Thursday, April 29, 2010

Best There Will Be More Later

But for now, I present you with the warm glow . . .

. . . of the death candle.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Best In Case You Didn't Get the Email

You (yes, YOU!) are totally invited to tacos tonight.

Between 7pm (so you can roll up straight from work if that's more convenient for you) and 8'ish at the truck on Amsterdam between 96th and 97th (this is the same truck that used to park at 96th and Broadway).

After 8 we're going back to my place for the after party.

(but I don't know if there will be cake)

This event is more or less my east coast birthday party this year. Individually engraved invites to my midwest birthday party are in the mail.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Best Epitaph

Lunching one afternoon in the cemetary at Trinity Church (I wasn't the only one) I admired the headstones for a bit. Back in the 18th Century, they could really write you an epitaph. Consider this one, for starters:
Here lies the Body of Mr. William Bradford

Printer, who departed this life May 23, 1752, aged 92 Years: He was born in Leicestershire, in Old England, in 1660 and came over to America in 1682, before the City of Philadelphia was liad out. He was Printer to this Government for upwards of 50 Years and being quite worn out with Old age and labour he left this mortal state in the lively Hopes of a blessed Immortality.

Reader, reflect how soon you'll quit this Stage. You'll find but few atain such an Age. Life's full of Pain. Lo here's a Place of Rest. Prepare to meet your GOD then you are blest.

Age: 90. Cause of Death: Quite worn out with Old age and labour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Best You Cannot Call Me a Liar

Just like I told you I would, I read "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace" last week.

Not always as fascinating or as insightful as I had hoped it would be(*to be explained thoroughly soon) yet still a book no one with a strong curiosity about DFW could possibly pass up, AOCYEUBY consists of three parts (in this order): an introduction, a preface, an afterword, the interview, and an appendix re:the Cultural Products Mentioned in the book—not a bibliography of DFW works that come up during the interview, but a bit more color on every movie, book, and TV show mentioned during the interview.

The interview itself is the part that was sometimes not as insightful as I had hoped . . . but that goes without saying when basically what you have is a transcript of several days of conversation. So there's flavor throughout, but occasional lulls in the revelationpalooza one might hope for. But there's definitely some good stuff in there, especially re: DFW's own views of Infinite Jest, very handy information to have on hand if you're planning on rereading that monster soon (that's me I'm talking about).

The best part of the book proved to be the afterword, placed at the beginning of the book right after the preface, the reader is invited to read it whenever they see fit. I saw fit after I finished the book, it was the right time for me. In the afterward the author attempts to reconcile his DFW experience with Wallace's suicide and here the book is at its best, finally the author seems interesting (in the interview, eh, not so much) and, yeah, it all gets weightier and meatier . . . especially if you've read the whole interview already, I suppose.

Probably my favorite thing from this whole book was this reference in the Cultural Products Mentioned section regarding A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (the essay I'm always plugging):

. . . when David turned it in to Harper's in 1995, his editor Colin Harrison remembers, "It was very clear to us that we had pure cocaine on our hands."

I've never read such a fine compliment, nor such an accurate description of what something was, in my entire life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Important Photo Supplement

Just posted pictures from my new lens on the photo supplement blog, check them out!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Best Scholarly Text in Ages

Last week I finished this book, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion by John D. Caputo. Okay . . . this one . . .was a little tricky. I feel it is best described by the copy on the back of the book:

The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida takes its point of departure from Derrida's more recent, sometimes autobiographical writings and closely examines the religious motifs that have emerged in his later works. John D. Caputo's provocative interpretation of Derrida's thinking also makes an original contribution to the question of the relevance of deconstruction for religion. Caputo's Derrida is a man of faith who bridges Jewish and Christian traditions. The deep messianic, apocalyptic, and prophetic tones in Derrida's writings, Caputo argues, bespeak his broken covenant with Judaism. Through its startling exploration of Derrida's impossible religion, the book sheds light on the implications of deconstruction for an understanding of religion and faith today.

Got that? Let us continue . . .

Why'd I read this book? Because it was enthusiastically recommended to me and because I've got a soft spot for poststructural criticism in me left over from college.

I feel my thoughts on this book are best summarized in a bullet-pointed list:
  • First of all, Caputo writes his book in a very writerly manner. There is a lot of flourish and art to this scholarly text, not too different from reading Derrida himself—so some might say it can be a tad convoluted or obscure at times, let's just be straight about that. I like my philosophers to be very upfront and clear as they explain things so that I (in my limited capacity) can follow it as closely as possible . . . unfortunately, I think there's only one contemporary philospher who writes this way. So this book was a bit of work, I had to make sure I caught the concepts and I then I had to make sure I understood the concepts. This lead to my underlining quite a bit and coming away with a few ideas and soundbites well captured but not a certainty that I got the big picture down just right.
  • Continuing from above, this is not a beginner's text. The reader is counted on to bring in a lot of knowledge of the background material and a lot of other material in general. For example, Caputo writes about the teachings of Johannes de Silencio . . . if you didn't know that was Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author of Fear and Trembling, well, you weren't going to find that out from Caputo.
  • But, continuing from that, I was happy to find so many traces of Kierkegaard in the book. A lot of Caputo's thoughts on Derrida's ideas fit in nicely with things I picked up from Training in Chrisianity (my favorite Kierkegaard text). Kierkegaard's writings on the offensive nature of Christ or Christ as the symbol of offense seem particularly in harmony with Caputo's ideas. Also, a decent amount of the later portion of Prayers and Tears has to do with the story of Abraham and Isaac and Fear and Trembling, so that's cool.
  • On the major-league plus side, I was just happy to be reading this book and having my Subway brain (and sometimes-wandering work brain) thinking about Derrida, critical theory, and deconstruction--all interests of mine that I don't typically visit daily. I feel I have a, like, solid B understanding of deconstruction but even still, reading this book made me wonder if a B understanding might as well be a D understanding. Reading the book it became clear to me that having an A++ understanding of deconstruction (the point where you'd readily proclaim there is no understanding of deconstruction at all . . . I don't understand deconstruction well enough to say that, myself) is something that will really consume your life.
  • I started this book with the hopes of gaining a little knowledge and being able to mingle a little more of the philosophies of men with my scripture. I don't know that I grasped enough to accomplish much of that (not that I felt like a clueless dunce the whole time I read the book! there were just definitely stretches of paragraphs . . . or pages . . . where I had to say to myself "Okay, what was that?") BUT I was in Sunday School several weeks ago talking about Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and the teacher said ". . . the iron rod is the word of God . . ." and my Caputo-addled brain thought "The iron rod is the word of God . . . or is the word of God the iron rod? Oh my gosh! Exemplarism!" And then we were making a list on the board of symbols from the vision and the teacher asked us "Okay, what isn't the word of God?" And I thought "Oh my gosh! Negative theology!"
  • I guess you had to be there.
  • And have read the book?
  • Or known was exemplarism or negative theology are.
  • Okay. Examplarism is a problem with meaning and identity, sort of like the chicken and egg question applied to sign and signifier. Negative Theology is theology where you define God by delineating what He isn't. Much of the book seemed, it seemed to me, to alternate between arguing that deconstruction is negative theology and that deconstruction isn't negative theology.
  • More than anything, I wish I read this book in a class. I wish I read it with people I could discuss it with and with a teacher who could explain what a few things meant, even if that defies the very nature of deconstruction.
A question! (if you read this far) Should we talk more about deconstruction around here? Should I say what I think it's about? Should I have said that at the beginning of this post? I know some people showed up today just hoping for pictures of hamburgers or maybe a youtube of something.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Best Surprise!

When I was at NYU, our most hotshot of the hotshot professors was this fellow Noah Feldman (now a Harvard hotshot). A while ago I had a post about an article he wrote in NY Times called "What is it About Mormonism?" and the keynote address he gave at the Princeton University conference on Mormonism and Politics.

Now it turns out he gave a devotional (or forum?) address at BYU late last year entitled "Few Are Chosen: Comparative Religion in the Public Sphere". In his talk, Feldman marches us through the history of presidential candidates from his home state of Massachusetts for whom their religious affiliation or standing was in issue in their candidacy. I found it to be more informative than insightful, but definitely interesting to listen to and I recommend it to you.

(Also cool: Feldman is introduced by John Tanner, one of my favorite professors from my undergraduate experience)

Bonus Devotional Discovery: My Grandma's cousin, Elder Spence J Condie, just gave a devotional there, too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Best Goes Around, Comes Around

Well, as you probably noticed, last week I had a rare case of the "Don't Wanna Blog"s, not that I was without content.

For example, last Friday (the 9th, not the 16th) Chateau invited me to join in on a Momofuku Fried Chicken Dinner. This would be my fourth. I'm a lucky guy, when it comes to fried chicken opportunities.

I sat across from Whitney and Nick.

We started off with a plate of the fried potatoes and poached egg, which goes fast, as you can see here:

Once the veggies arrived we started getting silly:

Lettuce beard on Chateau, Hyeku and Casey in the background.

I feel like the baby carrots are a little pickled now? There have definitely been some changes to the veggie basket, it only has mint now (there used to be a lot more herbs in there) and they don't serve shiso peppers with it anymore. Bummer.

And then . . . CHICKEN!

Once the chicken arrives, fingers get sticky and less photos are taken. But what a time. Thanks for the invite, Chateau. Oh, and right there on the side, that's Casey's sister. Uh, Alyssomething.

One more thing worth noting we had an 11:45pm reservation. This was a great midnight meal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Best I Can't Stop Thinking About You, RUB Burger

Monday night. Time for a celebration, a celebration of Ben's birthday. And also, time for a burger.

What burger? The RUB Burger, available Monday nights only at RUB BBQ in Chelsea. I had heard good, no, great things about this burger and was very excited to try it. Mondays come and Mondays go and finally, I found a Monday night free for burger eating with a side of cause of celebration.

This burger, smashed into the griddle to produce a magnificently greasey crust and topped with grilled onions, American cheese, and lots of pickles (pickles that aren't just there as a token topping but serve a purpose in the grand flavor & texture scheme of the burger) on a wonderfully soft bun, is just magnificent. Dare I say perfect? Yes, I dare say it. One bite into the RUB Burger and I could tell it was the perfect execution of the chef's wishes for this burger.

Don't let the pictures deceive, this isn't a slider but a sizeable (yet thin, but that's the idea) burger. I gobbled mine up in maybe a minute and a half (pausing to take this second picture of all the juiciness oozing out of the backside of this wonderful thing) and said on the spot I'd eat three more. Perhaps this burger is only available once a week for the good of the world, for the good of my health? 24hrs later and I'm feeling absolutely fiendish about it.

Fellow diners, Chris and Jeff. Not pictured: Steve or the Birthday Boy. But he was in that top picture.

Also Great: Refills on rootbeer and onion straw (or strings?) as perfect (for what they are) as the burger. The perfection in everything I tasted leads me to believe that RUB's standard BBQ items must be of the highest quality and deliciousness, as well.

Oh, and because of a minor burger mix up we were given a batch of RUB's chocolate chip and bacon cookies. Can't see any bacon here, but it was in there.

In sum: RUB Burger=My favorite burger in the city right now. I've already made my appointment to go back next Monday, I'm pushing for too much of a good thing as quickly as I possibly can.

Addendum re: Smashed Burgers

I said that the RUB Burger was cooked smash style. Lots of great burgers are cooked this way, and by "this way" I mean: the meat is placed on the griddle in the form of large, loose meatball and then smashed down real hard and real flat on the griddle by the chef. But doesn't this defy two key burger conceptions: 1) That you should handle/press the meat as little as possible for fear of losing juices and 2) Aren't burgers best from the grill? The response: 1 & 2) Yes, but then the burger both develops a tasty (and in the case of the RUB burger, absolutely delicious) crust and gets to cook in its own juices. The results: wonderful.

Other fine burgers cooked after the manner of the smash:

The burgers at Culvers, I assume, from their thinness and crustiness (and it doesn't hurt that a huge pat of butter is added to the process).

The burger at Smash Burger, a little chain popping up in the west. For the product of a fast food system, I found my Smash Burger to be pretty good but not amazing. One major flaw was the bun, way too big, way too thick. More appropriate for a giant grilled patty. Some fine tuning and this would be a great place, but I don't know that chains are places where fine tuning takes place.

The burger at Bill's Bar and Burger in the Meatpacking District (and soon Rockefeller Center): This burger put me into a fit similar to the one I'm having over the RUB Burger when I first had it. One bite and I could only think: "See! This is what a burger should taste like!" And I still love this burger, I still want it again! But the RUB Burger is definitely greasier (a positive) and tastier, so how about I say Bill's is the burger in the city I'm most excited about on every day of the week except Monday?

Also, for the record, the burger at the Shake Shack is a smash burger. But I have no picture handy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Best Gigantic Blips on the Book Radar

Last week I found out about two upcoming releases that I'm really excited about.

The Amazon blurb pretty much says it all:

In early 1996, journalist and author Lipsky (Absolutely American) joined then-34-year-old David Foster Wallace on the last leg of his tour for Infinite Jest (Wallace's breakout novel) for a Rolling Stone interview that would never be published. Here, he presents the transcript of that interview, a rollicking dialogue that Lipsky sets up with a few brief but revealing essays, one of which touches upon Wallace's 2008 suicide and the reaction of those close to him (including his sister and his good friend Jonathan Franzen). Over the course of their five day road trip, Wallace discusses everything from teaching to his stay in a mental hospital to television to modern poetry to love and, of course, writing. Ironically, given Wallace's repeated concern that Lipsky would end up with an incomplete or misleading portrait, the format produces the kind of tangible, immediate, honest sense of its subject that a formal biography might labor for. Even as they capture a very earthbound encounter, full of common road-trip detours, Wallace's voice and insight have an eerie impact not entirely related to his tragic death; as Lipsky notes, Wallace "was such a natural writer he could talk in prose." Among the repetitions, ellipses, and fumbling that make Wallace's patter so compellingly real are observations as elegant and insightful as his essays. Prescient, funny, earnest, and honest, this lost conversation is far from an opportunistic piece of literary ephemera, but a candid and fascinating glimpse into a uniquely brilliant and very troubled writer.

Best news of all? It comes out today! I'll finish the book I'm reading on my way to work and buy "Although of Course..." during lunch.

This next one doesn't come out until the end of September or November, depending on the website you read about it on.

Before I give you the blurb, can I just say I can't believe there's going to be an Incredible Change-Bots Two? That's almost too good of news for me to think I deserve. I read the first Change-Bot comic as my reward for finishing Against the Day and it was just such a delight, it just tickled me from start to finish. That there's going to be another book, that's just thrilling.

The internet says:

Three years ago, an alien race of shape-changing robots came to Earth, fired ray guns at each other for a while, then gave up and flew away. But they left behind one thing: Shootertron, the cunning leader of the evil Fantasticons! Fortunately for Earth, Shootertron's memory is a little fuzzy. Unfortunately for Earth, the rest of the Incredible Change-Bots seem to be on their way back...

It's all-new action, drama, and comedy as Shootertron struggles to find an identity on Earth and the rest of the Change-Bots struggle to accomplish much of anything. Hilarious and gleefully childlike, Jeffrey Brown's Incredible Change-Bots Two is a nostalgic tribute not only to Saturday morning cartoons but also to Jeffrey Brown's Incredible Change-Bots One.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Best I Hate to Have to Say it, But . . .

This taco truck has no game.

Found at Lexington and 86th, I ate there once nearly two years ago, had a taco al pastor, it was nothing worth eating. Ate here tonight, tried a carne asada taco and a chorizo taco, also absolute non-events.

WAIT . . . hold on! I can't believe it, I've already blogged about this taco truck being so so-so. (You're looking for Item #4 and, sigh, I'm depressed to see how much nicer my D-Lux2 Taco Truck picture looks than this S20 one. Canon, why does your camera just always want to go mad high ISO all the time?)

In the world of taco eating, two strikes are way more than enough to be out, but tonight a friend was gushing about the carnitas taco she had just had from . . . this very truck? Maybe I'll try again in 2011.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Best Time Spent in the Kitchen

There was a lot of brunching on Easter but no Easter Dinner plans, but I'd been spending more than a week assembling certain ingredients and Easter Night the time seemed right to finally put them all together.

Two bags of dried peppers and a tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns. . .

Plenty of Chinese fermented bean and chili paste and Korean chili powder . . .

A pound of ground pork (cooked, don't worry) . . .

A bunch of chopped up Chinese broccoli . . .

Grilled rice cake sticks (about to be chopped up) . . .

Stirred all together with some super-soft tofu . . .

And voila! Momofuku's Spicy Sausage and Rice Cakes dish. The flavor was pitch perfect (and mad spicy), closing my eyes I could have sworn I was down on 13th street. And with plenty of leftovers, I'm the envy of the lunch room (but I wouldn't trade my rice cakes for 100 juice boxes and pudding snacks).

Other Momofuku cookings of the last few weeks:

Spent an hour roasting these onions . . .

Down into this . . .

Which I've used in a few dishes, including the Noodle Bar rice cakes in Red Dragon Sauce . . .

Pickled some mustard seeds to be used down the line in a meal I'm really looking forward to

Pickled a mess of shiitakes in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ginger . . . these are delicious (and I've got a few months worth of them), I hope you've had them on the pickle plate before.

And finally, last Sunday I got up at 5:30 to roast a pork shoulder (again) because I found one at what seemed like an unbeatable price. Many, many lunches have sprung from this six hour effort. No pictures of the end results because I was too excited to start eating, I guess.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Best Decorating Choice

Sometime this week, Ma Peche, the 5th Momofuku restaurant, will begin serving lunch in its surprisingly-bright subterranean dining room at the Chambers hotel in midtown.

Do you see what I see, over in the corner?

Talk about your serious art coups.

I've eaten Ma Peche in the Chambers Hotel lobby once, back in December. The more I think about it, the less memorable that meal becomes. Very average. And while nothing really jumps out at me from the Ma Peche lunch menu, I believe in Tien Ho (former head chef at Ssam Bar, many of my Momofuku favorites [such as the brussels sprouts] were his invention . . . Ma Peche, as I understand, is essentially his) and hope I'm just a lucky visit away from swearing by a few of the dishes (the roasted pork chop for two, perhaps?).

Friday, April 02, 2010

Best Holiday Celebration

Mine's on the right.

The product of an evening at Emily's. (Her blog is all different now, very fancy)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Best From the Vaults

Mom emailed me something excellent yesterday:

"Grandpa Taylor had his first trip to NYC in Oct 1963, a medical meeting. He brought home a piece of video tape from his tour at Rockefeller Center. Video was the new thing. TV wouldn't have to be "live" anymore."

(Lady in blue, I dig your super-chill rail-lean.)

You people can have your Mad Men, I'll stick with Grandma's slides.

Look at Grandpa (who would have been 92 this weekend), he was always a 100% authentic, 100% sharp-looking guy. This makes me think of the present super-saturation of the internet by male fashion blogs and websites—so many dudes who used to fawn over tight t-shirts now trying to keep it real by taking it back to the old school, either dressing as guys who go camping or guys who dress sharp in the exacting manner of a bygone golden era of style—but the problem with all this man fashion is you'll always be an imitation, always a reference, always a sign but not the signified. As long as you're trying to be a 100% authentic, 100% sharp-looking dude (no matter how close you get or how good it looks) you're just going to be a tribute, a wink, a wish. If you weren't on a business trip in 1963 (or on a vacation to Yosemite) you'll never be on a business trip in 1963, as much as we all wish we were.