Monday, August 18, 2008

Picture Monday: Crabs to the slaughter

IMG_1672, originally uploaded by Brooklyn Bridge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Something you said the other day

"I'd like if I could get a permanent fourth wall installed. Then, I could go to Cirque de Soleil and they could try to break it and get electrocuted to death."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Miscellaneous food from California

These items didn't fit anywhere else. First up, the giant donut:Chocolates in the shape of the Buddha in Berkeley:
Excellent selections from Thai Boom in Culver City, this is tiny chunk of bacon-like pork chunks deep fried and served with Chinese broccoli:
Green curry at Thai Boom:
This was weird, I went to this fabulous restaurant supply store in CC called Surfas. They had all these whimsical but slightly scary retro foodstuff, apparently all essential for the making of carnival snacks:
Dipsy Dog--don't try to make corn dogs without it!
A raspberry in sis's backyard in LA:
Beautiful potatoes at the lavish Santa Monica farmer's market:
Fish tacos in LA:
An all-omlette restaurant. Why not?

California, it sure was tasty!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

California eats: Father's Office

The word on the streets of LA was that Father's Office was the greatest burger phenomenon since Micky D's first opened their doors. With the burger craze in NYC in full swing, I was anxious to try it. Cue the requisite hipsters and remember you're not at Fette Sau:

This is apparently the second version of Father's Office. This one is down the street from my sister's place in the charmingly revamped Helm's Bakery. The restaurant has a host of weird rules that New Yorkers would love: no vodka, no ketchup, no diet soda, etc., etc. Also, it's swank but totally open seating. You order at the bar and then some dude delivers it to your table. When I heard this I started to panic, but apparently ordering at the bar at a mega popular spot isn't as horrible as it is in Gotham.
More about the bar...they've got a million obscure beers on tap, blah, blah, blah, you've been to Spuyten Divul, you've heard it all before. They're really locovore, with a host of brews from microbreweries up and down the coast. Bit of a shame not to have their east coast brethren up there, though--Six Point and Dogfish Head to name but a few.

I might point out they are selectively locovore--one of the specials was a soft-shell crab dish.

I of course ordered the burger, plus a beet salad and a famous appetizer composed of smoked eel, a poached egg, dill and some other stuff.
I'm a bit hazy on the burger. You're not allowed to change it's composition. I believe it actually has two kinds of cheeses--blue and Gruyere--plus an onion compote that reminded me of brisket in texture.
LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold compares FO to New York's the Spotted Pig, and I could see where he gets that. The thing is, if you can squeeze into Spotted Pig, the burger there is really amazing. This one, I don't know...I feel like I'm being finicky lately, but it struck me as a bit cloying. The food hit a lot of rich/sweet notes, so maybe that's why I wasn't so jazzed about it. The ever divisive shoestring fries seemed to get better with time.

So, Father's place to go after a long day slinging screenplays at the Sony lot, if you're a New Yorker, maybe not so much. Perhaps if you're able to get over your East Coast microbrew enthusiams and expand your horizons, and maybe aren't too picky about the food.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review Thursday: Oceans

In a freak coincidence, the past week has seen me floating on my back, toes pointed toward the sky, in *two* count 'em two oceans.

First: the Atlantic. Covering approximately 22% of Earth's surface, the Atlantic Ocean is second only to the Pacific Ocean in size.

Cultural significance: Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, Hart Crane, The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, Jaws

Pro: always freezing cold, which is nice on the hottest, muggiest days of August.

Cons: Scary. When we went swimming on Fire Island, the swells were four feet and breaking close to the short. Strong cross-current = large chance of panic and drowning.

Second: the Pacific. Above, me at Santa Monica beach.

Cultural significance: Baywatch, Hawaii 5-O, Gauguin, Life of Pi.

Pros: bathwater warm, easy, rolling waves, lack of sharks (at least in L.A.)

Cons: too many people, slimy seaweed.

An East Coast sunset

The winner was easy--I had so much fun in the Pacific. Realizing you're not to old to body surf? Priceless.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A bite of the Big Artichoke (or whatever Los Angeles is calling itself these days)

Okay, first things first...

After I satisfied my long-standing double-double fixation, I went to the Culver City Farmer's market, where there are flan stands and cops on Segeways:
The catch of the Pacific:

The largest peaches I've seen in a while:

Move over Treats Truck, L.A. has a cheese truck!

Strawberries on steroids, the kind that comes from the California sun: Boozing it up at the Trader Joe's:

You know how everywhere frozen yogurt is the new obsession in NYC? Well, the Angelenos started it, and here's the offerings from some new Pinkberry knockoff chain. It's pink grapefruit. I like.
All that foodie adventuring made me hungry. So I went home with my bag of goodies and considered the potato.
Look at me! I'm a vegan now!
Well, at least until tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No cliches were harmed in the making of this video

Let's not lie...air travel is the place where it's totally cool to watch eight hours of Kathy Griffin. On my first Virgin American flight, I got drunk on chardonnay and played video DJ and watched the following. Not having had MTV for quite a while, I was unsure about what the kids were into these days. Herewith, a sampling of my amateur observations.

Lupe Fiasco "Superstar"--In spite of myself I love this song, right down to the "Chris Martin called, he wants his act back" stylings of whoever it is does the chorus. Matthew Santos? Yeah, time for a new shtick, your whispery falsetto warbling isn't fooling anyone.

When I heard this song, judging from the verse where Lupe raps:

"So just take me home where the mood is mellow
And the roses are grown
M&M's are yellow
And the light bulbs around my mirror don't flicker
Everybody gets a nice autograph picture
One for you and one for your sister
Who had to work tonight but is an avid listener
Every song's a favorite song
And mics don't feed back
All the reviewers say you need to go and see that."

I pictured him as a chilled out, self-deprecating dude. And when you've written a song about wish fulfillment, you've got to cut against expectations. You have to, right?

I can't imagine was fool they hired to conceptualize this video. It bummed me out because I bet there was a million cool ways to do it. It could have been the hip-hop Hard Day's Night. You could have cast it with playacting kids like Bugsy Malone.

Instead, you get a dry ice filled cheesefest. Pyrotechnics spark out from his fingertips. Hoochie mamas coming out of the limos. Flashbulbs pop along the red carpet. What cliches did they not employ in the making of this video?

My grade: F

Yael Naim, "New Soul"--Okay, so Apple made you famous with your cute little ditty. To start, this video seems promising, with Yael moving into an apartment, no lip synching. But then she puts up some woodsy wallpaper, and then Yael is tickling the ivories, she's singing now, and the video inexplicably cuts to some dude in a field with a horn. She puts up pictures of all of her bandmates and then does crude drawings over all of them. Suddenly, there's a porthole in her apartment, she knocks down the walls and she's on some kind of hippie barge. The bandmates, on handpainted inner tube, will be right there. She dumps the goldfish in the river. Hey, that goldfish will never survive...but it doesn't matter, the hippies are dancing. You don't have to pay rent when you live on a barge. Score!

My grade: C-, sorry, cutie.

Fiest, "I Feel It All" (Embedding is disabled, but you can see it here.)

Fiest, I love Fiest. Sure, she's a chart-topping pop chanteuse, but she's not exactly a young thang, she's striking without being perfect looking (she wears a pair of jeans and an old striped sweater in the video). She has Peaches and Canadian music scene bona fides. She makes great videos that don't seem to have been dreamed up in an ad agency.

All the creative choices are kind of weird and non-commercial. I mean, are those red isotoner gloves meant to pick up the lipstick red of the oil drums? It may have been the Chardonnay talking, but I was just sitting back and thinking, this is the first time I've really felt something while working my way the queue.

I've got to hand it to Fiest. You get the sense that despite how annoyingly catchy her songs are, there's still something original about her, that she's really doing something that she cares about and that comes out in everything she does.

Love the crazy exuberant dancing, the sheer romanticism. I'll be the one to break my heart, indeed.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stereotypes about Los Angeles I have absorbed from the pop culture

On the eve of a transcontinental jaunt, these notes to self:
The streets are empty and filled with whimsy. Paul Thomas Anderson made me think this, Punch Drunk Love. I remember thinking, this is the way Southern California feels: flimsy, spacious, bruisey pastels. A little like a forgotten backlot.
They have a vastly superior food scene. Many things have cause me to think this. Going for Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancakes) with a friend and her father when I was a child. My sister's hole in the wall vegetarian Indian place in a strip mall near her house. Reading Chowhound posts about Taco Trucks. Jonathan Gold's expeditions. Diddy Reese.

If accepting J.C. as my personal savior would bring an In 'n' Out to NYC, sign me up. People, come on. If you'd tried it, you'd know.
Despite NY's superior literary heritage, Angelenos have Miranda July. How does she do what she does without being totally annoying? I don't know. Why can't I be more like her? The jury's still out.
The music scene rules. Again, this started in childhood, Sean and I driving to the Roxy in his Ford Escort, going to see Lush or the Pixies at the Hollywood Palladium. Now I listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic every chance I get. In New York, seeing a show invariably a hassle; in L.A., enchanting singer-songwriters grow on palm trees. They work at Book Soup.

These ideas I have are crazy. I am a native Southern Californian, and I should know better.

Still...I want my trip to be weird, illuminating, delicious. Look for me at sporting a copy of No One Belongs Here More Than You at Father's Office.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Picture Monday: tunneling

IMG_1097, originally uploaded by Brooklyn Bridge.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

OMG! Crack for wordsmiths: Wordle

Dudes, check it out...cut and paste chunks of your blog, you novel, your screenplay into, and check it out, you get a very artistic tag cloud. Wowowowowow. Genius.

This one is apparently from a german edition of that Ben Kunkel book:

...words, originally uploaded by Sebastian.r.

Try it now at!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Review Thursday: It pains me to say it, but...

It's unfortunate when you are the second book to write about layoffs and office life in the first-person plural. Man, would that suck, but such is the zeitgeist. I'm trying to write about fictionalized office life, so I'm interested in books that do it well. Because working is boring, writing about work is boring. When a writer captures the mundane and stifling in a fresh, even inspiring way, it's a truly remarkable accomplishment. When books about work take off, I think it's through capturing some kind of idiosyncratic singularity (like Ferris's book or the underrated Big If by Marc Costello) or the workplaces is a kind of accessory to the an overall commentary they are making to American culture (Palladio).

Another book I'm looking forward to reading is Among Other Things I've Taken Up Smoking, if for no other reason as it has an amazing title. Also, More Than It Hurts You, by a former teacher, Darin Strauss. It's gotten great notices, and I like the is-it-or-isn't-it premise about Munhausen by Proxy, and the attendant satirical tone.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review Thursday: Taco Time

Taco Porn., originally uploaded by Kevin Church.

I have mixed feelings about this new taco-reviewing blog, Lost Taco. The writing and visuals are very good, but as a native Southern California who moved to New York quite a while ago, I'm kind of over this whole "why can't I find a decent taco in the city"? The pejorative perspective people have of the Mexican food situation in NYC is a holdover from the time, a decade or so ago, when we had very few bona-fide Mexicans living and cooking here, and most of your tacos would be slung by someone from China. It's true that East Coast natives have grown accustomed to inferior, Benny's Burrito-type concoctions. But immigration patterns have changed, and there are thriving Mexican scenes in Sunset Park and Jackson Heights that are emblematic of the way Mexicans are weaving into the culinary fabric of city life. Transplants who whine about the lack of good Mexican food haven't gotten out enough.

The second thing I've come to understand (despite being a reformed sanctimonious taco snob from the Left Coast) is that taste in tacos is really very subjective. Lost Taco gives the thumbs up to Pinche Tacqueria, a Nolita sliver which I think epitomizes flavorless, gringofied hoity-toity Mexican. Thought she does rightly single out Zaragoza in the East Village. One adjustment Californians must inevitably adjust to is eating
real Mexican-from-Mexico food, and not Cal-Mex food. That means tacos (just meat, sprinkling of cilantro, onions and cheese, no guacamole, no kiwi fruit), and not burritos, which are Cal-Mex.

I have to admit that my favorite taco place on the planet (please, 8 readers of the blog, keep this to yourself), is located in New York City. It's called Tehuitzingo, and it's a little bodega on 10 ave between 47th and 48th St. It's run by a couple from Puebla, MX. Squeeze past the gregarious man in the front and find two Spanish-speaking ladies in the bag slinging the most sublime tacos enchiladas (spicy carnitas) you've ever had in your life. They are two dollars a piece, and you can grab a beer from the convenient refrigerator case nearby to ease the heat. I returned from a foodie crawl in San Francisco's Mission District craving these delectable specimens, with the realization an incredible taco place can be found in the most unlikely places. And when you've found your bliss, you'll keep coming back again and again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Review Thursday: My new favorite show

I remember seeing the warnings posted around "campus" when I was a student at NYU. Beware a well-dressed woman who claims she's found a wallet right near you. Beware when she asks you to hold onto the money until they can find the owner of the wallet. Be especially on guard when some other stranger become involved in the debate. These notices appeared frequently one year. They told a little story about gullibity, street theater and greed, for they outlined the specifics of a con called the "pigeon drop" which has been around since the Depression.

I found the notices as compelling as a soap opera in miniature. I follow them avidly, and began to do my own research on this kind of American folk hero, the con man. I read books like the Big Con and watched movies like The Sting and David Mamet's wonderful House of Games. In short, I was totally obsessed with con artistry.

And you could chalk my ardor for the FX series the Riches to that initial obsession, but in fact I think there is much more to it than that. It's a show about the American version of the gypsies, the Traveller clan, and concerns a family of grifters headed by Eddie Izzard as Wayne Molloy. Overall, the show's definitely got a little FX low-budge clunkiness in terms of the writing and production value. But Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard are both sensational in completely unique ways, and together they are a force to be reckoned with. Who knew that two Brits would play a couple of white trash Southern thieves so soulfully and convincingly?

The Riches starts out with Driver's character Dahlia getting out of prison after two years. Driver as Dahlia actually looks like someone coming out of prison, not a dressed-down movie star, and her performance in the series is continually rich and surprising. She bears both the wounds of being let down by Wayne, and also the drug habit she picked up in prison, and often the pain she's able to express in the role in wrenching.

That's not to say the show is depressing; to the contrary it's often hilarious. Part of it is the fish out of water premise--through a twist of fate, the Molloy family assumes the identity of a pair of wealthy suburbanites, the Riches of the title. Part of the humor comes through Izzard's hilarious, charismatic performance. He discovers the man he's playing is a securities lawyer, and goes so far as to con his way into a job. One further surprise about the show is that Wayne Molloy et al are not the best con artists. Much of the fun is watching them fail and weasel their way out of another mess. It's cheesy, but I guess that's what makes them so "relatable" and appealing.

Even when the script falters, Driver and Izzard pull it up through their talent and chemistry. And I think that a lot like another one of my favorite shows, Weeds, the casting here is really superb, from Margo Martindale as a pill-popping neighbor married to a gay man to Hartley Underwood as the high-strung, one armed neighborhood bitch. I've been watching the first season on DVDs-through-the-mail, and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes a good dark comedy with indelible characters.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ode to Bryant Park

Central Park is for weekend warriors, rollerbladers, ramblers. Prospect Park is where mad Olmstead's vision found it's full flourish. You are the park of the corporate citizen. The great green heart in a sharply delineated empire of shiny boxes.
Bryant Park, Friday, 1:15 PM 6/6/08
See white-shirted men flip their ties over their shoulders and squint at their Blackberries from 1:14 to 1:54. Glossy-haired women in slim, neutral colored skirts and alligator slingbacks throw their heads back and laugh. Oh, gotta go, another project to manage, pencil to push.
You are a patch of land we can stake our claim on for an hour or less. You defy the ring of skyscrapers with your flat expanse of green. Your lions guarding reams of paper valuable only to the bookish and anachronistic.

You are completely wi-fi enabled, which means that completely invisible to the naked eye, the trees and posting updates to that say: "The lawn is closed. It is resting after a major event" and your human inhabitants are soundlessly running algorithms that will surely help them crack the quest for true love.
You are the place where, in my youthful adventurousness as a camera assisant, I floated high above the tree line on a crane. Basically, we were going to start tight on a mitten that was lying on your sidewalk. When a delicate woman’s hand entered the frame, the crane would begin its graceful arc, pulling back to follow the woman as she walked away from camera and towards the opposite side of the park. The cameraman and I, strapped to the end of the long crane arm, would then start our ascent, up to above the trees, where I was to quickly rack focus the on the glowing Chrysler Building in the distance. Today I looked up at the top of your trees and thought that they must have grown in the past few years.
Today I wandered through the flocks of watchers. Those of us who come here after work to watch movies like Hud and Superman, or during, to glaze over among the masses. To feel like our lives are intersecting, even when they aren't, and in the middle of the grid, to gaze on something alive.