Dec 30, 2011

We're Here...

This sign I spotted in one of those claw-grabber amusements struck me as a bit, um, queer.

Dec 29, 2011

Another One Down

Today I became a 35 year old woman but spent the day acting like a 65 year old man. Oddly, I was pretty good at it.

Dec 28, 2011

Ciao, Chanukah!

I gave the usual Italian & Asian fare a break and whipped up some traditional and tasty Jewish nosh. My kitchen ain't kosher, but I am a shicksa. 


No harm, no foul, bubbala.

Dec 23, 2011

My Own Private Mexico

I heard on the radio this morning that Mexico is expecting 50+ million tourists this year – spurred by the 2012 Mayan doomsday prophecy. It was not reported exactly what these people hope to get out of their visits as souvenirs seem terribly impractical given the circumstances. But it was the business news, so I guess humanity and substance are beside the point. 

There have certainly been an abundance of armageddon predictions lately, and an equally plentiful pool of fools willing to mark their calendars. I know I am not the first one to point out that “eschatology” and “scatology” can sound very similar to the untrained ear, but it’s far too easy to dismiss these soothsayers and their sycophants as nut-jobs. And those who know me know I do not make things easy.


So what is the appeal of apocalyptic predictions? I keep returning to a rationale similar to the reason why I buy lottery tickets. People need an “escape hatch” to latch on to. And in these end times, which seem to be hard times for so many folks, maybe utter destruction appears a more attainable fate than outrageous fortune. They both dangle that no-looking-back option that appeals to the 99%-ers. Two sides of the same coin, really. Slightly ironic too that my chance of winning big at the thoroughbreds as well as the Mayan prophecy are both driven by Mexicans.

Nonetheless, this is the end of the year—wrap-up season—and saying 2011 has been a year of ups and downs is an understatement. It was downright bi-polar for so many I know. But using our neighbors to the south as an example, there is always a way to work the positive side of something. Even apocalypse.

See, I recall that Mexican tourism took a nosedive a year or two back because of the rampant, indiscriminate murders and kidnapping of tourists by powerful drug cartels. Now, it’s back...and better than ever. Nothing like a good ol’ doomsday prophecy to bring us all together.

Here’s wishing a happy 2012...to yours, Mayan, and ours.

Dec 22, 2011

Orna-Mental

I'd like to share a photo of my new Christmas ornament. It just screams "It's the holidays, and I don't give a shit"...does it not?


Dec 15, 2011

Ring-A-Ding-Ding

There is a neat-o vintage tchotchke shop in LA's Farmer's Market called Shine Gallery (online at ShineGallery.com). They sell all kinds of cool, authentic, period novelty items like patches, buttons, small toys, and postcards. 

One eye-catching piece was particularly kitschy: this fully-stocked display of "Hollywood Finger Cigarette Rings."


I do like how they specified the Hollywood ring was for the finger, thus differentiating it from the West Hollywood ring. Moving on...

If ya zoom in a bit you'll see that the apparatus is supposed to hold your cigarette while your hand relaxes and leave your fingers free for such activities as driving, talking on the phone, and even playing golf. While these seem like logical claims, I do call horseshit upon every single one of them.

Given the time period these were made, I declare the sole purpose of this invention was to stop one from dropping their smoke while bombed on the booze. And that's not a bad thing; just because the smoker is wasted, doesn't mean thier cigarette should be too.

Dec 14, 2011

In The Soup

A few weeks ago brought us Black Friday, the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season…although its “official” status is being jeopardized by newcomers such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Come to think of it, it seems we now have more holidays too–like the Kwanzaa–so who knows what is actually doing the kicking off and to what it’s kicking toward. Regardless, you know what I’m talking about.


Now, you may call me many things, but “doorbuster” is not one of them. I find it preposterous to line up around the block during the wee hours to save ten bucks on shit that I, nor anyone else for that matter, needs.

I suppose if you really are watching your pennies and the alternative to “midnight madness” is scarring your child for life by denying them the commercial pleasures of Christmas, then fine, ya’ll get a pass. But if you are the sort who can afford MSRP on that Blu-ray, then you are out of line even while queued behind stantions at Best Buy. And if you have ever uttered the phrase “time is money” and have the snowballs to participate in this nonsense, you deserve to be pepper-sprayed on sight.

But the greed of Black Friday (or whatever the fuck) is nothing compared to the rampant avarice I witnessed today...on the lunch line at work.

This is going to take a little background: every day the cafeteria offers two varieties of soups. They are set up in two stainless steel stations, each housing both varieties. That’s a total of four kettles. Got it?


Today they offered Italian wedding soup, apparently the only thing that can spawn behavior more obnoxious than an actual Italian wedding. You see, this afternoon there was a sign–put up by management–stating the number of mini-meatballs to which each diner is entitled based on the size of the soup purchased (i.e. a 12 oz. order allows four meatballs; a 16 oz. allows six). This was something new.

When I finished rolling my eyes, I scoped BOTH stations and saw no meatballs in either. Just broth and floating pasta thingies. Clearly, the sign was necessary. My co-workers had picked clean the balls.

On one hand, I kind of felt bad for the catering manager as sales surely suffered due to the sphere-less soup. But upon further thought, I laid my pathos with the patrons. I figured that when you are forced into a position where your opportunity to “stick it to the man” involves stuffing all the balls you can squeeze into a 12 ounce cup, well, that’s just not a good place to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about values lately. Not necessarily moral vs. material, but how the two often go hand in hand. Shit, I do enjoy a bargain and I do hate to be ripped off. But there are limits, kids. Just as we work hard for the dough we need to buy stuff, others have worked hard to make the stuff we’re buying. Somewhere between point A and point B people certainly take advantage, but that’s not my...umm…point.


Jesus (Mithra, etc.) may not be the reason for the items we bought on Black Friday or the goodwill to which we will raise our glasses next week. But there is a moral lesson to be learned in all of this. As we all ponder values this season, remember that treating each other with fairness and respect is not just for special occasions. In this spirit, I urge you: leave the half-off Barbie dolls for those who need them and, for the love of God, go easy on the balls.

Dec 11, 2011

A Ride to Remember

Today I present the 100th entry to this blog. And while I admit the quality of the material on here varies greatly, I will say I think I nailed it for this milestone post.

You see, I got the chance to ride in a Tucker while on vacation in Los Angeles. I'm only half-joking when I say my life will never be the same.



Now what the hell am I gonna do for the 200th?

Nov 24, 2011

And...News as it Happened

Recent blog posts have recounted events of minor disasters in and about my Hudson Terrace apartment building (see the transformer explosion and the noxious fume invasion). These festive themes, today's holiday, and my inexplicable fascination with Fort Lee in general and my neighborhood in particular, have inspired this entry about Saturday's 75th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the building which housed the original Riviera nightclub. A building, of course, formerly located within yards of my apartment.

The Hudson Terrace property was originally a restaurant/nightspot called the Villa Richard. It was opened in 1909 by a chef named Jean Richard, previously of NYC's famed Delmonico's. It enjoyed a lively three-decade run, including a raid in 1929 for suspicion of being a bordello, before Richard leased it to Ben Marden.

Marden would renovate the property and operate it as the Riviera from 1931 until its destruction five years later on a cold Thanksgiving night.

The following is an account of the fire as reported in the Hudson Valley’s Kingston Daily Freeman newspaper on November 27, 1936.

Fort Lee, N. J., Nov. 27. (AP) -- Smoldering ruins was about all that remained today of BEN MARDEN'S Riviera night club atop the Palisades overlooking New York City. 
Fire Chief FRANK SCHMIDT sought the cause of a fire which broke out last night in the 35-year-old wooden structure and spread so quickly that Fort Lee's four fire companies, reinforced by two from Englewood Cliffs, could do little. 
MARDEN valued the building and contents at $250,000, and Chief SCHMIDT said the loss would approximate $200,000. Only 10 per cent of the damage was covered by insurance, MARDEN said.
The building, which had been closed for the winter two weeks ago, was open yesterday for MARDEN'S annual distribution of 500 Thanksgiving baskets to poor families.
JOHN TIERNEY, a Fort Lee volunteer fireman, was overcome by ammonia fumes when the resort's refrigerating plant exploded. He was revived by fellow firemen. 
The Riviera, near the end of George Washington Bridge, was built about 35 years ago and was operated for 30 years as the Villa Richard.
# # #

While the fire put an end to the first chapter of the Riviera, it would also ensure the rest of the story would attain legendary status. The tragedy, whose flames and smoke could be seen from both sides of the Hudson River, literally set the stage for the establishment of the new Riviera and a totally new era of nightclub entertainment.

The new Riviera was built a smidgen south of the original spot, closer to the George Washington Bridge. And this time it would be an Art Deco masterpiece complete with a retractable roof, revolving dance floor and bandstand, and plenty of room for illegal gambling.

History states it was a worthy rival to all the NYC hot spots of the day: drawing top talent, attracting notable and notorious patrons, and pioneering a new style of lavish performance (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, elaborate chorus numbers, etc.) that would later become the cornerstone of "golden age" Las Vegas entertainment.

It would operate until 1953 (with a several-year break due to rationing during WWII) when it was demolished to make room for the construction of the Palisades Interstate Parkway. And though the closing of the new Riviera may not have been due to a blaze, the club certainly went out with a bang. The last show—on October 4th, 1953— featured Eddie Fisher and Henny Youngman.

Just another example of really cool stuff that got its start in Fort Lee.

Here is pre-Riviera photo of the Villa Richard, © PIP-NJ Archives:



And a post-Villa Richard, post-Riviera, present day photo of the remnants (Hudson Terrace @ Myrtle Ave), © me:


Nov 21, 2011

News as it Happens Pt. 2

There was a carbon monoxide emergency at our building tonight. No one was hurt, but we don't have heat or hot water as the Fort Lee Fire Department believes the boiler is the culprit.

This video was taken from the front entrance and my balcony.

Nov 20, 2011

Lone Nut

Tonight, the cable channel which has brought the American people such gems as Rocket City Rednecks and The Dog Whisperer is set to air yet another JFK assassination special. This hour-long program, entitled JFK: The Lost Bullet, is purported to support the asinine notion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

It seems journalist and JFK assassination expert Max Holland has given hi-definition treatment to the Zapruder film and other images to shoot down the “grassy knoll” theory and debunk, among other assumptions, the widely-accepted timeline of the events of November 22, 1963. He will do this by presenting never-before-seen evidence, including interviews with witnesses who have been silent for years. Years, hopefully, not spent developing early-onset dementia.

A preview of the special in the New York Times promises it will also feature a reenactment of the shooting which will involve laser technology. I am ultra-psyched about this because if I see one more watermelon (or Jello mold loosely fashioned to resemble JFK’s head) get mercilessly annihilated by a Carcano rifle, I will flip my pillbox hat.

I suppose by now it’s not a secret that I believe the taking down of our 35th President was absolutely not the work of one man. And, honestly, who knows whether that is due to the facts, my naturally skeptical nature and fertile imagination, or my relentless conditioning by everyone from NPR to Oliver Stone to the Reelz Channel.

Really, is my allegiance to the “conspiracy side” any more justified than those persuaded by the Warren Commission Report? There can be a million reenactments, I don’t think we will ever know the truth. But as my skull currently houses a brain, not gelatin, I stick to my guns…er…opinion.

Regardless, I will watch the special. Not because I have an open mind about this issue, but because it has been quite a while since I’ve enjoyed a good comedy.

I still can’t believe that 48 years later folks like Holland are still trying to sell this bullshit to us on the TV. If you are interested, the special airs on the NatGeo Channel at 9PM tonight. They will also be repeating it on the paid programming nework at 2AM.

Here’s the preview:

Nov 5, 2011

Don't be Afraid of the Dark

Tonight brings an end to Daylight Savings Time. A sad occurrence in and of itself as daylight seems to be the only thing Americans have the ability to save these days.

This antiquated ritual of "fall back" makes our already too short days seem even shorter and is a harbinger of the many long and cold nights ahead. The only upside is that we all (well, except for those holdouts in AZ) get an extra hour of much needed sleep tonight.

So when you're driving to and from work in the dark come Monday, just remember that there are only 106 days until pitchers and catchers report. But until Spring Training comes around to impart optimism for a new season seemingly full of possibilities, let's chill (literally) and try not to be afraid of the darkness outside...or within ourselves.

As the fellow below once said, "The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything."

Oct 29, 2011

News as it Happens

I heard something that sounded like gun shots...which would be at least slightly unusual mid-afternoon. Turns out a transformer on Hudson Terrace just burst into flames. Here it is from my balcony:



Apologies for the intermittent "finger interference," but I was ultra freaked out and not exactly looking through the lens.

Oh, and please watch the whole thing...it gets very interesting at about the :20 mark.

Moscow on the Hudson

...and I'm glad they got their kite flying in yesterday, because this is what Hudson Terrace looks like today:


I suppose the upside is that now all the Christmas shit that's already on the shelves at Walgreens (despite the fact that it's still pre-Halloween) no longer seems particularly out of place.

Oct 28, 2011

Walk in the Park

 No weird subtext here. Just a nice photo of Koreans flying their kites.

Oct 27, 2011

Really Shot

An ounce of prevention, my ass.

I got a flu shot on Tuesday and developed an "inflammatory response" at the injection site. The Dr. says it shouldn't last more than a week and that this temporary discomfort is ultimately "worth it" because "flu sucks." I snapped this about an hour ago (it's Thursday) as he also told me to take a picture to monitor if it gets any bigger. You know, like if it engulfs my entire body.


It's gonna be a looooooooong season, folks. Bundle up, eat your vegetables, and get your fucking flu shot.

Oct 24, 2011

First In, Last Out

Champion Film Studios was the first permanent movie studio built to accommodate Fort Lee's once bustling motion picture industry. It was established in 1910 and run by pioneer and studio executive, Mark Dintenfass.

Its off-the-beaten-path location (at the dead end of 5th Street in the Coytesville neighborhood) and industrial appearance was indeed by design. Champion was an independent film studio and, as such, was attractive pickens for the prying peepers of the Motion Picture Patents Company (AKA the Edison Trust). By keeping a low profile, Champion hoped to elude Edison’s men who were known to impose unfair licensing fees and to rely on the muscle of organized crime to collect them.

In fact, it wasn’t just the year-round pleasant weather and ample land that lured the film industry to Hollywood. Filmmakers found the cross-country distance helped make “enforcement” by the NJ-based MPPC more difficult.


In 1912, Dintenfass began a stint as an executive at the newly-formed, now famed Universal Film Manufacturing Company. And his studio, along with two other Fort Lee independents, Éclair and Nestor, became part of the Universal family. For several years following, the Champion building was used for the making of film shorts (“Universal East”) as Hollywood's new Universal City facilitated the production of feature films.

Today, the Champion building is currently the oldest standing studio structure in the US. It was fashioned to look like a factory and in this case, function followed form: in more recent years it was used as a printing facility. Now, it’s either abandoned or an OSHA wet dream. See for yourself:



As for the Edison Trust, a federal court terminated the organization in 1918. But by then it was too late for film to return to Fort Lee.


Completely random detail: the old Champion property currently shares a lot with A-1 Taxi, who just happened to have a car parked next to mine this evening in back of the sushi joint where I pick up my dinner on Mondays.


.

Oct 18, 2011

Cinema Verite

So, my car died on the way home tonight. Although the whole thing kind of sucked, I figured I'd make some weird videos of the towing process. Then I thought to take it a step further by naming the clips and giving them descriptions à la the TV Guide.

Enjoy.

The Breakdown Pt. 1: Admitting You Have a Problem (2011)
Description: A 2005 Chrysler Crossfire gets "hooked" on Lemoine Ave in Fort Lee, NJ.
(Director's note - see a tow truck towing a tow truck at the :56 mark.) 


The Breakdown Pt. 2: Getting Help (2011)
Description: After a flatbed intervention, a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire starts down the road to recovery.

Oct 17, 2011

Pretty Bird

Sunday’s harvest weather yielded a trip into the City for a fruitless visit to my 4th favorite Chanel boutique. Ah, SoHo. A neighborhood where you can find numerous $5K+ jackets on the racks but nary a roll of toilet paper in the bathrooms.

The name “SoHo” is said to refer to the district’s location: South of Houston Street. But I maintain it’s a Lenape word for “tinderbox” or “stuck up” – I’m not exactly sure which.

The area has a solid past as an artists’ mecca, but the rise of upscale boutiques (and the Kardashians) has turned the neighborhood into 26 blocks of serious shopping and champagne sipping all jam-packed into some very interesting and historically-protected architecture.  

Opposite the shop fronts, table vendors line the streets. Wares include the typical: t-shirts, knock-off accessories, souvenir prints of City landmarks, and this:


Yes, a finger puppet stand.

Where else but in New York’s stylish SoHo can you find so many fashionable, hand-crafted options to dress up your middle finger?

Oct 15, 2011

Got Your Number

This is one doozy of a pick-up and an all-around fantastic scene from The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

It’s probably the most bizarre introduction I’ve seen on screen. But how could it not be? Really, how else is a gal gonna get the attention of a guy with a touch of Delirium Tremens aside from kind of hypnotizing him?



One bit of trivia: Rosie's number, ELdorado 5-9970, was once a telephone company test number that would give a busy signal when dialed. Remember busy signals?

Oct 13, 2011

Paging Dr. Mengele

I saw this rather odd call for "volunteers" for a clinical study in the local paper today:


The part of the ad you can't see says that by participating in this study you have the potential to help thousands of people live healthier, happier lives. Presumably by being pumped with some serious DNA-altering poison. Or happy pills, as the graphic implies.

I won't even hazard to guess why folks have to meet these requirements to take part in this experiment. Maybe the lab is just trying to preserve a "sterile" environment.

Oct 9, 2011

Suspended

Please do not read anything into the fact that I've been hanging out on my building's roof deck and on neighborhood overpasses. Not to mention obsessing over the GWB. It's just that they provide highly textured backdrops for reflection...and photos.

As architectural structures, suspension bridges and concrete overpasses serve as impressive industrial matchmakers that facilitate the polygamist marriage of the sky with both water and earth.

And, like all marriages, the results may be soothingly serene...



...or completely chaotic.

Oct 1, 2011

No Dumping, Please!


If that doesn't make you scratch your head, look at the next one. In comparison, what -- in the name of all that is unholy -- could have been scribbled at the top of the bin that was SO bad that someone actually had to spray over it?


I guess all this proves is that it really does take a "big man" to give to charity.

Sep 18, 2011

Moonlighting

As young Catholic school kids, we were taught that God is everywhere. The nuns would repeatedly tell us to always be kind to even the lowliest of souls as one can never know when Jesus might be "disguised" as a beggar or some other hard-luck character.

Good thing I had this lesson beaten into my consciousness, because it helped me prepare for a "vision" I beheld at the tattoo shop on Friday.

In fact, I snapped a photo of this ink parlor "sculpture" as I thought it was odd -- not because I recognized the plastic artist as anyone in particular. It was only after I photographed the second image during my afternoon walk about town that I made the connection.



I know times are tough all over, but come on. If anyone can "save" the economy...

Sep 14, 2011

Half-Baked

I’ve been making a habit of breaking up my workday by ducking into the chapel on my way to lunch. It’s usually a given that I’ll have the place all to myself (surveillance camera notwithstanding) and the dim quiet, cheap religious paraphernalia, and rare chance to experience that floral-musty smell that is too often reserved only for funeral parlors have strangely become a bit of comfort in my over-stimulated world.

Sometimes I do what one is expected to do in such a place, which is to entertain impure thoughts. Other times, I earnestly meditate on aspects of my life and try to summon guidance -- or at least try to summon the courage to consume whatever is being served in the cafeteria. But on days like today, I just stare at the crucified Christ and think of random crap.

Like light bulbs...and the iconic Easy-Bake Oven. Sure they both throw off heat, but that’s not where I’m going with this.

For nearly half-a-century, the most successful toy oven -- launched by Kenner in 1963 -- used the heat of a 100 watt incandescent light bulb to cook miniature sugar cookies. And, by extension, propagated an anti-feminist agenda.


The changing times would appear to have been the death knell of the Easy-Bake Oven. As more women entered the workplace, or were otherwise encouraged to "marry up," home economics-themed toys took a backseat and sales slumped. Our increasingly litigious society even forced a recall of the product when kids began burning their fingers and otherwise setting playrooms ablaze. Furthermore, formerly fun foods like artificially flavored sugar cookies were deemed unsafe at any size. And now, it would seem the final blow has been delivered to the perennial Christmas gift favorite as governments worldwide are outlawing the incandescent bulb.

Thank you, Al Gore.

But things are not always as they seem, as I found out while reading the day’s news.

See, just as my chapel buddy Jesus rose from the dead, so has the Easy-Bake Oven. Hasbro (who bought Kenner, another sign o’ the times) announced today they are releasing a new, bulb-less streamlined version of the oven. Outfitted with a "heating element," as opposed to an old-fashioned light bulb, the new gadget will appeal to "young chefs" and feature "trendier snacks" to reflect the modern culture.

Now, I say this whole redesign is a goddamn sham. If they really wanted to mirror modern culture, they would have included a housekeeper.

Sep 12, 2011

...Of Good and de Ville



I took some video with my iPhone over Labor Day weekend as John drove us around Manhattan in the Cadillac. This is how it began. Hear me sound like a complete bitch at about the 1 minute mark.

I swear there was nothing stronger than coffee involved...this really is proof that I shouldn't leave the house.

Sep 10, 2011

I Think I Can...

I found this in the parking lot outside my gym. I've heard of "Divine Intervention"...but "Divine Motivation"? Eh.

Sep 6, 2011

Portion Control

Every so often I get sucked into the vacuum of what I call NPRworld. A place where people spend a disproportionate amount of time telling people how culturally relevant they are instead of actually doing culturally relevant shit. I'm not gonna lie, it's a place full of people I envy.

Last week, Fresh Air featured a strange(r than usual) interview with Grant Achatz. I had no idea who he was either. He is a Chicago-based chef and restaurateur (I still don’t understand why owners of restaurants get their own word) who is a tongue cancer survivor. He also had two books published, so I assume he is an author too.

But the reason he was on the show was to discuss his approach to food. He does not approach it with a fork and knife, or even chopsticks, the way the rest of us do. No, this is NPRworld. And this cat’s claim to fame is “molecular gastronomy.”

So, to quote Nuke LaLoosh, “What's all this molecule stuff?”

According to Wikipedia, molecular gastronomy is “a modern style of cooking, which takes advantage of innovations from the scientific discipline.” In practical terms – and I use the term “practical” with some hesitation – this means he does things like freeze edibles that usually don’t solidify due to very low freezing points (he specifically mentioned olive oil lollipops). He also accompanies certain dishes with a perforated pillow case designed to release fragrances, such as leather and firewood ashes, while diners eat. It sounds to me like the performance art version of date night – dinner at Pizzeria Yoko Ono. But to those who know a hell of a lot more about these things than I do, it’s some pretty groundbreaking stuff.


Now for the most important question…“why?”

It seems that by rendering (my word, not his) food and enhancing the dining experience in such unusual ways, eating becomes elevated to an intellectual exercise. This may be complicating things a bit much, but then again I read that reservations for one of his restaurants can go for $500 on Craigslist. I’m assuming that’s not prix fixe either.

Food for thought?

Some things I guess I am just not meant to understand.

One matter he did touch upon that I kind of wondered about was why “gourmet” portions are traditionally so miniscule. I’ve always assumed it had something to do with backlash against today’s mega-mart mindset. Rare for the sake of being rare – a sort of market fixing. But what he said on the subject was interesting: it’s not necessarily about the scarcity of ingredients, it’s about their usefulness. And it’s actually a great life lesson.

The reason, he stated, his meat course is only two ounces has nothing to do with nutritional sustainance. It’s because after ten bites, the palate is done experiencing its flavor profile. To take the plate to 15 or 20 bites is simply overkill. There is only so much “sensation” one can take before the experience is ruined by excess.

Kind of like listening to too much NPR.

Aug 22, 2011

Pyramid Scheme

Back in June, the USDA demolished the “Food Pyramid” in favor of a new place setting-type icon that illustrates which food groups should be present on your plate and the approximate area of your dish they should occupy. Maybe you’ve seen it:


It’s been branded “MyPlate” (yes, one word). Seemingly an attempt to capitalize, yet not overtly infringe, on the popularity of Apple products while encouraging the consumption of actual apples.

This particular diagram gave me flashbacks to my high school home economics/cooking class where they taught us how to properly set a table. This was also the class where the instructor eschewed the traditional butcher's chart and got on all fours to demonstrate where, in terms of anatomy, various cuts of beef came from. She was Canadian.

We all know the country (I’m referring to the US, in spite of the aforementioned high school teacher) is quickly going down the tubes. And while public health is certainly a worthy priority, I could not help but wonder what exactly the hell was so wrong with the food pyramid that taxpayer funds needed to be spent on this bullshit. I mean, people have been ignoring it forever, right?

Wrong.

After some research, I discovered that the food pyramid--unlike the Egyptian pyramids--was neither ancient nor set in stone. In fact, it actually underwent a renovation not too long ago. In 2005, the number of food groups was increased to six and steps (along with a little running stick figure) were added to the left incline to illustrate the importance of exercise. For those of you wondering, the original 1992 edition included just four food groups and contained no reference to physical activity. Obviously, this first pyramid pre-dated widespread high-speed Internet access.

As to my original question of why we needed to mess with the damn thing in the first place: well, it turns out governmental health experts deemed ANY food pyramid to be “confusing.”

I wonder where public education falls on the “fix it” list.

I’m no nutrition expert or health nut, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the concept of adding food groups. This smacks of slippery slope to me. And I’ve seen evidence.

You see, one of my favorite after work activities involves going to the local A&P Fresh, copping a cup of coffee (which should be a food group, btw) from the in-house Starbucks and skulking the aisles. Over the past few months I’ve been noticing an increasing number of products touting the nutritional benefits of the “healthier” foods from which they're derived. These are pretty straightforward: fruit drinks, vegetable juices, and processed cheese logs (as much calcium as a glass of milk!), etc.

But I've also witnessed a slew of new products that really have no relation to the foods whose nutrients they are claiming to possess.

Exhibits A & B:




Cookies instead of blueberries? Pasta instead of vegetables? I mean at least Velveeta has something to do with milk, right? But this other stuff is just madness.

Maybe it’s just a matter of time before “whole grain whiskey” helps me reach my RDA of fiber intake and “Omega 3 cheese pizza” allows me to abandon fish oil capsules.

From the looks of this (Exhibit C), cough drops now "count" as fruit, so who the hell knows:


But hey, USDA: when it’s time to redeisgn that MyPlate icon to include a new section for food groups that masquerade as, well, other food groups (or if you just need to add Soylent Green)…I freelance.

Aug 6, 2011

Post Parade

Harness racing fans know the first Saturday in August as “Hambletonian Day” at the Meadowlands. While arguably the year's most exciting day of standardbred racing, it’s usually hot as balls (sorry geldings) and somewhat of a mob scene. So, I typically just watch on the TV. But today—overcast with thunderstorms looming—it was neither hot nor totally obnoxious. I went.

Thanks to technology, this was certainly the most leisurly racetrack experience I've ever had. You see, as I've got my brand new iPhone all hooked up to my internet wagering account, there is no need to scurry about to tellers or autobet machines. That gave me plenty of time to walk around and take in the sights.

Ah, the sights. The usual suspects—derelicts, ass-crack guys, catcher’s mitt faces with pinky rings—were all present and accounted for (no shit, I sat next to a guy with a gold ID bracelet with the name "Vito" in all diamonds). But as this was a festive "family friendly" event my eyes also feasted on drunk young dads with their face-painted toddlers as well as some monstrosity of a cake by the “Cake Boss” guy that was baked (designed? erected?) to resemble the Big M grandstand. In fact, I got a raffle ticket that entitled me to a piece of said monster cake if horse #2 won the big race. It didn’t, thank God.

Anyway, back to my walking around. Leave it to me to hone right in on the “Drive to Win” traveling exhibit on loan from the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Way to turn a day of sin into an educational excursion!

According to their (the HRHOF's) website:
“This exhibit celebrates the drivers and trainers who make every race possible, but through circumstance, choice, design or fate, did not rise to stardom.”
So, in other words, the working stiffs of racing. I can't really see this concept working for any other industry or sport, but I digress.

One driver/trainer in particular that caught my attention was Phyllis Smith Page of Gardiner, ME. It seems she was a pretty badass broad who drove and/or trained horses for over 250 events in her home state by the time she was 21. And this was in the 1940s!


The too brief write up basically praised her dedication to pro racing at a time when it was largely a man’s domain (still is, in my opinion). And while it stated that she actively encouraged women to contribute to the sport of standardbred racing, it offered a very interesting quote that she relayed to a reporter back in the day: “It would be more of a thrill to beat a woman than to beat a man.”

So much for the sisterhood of the traveling jodhpurs. Me-ow.

As for this woman’s contribution to the sport…strictly financial. More bad picks than I’ll ever admit to and a couple of $6 beers.

Jul 27, 2011

Mailing It In

Today I read this totally random article about the so-called “Covers Scandal” that moon rocked NASA in 1971. And, no, this had nothing to do with sexual harassment or gays in the shuttle program.

Stupid story short: a couple of Apollo 15 astronauts took some 400 postage-stamped envelopes (called first-day covers, hence the name of the scandal) into space with the intention of selling them as souvenirs upon their return. When NASA brass found out, they confiscated the covers and publicly “disgraced” the spacemen for unauthorized shenanigans. At least I think that was the official charge. Anyway, the naughty ‘nauts ultimately had the last laugh as it turns out government confiscation of their personal property is against, like, the Constitution. Though I can see how a government agency could overlook something so complex.


Now, usually I’d tuck info like this snuggly into the “who gives a shit?” brain file – you know, the one that makes me a hoot in intimate social settings yet prevents the sticky build-up of any specialized, useful knowledge. But not this time.

This article made me think: if astronauts can’t even have good, clean, fun at work...then really, what hope do the rest of us have? They put their lives at risk by being shot into outer space via government rockets, goddamit! Juxtaposed the crap that has gone on at NASA in more recent years, this covers business is so harmless a “scandal” that it almost sounds made up. Shit, they didn't even have Ebay in 1971. How were they even gonna unload the cosmic covers?

Back to my point. I know how unnecessarily crazy work makes some folks. (This became apparent recently when I actually said, out loud, “Yes, we have no bananas” during a team meeting, and had to be talked out of posting “Arbeit Macht Frei” above my cubicle.) And this doesn’t have to be. I won’t lay out specifics because I suspect if you’re reading this you already know (and probably share) my opinions on how the modern workplace has stretched the outer limits of common sense.

 
I just feel sorry for us. And for those philatelist pilots.

NASA Space Transport System, R.I.P (7/21/2011)

Jul 25, 2011

Out to Lunch

How could a day that began with such sights as these end with a trip to the emergency room for a matter completely NOT related to food or airborne bacterial/viral-infection?



God, I love the shore!

Jul 15, 2011

What a Character

I have a confession to make. When things get tough, I don’t always seek solace in my friends, family, or even my husband. In fact, there is another man.

I am not proud of this truth, but it’s time I own up to it. You see, in times of emotional overload I find myself turning to Kevin Costner. Well, not Kevin Costner exactly…Kevin Costner films.

Until fairly recently, I never thought of myself as much of a fan of the actor let alone acknowledged his filmography as an anodyne. I’m not sure how it happened (that’s what they always say, isn’t it?), but over the years it became clear. No matter how bad things are, a good Costner flick is sure-fire means to make things better for 2 hours...or more in the case of JFK.

While I’d be hard pressed to name a favorite overall film (because the honest answer is “it depends”), there is certainly one thing I can rank. Three things, actually. And those are the “Top 3 Kevin Costner Characters I’d Fall for in Real Life.”

So without further build up, I bring you this list borne out of boredom with the nonmovie-like constraints of everyday living.


3. Jim Garrison* (JFK): I not only dig the Ronsirs, sir, but the worldview you see through them: shit yeah, it’s a conspiracy! You’re a seeker of Truth & Justice. You can recognize faults in the system, but still believe in its principles. You have faith, but will never drink the Kool-Aid. As a natural leader and maverick, you possess bold ideas and the ability to execute them (prosecutor joke). But while your tenacity is a turn-on, you seem all too susceptible to the slippery slope into all-out stubbornness. Plus, you overwork your staff. Pass.


2. Ray Kinsella (Field of Dreams): What is not to love? You are warm, loving, nurturing, and know when to follow your intuition. You are the catalyst for second chances: yours, your family’s (even the dead ones), Mann’s, Moonlight Graham’s, Shoeless Joe’s, etc. And, Goddamn it, you love you some baseball. My only hesitancy is that sans supernatural intervention, you would have eventually grown deeply dissatisfied with your life. We can’t go around depending on the supernatural, can we? And you kinda did put your livelihood at risk with all that dream-chasing. What if the “voice” turned out to be complications from a brain tumor? Oooh, I smell an alternate ending.


1. Crash Davis (Bull Durham): Ah, yes...the intelligent, witty, sexy catcher who’s a straight-shooter to boot. Bet you didn’t see this coming. You’re a man of knowledge and experience but, more importantly, experiences. You accept your lot as the “player to be named later” today with an understanding that you are working for tomorrow. No doubt you’ll be back in the “show”...as a manager. And that suits you better anyhow. You teach without preaching and you can make your point understood even to the numbest of skulls. You’re cool on the surface, but inside you’re white-hot with passion about what matters to you. Oh, Crash...your character is probably just as “realistic” as Ray Kinsella’s, but with a mouth that can (at the very least) dish dialog like this, who gives a shit?

We all deserve a bit of fantasy.

* Yeah, I know this is based on a real person. This analysis applies strictly to the movie Garrison.

Jul 5, 2011

When You Least Expect It

Following a pretty non-eventful visit to the chiropractor and breakfast with friends, we took a ride through some of the industrial streets in between where we were coming from and where we were going.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a baby blue and chrome SOMETHING in the parking lot of a pedestrian pizza place plaza in Little Ferry. 

"Turn around!" I yelled. "What, what..?" "Just go back, I saw something in that lot."


Now, there are about three people out there who will "get" this...but yes, it's a 1952 Hudson Hornet. And yes, it was FABULOUS.

Unfortunately, the owner wasn't (at least at that moment, he seemed more interested in his Italian take-out than gawkers). He didn't really want to answer any questions or stick around to let us take any more photographs. 

We did hear it start up, though. After a couple of tries, it was off...

Jun 26, 2011

The Best is Yet to Come...

Yesterday, we took a ride down to Sinful Art Tattoo in NJ to get some fantastic and unique ink done by Amy Nicoletto. She's on the TV show LA Ink as a member of the "other" shop, American Electric, for those of you playing along.

It was well worth the 2.5 hour (each way) trip: the tattoos are the perfect blend of badass and beautiful, and the staff was super friendly. As a bonus, they have Wawa stores in that area so we had some great coffee to boot.

My piece is very sore and ruddy, so I'm not going to post photos yet. It's also in a difficult-to-photograph area as it wraps around the curvier part of my calf (yeah, it's bigger than I was thinking it would be). So stay tuned...

But I will post a few snapshots of the surrounding sights so you can soak in the Sinful Art ambient experience. Here we go!


The shop was formerly a garage. They no longer service cars (this may seem obvious, but someone actually asked one of the artists if they could fix her windshield). Oddly, they do sell propane, as evidenced by the flammables cage on the right. This is in contrast to just regular "pain" -- for which I opted.

****


If you need a breather from your tattoo, you can always take a walk accross the street to the "Kashmir Gentlemen's Club." (Side note: the "i" in "Kashmir" is comprised of the silhouette of a naked lady. God, I love great design!)

Judging from the shitbox central that doubled as their parking lot, I surmised either: A) no gentlemen were in attendance; or B) they were all so discrete that they rented rust-buckets to pose incognito. I imagine scenario "B" works well in such situations. I mean, who wants to attract a stripper who is only interested in money or cars? Good thinking, gentlemen.

****


Oh, and this Airstream-ish thing drove by. No significance; I just don't see shit like this often.

****

Anyway. When the day was done (we started at 1 PM and finished somewhere in the 7 PM hour), I figured I'd ask for a photo with Amy. As she'd been working all day and I was experiencing some level of what I can best describe as "pain-induced body shock," we really couldn't get a great photo going. Thus, we agreed on this one and I promised to publish in black and white.


And, like the title of this post reads...the best is yet to come. Once this sucker heals up, I'll throw some photos up here.

Jun 23, 2011

Looking Up

Today I found myself smiling up at a hallway security camera. Not because I’ve come to terms with the fact that we live in a scared, stressed, and sinister society of surveillance, but because I truly expect someone to jump out and say “Smile...you’re on Candid Camera.”

Any day now...c’mon...