dinner theater

on sunday night i (irrationally) decided to walk the hundred-plus blocks home from the 13th street movie theater. at 42nd and 8th i made a diet coke stop at Villa Pizza, a very times-square-ish boring faux-new york-style pizza place that was surprisingly packed with tourists considering it was about 11:30pm on a sunday. standing in line i started glazedly watching whatever it was on tv. It was black and white, slow-moving and very important-looking, and I thought to myself, assuming it was a bio of Winston Churchill or a Roosevelt or someone similar, "how unexpectedly classy of this cruddy place to be showing something so highbrow!"

And then I started really paying attention, and it was a CNN documentary on the Holocaust. And the next images on screen - your standard starving prisoners, crying parents, haunted children - were horribly juxtaposed with the seventeen varieties of pizza and fat fanny-pack wearers and british tourists giddied by all the high-quality orthodontia. To top it off, I think I was the only one in the restaurant who noticed that the entertainment we were all being fed - and that we were all subconsciously absorbing - was essentially a photo montage of conditions in arguably the worst prison camps in history, set to a soundtrack of "Whoa, wasn't Wicked, like, wicked?" "Do you have just plain pepperoni?" "Can't we just leave?" So I left, and I walked the rest of the 70 blocks home.


mysterious mysteries - solved!

Jordan, questionably reliable supersleuth (seriously, who decided to give him access to federal databases? Lock up your daughters) has determined that lucky NJ #1 is: Trenton mayor Douglas Palmer.

Even though I should have expected that the mayor of the state capital gets the prime license plate, I'm a little let down by how anticlimactic this mystery turned out to be. His town car was so shiny! The windows so tinted! I was secretly hoping there was some sort of amazing, fabulous New Jersey town that secretly ruled some important aspect of society or something like that. Instead, it's the mayor of Trenton. Woo. Hoo.

In honor of his amazing detective work, Jordan wins something or other that I haven't decided on yet.


today's math victory

A line that formerly read "Kevin Bacon is one degree away from Kevin Bacon" now reads "Kevin Bacon is zero degrees away from Kevin Bacon."

Baby steps.


mysterious mysteries

Lazily and extravagantly cabbing it to work this morning, my friendly driver noted that we were behind a town car with New Jersey mayoral plates, the license number for which was: 1

What Joisey mayor has such a coveted registration? Someone supersleuth this for me. Winner gets a fabulous prize.*

*"fabulous" is a relative term. For example, I think single-serving packets of cream cheese are fabulous. On the other hand, I think single-serving packets of fruit snacks are silly. Still, fabulous prizes are necessarily fabulous. So take comfort in that.


Deathmatch: Potter - revisited


Lupin will die.
Wrong wrong wrong. But I’ll carry this one over to book 7. There's no way Wormtail's silver hand doesn't have something to do with killing werewolves. And the whole Tonks angle now makes this (*sob*) emotional.

Harry and Ginny will flirt like nobody's business, and Ginny will in some way save the day
Right! On both counts! (Winning that quidditch match SO counts as saving the day). Not only did they flirt, they snogged. Love that word. Did not love the spiderman-esque "I can't be with you because they'll try to kill you. O the hero's life is a lonely one" bit.

Ron and Hermione will admit their love.
Halfway? The flirtation is escalating.

Snape, as played by Alan Rickman, is totally hot in a greasy, evil way.
Eh. I’ll refrain from judgment on this one.


Very Important Person

Last night Jessie - hottie, smartie, love of my life - invited me to be her plus-one for a staggeringly discounted dinner at BLT Prime, Laurent Tourondel's latest outpost of his BLT insta-branding venture. Unlike the other two BLT's out there, whose names - BLT Steak and BLT Fish - give you something of a sense of what to expect from the menu, Prime is a little bit of everything, with impressively good results. The menu is a fusion of those from Steak and Fish, with some extras - lamb and chicken, notably - that more or less serve to make the menu indicative of all the major Barnyard Animal Groups, and absolutely not somewhere you'd want to go if you're a crazy meat-hating vegetarian. Because Jessie is in with the ins, we were seated at 6:45 at one of the VIP tables - a corner banquette where the foot traffic wasn't too loud, and where we had a distractingly mouthwatering view of the dessert table (an idea I like in theory, but the dozen or so displayed cakes and sweet terrines reminded me un poco of the layout at a bar mitzvah). So now, permit me to indulge my inner foodie, and here comes a (horribly overanalyzed) play-by-play of our phenomenal meal.

We started off with cocktails. Jessie had something called "India in Mexico," which involved tequila somehow, and I had a guava mojito, which the bartender recommended as his favorite menu drink, and it truly was delicious, but all the fresh mint really overpowered the subtle flavor of the guava juice that was supposed to make this more than just your everyday mojito. While we were downing the hard stuff, our waiter came over and explained the layout of the menu: main dishes are broken up more or less by species, and there's a selection of sauces and gravies from which to choose. The chef encourages patrons to order one appetizer, one entree, and one side dish per person, with the apps and sides for sharing. We decided to indulge in Tourondel's encouragement, sent in for an order of tuna tartare and an order of beet-and-fresh-goat-cheese salad as our appetizers, a lamb T-bone and Dover Sole as our entrees (for which we left the sauce choices up to the kitchen), and, as a side, we ordered one. The one. Blue cheese tater tots. Yes, blue cheese tater tots. Seriously. Holy christ.

Almost immediately the maitre d' came over with an incredible selection of amuse-bouche - wooden plates with a selection of crudi (house-cured chorizo and salumi genovese, a terrifically spicy soppressata, velvety bresaola, and some speck that was probably great as far as speck goes, but I've never really been a fan), a small white bowl of marinated vegetables, a beautifully presented plate of blanched cherry tomatoes with basil oil and shaved parmigiano, and the restaurant's classic (can a 6-week-old restaurant claim to have a classic yet?) chicken liver paté served with country bread so crusty it threatened to inflict damage to the roof of my mouth.

The appetizers showed up at this point, both dishes delicate and artistically presented (as were the amuses). The tuna tartare was molded into a cube, with avocado at the bottom and a sprinkling of panko over the top layer, resting in a shallow pool of wasabi-soy sauce. Sad for me, wasabi is one of those things that I really just don't like, and as soon as we had our first bites of the tartare cube, the entire construction collapsed into the sauce. The beet salad, on the other hand, was perfection: fresh, tangy goat cheese was sandwiched between rounds of thinly-shaved marinated beets, making what were essentially ravioli, and was served with a peppery salad of baby cress, frisee, and shallot. Our waiter also brought over a basket of the BLT brand's famous garlic bread, elevated above your standard aluminum-foil-in-the-oven version by the inclusion of shallots and parsley in the garlic butter, and being served on pull-apart semolina rolls.

It took us a good hour to work our way through the amuses and the appetizers (not to mention a really good bottle of 2002 napa chardonnay), and by that time our entrees had probably been waiting for us for a while. Still, we were shocked by the amount of food laid down on the table for us: not only did we have the Dover Sole and lamb steak that we'd ordered, along with a heavy iron baking dish with eight gigantic tater tots oozing blue cheese (dear god was it ever good), but the kitchen had comped us a side of parmesan gnocchi (tossed in a buttery cream sauce and buried under a further pile of freshly shaved parmesan), and a terrine of roasted carrots that turned out to be, by far, the best aspect of the entire meal. You wouldn't think to order a side of carrots when you're out at a restaurant like this (that humble orange root seems a little too thanksgiving to really mesh with the muted wood, sueded banquettes, and hip-but-moneyed crowed), but my god was it an incredible dish. The lamb T-bone came with a peppercorn gravy that was subtle but a little too fruity (though the lamb itself was cooked perfectly - pink in the middle and spicy and charred on the outside), and the Dover Sole was just as mindblowing as every reveiw I've read has made it out to be. Dover Sole is a mainstay on stodgy white-tablecloth restaurant menus, but this version - narrowly filleted, crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside, and served with a brown butter sauce spiked with lemons and capers - throws the captain of industry/ladies who lunch preconception out on its head. It was, in a word, yum.

After all that food (and still more wine!) we might have had enough. At that point, we could still move, we didn't feel our pants straining or our stomachs groaning. But in the spirit of adventure we decided to push it just a bit farther, and we ordered dessert. A hot-fudge sundae semi-freddo-ed with a shot of espresso and some crumbled toffee, topped with homemade whipped cream and cutely juxtaposed with a straight-from-the-jar maraschino cherry, this, finally pushed us over the edge. We couldn't finish it, and only had one of the hazelnut gelato petit-fours that came as a gastronomic sendoff along with the check. The (thank you, Jessie. Thank you thank you thank you) heavily discounted check.

We finally left at 10:45 - almost four hours to the minute after we sat down. According to a well-placed source, I hear that Barbra Streisand will be there tonight for dinner. I might have to go back.


Deathmatch: Potter

My theory - and this is only a theory - is that tonight's midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is going to totally destroy this weekend's box office take. There's probably serious demographic overlap with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory crowd and the Potter obsessives, and that's going to mess things up in terms of these kids wanting to do nothing all weekend but read the latest 600-page condensation of Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. I wonder if a book release has ever affected the monetary take of a movie (or a TV show's ratings, for that matter). If this does happen - score one for the book industry! (Maybe I'll get some sort of goodwill "we defeated the enemy" paycheck bonus. Maybe puppies will magically appear in my apartment.) Still, if it were to happen - how phenomenal, in the most literal sense of the world. I wonder what overliteral Hollywood finance types would make of a book affecting their yield - would they try to shut down the publishing industry? Would they insist that the next Harry Potter book star Jessica Alba?

For the record, because I must feed my inner fangeek, right now, 14 hours before the book is released, I'm going to posit the following theories:
- Lupin will die.
- Harry and Ginny will flirt like nobody's business, and Ginny will in some way save the day (she and Neville are so JKR's favorite characters).
- Ron and Hermione will admit their love.
- Snape, as played by Alan Rickman, is totally hot in a greasy, evil way.

I have no idea who the Half-Blood Prince actually is, and I kind of don't care. At this point I am pretty much unconcerned with the plot, I think the writing is shoddy, and I'm frustrated by the one-dimensional characterization. So why am I lining up at midnight to get my pre-reserved copy of the book? Why does a junkie shoot up heroin? Let's just say my copy of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan will languish on the bedside table for at least 24 more hours. It's embarrassing, but admitting you have a problem is the first step, non?


"you had me at 'fetus'"

according to various politically-attuned friends of mine, late last week Rehnquist's resignation was imminent. Inspired by the visceral horror of what the current political landscape could do with two vacancies on the supreme court, and thinking - as I tend to do - about what this has to do with sex, I posted a craigslist ad, which can be found here.
7/19: Okay, the craigslist posting has expired, but I've got a low-res screen-cap here.
9/11: I made Best-of! The forever version of the posting is here.

Within 30 minutes I had about eighty responses, and even today - five whole days later - I received about twenty messages from people damning me to hell, telling me I made them laugh, or genuinely offering to fill 'er up (if you will). As of this posting, I have received over 300 responses to the ad, and I have plans to follow through on zero (0) of them. Some highlights (from here on in all misspellings are [sic]):

  • Who knows maybe we will concieve the next George Bush. We could start tonite, I know you said something about Aug. 2nd, but I want to stick in someone, it might as well be you

  • I must admit, you had me at fetus... That's some funny shit... I would offer my services, but I've already been responsible for my share of abortions, and I feel like I should share the wealth, let someone else have a crack at it

  • since you're obviously extremely dedicated and willing to put your ideals before your body, mightn't you be interested in donating an egg to be used to make and destroy an embryo for stem-cell research?


  • Keep in mind I'm just doing this out of charity for you, I have nothing to gain from it except some exciting, raunchy sex. But really, the ultimate joy will be yours when you are able to be comped for the suck-job your womb will endure.

  • Will there be some kind of clear documentation that I, as the "father," am not liable for the costs of raising a child? I would hate to get involved in something like this only to have you change your mind and say, "Maybe I will have a baby. Pay up." So long as there's something on paper, I'm available.

  • OK. I'm in. But you have to promise it will be a partial-birth abortion in your 8th month of pregnancy

  • i actually just fell in love with you, sick, sad and true

  • Simply put, hate has overwhelmed love for you. You have been a SILENT witness to genocides because your HATE/AGAINST IDEOLOGY has blinded you.

  • I make really good mix tapes as well as yummy vegan cupcakes, and I'm into tattoos, reading, chess, kittens, bike riding, and politics.

  • Honestly someone needs to slap you. Hopefully your joking. Do you even understand what you said in your posting. Your 23, I can't believe that you sound like your 2. I don't even know you, but I feel like some one has to talk some common sense into you. Yeah yo, don't do what you want to do. And your even wasting the surgeons time when he probably could be exactly helping someone in need. And I can see you hid behind this "Liberal", but really (spoken softly) what's going on in your life that you want to do this, do you exactly realize what your embarking on. What in you past has happened to make you wanna do this, You should really take a look at that though, really, a serious long look.

  • Are you really serious about this....I am roman catholic, married, and a devote republican. I am an economist and professor, 41 and attractive. Let's talk about this further!

and the clear winner:

  • I was raised Catholic and I'm TERRIFIED of getting a girl pregnant, to the point where my penis wilts in the presence of a vagina because there could be some possibility that i'd knock her up. luckily i dated a strict catholic "technical virgin" (ass only) for most several years so pregnancy scares were only a problem when she'd accidentally sit too close to a puddle of cold semen on the bedsheets, or maybe a little would soak through after some enthusiastic dry humping. actually fucking a girl who wants to get pregant and then abort the kid might be just the thing i need to get over my fear of accidentally impregnating a girl - actually get her pregnant and get the whole drama over with.

Right. Because that would get the drama over with. Still, the part that truly amazed me was the number of people who did not get that the post was a joke. I mean really, the quote "I want to have your abortion" was considered so offensive that in the movie Fight Club they changed it to "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." Are there really women out there who want to get preggo just so they can have it aborted for political reasons? That's so Life Of David Gale. Which is to say, not so hot.


beating the system

Whatever and ever about necessity. The true mother of invention is a combination of poverty and boredom, with maybe a dash of pretentious disdain for others’ well-being. I might as well admit it - I get a real thrill from using the rules and standards that are laid out for a given endeavor, and operating within them to shift things to my advantage. It's the law of loopholes - every loophole will eventually be exploited; every exploited loophole will eventually be closed. Half of the fun is finding new ones once the old ones are closed, and exploiting once again. The other half of the fun is bragging about having found the loopholes in the first place. The way I see it, I'm just sharing the wealth.

Today's exercise in loophole manipulation is a small one, but it's a classic. At the pseudo-French cafe chain Au Bon Pain, there is on the menu a Pesto, Tomato, and Mozzarella sandwich that sells for some ridiculous price like $5.99. Not on the displayed menu, but built into the cashiers' registers, is a Lettuce and Tomato sandwich, which is $2.69. This is what they charge you for pretty much any sandwich that doesn't have meat or cheese on it. But you can add cheese to any sandwich for $0.79. So this is painfully obvious: get a Lettuce & Tomato sandwich, hold the lettuce, add the pesto. And add on some mozzarella cheese for seventy-nine cents, and there you have, for $3.48, an identical sandwich to the one listed on the menu for more than two dollars more. God bless America.