Monday, November 29, 2010

But most of all, I'm thankful that I'm not related to Elextra

The day before Thanksgiving, The New York Times ran a collection of reader comments on their worst T-day experiences.

Please settle in and let Elextra tell you her tale of woe:
I went to my mother’s house for dinner (she was a professional caterer and an excellent cook). She never liked me; she was very jealous of my media and modeling career, as was most of my family. They’d called me the “Queen Bee” when I’d come to visit.

I would take it in stride but this Thanksgiving I was sitting at the extended table in the family room, my uncle’s wife across from me. She looked at me and said, “Every time you come into a room you always make me feel so ugly and insignificant.” I think I had had it and I replied, “maybe if you went on a diet and lost 50 pounds, visited a dermatologist for your severe acne and had plastic surgery, you’d feel better about yourself, and stop targeting people who have nothing to do with your insecurities.”

Needless to say, my mother asked me to leave for insulting her “guests.” I did, and visited friends who had invited me to join them for Thanksgiving. The food was awful but the welcome was delicious.

The food was awful? No, actually, your friends were trying to poison you, and I wish them better luck at Christmas.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guess the fake restaurant review

Three of these excerpts from restaurant reviews ran in The New Yorker. (Yes, The New Yorker.) One's fake. Which?

A) At night, red lights line the ceiling and the restaurant is packed. So is the bar, where the Italian mixologist Christina Bini tests the limits of potable weirdness with cocktails like the Zucchidorini (green apple, green squash, and Midori) and the Buffalo 66 (rosemary vodka, Worcestershire sauce, and beet juice); a dry Martini arrives with a vermouth-soaked black stone from Mongolia. (White Ligurian pebbles would make the drink sweet, the waitress explained to a puzzled diner: "they're more porous, so they hold more vermouth.")

B) An amuse-bouche of hen-liver mousse on a rye crisp, presented on a shard of slate, immediately signals a seriousness of intent. The rest of the menu follows through, and is full of unusual combinations that delight more often than they offend. A witty salad features pickled green strawberries with red Russian kale. A sea-urchin bisque comes in a cup and saucer, with the velvety richness of a refined hot chocolate. Lamb sweetbreads sit alongside Concord grapes, a twist on turkey and cranberry sauce. ... An otherwise forgettable entrée of braised lamb riblets is garnished with desiccated slices of cauliflower resembling tiny leafless trees in a stark wintry landscape.

C) The squid-ink fondue is more daunting than chef Auguste Grandvilliers intends. The tenderloins of farm-raised albatross coated in a black viscous gunk conjure up memories of the Exxon Valdez and the recent oil spill in the Gulf--exactly the point, of course, but the gamey flavors of the seabird and juniper-scented fondue simply don't coöperate with each other, and eventually the metaphor collapses upon itself.

D) A simple apéritif of shochu, garnished with tiny morsels of pear cut in leaf and star shapes, tastes the way you imagine dew might. Monkfish liver is presented in a vase of pebbles, abalone on a cushion of salt; you get to sear small rectangles of beef on a terrifyingly hot shiny stone. Dried mullet roe (which you grill over an open flame) looks like carrot, has the consistency of bean curd, and tastes like anchovy, only more so. Coupled with a rectangular tablet of daikon radish, it looks uncannily like a mah-jongg tile. Aigamo duck comes with a cake of mochi--a kind of rice polenta with a texture between dough and string cheese but stickier than either. (In Japan, people occasionally suffocate while eating it.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Velvet Blog in 3D

It's been ages, but The Velvet Blog occasionally likes to soften the blow of particularly harsh film reviews by appending the phrase "Garnish with Fluffernutter."

Why? Because we can.

Today's poorly received film is Andrei Konchalovsky's The Nutcracker. Er, no, actually, it's The Nutcracker in 3D. Really, that's the official title. (I think it's a pretty solid rule of thumb that any movie that includes 3D as part of its official title is going to be rough going.)

Roger Ebert is somewhat taken aback:
From what dark night of the soul emerged the wretched idea for “The Nutcracker in 3D”? Who considered it even remotely a plausible idea for a movie? It begins with an awkward approximation of the story behind the Tchaikovsky ballet, and then turns it into a war by the Nutcracker Prince against the Holocaust.

Am I exaggerating? At one point, the evil Rat King (John Turturro) has his troopers snatch toys from the hands of children so they can be tossed into furnaces, and the smoke will emerge from high chimneys to blot out the sun.

Yes. And the rats are dressed in fascistic uniforms. Against them stand our heroine Mary (Elle Fanning) and her Christmas present, a nutcracker (voice of Shirley Henderson) that has imprisoned a handsome prince (Charlie Rowe). And two-legged helicopters swoop low over screaming children, and the city is laid waste, and the rats dream of world domination.

You may be in disbelief. I was. “The Nutcracker in 3D” is one of those rare holiday movies that may send children screaming under their seats. ...

Only one thing could have made this film worse, and they haven’t neglected it. That would be to present it in 3-D. They have.

Garnish with Fluffernutter.

Ouch. Not even my addition of Fluffernutter will help.

I leave you with The New York Times' explanation of the film's PG rating:
“The Nutcracker in 3D” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). No blood but quite a bit of suspense and violence, including an electrocuted shark and a decapitation.

Because nothing says Happy Holidays quite like an electrocuted shark. (Which, oddly, I don't remember from the stage production.)

In all fairness, Scrooge, the 1970 musical version of A Christmas Carol, scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bad ideas for Thanksgiving dinner

--Turschmucken: Loser stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey.
--Tursnooken: The Jersey Shore's Snooki stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey.
--Turtoblerucken: Toblerone stuffed inside a turtle stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey.
--Tofucken: Tofu stuffed inside a chicken. (Pronounced toe-FOO-kin.)
--Turantidisestablishmentarianistucken: 19th-century Briton in opposition to proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey.

UPDATE from JohnnyB, in comments -- Turkmenistan: Stanley stuffed inside some men stuffed inside a turkey.

UPDATE UPDATE from Grammarian --Turgoospignutt: a goose, stuffed inside a turkey, stuffed inside a pig, roasted on a spit, and garnished with Fluffernutter.

Also, behold the cherpumple, the turducken of desserts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Song of the day

Saw Richard Shindell perform last night--terrific voice, great guitarist, fine songwriter. This video is from a couple of years ago, from an appearance in the Netherlands.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three food-based puns I promise never to use in a blog post

--The sheep's milk cheese? I already used it, so it's a feta accompli.
--I had some really bad Mediterranean food. It made me falafel.
--Operator, give me long distance. Long distance? I want to talk to the Consolidated Coffee Company in Brazil. Hello, Brazil? Oh, is this you, Joe? This is Bill. How's the coffee business? Just a grind, eh?*

*Abbott and Costello, Who Done It? (Thanks, Grammarian.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fun with numbers

There's a big sticker on the front of my dog Freddie's dry food that reads:
Dogs prefer our new formula by 2-1/2:1!

That half a dog really worries me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This makes me hate her all over again for the first time

OK, I was really too young to give a crap about Yoko breaking up the Beatles, but this quote from her on the occasion of iTunes getting the band's catalog is jaw-dropping:
“In the joyful spirit of 'Give Peace A Chance,' I think it is so appropriate that we are doing this on John’s 70th birthday year,” said Yoko Ono Lennon. --CNN

Yes, if there's anything John Lennon stood for, it was the right to download "Revolution" to your iPod for $1.29. I'm sure he's very, very pleased.

It's almost Thanksgiving ...

Time to rerun my grandmother's oatmeal stuffing recipe:

Saute a chopped medium onion (or, if you're feeling fancy, a big shallot) and rib of celery in oil. Add salt and pepper and two cups of rolled oats or quick-cooking oats and continue sauteing until the oats get toasty. Then stuff the turkey. (Obviously, you can cut this in half for a chicken. Or bake it in a covered dish alongside the bird with some chicken stock to keep it moist.)

That's it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cartoon cat walks back anti-veteran stance, remains staunchly pro-lasagna

We are in uncharted territory here, folks: The public apology apology. A Lexis-Nexis search turns up no others in the history of recorded media. (Earlier investigations into nonapology apologies are here.)

First, the background, via the AP:
Cartoonist Jim Davis apologized Thursday for a Garfield strip that some veterans may have found offensive.

Not a promising start, I'll admit--did he apologize for the strip or because veterans may have found it offensive? But we'll blame the reporter, not Davis.
The strip ran on Veterans Day in newspapers across the country. It shows a spider daring the pudgy orange cat to squash it. The spider tells Garfield that if he is killed, "they will hold an annual day of remembrance in my honor."

The final panel shows a spider-teacher asking its students if they know why spiders celebrate "National Stupid Day."

So, obviously, Davis has deep-seated issues with stupid spiders that have enlisted in the armed forces.
Davis, of Muncie, Ind., said in a statement posted on his website that he didn't know the strip would appear on Veterans Day. He said it was written nearly a year ago and called the publication Thursday "the worst timing ever."

Nearly a year ago? Lots of cartoons work in comments on the news--the dreaded, laughter-destroying Mallard Fillmore just did some strips on last week's brief sacking of Keith Olbermann. Lasagna-eating cats, however, are forever. It is quite possible that a nuclear bomb will drop tomorrow and new, banked Garfield strips will run in The Cockroach Times for another decade or two.
"It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance," Davis said. ...

Davis said his brother served in Vietnam, and his son is a Marine who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he is grateful for the service of veterans, and called any offense "unintentional and regrettable."

So he wrote a strip a year ago that coincidentally fell on Veterans Day thereby creating the illusion of anti-vet sentiment. He could have issued a PR statement saying, "Um, it's Garfield, people. I make millions in mugs and calendars every day. You think I'm going to jeopardize that by doing anti-veteran gags? Don't be crazy!"

But he didn't. He apologized--with a real apology.

Why, it's almost quaint! And it'll never catch on.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Smile and say, "I've got a burning sensation in my chest and I can't feel my left arm"

There was a story in the Times on Sunday about how Dairy Management, part of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, is working with restaurants to encourage more sales of cheese. The results are rather alarming as well as somewhat puzzling:
...In a series of confidential agreements approved by agriculture secretaries in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.

Consider the Taco Bell steak quesadilla, with cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella and a creamy sauce. “The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,” the Agriculture Department said in a report, extolling Dairy Management’s work — without mentioning that the quesadilla has more than three-quarters of the daily recommended level of saturated fat and sodium. ...

On Oct. 13, Domino’s announced the latest in its Legends line of cheesier pizza, which Dairy Management is promoting with the $12 million marketing effort.

Called the Wisconsin, the new pie has six cheeses on top and two more in the crust.

Just eight cheeses in the pizza? Pikers. They need to think bigger--really go all in. Remove the tomato sauce--it's just taking up valuable real estate on the crust--and replace it with a nice Velveeta sauce. Perhaps take an extra step to support our farmers and replace the crust with meat.

In short, I'm concerned that the Dairy Management folks just aren't thinking big enough:
“More cheese on pizza equals more cheese sales,” [Thomas] Gallagher, the Dairy Management chief executive, wrote in a guest column in a trade publication last year. “In fact, if every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.”

True, Mr. Gallagher, but why stop there? If every pizza had a pound more of cheese, you could sell 4 trillion more pounds a year.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Quotation of the day

We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls ... —John Adams, from a letter dated April 22, 1776, while serving in the First Continental Congress

(Source: John Adams by David McCullough, here. As mentioned in a letter to the editor in the Times this morning. )

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Do you want fries with that gross, deformed pork patty?

Color me puzzled over the hoopla regarding the return of the McRib, but this Yahoo News story does give me these two Quotations of the Day:
Why is it so popular? An excellent article from Sharon Bernstein quotes one Brian Goodman, 27, of Grand Forks, N.D., talking about his devotion to the sandwich: "I am a huge fan of the McRib, and I am glad to have it back," he said. "I just happen to find this really gross, deformed pork patty to be delicious."

Mmmmmm ... deformity ...
McDonald's spokeswoman Tara Hayes told AFP that the McRib's limited availability "helps to keep fans passionate about the product." Only a sandwich "so delicious, so special, so elusive, and so legendary could create such a widespread affection among its fans," Hayes said. ...

It must take a special kind of person to be a spokesperson and not want to kill yourself on a daily basis.