Friday, February 23, 2007


So I watched the documentary Deal yesterday. I truly enjoyed it. I was hipped to it through a review in the Onion's AV Club,* which complained that there was a hint of cynicism that could have been stronger, and that there could have been more footage of the warehouses of prizes and stacks of money laying around waiting to be given away. (Yes: The Onion guys were complaining, essentially, that there weren't enough money shots.)
I didn't think so. I found the flick endearing in oh so many ways. The best thing-- and trust me about this-- is that it showed off the single most disturbing thing about the show: the people who crowd into the audience wearing the bizarre costumes are, for the most part, completely normal, reasonably intelligent, white suburban middle-class people. I don't find it disturbing, say, the way spotting a dead dog by the side of the road is disturbing. I find it disturbing the same way it used to disturbed me that perfectly reasonable and reasonably well off people used to go to K-Mart. (And now to Wal*Mart.) (Or, even worse, to Family Dollar. Eeeew.)
The cynicism in the flick, as I saw it, laid strictly with the people who created and maintained the show. Not Hall, who came off as a relatively clear-eyed optimist, but rather the writers and producers whose job it was to come up with the gags and routines Monty would run on the participants. And it wasn't real cynicism at that: it was that macho, bravura, painted-face kind of cynicism, that gee-look-what-bad-boys-are-we, surfer-boy cynicism that doesn't seem to approve of logic or reason. The doc itself, I thought, was fairly even-handed: here's the spectacle, here are the participants on both sides, and then, towards the end, captions alerting us to how much money was paid out, how many people were on the show over the course of how many years, etc. etc., and finally ended with some awkward cum shots of winning participants telling underwhelmed family members what prizes they won and what they were worth. Which, I suppose, is like ending a porn flick with an ad for mouthwash.
Anyways, I enjoyed it.
*In my own defense, I do read the Onion AV Club, but I am not, in fact, a smarmy bastard. I let the Onion AV people do my smarmy bastarding for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pet Peeve Redux

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with what I am about to blog. I just like it. It's me playing the old Yamaha six string I keep at my folks' house, newly re-strung with D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Extra Light strings, at a recent family gathering to exchange apres Christmas presents, while my dog, Gabby, looks at the Wifey (behind the camera), as if it's all her fault. (Whatever "it" might be. It's hard to tell with the dog, but she is very judgemental.)
I was going to blog about growing cilantro a couple of years ago, only to have it killed by the "light chlorine mix" they used to power-wash our house before they painted it, despite having moved the pot the recommended six feet away from the house, but while away from the office I heard one of my least favorite (make that "most loathed") commercials playing on the television. The ad was for a local company called The Original Mattress Company, and it's not that it is a bad ad (it is) of low quality in terms of both production values and content (eh), nor is it that the company, while being a locally owned chain (making them, in theory, less despicable than other matress companies), makes dubious claims of superior quality, lower price, and, of course, superior ethics. It's the name. I hate places that claim to be "The Original," especially when it is clear that there is no way in heaven or hell they could possibly, actually be THE ORIGINAL whatever. Call it a pet peeve.
And as with all such things, my peeve causes me difficulty. In this case, it's The Original Pancake House, which is an upscale breakfast place here in Charlotte. First of all, the first one-- the original Original Pancake House-- is housed in a restored mill building, one in which they used to gin cotton (if I have my local history down). So if the Original Pancake House were originally housed there, you wouldn't want to eat what they served. And, of course, the second one-- the unoriginal Original Pancake House-- is in the perennially upscale and indelibly butt-headed part of my little burg called South Park. We ate at the original once on my father-in-law's insistance. I had pancakes. They were OK. We ate at the second one . . . Well, I don't recall why we ate at the unoriginal Original, but I know that we did. On this trip, Rachelle observed that six bucks a plate was too much to pay for eggs. (That's six bucks for a pair of eggs, as a side, which I think was the cheapest thing on the menu.) We would never, she proclaimed, breakfast there again.
Which was fine with me. Except that I had the Eggs Benedict.
I love Eggs Benedict. I love Eggs Benedict with a passion many will never know. A good Eggs Benedict can sustain my soul and brighten my heart for a week at a stretch. A bad Eggs Benedict make me doubt God's good intentions in creating this earth. And the Eggs Benedict at the Original Pancake House were very, very good. So good that I have, on more than one occasion, found myself cruising by the joint (the original Original, not the unoriginal Original) at breakfast time, lusting after poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins, draped in Hollandaise sauce, freshly steaming on a plate. Handily, the rich idiots who populate that part of my city keep the place jammed, especially on the weekends, so I have yet to succumb.
Last summer, when I made my annual pilgrimage to California, after traipsing down the coast from Big Sur, we landed in San Simeon right around dusk. We piled into a hotel room, dined on cheese, bread & fruits bits, watched The Shining (partially so that none of us would have to do it again any time soon, and partially because at least one of us couldn't remember having seen the thing in its entirety), and turned in sometime later, as always, than was strictly healthy. The next morning, I insisted on breakfasting at the restaurant in front of the hotel. (Chris and Lauren would have been happy to subsist on bread and fruit, but I insisted. I wanted eggs.
I sat before they did and began endearing myself to the waitress. The menu was, to say the least, interesting, as menus mostly are in California, so it looked like it might take some doing, but I finally figured what the hell: roll the dice. Eggs Benedict, please.
And they were perfect. Better than perfect. The eggs were perfectly poached, the size of hockey pucks; the English muffin was just toasted enough, the Canadian bacon perfectly seasoned and perfectly sizzled, and the Hollandaise sauce, oh, my God, the Hollandaise sauce! I ate until I couldn't stuff another bite in my mouth, which was three bites after my stomach started sending me protestant gurgles.
"How were the Eggs Benedict?" the waitress, now in my thrall, Mwuha-HA-HA-HA, asked solicitously while presenting the bill.
"Perfect," I said, "Best, lifetime."
I don't know that she believed me, but she smiled.
We got back on the road, and I think, what with the marvelling at the California landcsape rolling through Los Robles, I neglected to say that I was particularly happy that morning, knowing that there were perfect Eggs Benedict out there in the world, and I would never, from there on out, have any compelling reason to seek out the Original Pancake House. (Either of them.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful

So this is slush. This is the most common form of snow in the lower Piedmont of North Carolina. What you are actually looking at here is my dog's paw-prints in the slush next to the driveway. She is sad right now because she loves snow, and the weather can't decide whether it wants to be snow or rain. Rain seems to be winning at the moment.

And this is my Miata. Nomi isn't going anywhere today, because we don't have to. You will notice the definite absence of Minis in the drive. This is because the Wifey is as stalwart soul as ever there were in Corporate America, and went in to work despite the slush.

Not that it isn't pretty. And useful. It allowed me to use my urban tracking skills to determine that the mailman has already been by.

Scoff if you will, but as you can see, given the level of activity in the cul de sac this morning, it was no mean task.

And what did the mailman bring us? Yet another edition of The New Yorker. A while back, we got caught up in some buy-a-magazine-or-the-kid-gets-it scheme, and we decided that we could peruse The New Yorker for a while. And I have been enjoying it, for the most part. Except that the first issue was some kind of mega first-of-the-year, more-content-than-you-can-take-in-in-a-year issue. The next issue didn't show up for another two weeks, by which time the Wifey had thoroughly given up on the first issue, while I had decided I would read this one long short story come hell or high water, even though the Wifey had assured me that the destination was in no way worth the journey. Since then, they have been showing up week to week to week, with the result that the Wifey has still thoroughly given up on them, while I have found that I can save alot of time by skipping the "happenings" sections up front (since I don't actually live in Manhattan, and, subsequently, don't really give a rat's ass about what's going on where), and that I can still tell, within a few paragraphs, whether the author is worth reading or just some pretentious wanker who deserves to be serially ignored by all and sundry.