Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best Trip Down to Harmontown

Two Saturdays ago I went down to Arlington, VA to see Dan Harmon because I let his Brooklyn show sell out on me.  It was a fair tradeoff because Richie, Carol and I found ourselves sitting absolutely front and center.

Dan Harmon is best known for creating the TV show Community and for being fired from the same show at end of its third season.  But a quick visit to imdb will teach you he's had his finger in all sorts of interesting Hollywood pots before Community and several nice pots coming up in the future.  Around the middle of last year I became aware of his robust internet presence.  Dan is an always-interesting guest on many a podcast and the co-host of the rather enjoyable Harmontown show.  And that's why I was in DC, they'd taken Harmontown on the road for a month and I wanted to see it.

The first thing that struck me while watching him live was how clearly the light of genius shines in his eyes.  On the internet he just seems infinitely clever, but that night it was clear why, in a room full of people united by endless shared interests, we were the ones on the audience and he was the one on stage.  He's the guy with the brain, the charisma, the work ethic, the persistence and the madness—that's why he's the guy with the tv shows, web serieses, scripts, musical numbers, stories and tour bus.

I am not at all surprised to report that I found myself tremendously entertained, having laughed a good bit and squirmed a little here and there (a genius, clearly, is sometimes a difficult kind of person to be and a difficult kind of person to be around).  Aside from getting to see people I was used to listening to interacting in real life, it was fun to see the stuff that's not in the podcast: body language, people mouthing things to each other while others spoke, Dan's dancing, segments of dialogue completely excised when the show was uploaded for all to hear, and Dan staring deeply into his vodka when comptroller Jeff Davis would speak or kneeling on the floor during the Dungeons and Dragons segment of the show.

What you see above is Dan trying to get back to the stage after sort of crowd-surfing at the end of the show.

What you see below is Dan having returned to the stage after the show ended to talk and take questions for an additional 5 or 10 minutes.  Another nice slice of stuff you won't find just listening to the podcast.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Best Breaking News!

Three time last week popular culture news dropped that made me go, "Hmmm, maybe I should blog about that?" But I didn't.  Until now! Always on the cutting edge, I bring you last week's entertainment news . . . TODAY!

JJ Abrams to Direct Star Wars Episode VII -- Okay, I already made a lensflare lightsaber joke on Facebook and I'd like to apologize and move on.  I think this is a good choice, it suggests good things are in store.  I'm not an Abrams zealot of any sort, but I recognize that he knows how to make good entertainments.  I think he's the right sort of level-headed but creative mind that could make us a good Star Wars movie.  So here we go!  Make me a new Star Wars movie!

Joaquin Phoenix Pretty Much Cast as Doc Sportello in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice -- I didn't see the Master and Inherent Vice is my least favorite Pynchon novel but I just like seeing that a Pynchon movie is really being made by a very well-regarded director.  Do I care that Phoenix replaced the long-rumored Robert Downey Jr?  Not really, I like that the director is sticking with a fellow he's worked with before.  But I imagine Sportello as more of an older fellow, Mark Maron, actually.  That's who I think of when I think of Sportello.  Still, I'm just so curious how the finished project will turn out.  Has anyone heard any release-date rumors?

Coachella 2013 Line Up Announced! -- What I'm interested in here is the Friday night headliners.  Stone Roses and Blur?  Holy smokes!  Guess that Hyde Park show wasn't Blur's last gig, afterall?  (surprise, surprise [rolling eyes]).  If anything could get me out in the desert for a three day rock festival, I guess it would be those two bands (not 3rd billed Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who I've already seen from too far away to really enjoy).  What, tickets went on sale today?  Too soon.  Too soon for me to plan or dedicate myself.  I'll just take this as a sign Blur could be touring the US.  I'll try catching them at Radio City.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Best Party of the Year, Every Year, Returns

Andy and his Mom and a gift from Collin.  Like Mr. Mapp said, look at this picture and you'll never be sad again.

Last night we celebrated Andy's birthday, which is today.  It's an annual highlight, a marker of the passing of time, an opportunity to reflect and remember who was at Andy's house last year, what was going on 365 days before.  Last year Andy was in the hospital, I brought him a card.  He was asleep the whole time.  Now it's like nothing happened and he's up to more trouble than ever.  Let's meet here again in 2014.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Best Thursday Night Dinner

I think it's clear I've been struggling with what to post lately.  Guess I'm a little blog-blocked.  But there's one thing that's always good for a post: Momofuku foods.

Tonight I visited the Noodle Bar with former co-worker Viviana, we tried two new menus items:

Veal Sweetbreads with Rice Milk, Lime and Mint

Duck Sausage Rice Cakes with Kohlrabi, Mint and Cabbage

And enjoyed some tried and true staples:  Pork Buns (not pictured) and the Momofuku Ramen

Ok, this weekend I'm running off to DC and I think, if I'm lucky, I might have some good tales to tell on Tuesday and this blog will be back in business.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Movie You Should Never See

So there's this movie called Amour, right?  And it's nominated for Best Picture and it's on every Top 10 list, often at the tip top?  It's praised for doing such a great job of portraying an old couple where one of them has a stroke and then is dying.  Sounds like a bummer.  So I went to see it at the Film Forum on Saturday.  Caught a 4pm show, the line to get in was down the block.  Overheard that the 3:30 show had sold out, too.  Turns out that, as advertised, the movie does a great job of showing what it's like for a person to take a long time to die from old age-related illness.  I do not know who in the world would want to watch something like this, though.  I've never seen a Saw movie but I think Amour is a lot like them, and just because they do a great job of showing what it's like to die of an intricate death trap doesn't mean you should see them, either.  Just because you can portray something unpleasant well doesn't mean it's worth doing.  Or is it?  Listen, if you stick around long enough, you'll probably "get" to experience something like Amour in real life (if you haven't already), it's not a thing I find worth rushing out to spend your entertainment time and entertainment money on.

However, I have to wonder if there's a really funny blooper reel out there somewhere of the actors breaking character in any of the countless, super-intense really good but awful scenes that make up this movie.  If there was any levity at all on set during the making of this super-bummer I hope it was documented.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Best Cooking and Reusing

Sorry for not having felt very posty recently.  I'll try to fix that.

I would like to show you some things I've been cooking.

Christmas weekend I finally tried a recipe from Lucky Peach #1 that I had been curious about since July '11: curry cavatelli with Jamaican-spiced beef (or that's the best way I can described it).  I cheated with a few things from the recipe, I wasn't going to kill myself trying to find Goat's milk ricotta.  

The curry cavatelli left an abundance of leftovers which were used in a variety of subsequent dishes, such as a spaghetti curry-carbonara of sorts I whipped up one evening.  I liked how the pecorino makes the egg yolk look like it's part of a sunny side-up egg. 

The curried-beef also played a row in an ambitious egg sandwich I suppered on one night.

On the last Sunday of the year I nearly killed myself with chili-fumes trying this recipe from April Bloomfield's cookbook out for a Thai-styled steak and watercress salad.  You pound chili peppers into the steak before you cook it, peppers that'll release clouds of basically pepper spray into your little apartment kitchen, no matter how carefully you tried to prevent that very thing from happening.

One of the main draws of that recipe was the thought of using the leftovers for a sandwich, which I did.  And it was wonderful.

Then on New Year's day it was time for traditional ricotta cavatelli, this time with tomato sauce instead of the typical browned sage butter.

A few nights later, my ultimate final cavatelli leftover dish: ricotta cavatelli with the remainder of the curry beef and a poached egg.  This was a winner.

One last effort: Monday night I made this version of chicken tikka masala my sister has a famous recipe for.  Have you ever been to someone's house and had weeknight dinner there and they serve you one of the family-favorite dishes, something they'll eat any old night?  And then you find yourself having maybe four helpings of this staple dish of their's because it's just treating you so right?  That's my experience with my sister's chicken tikka masala.  Note to self: Next time, less cinnamon, more jalepenos. 

I served it on bread because once I had Indian food at M Wells served on bread and I really liked it that way.  (See second photo below for example).


Okay, that's what I've been cooking and eating.  Right now I have a cannelleni stew simmering on the stove.  I love a nice white bean stew!

And guess what, time has passed and the stew has been cooked and partially eaten.  Tonight's special touches: Used bacon fat instead of olive oil for cooking the vegetables at the beginning.  Used chicken broth for stock . . . think I prefer vegetable stock, or leftover ramen broth.  Just experimenting and learning and growing, that's all.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Best New Year

You may have already seen this on Instagram.  And Facebook.  But when a notion leads to some Googling that leads to some phonecalls which lead to a trip to midtown that leads to a purchase which almost gets left at Steak n Shake but makes it home and holes are drilled in the wall and it's really attached and hung just five days into the new year (instead of sitting in its box for a month or two), I'm going to keep showing it off.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Best End of One Year, Start of Another

So, Monday was New Year's Eve.  Seemed most everyone was out of town and not much was going down.  Ryan suggested we meet for dinner at Curry in a Hurry on Lexington.  Sounded plenty good to me.  I'd never been but I knew the place.

Ryan invited two fellow Brooklyners, here he's calling them, trying to find out where in the world they were.  Lost?  On their way?  Or not coming at all?

Earlier that day I had been cleaning and found a bag full of dollar coins.  I didn't remember where they came from, but I knew they'd be buying me dinner. 

And if you want your dollar coins to go far, you should eat where the taxi drivers eat.  Look at all this food they gave me!  What a gigantic piece of naan!  And there was a chutney and salad bar.  What a meal to end the year with.  This is how I like to eat: heartily.

Andrea and Jeanie, Ryan's Brooklyn friends, showed up and we headed to the one party we knew of, a gathering on 138th Street.  On the way to the Subway we passed the Empire State Building.  It was all lit up in a way I had never seen before, flashing and strobing and changing colors.  I loved it.  It felt like a beacon, a symbol, a symbol to let us know it was okay to be celebrating.  That we should be having fun.  So many people on the streets and on the trains were dressed up nice, more than I'm used to seeing.  Was NYE 2012/2013 an unusually big deal?  Who knows.  But the Empire State Building sent me a message, the message was: "Have fun."

I was trying to mostly get the festive Germans from the subway in this picture but I mostly got the festive Brooklyners.

We arrived at the party.  The theme was "New Year's Jockin' Eve."  Athletic apparel was the suggested dress code, Jock Jams the proposed soundtrack.  At first, frankly, it wasn't terribly different from too many church dances I've been to in my earlier years.  And I suppose in my later years.

But a spirit of festiveness crept in and overtook us.  Maybe it only took the poppin of one bottle of Martinellis?  But the Empire State Building's Permission of Fun reached this basement apartment, and a good time happened.

A screen descended to display the dropping of the ball just five miles south of us.  Some in the crowd, with watches carefully synched, would say the ball dropped fifteen seconds late.

And then there was partying, good lively partying.

Sometimes you just decide to calm down and enjoy yourself.  And enjoy that your camera's flash seems to be broken.

Well-partied at one'ish AM, I returned to Little Italy, far more satisfied with my night than I ever would be.


This Epilogue is a Prologue.

Earlier in the day I craved tamales fiercely.  So I went and found some in the East Village.  While eating them, I remembered I had taken the family to Mom's Tamales on New Year's Eve last year.  So I guess this is a tradition now: every New Year's Eve I get tamales. (even if Mom's was fresh out when we went last year)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Best This Year's (Meaning Last Year's) Reading

Here's a list of the books I read this year.  I thought I read more.  I guess there were a few real long ones that slowed me down real bad.  And my daily subway ride is too short to get much read, too.  Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!
  • And So It Goes -- Biography of Kurt Vonnegut.  What I Learned: Don't read biographies of people you admire.  It may result in greatly diminished admiration.
  • Hunger Games -- You know, to get ready for the movie.  To be able to properly criticize, or enjoy, it.
  • Mason & Dixon -- Now I've read all of Pynchon's novels.  And he only wrote novels.  Except for that one collection of short stories.  I liked it and it got me psyched and conveniently coincided with the Transit of Venus this year.  Because that's how Mason and Dixon met, observing the Transit. 
  • Pulphead -- by John Jeremiah Sullivan.  It's a collection of essays, I'd read most of them on the internet, but I liked them so much I wanted to support the fellow.  And have them all in one place.  2012's #1 reading discovery was John Jeremiah Sullivan.  Could not recommend everything he's done more.
  • Girl and Her Pig -- April Bloomfield's cookbook.  Good stuff.  Cooked my first thing from it this weekend, a Thai-style steak rubbed with chili peppers.  Basically I tear gassed myself when I threw it on my super-hot pan.  When a recipe says to make sure your kitchen is well ventilated, you should really, really make sure it's well ventilated.
  • 2011 Anthology of Non-Required Reading -- There was some good stuff in here.  I'd have to go get it down from the shelf to remember what, though.
  • Eat With Your Hands -- Zac Pelaccio (of Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue)'s cookbook.  Nice pictures, a ton of interesting recipes, but fell short with me for some reason.  Maybe because I couldn't shake the "I will never, ever cook any of these" feeling it gave me.
  • Ada or Ardor -- Basically I had to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and drag myself through this tome but now I've read all of Nabokov's most famous works.
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter -- Something I learned after reading this: It's basically a true story. Which explains some of the stuff from the book that didn't make a lot of sense.  It didn't make sense because it was true.
  • Blood Horses -- Another John Jeremiah Sullivan book.  All about horses, particularly race horses.  Probably my favorite read of 2012.  Had just about the best ending of any book I've ever read.
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man -- If I hadn't written down that I re-read A Portrait this year I probably wouldn't remember that I reread A Portrait.
  • Paper Lion -- I'm starting to get tired of writing these little synposes.
  • The Wilding -- I mean, are you even reading them?
  • Life, on the Line -- I think I posted about most of these when I read them, anyway.
  • Marvel, the Untold Story -- I mean, really, do you need me to tell you a second time that I liked learning the history of Marvel Comics?
  • The Hero with 1000 Faces -- etc., etc.
I was trying to get To the Lighthouse finished in 2012 but didn't swing it.  Good news is I'm just a day or two away from finishing my first book of 2013.