Thursday, April 24, 2008

The not-so Great Pyramid

Surfing the web you find all sorts of random crap.  For instance I found what would have been the tallest Hotel in the world, if it hadn't been made of sub-standard concrete that renders it unsafe to be finished (according to the internets, I don't know that it's 100% true; don't sue).  It's in North Korea and looms over the capitol city of Pyongyang, yet is airbrushed out of official photos and local tour guides profess not to have heard of it, despite the fact that it can be seen practically anyplace anywhere in the city.  Most of the websites about it get tiresome about pointing out that there was no way that North Korea with it's restrictive policy about outsiders visiting would never be able to actually fill it up, or that being made of local beach sand and water, the concrete is crumbling (a mistake that no less that Frank Lloyd Wright made, just on a much smaller scale on 60 years earlier); general Schadenfreude about a poor Communist country overreaching and falling flat on it's collective puss.

But you know what?  I love it.  I love the Blade Runner meets Towering Inferno wackiness of its design.  Whatever one has to say about the government of North Korea, and what one would have to say would be less than polite, one does have to give a tip of the chapeau to the hubris involved.  If finishing it is out of the question then I say embrace it, don't ignore it.  Plant it with shrubs and moss, make it the worlds largest terrarium.  Add soil and trees and flowers and it could go from a 105 storey embarrassment to a source of national pride; the ultimate story of taking a lemon and making lemonade: the worlds largest air-freshener, green living at its finest.

And to those who titter at the hubris of the attempt?  Admit it- if Steve Wynn or Donald Trump dropped this down off the strip and cloaked in reflective gold glass, you'd be there.  Happily losing your shirt.  I'd happily get my inner Eldon Tyrell on in it myself..

Sunday, April 20, 2008

One for the Kiddies

I am, as most of you know, childless.  Not that I loathe them mind you; I have a godchild to whom I am devoted.  I've even taken her and a gaggle of her school chums to the Getty for an afternoon.  That's right, get your mind around that: your Pansy and 6 or 8 12 year old girls.  Without a net, or even a valium, and I lived to tell the tale.

My godchild, I am happy to say, is a well raised child, with excellent manners.  Even as a tot, she never threw a public tantrum, much less a salt shaker.  I would like to think that in part is because both myself and her mother had long mastered "the Look".  I remember "the Look" from it being (thankfully infrequently) levelled at me by my own mother.  It was a look that said "what you are doing at this moment is very much displeasing to me, and I suggest you stop it forthwith.  Since, if you do not I will be forced to remove you from these premises and you will incur punishment that will be as hideous as it will be impossible to prosecute"  Mother was a master of "the Look" and was unafraid to use in on her children, other children, bank officers or even small appliances, almost all of whom would fall into line.  Being a precocious child unto the diabolical, I took notes.

Sadly, I think "the Look" is going out of fashion.  At lunch at a mid-priced restaurant this weekend there were several couples with children (not babies- if they're in pampers I don't expect them to tow that line) who apparently didn't feel that having a screaming fit was enough to warrant removal from the room (couple A) or that (couple B) since little Beezie and Wendyo (props to Erma Bombeck) were merely throwing food and hitting and not reaching for the cutlery yet and really getting gangsta on each others a$$es, there was no reason to actually intervene.  Luckily, there was patio dining and it wasn't actively raining.  Yet.

I noticed the phenomenon on "The Real Housewives of New York".  One of the couples brought their tow-haired little moppet to a gathering at "21".  One of the other guests, the boyfriend of one of the housewives was there after 48 hours or so at work, detouring from his oncoming coma to show the rest of the viperous "friends" of his girlfriend that they had not broken up.  All he needed to be able to stand by his woman was one of "21"'s famous burgers.  Before he could manage to get more that a bite said moppet went at his burger with a fork in a manner that would make Freddie Kruger re-enroll in supernatural serial killer school for an emergency refresher course in remedial hacking and slashing.  Parent's reaction?  Mom smiles vaguely at the wallpaper and dad asks boyfriend "You have son's don't you?  So you know the story.."  Yeah buddy, what I know if I was in the boyfriends position I would be seriously be thinking of bailing on the burger and feasting on Moppet Tartare...

Or at the very least, employing "the Look"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Roll me over in the Clover

I don't know how many of you have heard of the big new gadget in professional coffee makers- the Clover. Now, having first heard about the price and the fact that it was basically a drip coffee maker I thought "$11000 for a Mr. Coffee? A la guillotine!" But of course being a reasonable chap (quiet, you!) I thought I would try before I judged. I went to the coffee shop in my area that had one of the machines, only to run accross a note reading that they didn't have one anymore because of problems with it. But yesterday I met friends at a place in Silverlake called LA Mill that does indeed feature not one but two of the machines. The first thing that struck me was the size of the things. At first I thought that the hammered-copper covered behemoths the size of a small Datsun had to be the fabulous Clover. I was wrong. The Clovers, side by side were drab rust colored things, about the size of a breadbox. I know, you're thinking "size queen" right about now. Well, you are right, but still. I was waiting for my friends and perused the coffee menu. Choosing one of the less expensive brews I awaited this transportive cuppa. What I got was.. a nice cup of joe. Not the be-all-and-end-all of the coffee experience. Not coffee as I had never tasted coffee before. Frankly, not even something that was that much better than the coffee I'd head earlier in the week that my friend Sue served me. Perhaps my unsophisticated plebian palate was not up to the task of discerning the fine gradients of why this cup was the penulitmate cup of coffee, the Apollonian ideal of brewed divinity. Perhaps if I had not been a cheap bastard and chosen the more expensive beans- the ones that Juan Valdez hand-carried down from the mountain and personally roasted individually in his hand-fired roasting pit I would understand the miracle that a coffee machine that costs more than my last automobile had wrought. As it is I thought it was nice, but needed the splosh of cream and a touch of sugar.

The main thing I thought is not even that this particular emperor is running around nekkid- it was a nice cup of coffee and certainly Starbucks wouldn't go to the trouble of buying the whole company if there wasn't something to the thing that I perhaps was not necessarily seeing in my $3.50 cup of coffee. No, the thing that struck me is that I am sure that there are some homeowners here with more money than sense who will buy one of these things for their homes: the kind of people who have kitchens with Cluny 1400's, a Miele dishwasher and a Sub-Zero the size of a motor home but still really exists on Hot Pockets and Starbucks.

Which I suppose means in my heart of heats that I am clover-green with envy...

Image: University of Wyoming

Monday, April 14, 2008

Down but not (quite yet) out in Beverly Hills

I wrote in an earlier post about our local drama of over-development in our small city.  I've found a blog that has far more to say on the subject (which has more twists, turns, duplicity and international intrigue that all 200 years of Dallas, Dynasty and Knots Landing put together): you are welcome to peruse Blog Beverly Hills, and marvel at the drama.  marvel also at the XXL-sized cojones of the man that writes it.  I bow to him.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The downturn of the Food Network.

I've written before about the Food Porn that is the Food Network, right?  I've noticed that the network seems more interested in having shows with the products of the winners of their reality TV shows recently: less Nigella and Bobby Flay and more Guy Fieri..  Color me snobby, but I don't think that following Guy and his Gay-ten-years-ago bleached crop in a Camaro to visit various point'n'grunts is quite the same level as Julia, or Ina, or Gaida or for that matter hot pockets.  It's to be hoped that the Food Network realises that we want it to be somewhat aspirational: Paula Deen makes me want to visit; I want to spend an afternoon in her warm Southern embrace and have her feed me something caloric and I want Ina to adopt me, or pair me off with the hot gay BFF.  Guy I just want to strap down and force upon his hair some Lazartigue carrot oil and a mousse-ectomy, and perhaps for his own good a colonic or twelve...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Original 30-Minute Meals

Am I the last person on earth that didn't know that "The French Chef" was out on DVD? I am delving into the first set of DVD's; disc one, which I watched last night was a trip. You are literally watching Julia single-handedly (with one camera and a push-button controlled electric range top that must have made her cringe) create modern food television as we know it. The first episode is about potatoes, and has the infamous moment where her attempt to flip a dish gets more of it on the rangetop than in the pan. Unflappable, she merrily scoops it back into the pan, telling us in her plummy tones "no one will ever know!"

The funny thing is that these are both time-capsules and yet not. Some of the episodes are so old they seem like kinescopes- complete with almost-round frame. Hardly a fresh herb is in sight; Julia suggest growing ones own herbs with the timidity that one would usually reserve for suggesting one perform one's own appendectomy. The cooking equipment is shockingly rudimentary and the ingredient lists tiny and rather narrow in this age of Williams Sonoma and heirloom tomatoes being available everywhere and everyone knowing about the joys of EVOO and "Essence". There is the aforementioned push-button range, and Julia introduces us to a wire whisk and knife-sharpening and onion-slicing and boullabaisse with whole cooked fish and god help us eel. Which in 1962 must have seemed as foreign and suspect and strange as if this Tuesday Rachael Ray chirped out a 30-minute meal using peacock brains served with snake-venom foam and edible flowers. But it's not dated in it's foundation in good French cooking and basic skills being taught. After the 28 minutes of watching Julia glow her way (she mops her brow a few times over that electric range's visible heat signature, which makes an Apollo Rocket lift-off look like a sno-cone) through the explanation of those of those potato dishes and how and why you choose the different potatoes for the different ones I felt like I had learned something. Certainly if Julia can make something that looks that magnificent out of spuds, cream, pepper, cheese and diced ham on a range that seems to only have two settings (Incinerate and Off) using a cheese grater and a fork, the rest of us should be able to give it a whirl.

A feeling I never get from Bobby Flay and his $25000 patio grill overlooking lower Manhattan..