Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Victory at Last (Expounded)

(I started writing this post almost two weeks ago when I just got Collin's computer [which will soon be returned to its master] and I'm trying to finish it tonight. I'm not changing the beginning. Any paragraph is a triumph, these days)

And to commemorate my recomputering I will begin not with a post of food photos or brothertales but with the Against the Day assessment I threatened you with a week ago. I slew this 1083 page beast with a million legs and a thousand eyes and now my reward is I get to talk about it.

When friends and family saw me with that tome in hand the first question was of course, obviously "what is it about?" and my response was usually "I don't...really know" (and this was even when I had about 200 pages left to go). But now that I've finished and reflected I can say that if Against the Day was "about" anything, meaning, if it had a primary plot the reader was to follow, I would say that would have been the story of Anarchist Webb Traverse being killed by men hired by Industrialist Scarsdale Vibe and the tale of Traverse's children attempting to avenge his death.

But really it's hardly about that at all, the book, like all the other Pynchon I've read (they are two), is really about Thomas Pynchon unwinding his taletelling and seeing where it takes him. This massive volume (sorry, I'll try to quit mentioning how long) was his sandbox and each unofficial chapter the idea which entertained him for a time that he now shares with us. Like when I read V. I slowly began to get my Against the Day characters straight (there are many featured players (dozens?) and many more background characters that you never know if they'll turn out to be important or not) and began to remember each characters motivations and interests. The characters come and go...some stick around for chapters then disappear for a few hundred pages, some appear at the beginning and reappear at the end when you've just about completely forgotten about them. And like when I read V., during the last hundredish pages of the book it starts to kind of come together...or at least I began to recognize the shape of the thing in front of me...and at this point I began to wonder if I should read the book again now that I've had a look at the roadmap (See Important Footnote).

A few weeks away from having read this book, let me tell you what I remember from it, off the top of my head:

A group of boys called the Chums of Chance who travel the world in an airship, taking on adventures assigned to them by mysterious employers; the Chicago World's Fair; a photographer running for cover; sneaking into the world's fair; the less-popular nations at the World's Fair; a psychical detective; dynamite; anarchists; children of Anarchists; Yale; Industrialists; Industrialists shooting an old lady in the leg with their cane-gun (I think); Industrialists' aids; Cowboys; old west towns; Cowboy's Christmas; electricity; Tesla; realizing a major character had been murdered but not sure when or how this happened; a man with a daughter; the daughter was adopted or something; all these awful, lawless Old West towns; Utah being mentioned here and there and wondering if Mormons would be mentioned soon, too; a fantasy world hidden within this hollow earth (minor plot point, it turns out);Iceland Spar; Not knowing what Iceland Spar was; not realizing that lots of magical things were happening in the book and that I needed to accept that; magicians; cruise ships; mathematicians; scientific and mathematical theories and things that I wasn't sure if they were made up or real; people running into just the person they had been looking for as they turned the corner or walked into a bar ALL THE TIME; this section set in the New York Vaudeville scene that I wish I remembered better; a red-haired girl; Venice; Vienna; me mixing up Venice and Vienna all the time; that tower in Venice getting knocked down and me wondering if that really happened in history or not; a group of Russian kids like the Chums of Chance; wondering if the Chums of Chance were getting older or not and thinking it was neat that they weren't; a dog; a cook; people taking walks; time travel; time travel seeming like it was going to be an important part of the story but then not really; a really deadly weapon that seemed like it was going to be important; not hearing again about the deadly weapon after a while; trying to keep all the brothers and uncles and sisters straight; wishing I had a dictionary; wishing I knew a translator; wishing I had an encyclopedia; a sort of submarine that traveled beneath the desert through the sand; rooftops; realizing that Kit was maybe an important character; a little dog; female counterparts to the Chums of Chance that I think were Mexican or maybe just appeared in Mexico; uhm...there was a lot more.

To close: While I was reading Against the Day what was bugging me was that I had the strong feeling that conquering this book would not provide any benefit beyond my reading it...Gravity's Rainbow is the book Pynchon is famous for, it's the book that I haven't read but gets name-dropped at work and referenced on the Simpsons–Pynchon apparently still has it in him to craft a mighty tale, but I don't see this book being held in terribly high regard down the mostly I can, who know, here or there say, "Oh, yeah, I read Against the Day" when I'm in a little Pynchon conversation (it happens sometimes, really) and I heard Willie DeFord read it, too, so someday maybe we can talk about that or nod in respect to each other. BUT that's how I felt when I was reading it, now that I read it I remember it fondly (for some reason) and am glad that I tackled it and I do realize I miss its company, the weight of it in my bag, the thickness of it in my hand while waiting for an opportunity to open it on the subway.

Important Footnote: But I don't have to reread it! Just after finishing the book I discovered this great blog, The Chumps of Choice, where the book is summarized and discussed chapter-by-chapter (except the book doesn't really have chapters). I try to read a chapter summary as often as I can (not very often) and let it be said that this blog is an excellent resource for use while reading the book, after reading the book, or in place of reading the book.

Ok, that's it.

Best Obvservation that Could Have Been Made into a Much Longer Post

It seems like a while ago (3 years ago is the last time that I remember this definitely happening) it was very important that each email be given clever subject titles but now that isn't done anymore. Several things to blame: 1) We got worn out with it, 2) gmail and how it turns emails into threads and it's just hard to mess with the subject line, 3) We don't email anymore, just text and 4) We got busy and now the subject lines are just "Late Response", "Long Delayed Response", or "Latest Response Ever" or "Are you still alive?"

Know what I mean?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Best Somebody Else's Hard Work

Here's something from the internet that I liked, over at A Hamburger Today they had this post called "12 Burgers in 8 Hours" where this guy at 12 burgers (mostly in New York) in 8 hours and gave a detailed assessment and ranking of each.

New York has had burger fever for the past few years and I don't think it's going away soon. We love to talk about our favorite burgers and get mad at people that don't link the same burgers as us. There are lots and lots of New York burger evaluations on the internet, but I liked this piece...maybe because the main photo (the one I've posted here) featured two burgers I knew quite well (the bottom two...Spotted Pig & Shake Shack) and two I couldn't recognize, so I was like "Perhaps this article will take me on a voyage through both the familiar and the unfamiliar?" And that's the voyage it took me on. Fellow's final burger ranking was a little surprising to me, mostly because he liked neighborhood dud BLT Burger so much. Guess I better go back and try it. Also, very bold that he was not down with the Dumont Burger at all. Gutsy.

Anyway, here's the link.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Best Wishlist Item

If I had this shirt I would give this shirt a name and the name I would give it would be: "Favorite Shirt."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Best Recommended Reading VII

"Excerpts from the Spanish Diary" by Woody Allen

I wasn't paying any attention and this new Woody Allen movie came out a few weeks ago called Vicky Christina Barcelona. I don't know what it's about and I barely remember watching the trailer once online a long time ago. But reviews look positive and it's apparently comedic so really I ought to be getting serious about seeing it.

Anyway, Sunday's Times featured the above linked "Excerpts from the Spanish Diary" piece by Allen, it's not too long and it's spritely and funny after the classic Allen fashion. I recommend reading it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Best Wingding

Saturday night (a week ago, of course) I worked pretty late and then zipped down to Gold Street to catch the tail end of Amber's Mad Men Mocktail party. Turns out it was an absolute blowout, tons of people were there in excellent outfits that made me look like a total scrub who didn't put enough thought into the occasion.

I give my #2 Bet Outfit Award to Dave who grew his hair out a bit for the night. Excellent touch.

Here's Jamie with Hostess Amber showing off the powder room.

Assorted partiers in their party clothes. Funny how everyone had something in the closet just waiting for a 60s party. Only a few people showed up that had mistaken a mocktail party for a disco party, none of those people are pictured here, so don't think that I'm insulting my friends.

13 years ago I bought my copy of Las Vegas Grind Part 2 and for 13 years I waited for the opportunity to share it with roomful of people aching for some seedy 60's dance music. Finally, the dream was realized. For the time being, you can download the album here. Yes, click that link, then you'll have the whole record. I'm giving it to you for when you have your own party.

My #1 Best Dressed Award goes to Stephen who, I don't know, something about his look that night just killed it for me. And yes, it might not be as prominently displayed here as in some other blog posts or facebook albums, but there were candy cigarettes at the party. Lots and lots of candy cigarettes. What a perfectly normal thing for a bunch of Mormons to do, spend a night drinking fake cocktails and smoking fake cigarettes at a themed party dedicated to a TV show about misogyny and what awful people your grandparents must have been. Perfectly normal!

In the background: LA'ers Keith and Leslie who were in town for the week to show New York how things are done.

And, at last, here is me. I think I ruined the party by wearing a blue shirt, but it's my only shirt with french cuffs and Mad Men is very much about french cuffs and I really wanted to embrace this occasion to show off Grandpa Taylor's cufflinks. (and nearly-matching gold tie).

Here I am with my compadres, insisting on fixing (showing off) my cuffs when I should have been fixing my hair.

What a bunch of cads.

Suddenly we blast back into the 21st Century for a moment so I can show you that Pamela had Watchmen with her...that trailer has caused a world of curiosity!

And, in conclusion, here is Amber cleaning up after the men...very Mad Men-esque.

If you have the same friends as me then you've probably seen lots of Facebooking of pictures from this party and caught a lot more well-dressed folks than I photographed. But if you're not up in the same networks as me, I can at least recommend
Emily's post from that evening.

And, once more, Here's that record I played for the party.

Magnificent work, Amber. p.s. The cheeseball was delicious!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Best This is What We Did Today, Mom (Two Mondays Ago)

Boy I got behind. But that's what happens when you don't have a computer for a while but also are working pretty decent New Yorker hours. But my job has let up and I got Collin's computer for the time being so let's get to business.

Anyway, as you may just barely remember, couple of weeks ago my brothers were out visiting me, right? And Monday night we had an 11:30 reservation (yes, a little later than usual, but it fit nicely with my work schedule) at La Esquina in the downstairs part (more on that very soon.)

Because I forgot trains run a little less often in the late PM my brothers and I were in a real rush to get to the restaurant but we were received with joy and enthusiasm by Collin, Ali, and Liz.

Now maybe you know about La Esquina, maybe you don't. But the thing about it is it's this taco shop on the edge of Soho that makes tacos that I hate but hamburgers that I like BUT the thing about it is there's this "secret" restaurant underneath that is reservations-only and a real production to get check in with the doorman, he calls downstairs, downstairs calls him back, then if everything checks out, you're ushered through a door in the tacqueria labeled "Employees Only" (or maybe it was "No Entry"?) and make your way down a couple staircases...

Through the kitchen...

And then you're finally in the restaurant!

For a long time I had been quite wary of La Esquina. I was turned off by the legendary production involved in procuring a table and the very sceney reputation of the restaurant and clientelle AND websites like this one certainly didn't make me feel any more comfortable about visiting. But we had been talking about giving it a shot and brothers-in-town was a great reason for shooting so, yeah, as you can see and like I told you, we went.

The interior decorating was very decent, many nods to all sorts of favorite Mexican things but they kept it classy and cool.

Very dark in there, though.

So flashes were a must. Part of the reason (spoiler alert) that the evening was such a victory was the conversation was very lively and involving and fun. See?

Another reason the evening was excellent: Turns out the food was very good. I ordered Tostadas de Tinga for the table and they were very well received. I am a fiend about tinga, probably my favorite Mexican food (tied with proper Tacos al Pastor, of course)

More lively conversation (probably not posed at all, either).

More excellent food. Owen had the shrimp. They were big and they had their heads still.

Liz, Collin, and I all ordered the ribs which were EXCELLENT.

Ali had tacos.
Greg, as he is often inclined to do, had the steak. Whatever the vegetable and potato thing was on the side it sure was good.

I ordered a side of delicious grilled green beans.

And have you ever seen something so beautiful? A huge pile of great-big elotes

Nommy nom nom nom, as they say.

Conversing and enjoying and photographing continued...

Until some of us had had enough...

Until our post-meal portrait sessions outside the restaurant.

So, in conclusion: it is a bit of a hassle to get your La Esquina table and a bit of a production to get in and yes it's full of young and proud New Yorkers BUT turns out it is fun and features rather very good food actually. A quite decent destination dinner for every now and then and maybe a place you could take your parents if you got a table at 5:30 or 6.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Best Portrait

Definitely my favorite painting at the Met.

The blog is getting a little too full of pictures off the internet, I know. I'll try to knock it off.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Best Double Feature

A few months ago the Film Forum held a lengthy Godard-fest which I did not go to nearly enough (I only saw Alphaville). I really felt awful bad about missing Breathless and Band of Outsiders.

But good news, everyone!

September 1 the Film Forum is holding a Breathless/Band of Outsiders double feature as part of their French (New) Crime Wave series! Holy amazing bargain! I hope I don't blow this one off, these two of my absolute favorite Godard films, and I've seen probably 5 or 6!

The Listing

On iTunes University there's a magnificent lecture on Breathless by Hubert Dreyfuss at Cal as part of his Existentialism in Literature and Film that's worth searching for and listening to if you have the time and interest. My next viewing of Breathless will be my most intelligent one yet!

Best Eating What's Good for You

Since at least the beginning of law school I've really wanted to eat better and follow the food pyramid more closely but I've just always been so awful at it. I just don't know what's good for me and what isn't, I'm always asking people I consider if NutraGrain bars are okay (they aren't)or if bacon is healthy (it must be) or what about shrimp, is shrimp good for me? And lately I feel like I've kind of been eating better just by not having that much fast food or soda...but I still realize that I have a high fat, high carb, high sodium, high sugar, low vitamin diet. But now in New York it's the law that chain restaurants have to post the calorie values of their food on their menus and that's really helped me make slightly wiser lunch and dinner decisions around's turned eating into a videogame where you try to get a nice,lowe score.

But this week I read about something really great in the National Geographic. These scientists at Yale have developed this new "Overall Nutrition Quality Index", a rating of how good foods are for you that's going to be in (some) grocery stores by all the foods. So in the near future maybe a grocery store near me might have it and I can go "Oh, look, spinach is a 100 food!" (100 is the best) or "Oh no! A fried egg is an 18 food!" (now what will I top my instant ramen with?)

The Overall Nutrition Quality Index people are being stingy with their IP, but they've posted some sample scores on their website and an even longer sample list is in this month's National Geographic. So I've got those two lists to work with for now. Did you know that nonfat milk and 1% milk are separated by only 10 points (91 and 81) while 2% milk is a 55?! That makes me feel okay about my love for 1%, I'll allow myself those 10 points.

Best Conspiracy Theory

I absolutely believe he won (things traveling outside of the water are faster than things traveling beneath the water) but I did enjoy this site,, which dares to suggest that of course Phelps would win on a timing system owned and operated by a company that has sponsored him for the past 4 years.

But if his victory was the result of a conspiracy, would he also have won if what's-his-face got to the wall .1 seconds before him? Was Omega's software primed to allow give him the victory no matter what? Or did he have to lose within a certain window?

Actually, that sort of seems possible.


Whenever I think of Omega watches I think of how James Bond pronounced "Omega" in Casino Royale, "O-mee-ga" as opposed to the "O-may-ga" I'm used. But I can't help but know that I'd feel like a dope if I tried saying it the Bond way. Is that the correct pronunciation for the company or just the British pronunciation?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Best Quote of the Week

Collin said:

"Brigham, I've been thinking, I've done a lot for you when you've been out of town, it's time that I did something for you when I was out of town." (heavy emphasis on the second "I" in the last half of that sentence)

And that's how I got a computer again.

(for the time being)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Best Summer Break

Starting today and lasting until I get some money and the newest Macbooks are announced I won't have a computer anymore (because I have to give it back to Owen) so that probably means i won't be blogging very much.

Of course, if you have a spare sitting around, I'd love to borrow it. All I need is something to get me on the internet.

But also, I'm working pretty decent hours now, so that also cuts into the bloggin'.

Ok, see you around.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Best This is What We Did Today, Mom (Sunday)

On Sunday we went to Five Points for brunch (Vacation Rules).  We are smiling in this postprandial picture because something good happened during our meal.  I invite you to read on to learn all about it!

It had been years since any of us had brunched at Five Points but it's a family-favorite and we started the meal off with our family-favorite churros y chocolate.  Here's Owen and Greg being civilized about it.

Here's the dear old churros.

And do you know what happened after our churros?  Nothing.  Nothing happened for over forty minutes.  For over forty minutes we sat there wondering why our family-favorite brunch spot was treating us so poorly and not feeding us.  It was ghastly.  But then you know what happened?  The manager came over bowing and apologizing for the delay and told us the meal would be on the house.  Hooray!  Free huevos rancheros, BLT, and lemon-blueberry pancakes!  Nothing turns a frown upside down like a restaurant treating you's funny how quickly you can go from "What has happened to this place?  I'm never coming back." to "I love Five Points!  I can't wait to come again and bring all my friends!"

After brunch we went home and took a massive brother nap and after that we went up to Hillary and Karli's to catch the end of that potluck I told you we were invited to.

Once most everyone left we had some real fun, starting with testing out Hillary's escape ladder.

What could possibly go wrong?

And after that we played some charades.  At first I was going to caption these but wouldn't that defeat the very purpose of charades and charades photos?  We don't need me to tell you how many syllables a word had or that two people pulled up their pants at the same time or that Owen was an umbrella.  Let's just have fun with this.

Karli don't play, she cleans.

Apparently H & K make the design decisions around the apartment.