Thursday, December 04, 2008

In Which Our Hero Becomes A Fashion Victim

So, I was at a large state managers' conference today. I wore olive khaki slacks, a maroon-on-white striped shirt, an Izod sweater (oatmeal) over that, and a green plaid wool blazer over that. No tie. Smart, if a little faux-professorial.

As I was entering a break-out session, I noticed another guy wearing the same Izod sweater over a turtleneck, only his was grey. We shared a 'lil moment over the coincidence.

Not two minutes later, another guy walks into the session wearing a blue one.

...and just as the session was starting, a guy in a white one walked in.

What are the odds? There were maybe 45 people in the session, and at least a little over half of those were female.

At any rate, I guess I was dressed appropriately...

^The extremely popular (among bureaucrats) Izod box knit sweater^

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kal Ho Naa Ho

Kal Ho Naa Ho poster

Watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend; we were looking forward to a Bollywood film that didn't end with an explosion or a bloodbath (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Dil Se...), and this definitely fit the bill. And quite nice to see Preiti Zinta and Shahrukh Khan again, without the terrorism, bombings, and rapes of Dil Se.... Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) starts out as what seems like it will shape up to be a comedy/romance - possibly a bit too broad on the comedy front at that - the opening bits fly with puns, slapstick, and sight gags. It introduces our heroine who is a bit of a mouse with few romantic prospects; it seems clear that once Shahrukh Khan starts singing and dancing, her heart will awaken and romance awaits. However, one should never underestimate the twists that can occur in the 3 hours and 8 minutes of a Bollywood film, soon a twist presents itself, and once again you think you know right where the movie is going. Til it zigs again. Ultimately quite satisfying while circumventing the expectations and tropes inherent in the romantic comedy department. As in most Bollywood films, there is happy and sad, tragedy and comedy, romance and despair, but the balance in this one is tipped toward the light and the happy, and I found it quite delightful. Unlike most Bollywood films, this one is set in New York, and features more English than most. Performances are good - Khan's facial acting is unparalleled, and Preiti holds her own nicely in a role that seems a bit overwritten. However, the real standout is Saif Ali Khan, who brings a certain naturalism to all of this stylish fluff, and grounds the emotions of the film beautifully. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Reality Has A Liberal Bias"

This is a post by a guy I know online - reprinted with his permission, but with identifying info removed. I like it very much; I thought you might, too.

Well we had our usual Halloween spectacular on the block, with an election year twist. We had [redacted] and [redacted], Democratic Senate and House candidates respectively, show up. Our neighborhood does a full tilt cooperative Halloween blowout, organized by our local State Rep, [redacted], who lives for Halloween. He gives out both candy and books to kids, has scary story readings from his front porch every hour on the hour, and, this year, got some funding from the neighborhood association to buy extra candy and distribute it to everyone in the neighborhood, since a typical house here ends up giving out a hundred bucks plus worth of candy every year.

So, with him being a politician, and with mobs of kids and families having fun, we attracted more politicians. The knot of people in suits, and press with the video cameras, stood out among the assorted costumed kids, and they were going door to door, meeting with people, etc. There was also a parade of sorts down the street, with a firetruck and a truck towing a flatbed with a big Obama/Biden sign done by a local artist I know. It was a very cool billboard design, actually. It has a sort of early 60s JFK-ish graphic design. And there were the get out the vote people, of course.

So, fun for all, but also a very weird collision of Halloween and politics. Not a Republican to be seen, but that's typical for this neighborhood. We've got two of them on the block, I think, and this year both of them are going for Obama, even the asshole cop who lives next door.

Actually, he's finally become not an asshole. When he first moved here he had a chip on his shoulder like you wouldn't believe, and routinely bullied people. I successfully neutered him, though, through a combination of talking to his superiors and organizing the neighborhood against some of his behaviour, and after that he actually started to come around as a decent enough guy.

I think this neighborhood actually makes liberals out of people. We get conservatives moving in here from time to time, but after a few years they turn into liberals. I think it's the fact that we've got rich people, poor people, black people, brown people, white people, old people, young people, single people, married people, gay people, straight people, and just plain all sorts of people living in a neighborhood that was designed on late 19th century/early 20th century planning, so that there are small yards, closely spaced houses, no garages, and you can comfortably talk to your neighbors or people passing by from your front porch, and almost all houses have big front porches. The result is that everyone gets to know each other, and so we band together for parties and holidays, and we help each other out with changing tires or jumpstarting cars, or shoveling snow, or raking leaves, and we're 90%+ liberals to begin with. The few conservatives who venture here slowly become assimilated because suddenly different sorts of people aren't so strange, and the idea of pulling together as community seems normal instead of weird, and before they even realize it, they're one of us.

Reality does have a liberal bias, and when architecture and urban planning conspires to place people more firmly into the reality of the people around them, and not buried somewhere behind a large lawn, a courtyard wall, in the "media room" in the center of the house, plugged in to Fox News, suddenly they realize they've been a liberal all along, and that the values that they thought they supported as Republicans, values such as community, family, prosperity, and security, are actually really Democratic values. The only difference is that we mean these things for everyone, and we realize that we must accomplish them together, or not at all. Prosperity for some and poverty for others is not prosperity when you have a connection to a mixed community, and, whether you realize it or not, you do have such a connection. Security doesn't mean walls and fences and weapons, it means good neighbors who keep in touch with each other and watch out for each other, and it doesn't matter what race, class, or religion those neighbors are, all that matters is that you help each other out because you're in it together. Community isn't a self-selected group of white evangelicals in a mega-church, or a self-selected group of the well-to-do in a gated community, it's whoever happens to be around at that moment and whoever lives next door. Families aren't just a working father, a stay at home moms, and 2.4 kids in the suburbs, it might be the retired widower next door whose grown son lives with him, along with the son's girlfriend and her child from a former marriage, or a lesbian couple and their kids, or whatever. Families take all shapes, and all lives are equally valid and human.

When you deal with the full spectrum of humanity, and you find that we all really want the same things, suddenly the Republican politics of division and fear start to sound insane.

So, a notice for Republicans out there from us weird liberals: you will be assimilated, and you'll actually really enjoy it. We like everyone. Y'all are invited, regardless of ideological differences. We throw great parties and we're fun to be around. Once you get to know us your psychological armor will fall off and you'll feel ten years younger and fifty pounds lighter. A sense of community that covers all kinds of people is the gateway drug to liberalism, so go on, try it. You'll like it. Trust me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't vote against McCain for the color of his skin

Excerpt from Real Time with Bill Maher - New Rules: September 26, 2008:

New Rule: A candidate for president should not be judged by the color of his skin. And to - and to anyone who thinks differently, I say, please do not reject John McCain just because he's white. I think the recent news from Wall Street has made us all less tolerant, and only reinforced the stereotype that white people are shiftless, thieving welfare queens.

Now, take a look at these pictures. Here are the CEO's of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and the Lehman Brothers. I know the first thing that jumps out about these faces is they all happen to be white, and they all happen to be responsible for stealing. But, what you have to understand is that these whites are a product of a society that made them that way.

It was the neighborhoods and the schools they went to: Harvard, Yale, the Wharton School of Business.

They never learned the value of doing real, actual work. And the first step to fixing that is better role models so kids growing up white today don't think the only way out of Westchester is corporate crime.

Or a government handout. Or sailing.

So, I get it. The temptation is to look at McCain and vote against him because you don't see an individual; you just see another typical welfare "whitey."

And it's true. He spent his entire life shuffling from one low-paying government job to another. Well, except those years he spent in prison. Typical. And, between you and me, he's not very articulate.

Oh, he may have some street smarts, but he's not what you'd call an "educated" man. He freely admits he's ignorant about the economy. And apparently the only thing his white running mate knows how to do is crank out one baby after another.

And now, of course, her teenage is pregnant out of wedlock, because she learns it at home!

But, that doesn't mean we should assume all white people are like that just because so many of them are. I believe there is hope. I believe even the stupidest, greediest, laziest whites can break the cycle of dependence, like this November when we finally move George Bush out of public housing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Really yummy potato gratin last night - highly recommended, and pretty darn easy (if you've got a slicer).

Creamy Potato and Herb Gratin

  • 3 tablespoons room temp butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of russet potatoes
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup coarsely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 or 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped (about 1 heaping Tbs)
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (about 2 tsp)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F. Butter 11 x 7 in glass baking dish with 1 Tbs of butter.
Pour cream and milk into a large saucepan. Place onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme in workbowl of food processor. Process until onion is finely minced, and ingredients are well blended. Add onion mixture to milk and cream.
Peel potatoes, then slice on thinnest blade of mandoline or slicer(potato chip thickness). Add sliced potatoes immediately to cream mixture to prevent browning. Add one Tbs of butter, salt, and pepper to mixture, then bring to a boil over medium heat, carefully avoiding scorching and stirring gently from time to time.
Transfer to prepared baking dish, overlapping top layer in a pattern if desired (honestly, with boiling hot potatoes, I could not be bothered to do this step). Dot top with remaining Tbs butter. Cover dish with foil. Bake 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until top is lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes additional. Potatoes should be very tender, and sauce thick and bubbly. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.
These were lovely - more bite than mashed potatoes, but very lush and luxurious. An excellent side for yesterday's pork roast with garlic-mustard rub and buttered cabbage with poppy seeds.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

CSI: Cat Scene Investigation

(Interview with Boo Mamluke)

I: ...and what did you hear Mr. Mamluke?
Boo: We were sleeping, when suddenly there was a strange noise.
I: Did anyone else hear the noise?
Boo: No...Mr. Wylde slept through almost the entire thing.
I: And yet you are holding Mr. Wylde responsible for the disarray and damage you discovered?
Boo: Yes. Our investigation shows that the defendants - Byron and Miranda - were undeniably involved, and probably caused most of the disruption. However, it is my belief that Mr. Wylde created the situation that resulted in the disorder, disturbance, and midnight mayhem.
I: I see. Perhaps you can describe the situation.
Boo: Well, most of my small toy collection was strewn onto the floor. Miranda and Byron's water dishes and food dishes were partially spilled onto the carpeting. A stack of paperwork from the desk was hurled onto the floor. A stack of CDs that Mr. Wylde was ripping was knocked across the room and shuffled, making it necessary to sort the unfinished and finished CDs all over again.
I: Very disturbing indeed. I'm told that you were first on the scene and discovered another participant.
Boo: Yes. Yes, I did.
I: Yet that participant has not been charged - what is your reasoning here?
Boo: Well, the other participant is not living. Though Byron and Miranda seem to think it may be.
I: Perhaps you'd better clarify.
Boo: Well, it seems that what happened was that the Roomba was employed by Mr. Wylde to clean up the office - the crime scene in question. However, upon completion of the Roomba's task, it was not returned to its charger, but left on the floor beneath the desk. Some time around midnight, a scuffle broke out between the defendants - Byron and Miranda. It appears that some portion of the scuffle took place beneath the desk. It appears to have been accidental, but at some point one of the defendants bumped the "On" switch on the Roomba. It is unclear if the same defendant or the other then hit the "Clean" button. Regardless, the Roomba seems to have had enough remaining charge to activate and begin noisily sweeping the carpet, while emitting bright red and blue light from its indicators. While coincidental, it appears that it made a beeline for the cats' food and water dishes, knocking them over and spilling them, and likely cornering one or the other of the defendants beneath the cabinet. In alarm, the cornered defendant seems to have leaped onto the desk, knocking the paperwork to the floor. The other defendant seems to have taken refuge on the piano, causing the CDs to cascade noisily onto the floor. The defendant on the desk, alarmed by the new disruption, then appears to have leaped onto the shelves above the computer, knocking several small figurines onto the floor and behind the desk.
I: And that's when you arrived in the doorway?
Boo: Yes. I entered a scene of horror - disarray everywhere, two frazzled kittens in a state of high alarm - tails and hackles fully bushed out, and a blind robot blundering aimlessly through the debris.
I: And did you identify yourself as an authority figure?
Boo: It was dark, and I was wearing underwear. I simply wanted to calm the scene as quickly as possible. It seemed the first priority should be to disable the robot.
I: And did you?
Boo: Eventually, yes. Unfortunately, I stepped on a small toy causing me some pain and distress. I fear my yell did little to help the situation, as the defendants immediately fled into the bedroom, finally waking Mr. Wylde. However, I did manage to disable the robot in the end. I then turned on the lights to assess the damage. It was horrifying.
I: Did you threaten Mr. Wylde at that point?
Boo: Well...not exactly. I did say that he was in big trouble.
I: So you do hold Mr. Wylde responsible for leaving the Roomba off the charger, allowing it to be powered on inadvertently, and precipating the resulting cat-astrophe?
Boo: I do. While not entirely blameless, I feel the defendants have learned their lesson. Mr. Wylde, however...
I: Has Mr. Wylde not apologized for his actions?
Boo: He has. Unfortunately, I have reason to doubt his sincerity.
I: Why is that?
Boo: Well, the laughter, for one thing. Everytime he attempted to apologize, he kept snickering. I just don't feel he's really sorry.
I: Oh, but I am! Really. Really. Heee. Really!