The birthday that won't die...

That's right, I feel like I've been celebrating my birthday for months now -- which I sort of have been, but that's the fun part, right?

It all started back in the first week of March when I broke down and bought a new IPOD touch and a few other items since then for myself (thanks self, you rock!).

Then, in the run up to my birthday, some of my family members sent me checks, which is always appreciated (thanks family, you rock!).

On the big day itself, TW took me out to dinner at our go-to sort-of special meal place: Not Your Average Joes. We love this place, and don't get there too often, so it was a nice little celebration (thanks TW, you rock!). In addition to that, TW revealved that we would be taking a little New Hampshire vacation in a couple weeks, and the centerpiece of that trip would be a visit to one of Frank Lloyd Wright's house in Manchester, NH -- the Zimmerman House. This is particularly cool for me because I'm an architecture (and Wright) nut, and it will be only my 2nd Wright house to see in person (thanks TW, you rock x2!!).

And finally, I had a bigger celebration on Saturday night organized by my friend Al (seemingly from another continent, as he was traveling in Brazil and Argentina just 48 prior to the party!). We started with a smaller gathering of about 9 people, including one of my old roommates -- also celebrating a birthday -- at Eastern Standard. Check out the pictures of the private dining room that we had reserved just for us -- we felt like rock stars back there. The food was good, although I would like to go back and try other things as well.

Next, we moved the party down to a place called FELT -- so named because of the five pool tables located on the 2nd floor, where we had 2 reserved, along with drink tickets and free admission to the night club on the 4th floor. We had a few new friends join us at the party -- including my newly-relocated-to-Boston cousin Becks, and some new members of the soccer team -- and a great time was had by all.

Of course, any good night out must conclude with the obligatory trip to Chau Chow in Chinatown for some late night General Gau's and Pepper Steak...something about that greasy food certainly settles down the digestive system after a long night of drinking. Thanks go to Al, and I supose to TW as well -- for such a fantastic night out all around -- I've heard nothing but great things from everyone involved, and that goes double for me!!

I, unfortunately, didn't take any pictures, but I'm sure they'll be floating around the interwebs soon. Stay tuned for a trip report on my the New Hampshire leg of my birthday celebrations -- this has certainly been a fun month!


He's still got it...

That's right, I sure do. Fresh out of the gate today, on this the second day of my 30th year, I got hit on by two separate female customers at the booth. Both were older women -- shit, am I classified as older now? -- and both were harmlessly smiling and very talkative during each transaction. After the second customer, my co-worker leaned out from behind his desk and said, "Yep -- you've still got it. Turning 30 didn't diminish you one bit!"

Last week, a man kept chatting me up, and I was just annoyed because it was a Monday -- and we don't have shows on Monday, so he was essentially just wasting my time. Anyway, at the end of the conversation, he leans in and says, "You have great teeth; you should be an actor." Well, first of all, thanks for the compliment although I don't think my teeth are exactly the bee's knees. They're nicely aligned all right, but I think they're kind of a hazy white (from all the soda). Anyway, he was just another in a long line of B*#tix weirdos we get around the booths.

Today, we had a guy with a huge honkin' ring on his right hand -- normally what you'd expect from a professional athlete. He came by yesterday and I noticed the ring, but upon his return today I had to ask him about it. I was expecting him to be on some Super Bowl team from the 70s or something, but he claimed it was the result of a conference championship from East Tennessee State -- you know, those powerhouses. It just struck me as odd, that's all.


Goodbye 12, goodbye 13, hello...

...30? Ugh -- I declare a miscount.

Just for the record, I've already purchased the following items for myself in honor of my 30th birthday:

So, all of my fans out there, please cross those items off your list! Stay tuned for a recap later on...until then, I'm signing off for the last time as a twenty-something...


Is that what I sound like?

Sorry it's been a while...I'm at the tail end of a 5-day work week -- how do you normal people do it? -- and fighting a little head cold to boot, but I've finally got things back on the right track. Anyway, I've got to share these two McDonald's clips for their filet-o-fish sandwich. By the way, I actually eat these sandwiches and enjoy them -- how about that? I'm sure you've all seen this ad, which has been on TV quite a bit lately:

In addition to the incredibly catch jingle, the two men and their reactions are absolutely priceless. But for a more subtle comedic take, check out this clip, which never aired on TV but has been making the rounds online for at least a year now:

Are you listening to me? Hilarious...


Watching "Watchmen"

Seeing as some of my go-to friends are out of town (TW's in NYC; Al's in Brazil!!), I've been living the bachelor lifestyle this weekend. Mostly this consists of drinking lots of soda and leaving the toilet seat up, and today I reverted to one of my most enjoyable habits of bachelorhood -- (go ahead, insert joke here) -- seeing a Saturday-afternoon movie. I love doing this: always have, always will; and today, I went to see "Watchmen."

Typical array of audience members: skinny Asian kid; fat, balding white guy; goth couple, including the only woman in the audience; and me!

I came into the movie not having read the book, but I was well aware of the negative reviews it'd received in the press -- not that bad reviews bother me; in fact, they probably convinced me to go. I still remember the original Batman movie and all the bad press it received: I loved that movie. Now, I'm not saying that there's a connection between bad press and my reaction to a movie (the sample size is too small), but it won't scare me away.

Now I did enjoy the opening credits, much as Dana Stevens did over at Slate; and I found the action violent, but not overly so. This lengthy movie is structured as a series of vignettes draped upon the structure of a who-dunnit, and from what I've gleaned from the press it seems to mirror the history of the graphic novel, which originally appeared in a serialized form.

My biggest complaint, and it bothered me highly, was the soundtrack. You know all of these songs: Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence," Hendrix's performance of "All Along the Watchtower," Dylan's "Times are A-Changin'," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and some classical music war horses even made an appearance: Mozart's Requiem and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

All fine selections, truly...but I bet you could match up these pieces to their scenes: Cohen's Song accompanied a graphic, yet hollow sex scene; Dylan accompanies the credits, with their historical overview (get it? The times are a-changin!); "Sound of Silence" for a flippin' funeral; Mozart appears post apocolypse and the Wagner reprises its role as go-to Vietnamese soundtrack. Ugh, it's about subtle as a meat cleaver.

One problem with using such recognizable music is that the audience already has a set of memories and emotions already associated with that music; I, for instance, have very specific ties with "Sound of Silence" and once I started to hear that music, I'm not thinking about the movie anymore -- at least, for the time being.

Despite the music, and the preponderance of blue penis (what's the plural form of penis?), I did enjoy the movie. Much more than "Sin City," which was the last such graphic novel-turned-motion-picture that I saw.


Great Books

I enjoy books, and my apartment is a veritable shrine to that love. I have numerous bookshelves and various other piles of books surrounding me at all times. I read almost anything: from Heller's "Catch-22" and Scott Smith's "The Ruins" to Anthony Keidis' auto-biography "Scar Tissue" and Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" -- a masterful account of Robert Moses that weighs in at over 1000 pages.

I'm a sucker for reading the great novels of recently deceased authors. Last year saw the death of Norman Mailer and David Foster Wallace -- I ran out and bought "Executioner's Song," which I love by the way, but haven't plowed through to completion; this doesn't bode well for my recent purchase of DFW's "Infinite Jest," which is twice as long and infinitely more dense, but who knows...I'm a sucker for footnotes.

By the way, any good John Updike recommendations?

One article, in the recent issue of The New Yorker, augurs my hope for enjoying David Foster Wallace's magnum opus. An excerpt from DRW's unfinished final book appears over the course of four pages -- why is that important? Well, look at the first page: did you notice that there isn't a single paragraph break? When I first noticed that, before I even read the title, I thought to myself: "Wow, what a tour-de-force!" (There are six total paragraph breaks in the entire 4 page excerpt.) Wallace's unfinished novel, as it was revealed in the preceding article, is about a local chapter of the I.R.S. on the local level -- but, on a global level, his novel is about boredom. The daily, hourly and very tedious and repetitive tasks that take just the slightest amount of thought, but require very little effort are the star characters in this excerpt.

"He imagined that the clock's second hand possessed awareness and knew that it was a second hand and that its job was to go around and around inside a circle of numbers forever at the same slow, unvarying machinelike rate, going no place it hadn't already been a million times before, and imagining the second hand was so awful it made his breath catch in his throat, and he looked quickly around to see if any of the examiners near him had heard it or were looking at him."

Those of you working in a cubicle must empathize, right? It's hard for me to say, but I can certainly imagine...


I've been enjoying SNL lately -- never live, because yes I'm just that old -- but via the DVR. Seth Meyers "Weekend Update" is often the funniest skit of the evening, even though some of his bits can be high on the wack-a-doodle scale. His interviews with Kenan Thompson, as a flustered economist, are classics:

But the recent weekend update featured a Jon Bon Jovi "opposite" band; instead of a tribute band, "Jon Bovi" is a band for those who hate Bon Jovi.

I've been impressed with the level of musicality on T.V. recently: in addition to Anne Hathaway's singing on the Oscars, SNL has featured a number of singing peeps. But the Jon Bovi Opposite band certainly ranks up there...don't you think?


It's a chicken-and-the-egg proposition...

...but don't forget the grass, the cows, the manure, the photosynthesis, and the symbiosis of it all. What am I talking about? Food, stupid...I'm talking about food. But what you don't realize is that most of the food we eat these days is related to -- if not downright consisting entirely of -- CORN. And this corn isn't the maize of our fairly distant ancestors; this is commodity corn (Hi-Bred 34H31 or the genetically modified 33P67, et al).

Before I get up to my eyeballs in corn, let me preface this blog by saying that I just finished the Michael Pollan book "The Omnivore's Dilemma." In this book, Pollan investigates three separate meals, which fall along a spectrum of options: the Industrial, which culminates in a McDonald's meal that uses corn in virtually every aspect; the Pastoral, which features food all sustainably grown on a farm that uses grass as a common denominator; and the Personal, a meal that was picked, foraged and hunted entirely by Pollan himself in the hills of San Francisco.

Reading about the agro-industrial complex, which dominates the first meal, is so eye-opening -- and stomach churning -- I felt as if I was Neo as he unplugged from The Matrix for the first time.

  • Did you know the US Government subsidizes the growth of corn to the detriment of the actual farmland itself? The more corn you produce, the more the payout; here's a tasty little Catch-22: when the price of corn drops, the farmer must produce even more corn to cover the downswing in cost. I'm no economist, but doesn't that pretty much reverse supply & demand? And the continuous growth of one plant damages the soil so much that the farmer must then buy pesticides and other chemicals to keep up production.
  • We grow so much corn in this country that it's unaffordable not to feed it to Cows. Unfortunately, we didn't ask the cows how they felt about this. They are ruminants, which means that their diets consist of grass -- not corn -- and this transposition of their diet requires a pretty heavy dosage of anti-biotics. Fun side note: "fermentation in the rumen produces copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime forms in the rumen that can trap the gas. The rumen inflates like a balloon until it presses against the animal's lungs. Unless action is taken promptly to relieve the pressure, the animal suffocates." p. 77-78.
  • Speaking of drugs, cows get all kinds of drugs: they have some to halt mad-cow disease, which is a by-product of the fact that we feed rendered cow parts back to the cows (Hey, protein is protein, right?); and the crowding of cows into smaller, denser CAFOS (Concentrated Agriculture Feeding Operations -- seriously) results in a widespread and rapidly evolving immunity to most anti-biotics.
  • If none of that bothers you, try this one on for size: in these CAFOs, the stalls that house each cow form a circle around a lagoon...this lagoon is formed from the manure that has oozed out of the cow stalls; but, that manure moves pretty slowly. This means that our cows -- our hamburgers, NY strips and ribeyes -- stand and even sleep in manure: "...sooner or later some of the manure caked on these hides gets into the meat we eat. One of the bacteria that almost certainly resides in the manure..." (p. 81-82) is Escheridia coli O 157:H7 -- does that sound familiar?

Understand that as dirty as this situation seems on the surface, one underlying element unites the entire agro-industrial complex, and that is Oil. How do you process are those ears of corn? And move those ears to the CAFOs? And move those cows to and from their slaughter? What about collecting and planting those ears of corn? Oil, oil and more oil...

Check back soon for my -- much more positive -- description of the Pastoral meal.


In which I pontificate on the merits of...

...just how darn cute this puppy is!

Stolen from Slate's article on the human/animal bond.

Actually, there's no pontification here; just a cute puppy picture.


Rainy Day Women...

Well, it's not quite rainy here -- but we've got plenty of precipitation. I'm here at the booth today and there's not much to do...other than answer a few questions from some rainy-day women.

My soundtrack for this afternoon has been interesting: Miles Davis, "Birth of the Cool" (1950) which is quite a cool album; and Bob Dylan, "Blonde on Blonde" (1966) -- hence the title. It's amazing to me that only fifteen years separates these albums because their aesthetics are so completely different. "Visions of Johana" is probably my favorite track on the Dylan album, although the entire record is fantastic: "Stuck Inside of Mobile," "Just Like a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady" also score high points!

Sprinkle in some early Beatles, earlier today, and a Haydn string quartet that I'm currently writing about, and you've got yourself a well-rounded little swatch of Music History.

Stay warm and dry...


A Garlicky Treat

  • Pop a 1/4 cup of popcorn
  • Cover with 1/8 tablespoon of melted butter
  • In a thin layer, coat the popcorn with grated Parmesan
  • Add shredded Asiago and Cheddar cheese, along with garlic powder
  • Finish with salt and pepper, and (ideally) an iced-cold Coca-Cola
Perfect for movie (or DVR'ed TV) viewing; on tap for tonight, 60 Minutes & the most recent addition of The Clone Wars online at the Cartoon Network -- Sunday nights are great because TW has orchestra rehearsal; can't you tell from the TV lineup?