artistry that can be found in sushi or ikebana (flower arrangement). But if it’s making you nervous, you can always just skip the ceremony part and head to Minamoto Kitchoan (608 Fifth Ave) for a large selection of the very best in wagashi. Make sure to try the new sakuranbo, the finest Japanese cherries encased in a sweet jelly. Fancy!
N is for the New York Festival of International Literary
The good people at PEN, the international writers’ advocacy cum schmooze club, are presenting this weeklong festival of readings, conversations, panel discussions, parties and snacks, from April 16 to 22. Highlights include: The Believer magazine variety show hosted by Jonathan Ames, featuring Rick Moody, Chimamanda Ngozu Adichie and Tome Bissell; a discussion called The Power of the Pen, on the ability of writers to change the world in which they live, featuring Margaret Atwood, Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and more; a tribute to recently departed Polish poet Cszelaw Milosz, with Bei Dao, Robert Hass, Eva Hoffman, Azar Nafisi, Leon Wieseltier and Adam Zagajewski. For a full listing of events and venues (all over the city), visit www.pen.org.
O is for Oaxaca
Malcolm Lowry’s classic dream-novel of a drunk’s sad last days, Under the Volcano, is set in the heart of Oaxaca, in southwestern Mexico. Luckily for you though, you don’t need the plane ticket to catch a taste of the region (nor do you necessarily need to drink yourself to death with mescal), just head to 12 E. 36th St, to the bar named in honor of the book. Under the Volcano (the bar, not the book) has all the mescal and fine tequila you’ll ever need, along with standard Mexican snacking fare, should your appetite survive the alcoholic assault. And while the neighborhood is about as far away from small town Mexico as you can get, if you squint your eyes real tight (and drink, drink, drink) you might just a hear a rumble from the mountain.