...September 21st, 2009...
I know I was really psyched about the return of Big Bang Theory tonight, and maybe it's just because it had been so long and I hadn't entirely realized how much I had missed them, but...
Penny's tits looked AMAZING tonight!
I mean, they were so plump and round, bigger even, hanging out of her top lazily, as though they had filled so much with sexiness over the summer that they were swollen and ripe to be plucked! I spent every moment she was onscreen staring at them, directly at them, my eyes never leaving them, not caring about the story or the characters or the jokes or dialog or anything, just the tits, just wanting to reach into the TV and just wrap my hands around them and ever so slowly squeeze!
"How I Met Your Mother" was pretty good tonight, too.
...August 16th, 2009...
I was at the bar last night, getting happily sloshed. At closing time, I went outside and had a smoke as the other people filed out for the night. Some pitiful grinning sad-sack struck up a conversation with me. He told me the perils of city living and spending all your money and getting fired and having to admit to your parents that they were right. He'd also recently broken up from a long term relationship and was "ready to find where the cute girls are!" And then added, "Or any girls!" He clearly had no game, and didn't seem to have anything going for him other than the fact that he could keep grinning foolishly at all times. He introduced me to his spacey friend, a walking stereotype with a shaggy beard from the west coast who was asking where to get pot. I couldn't tell him that, nor could I tell them of another bar that was still open, although I assured them someone else around us could.
The stoner friend was distracted by a shiny object and wandered off, and the grinning gomer continued telling me his tales of obscure woe, and I kept smoking my cigarette. Eventually a mongrel of people decided to go to another bar and started walking, taking the stoner with them. The gomer seemed alarmed his friend was leaving and rushed up to stop him, while the stoner explained where he was going, although it was clear that neither he nor his friend really understood the directions or street names he was parroting. The gomer gestured at me, and the stoner yelled to me, "Come on, we're going!" Sometimes you just have to follow.
The walking pack of us winnowed to about six, and the lone girl in the company insisted she wasn't walking all the way to Damen and that they get a cab, so one of the guys hailed one. They piled in, four in the back, one in the front, and the stoner kept motioning me to get in the clearly packed car. "No, no, no," I said, "I'll just get another one." There was a bit of confusion before he finally accepted this reality, although I think we both know that left to my own devices, there was a 50/50 chance I'd never show up at the next bar. Drunks are sorely loath to lose numbers. And then in a flash, a cab going the other way skidded to a stop next to the full cab, and at the same moment, the girl squirted out the other side of the cab and shut the door. I was trying to work out what was happening as she grabbed my hand and pulled me into the new cab, giggling the whole time.
"Those idiots," she said, laughing, "They didn't want to get a cab! It's what, five dollars. I'm not walking all that way in these shoes." I nodded dumbly as our cab wheeled around and followed the first through a maze of streets. She introduced herself.
"Have you been to this bar before?" she asked. No, I admitted. She insisted it's the strangest bar ever. I assured her that I'd been to a lot of strange bars. And I have. But she was adamant that this one was unique, although she seemed to have difficulty putting her finger on what was so strange about it. "It has....like sixty year old men!" she said. I said, "Oh," not sure why that made a bar weird or what my response was supposed to be. But I was beginning to get the idea from her that it was a bit of an old-timer's dive bar, which didn't seem all that weird to me, but I didn't tell her that.
We got to the bar and two of her friends waiting outside ushered us in. "Isn't it the weirdest?" she squealed with glee. I nodded somewhat reluctantly. It wasn't all that weird. There were restaurant booths and tables in the back, in the dark, and only one of them seemed to be occupied. The girl pointed him out. "See him, sitting alone there, all by himself? Weird!" No one in the bar was sixty, and it seemed to be a fair mix of people from their twenties to their forties, all looking like people who had been forced to leave other bars, as we had, and were happy to have a place to drink, as we were.
I had a chance to get a good look at the girl and liked what I saw. She was small but not petite, and she had raven black short curly hair coming out of a headband high on her head. Her neck was covered with tattoos, and she had small, delicate, deliberate lips that I couldn't stop staring at. She leaned against me as she told me about other crazy nights spent at this very weird bar, including one where she went home with a guy, "had five minutes of sex", but then got to sleep, which seemed to be all she wanted from the encounter. I was relieved to hear that her sexual demands were so meager, but even though images of her in various states of undress and listless five minute passion drifted through my mind, I realized that even five minutes was beyond my motor skill abilities at this point.
After hitting the restroom, I went over to check on the gomer, who was standing alone looking lost. For a guy who wanted to meet women, he seemed to be doing a damned insistent job of not noticing any women around him. Such is the way of the broken-hearted. I got the idea to introduce him to the girl in our company if only to get him talking to living, breathing woman and at the same time establishing to the girl that I did, erm, know people there. That last bit backfired a little when I blanked on his name and had to ask it to finish the introduction. The first bit backfired, too, as he grinned rather vacantly in her general direction, not quite seeming aware of her presence. But she did persist in addressing him and eventually engaged him in conversation, and I slipped outside for a smoke.
Outside I encountered the stoner again and gave him a cigarette. Some rather cute girl came up to us and, clearly digging his whole shaggy, spacey look, tried flirting with him. Unfortunately for her, in his drunkenness, he took her flirting as a slight. "Why..." he stumbled, "why...why are you being patronizing to me!" She insisted he wasn't, and being helpful, I took her side and tried to reassure him that she wasn't. It was the strangest wooing technique I'd ever seen. I left them together when my cigarette was done and the rift seemed to be more or less patched, and I went back inside, hopeful that the stoner would have better sense when it came to pretty women.
More drinking, more talking, more people watching. Things became a bit of a blur after that. The stoner turned up later, without the pretty girl, and I watched him try to entice women to dance with him. Finally he got a taker, and danced drunkenly with her. "Don't spin me," she insisted, "I'm too drunk for that." He spun her. She reiterated her objection. He spun her again. At that point, she gave up and walked back to the bar. Without missing a beat, he grabbed my hand, pulled me over to him, and spun me. We both laughed like kids, and then he tried to dip me, at which point I begged off that foolishness.
The girl with us was at this time glued to the jukebox, and I passed her as I went out for another smoke, and as I did, I touched her shoulder just to let her know I hadn't forgotten her. Her skin felt incredibly warm.
The stoner was now outside, and one of the other patrons was trying to engage him in light banter to kill time. Once again, for no apparent reason, the stoner took offense, as the patron and I tried to insist that none was intended or even possible. The stoner took our assurances begrudgingly, and then spitefully insulted the patron, who shrugged it off. The front lights of the bar went out, and I went back in to have a last beer.
At the end of the night, we all found ourselves outside the bar, having a last smoke as people departed. The gomer and stoner argued about which direction to go before taking off. I stood with the rest of our people, chatting with two guys. I bummed them each a smoke, and one lit the filter side. Realizing what he'd done, he flipped it around and put the burnt end in his mouth and lit the other end, which made me shudder. He told me about a cop bar he knew, and then told me about the cops he knew, telling me one was a great guy who he'd known for years. "He arrested me a few years ago," he said, straightforwardly. I didn't ask for what. The girl made plans to be taken home by one of the other guys, and while I wasn't really in a state to take her home, or anything else, I was a little disappointed that someone else was. She hugged me goodnight, and I rather dramatically and drunkenly kissed her hand, before she went off.
I probably would have taken a cab then, but I was left with her two friends who wanted to walk. So we stumbled into the night, and the one who'd lit the filter tripped over a construction sign and rolled around in the road while we watched him. But he righted himself and got back up and we started walking again. Halfway home, he went over to a tree to take a piss, and I realized I had to, so I went to the next tree, and the other friend went to the third. We were standing there, in a line, pissing on trees, when from behind me the other friend called out, "FIVE-OH!" There wasn't much I could do at that point, the stream was already flowing, and I glumly thought that I would hate to get arrested with these two yahoos for pissing on a tree. But FIVE-OH rolled passed us without stopping, not wanting to waste time on three drunk idiots, apparently, and we were all relieved and giddy at having got away with something.
We finally parted ways at Leland, and they insisted that I meet them Sunday at the bar, and I agreed knowing there was little chance in hell I'd repeat these shenanigans on a Sunday.
...July 3rd, 2009...
The central collective over at Yahoo alerts me to a US Magazine story about a spat between Megan Fox and Michael Bay
. Apparently, Megan had the audacity to point out that Michael Bay movies are about slo-mo explosions:
Fox told Entertainment Weekly: "I mean, I can't s--- on this movie because it did give me a career and open all these doors for me. But I don't want to blow smoke up people's a--. People are well aware that this is not a movie about acting."
She is pretty much dead-on to the point of banality in this statement. I don't know anyone who has seen a Michael Bay movie who would disagree. On the other hand, let's be serious. She didn't get this job or any subsequent ones because of her acting abilities. She got the gig because she has tits, a flawless complexion, and the body fat index of an aphid. I don't expect to see her in Ibsen any time soon, and if she does achieve critical success, it will likely be of the Hollywood bar-lowering, condescending, "wow, pretty people can kind of act" way. Unless she uglifies herself like Charlize Theron, and then everyone will coo about how great it is that someone so pretty can make herself so uggo for her art.
But then Bay defends himself:
Bay says he "100 percent disagrees" with Fox.
"Nick Cage wasn't a big actor when I cast him, nor was Ben Affleck before I put him in 'Armageddon.' Shia LaBeouf wasn't a big movie star before he did 'Transformers' -- and then he exploded. Not to mention Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, from 'Bad Boys'," he points out.
None of this really refutes the charge. But it's even more ridiculous than that. If anyone has a claim to discovering Ben Affleck, it's Kevin Smith
. And then Affleck followed up indie success with his own hit Oscar-winning (albeit for writing) collaboration with Matt Damon on Good Will Hunting
. As for Nick Cage, he'd starred in cult classics Raising Arizona
and Vampire's Kiss
and had a supporting role in Peggy Sue Got married
and the male lead role in Oscar-winning Moonstruck
. And THAT was before going on to have leading roles in Guarding Tess
and It Could Happen To You
and then winning the Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas
As for Shia, it's true his pre-Transformer's roles were more limited, but he had small parts in major action movies like I, Robot
and was definitely getting noticed. And I'd bet that he was probably already cast in Indy 4 before Transformers
actually came out. So it's not like he was a complete nobody. Will Smith had a successful rap and TV career. (I'm not even going to google Martin Lawrence to see what he'd done pre-Bay.)
Now, it's true that with each of these actors, being in a crappy Michael Bay action flick helped Hollywood and audiences to see these actors as big budget action heroes for the first time (which is particularly unfortunate in the cases of Ben Affleck and Nick Cage.) But they all had established careers and two of them even had Oscars.
And even the fact that he helped them get future roles in movies where things blow up doesn't really say anything about his movies helping actors be known for their acting. In Cage's case, his acting bona fides were mostly established by Leaving Las Vegas, for Affleck it was Chasing Amy, for Will Smith, it was Six Degrees of Separation. Michael Bay helped them all command bigger salaries, for which they must be grateful, and for which Megan Fox should be grateful. But none of that changes the fact that actors in Michael Bay movies could essentially be replaced with crash test dummies without anyone being the wiser.
...June 8th, 2009...
I watched Taken
a few weeks ago. I'd heard it was pretty bad, but I like Liam Neeson, and I was looking for something light and action-y to numb my brain for awhile. The movie wasn't as quite as terrible as I'd heard it was -- it was more of a run of the mill Bourne rip-off, but it really didn't work well as a movie.
I'd mark this for spoilers, but I don't think any of this CAN be spoiled.
The story, as you may or may not know, is that Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA black ops operative who quits his job so that he can move closer to his teenage daughter, who's living with his shrewish ex-wife and the ex-wife's smarmy, rich new husband. We know the step-dad is no good because he has the temerity to upstage Neeson's gift of a karaoke machine for his daughter by giving her a pony! Do teenage girls even want ponies? Neeson's karaoke machine was supposed to be the thoughtful gift, because at some time in the past, maybe when she was six, she expressed interest in being a singer. Even if she still does want to be a singer, which at no time she seems interested in, that's a bit like buying the video game Rock Star for an aspiring songwriter.( Royko dissects another movieCollapse )
...June 5th, 2009...
[More food porn, this time entirely fictional, for BtB, and with apologies to Grant Achatz.]
Was it only a mere eighteen months ago that the tweet heard round the culinary world announced that Grant Achatz was launching a new northside restaurant? It may has well have been a millennium. Not since Pavlov has their been such concerted salivating.
Before the name of the restaurant had even been released, reservations had nabbed every spot through the end of the decade. For months, every premier Chicago restaurant, including such enduring stalwarts as Poco a Poco
, has suffered half-empty dining rooms of listless patrons dejectedly nibbling their mutton pâté in a furious state of distraction. For nothing seems remotely palatable while an Achatz masterpiece is waiting to be unveiled. Such is the hold this Wunderkind chef, whose previous triumphs include Trio and Alinea, holds over our collective dining imagination.
The wait is now over. Achatz's latest conception, Swallow
, 1564 N Wells Ave, is not merely a triumph. It is without doubt the most inspired gastronomic revolution of our age.
Marked only by a discrete sign the size of a business card, a winding wrought iron staircase leads up to a tree-level terrace enmeshed in foliage and sheltered by surrounding boughs. Glass doors open to a dimly lit dining room tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Old Town. Without a single word spoken, the host signals quick-footed underlings to lead diners to their seats.
The decor is decidedly rustic. Ceiling fans branch from high wooden beams, underneath which small oaken tables sit low to the floor. The quaint interwoven willow chairs are surprisingly comfortable due to the insulation of soft cotton tufted into the seat and back. As we nestled in, a server appeared our elbows to relieve our thirst. For purity of palate, we decided to forgo wine for the evening, instead opting for the recommended Tibetan rainwater at $190 a bottle.
As usual, Achatz only employs the swiftest and most cultured waiters -- ours had been a former diplomat to the Republic of Senegal -- but the service at Swallow
is simply incomparable to any other restaurant on the planet due to the intensive nature of the presentation. For Swallow
provides the world's very first post-mastication dining experience.
Very simply, at every table stands a dedicated masticateur to prepare each bite for the patrons. It goes without saying that I was initially apprehensive about the concept. Would having this person hovering all evening disrupt the dinner conversation? But our masticateur was the epitome of discretion, almost blending into the surroundings as he expertly chewed our food for us, then leaned over us to drop the pulpy masses into our mouths. Freed from responsibilities of hands and arms, teeth and gums, the entirety of focus was on the sensation of swallowing.
Imagine my delight as the first wad of escargots landed on the front of my palate, not overpowered by butter and garlic as is de rigueur, but here presented modestly, mashed into a gelatinous mass enveloped in the saliva of another human being. The natural flavor was highlighted by the faintest hint of lime from the cocktail our masticateur had drank before the evening's sitting.
Equally pleasing were the seaweed-wrapped roasted sunflower seeds. In lesser hands -- and mouths -- this hors d'oeuvre might meander into bourgeois drippiness, but here, accompanied by the receding influence of the escargots, a salubrious masterpiece emerges. A surprisingly meaty salade des sauterelles doused in a nectarous vinaigrette rounds out the preliminaries.
Pasta has long been a dining frustration, bunching up, evading, sliding from the silverware, turning a perfectly delectable dish into a chore, forcing even the most elegant connoisseur to rope it around his fork like a ranch hand lassoing a sheep. Here one is spared all the unpleasantness, the pre-chewed pasta slides directly down the esophagus. Divorced of its tedious practicalities, Swallow's
pasta vermicelli leaps to transcendence.
But nothing that came before could presage the preeminence of the pan-seared starfish. Perched atop a bed of parsley and plumed in artichoke leaves, the starfish exudes a heavenly aroma that fires the imagination of distant beaches in far-away lands populated by exotic women who had never known the supportive effects of a brassiere. Drenched in the masticateur's spittle, each swallow was one long, wet, exuberant explosion.
So thoroughly fulfilled was I by the rapture that had preceded that I could only allow the masticateur to peck at my delectable poppy seed tart at the evening's close. Swallow
is an experience not to missed. Sadly, unless you already have reservations, miss it you shall. For I was informed that so far advance have reservations been booked, structural engineers have predicted the edifice won't last long enough for them all to be seated.
**** (4/4 stars)
...May 30th, 2009...
While dining tonight at the Cheesecake Factory, it occurred to me that if the America of my lifetime and my experience had to be described as a restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory would be it.
Though no two locations are identical, most are housed in structures adjacent to malls or as standalone buildings within mall complexes. The facades differ, but each is showy in its own way, with enormous signage that appears to exist purely out of pride because it can only be seen when you've already arrived at the mall and have in fact found your way to the Cheesecake Factory. The sizes of the locations vary, but the commonality is that each is exactly as large as it possibly can be without devouring the rest of its surroundings.
The colors inside are warm, muted golds and tans designed to calm the patron, giving the entire environment a glow. Lamps and fixtures are deeper, richer versions of this color scheme in a style that seems like a fuzzy mixture of art deco and modern, avoiding the harsher aspects of both styles. The ceilings are at least a story higher than they have any reason to be, suggesting a spaciousness that makes you forget that the next table is thirty-two inches from your thigh. The entire space is carefully orchestrated to give you the comfort of familiarity oddly by creating an unreal environment. "I am at the Cheesecake Factory," it makes you say to yourself. And where is that? Merely in a fantasy. Nowhere, really.
Everything is clean. Everything is shiny, or would be, if it weren't for the soft haze about the place. Everything is new. Of course, it is new, quite literally, by most standards. I don't know how long these locations have existed, but I have yet to see a dated, dilapidated one. There is no sense of history. It was built now, for now. No looking backward. There wood paneling is very dark, giving the place a tone of class and a touch of seriousness. This is most evident in the seating stand, which more resembles a hotel check-in counter. Youngish people in headsets busy themselves tending to new arrivals, checking availability, handing out pagers for customers to wait on a vast but mostly filled array of benches for their turn to be called. It's an impressive operation that feels upscale, despite the fact that you're in a chain restaurant at a mall filled with doughy patrons in shorts who spent the day looking at Kenmore appliances. It flatters the patron -- all these many people, bustling around, with such technology, just so that I can eat! -- but the underlying purpose is really to move as many people through as efficiently as possible. And it is efficient.
When you are seated, you're given a spiral bound menu
slightly larger than a TV Guide. Appetizers? Gets two pages. Salads? Gets a page. Appetizer salads (distinct from full-meal salads)? Yet another page. Pastas, Sandwiches, steaks, pizza and eggs each get their own page. Desserts? Two pages. I think the Cheesecake Factory may have more dishes than any other place I've ever been to. The selection is wide enough to make your head swim.
Foods of an array of ethnicities and styles are thrown together. Take the avocado eggrolls, which seem to be the result of a game of telegraph between Chinese, American, and Mexican players: Chunks of Fresh Avocado, Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Onion and Cilantro Deep Fried in a Crisp Chinese Wrapper. Served with a Tamarind-Cashew Dipping Sauce.
They're presented in the fiendishly novel method of having been cut diagonally lengthwise, making them both less messy to eat and easier to dip in the sauce.
"Fusion" seems to be a popular term among restaurants these days, and while The Cheesecake Factory is nothing like any fusion place I've ever been to -- it has none of the forced incongruity for the sake of pretentious novelty to its dishes -- it truly achieves what I think of the true concept of fusion. The many styles and flavors blend and become one. Everything is different, yet everything is the same. It's all buttery, crunchy, fried, overloaded, high calorie, high flavor. It's comfort food in every sense of the word. Strange but always familiar, in portions that would feed Third World families for months. Much of the joy comes simply from the fact that there is too much of everything.
Waitstaff are always hovering within line of sight, always tending to the cattle grazing within. Not for a moment will you want for anything, not a moment will be wasted. This is not a three sitting restaurant. This is not a place for lounging back, into the night, babbling about philosophy while nursing your wine. There's a single-minded determination of purpose to the experience. You are here to eat. There will be eating, and more eating, and dishes will be brought in steady succession. You will eat until you cannot eat anymore, and then you will pay and leave. Of course, no one is rude about it, and you never feel rushed: you are too hazed by your carbohydrate coma. But the prompting is there, always moving you to the next step. Drinks. Appetizers. Entree. Dessert. Bill. Your status is monitored by waitstaff as part of a maddeningly zealous error-checking regime to ensure that no snags have been hit at any stage of the process. Are you ready for the next round? Do you need more beverage? Do you have everything you need? Is the food to your liking? Is there anything holding you up? Is there anything at all that your heart desires? We will bring it to you, anything, just to keep you people moving through our restaurant.
It is this fundamental disparity that fascinates me about the place, and it's that disparity, above and beyond the more superficial similarities such as scale, excess, and cultural blend, which makes me think of my native homeland. The Cheesecake Factory caters to you, feeds you, nourishes you, comforts you. It pours calories into that void inside each of us, that niggling little black hole that wants more comfort, more peace, less worry, less stress, more acceptance. Or, more fundamentally, that void which is our unquenchable desire for love. The Cheesecake Factory provides a love-substitute in rich foods and enormous portions. It's the dining out equivalent of sucking from a nipple. And yet our complete gratification is being tended by friendly but dispassionate strangers motivated only by profit and expediency. It is simply a lie, all of it, a cushy, extravagant made-up fantasy to keep us docile and move us to payment as expeditiously as possible.
And to me, that's America, my America, the quintessential America of today. America is the soft, comforting lie of false fulfillment, that absurd promise that happiness is on sale -- half-price, this week only -- at the nearest commercial complex. A chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage, a house, a picket fence, a new washer and dryer, children, a college education for each. None of these items are in service of the American dream, they are in fact its very root: things will make me happy. America is that lie whispered in our ears like a mantra by those whose only relationship with us involves the swift swipe of our credit card. But it's still the most delicious lie I've ever tasted.
...May 15th, 2009...
...May 1st, 2009...
In lieu of a review of the new Wolverine movie, I thought instead I'd just skip to a rant about how Hollywood truly sucks these days.
But that wouldn't be fun for you, so here is my short review:( X-Men Origins: Wolverine: No Really: That's The Title: OMG!: I Can't Stop!: This Is The Title That Never Ends: It Just Goes On And On My FriendsCollapse )
And now I'm tired, so the Hollywood rant will have to wait.
...April 19th, 2009...
My April Lady
When down the stair at morning
The sunbeams round her float,
Sweet rivulets of laughter
Are bubbling in her throat;
The gladness of her greeting
Is gold without alloy;
And in the morning sunlight
I think her name is Joy.
When in the evening twilight
The quiet book-room lies,
We read the sad old ballads,
While from her hidden eyes
The tears are falling, falling,
That give her heart relief;
And in the evening twilight,
I think her name is Grief.
My little April lady,
Of sunshine and of showers,
She weaves the old spring magic,
And breaks my heart in flowers!
But when her moods are ended,
She nestles like a dove;
Then, by the pain and rapture,
I know her name is Love.
--Henry Van Dyke