I love that the place is called "The Cocteau". If I had a theater I'd call it either "Sensei Kurasawa" or "The Oddyssey".
Here's Mr. Martin's post....
Originally posted by grrm at Jean Cocteau and Me
Anyway, I don't intend to say much here, since there is as yet not much to say... but I will fess up to basics, since I see the story is already out on the internet and I would rather not be bombarded with hundreds of "is it true?" emails.
Yes, it's true. I've bought a movie theatre.
Here it is:
The Jean Cocteau is a small Santa Fe art house, with a single screen and 127 seats. It was built in the early 70s as the Collective Fantasy, became the Cocteau later in that decade, went through several local owners who ran it well, and finally became part of the Trans-Lux chain. They closed it in April, 2006, when they shut down their entire chain of theaters. After that it supposedly became the site of the New Mexico Film Museum, but the museum was never funded and never had any exhibits, so that was more in theory than in practice. Aside from a few special showings for the state film commission, which used to have its offices upstairs, the theater has been dark since 2006.
Before that, however, it was one of the city's nicest film venues. It offered coffee and pastries, and had the best popcorn in town, fresh-popped with real butter and parmesan cheese. I saw a lot of movies at the Cocteau between 1979, when I moved to Santa Fe, and 2006, when it closed. I like the idea of bringing it back, better than ever.
I will not be doing it myself, of course. So please, readers, fans, don't get nuts. I am a novelist and a screenwriter, not a theatre manager, it won't be me standing at the concession stand asking if you want butter on your popcorn. My job remains the same as before: editing anthologies, creating and producing television and writing the occasional script, and... first, foremost, always... completing A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. This does not change that.
I love movies and old movie theatres, and it broke my heart to drive past the Jean Cocteau for these past seven years and see it sitting there, dark and decaying. Bringing this beloved theatre back to life is my small gesture at giving something back to Santa Fe, the community that has been my home since 1979. Might be that I will lose my shirt... but, hey, I've been very lucky, I have other shirts.
For those of you who want to read the story that broke the news, the link is here:
We're having a press conference on Tuesday to detail our plans for the Cocteau to the local media, FYI. If anyone reading this is local media, you're welcome to attend.
More than that, I cannot say at this time.
- Current Location:In the Lobby
- Current Music:"Act Naturally" The Beatles
Work is smacking me hard. Don't know whether its my age, my attitude or the shifting of the stars and the crashing of the planets, but damn...
Every year it's like this - there's a long stretch of just balls out work craziness. I know it's coming and I prepare, but this year it's just a grind. I made the mistake today of looking at last year's planner and I saw that I had four days off in April and five days in May. It put things in perspective because I couldn't recall any of the food I made for all those VIP, Must Be Perfect, The Bar is Sky High events for all those VIP clients that Have to Have Things Perfect Or They'll Just Die. Well, that's not true - I can recall some of them because I have pictures and documentation (menus, recipes, etc.), but I looked at some of this stuff and couldn't recall many details. It was a blur then and it's a blur now. I do remember doing a menu and cooking for Obama, but I couldn't be there to actually serve the meal because there was a More Important corporate client that needed my personal attention. I remember my incredulous look of astonishment and my instantaneous question to my boss..."More important than the President of the United States? Really?" Kind of a metaphor for the current state of affairs, doncha think? Anywho, I'm in the midst of a daily cycle now that goes - wake up in the dark, get dressed, have cup of coffee, feed/water cats, stare at Facebook for ten minutes, go to work, come home in the dark, feed/water cats,shower, fall asleep watching Netflix, wake up at midnight, go to bed. Rinse and repeat until July 4 or thereabouts. Somewhere in there the Z-girl comes home from college and then she can wake me up earlier to tell me to go to bed.
Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the work, I really do. But damn.
From my perspective, people are spending money like drunken sailors again - it's just that there aren't as many of those people as when the shit hit the fan in '07. We're missing a few high roller clients who fell through the net during the recession. Clients who paid us so Things Would Be Perfect, but despite their efforts to entertain their way through hard times things turned to shit anyway. I grew to have radar for the clients who would make it and the ones who wouldn't. Caterers are a lot like canaries in the coal mine - we are inside, but not involved and we are some of the first to be able to see the cracks appear. You just gotta see the signs. Forget about what food gets ordered - stopping booze service at corporate events is the first big blip on the radar. From there, if it goes quickly to only serving bottled water, then you know it's getting grim.
We had a client who's business was building and selling yachts. The last big event we did for them was their annual sales blitz where they brought in their big money customers for appreciation and maybe an upgrade on their old yacht. There were more salesmen than clients there - they served shitty Korbel champagne and Jones Soda and the food was hot dogs and hamburgers grilled on site. The clients that did come, drove their Bentley's and Rolls' up to the showroom expecting valet service only to be told they had to park their own cars in a lot across the street and down a block. I was treated to slightly miffed one percenters in Armani and Chanel trudging past and through the fog bank of charcoal smoke billowing off my grill full of cheap quarter pound burgers. A year later the company suspended it's yacht making operation and announced that it was going to work with a Dutch company to build props for wind turbines. But that fell through when the Dutch found out the props they produced at home were better and cheaper. Since then the yacht company's been limping along on life support. They don't use us for catering any more. A local pizza shop proudly announced recently that they are now providing catering services to this company. The clock is ticking.
- Current Location:Down and Out on Windmill Island
- Current Music:"Hard Times" - Red Clay Ramblers
Last night, I stopped at the grocery store to pick a few things up and get a prescription filled. I wasn't in a particular hurry so I wandered around aimlessly after I got my stuff. I ended up in the liquor aisle where I idly looked through the wines. I was caught up in the Chardonnay section searching for an "unoaked" Chardonnay which is a lot like playing "Where's Waldo' especially if there's an extensive amount of wines to sift through. I was marveling to myself at the ridiculous amount of Chardonnay on hand (15 feet and three shelves of it) when I get distracted by the chatter between three young people milling around just down the aisle in front of the hard liquor. Two slightly plump, blowsy girls and a skinny boy. There was no way they were old enough to buy booze. The boy was dressed like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a hip-hop b-boy, or a punker skaterboi. He had the ubiquitous pristine backwards facing ball cap with the tags still attached and giant Van's hightop sneakers. He was skipping around in the aisle with nervous energy and randomly tapping on bottles while muttering to himself. He kept up a running commentary which both girls ignored. One of the girls was wearing pajama bottoms and flip flops and the other was wearing sweats with the word "pink" emblazoned up one leg in rhinestones. She had a Zebra patterned beach bag; it's so big it looks like she's carrying around an air mattress with handles.
The kid nearest me (pajama girl) is talking on her phone. Her conversation clipped and in some sort of verbal semaphore and as she talked she pointed here and there at the shelves and the other girl would pick out bottles to look at while the boy would bounce over, peer at the bottle and then veer off.
"I don't think it's here...yeah...I know...I know what it looks like...I don't...no...down there...that one...yeah Crystal has it...no...it's brown...it's wrong...look...those shelves are empty...what's the sign say...yeah...we're getting it, alright?...Jesus...Robert's no help...help her Robert!...Jesus...he's a moron...I think they have it.... but you have to....you have to ask....yeah..okayokay...I know...I'll do it...I gotta stop talkin'...I gotta go...we'll be there in a few...I don't know...ten minutes....yeahbye...."
I steal a long look as I pull a bottle of Firestone Chardonnay off the top shelf ($35, WTF!). The kids are all staring intently at a spot on the shelves then they abruptly scatter and go separate ways. I go back to my search. I find what I was looking for but as much as I balk at paying $35 for a Chardonnay, I balk equally at buying one for $4.99. I move on down the aisle and look at the shelves the kids were looking at. I see there is an empty spot where the high end Tequila is kept. Evidently the stuff that sells for $50 or more you have to ask for assistance to get. Oddly, there is Bourbon and Scotch on the shelves in that price range or even more. I sense a little retail racial profiling going on here. I head out musing about the incredible amount of booze this market has for sale in relation to its size. I'm ambling towards checkout when the group of kids walk briskly by. Pajama girl is last in line and she has the beach bag now. She's talking on the phone again. She brushes by me and as she does I hear the unmistakable sound of full bottles clinking softly together in rhythm with her marching strides. Her voice wobbles with her movement as she follows her friends out the doors into the parking lot.
"...I always have to...to do it...they just stand there....yeah...duh....yeah...he's a puss....shit...yeah...are they there?...not yet....yeah...on our way....."
- Current Location:Neighborhood Bodega
- Current Music:"Bank Robber" - The Clash
Gluten Free Crab Cake topped with coconut "yogurt" and a side of eggplant gremolata
Went to a presentation on Gluten Free, Vegan French Cooking last night. Now taking French cuisine and pairing it with gluten free/vegan cooking is like what you get when someone like Pavorotti takes it in his head to cover the musical stylings of the Ramones. I was already sending my Sous to the class along with our specialists in the needs of special diet student diners so I decided to tag along out of curiosity. I took a class last year from one of the presenters. She's a good teacher and really well versed in food allergy issues particularly Chrone's disease and Celiac. I was motivated to get updated on what's going on currently in the gluten free/vegan world. And truth be told, I was curious to see just how successful they'd be at making Gluten Free French food.
We went into town early so we could spend time going from one ethnic grocer to another picking up supplies for our exotic ingredient larder back at the college. Fresh Pita, Injera bread, pickles and Zaatar seasoning from the Halal Mediterranean market, bags of coriander and cardamom seeds, Garam Masala along with dough mix for Puri and Dosa from the Indian spice store, and finally some quality imported soy sauce, Ponzu and a bunch of Udon, buckwheat noodles and various kimchis from the Japanese/Korean place. It was fun taking some of the crew shopping - most of them had a blast even though they had no clue about a lot of the foodstuffs. A few of the cooks bowed out after the Indian store because it was "smelly" and "weird" and they were none too pleased with all of the graven images being sold there. I only compounded the issue by purchasing a really cool calendar with the store's logo emblazoned over a great painting of Shiva and a little night lamp in the shape of Ganesh. It has glowing red eyes.
The seminar was very good and chock full of new info mixed with old. It was good to review the nuts and bolts of gluten and the gluten free world. Every year I see more and more students with food allergies with the bulk of them being in the medium to severe range. Mostly nut related, dairy or gluten, but some more specific to certain veggies or fruits. Part of the reason for this rise in allergies is the obliteration of beneficial bacteria along with the harmful through the use of antibiotics. Part of it is the prevalence of genetically modified foods coming to the fore these past couple decades. Some of it is environmental. It's all inter-related, complicated and nearly impossible to undo.
The lecture was broken up by small cooking demos that went along with the way the lecturer had her talk organized. I had never been served dinner while listening to a lecture and I must say it's not a bad way to wade through three hours of technical jargon and knotty problems. The wine pairings helped things along quite well. The food was hit or miss. Vichyssoise benefitted quite a bit from the gluten/dairy free treatment, but the same couldn't be said of that old standby, Hollandaise sauce. In fact, it's my opinion that trying to create gluten free vegan versions of any classic French sauce should be stopped with extreme prejudice. The Coq au Vin was technically a great effort, but removing the gluten from it only made it thin and lacking in body or character. Dessert was a French parfait featuring caramelized pears and cubes of sweetbread made with Gluten Free rice flour blended with Xanthum Gum. The bread was flavored with Meyer lemon and quite delicious with a gooey denseness you get with home-made pound cake. All that said, it was a good meal and impressive in the execution. Would I serve a Gluten Free French meal? No, but if in the midst of serving my version of Coq au Vin or cassoulette it's nice to know I can surprise and delight a person with Gluten issues with versions of the same dishes that won't make them sick. It's all about the hospitality.
Gluten Free Coq au Vin with Asparagus, Roasted Fennel and Hollandaise - if it looks greasy and thin,
that's because it was.
A Gluten Free dish I made today for a contest - Four Mushroom Shepard's Pie with Spicy Feta flavored whipped potatoes.
- Current Location:The Left Bank
- Current Music:Tetes Raides - "Un P'tit Air"
The factory depicted in this pillow shot actually appears in one of my family's home movies from the mid-fifties
I've said before that I tend to get obsessed about one thing or another. Once I find an interest I'll delve into it as completely as possible until I get bored and then I'll move on. This past Winter I went through as many movies adapted from John Le Carre books as possible, I watched about 40 episodes of "30 Rock", read all of the current volumes of "The Song of Ice and Fire" saga by George R.R. Martin and am ongoing in my experiments in Molecular Gastronomy and night time street photography. I've learned quite a bit from all of these minor infatuations, but I think I've only really enjoyed, on a gut aesthetic level, my meanderings through the film world of Yasujiro Ozu. Not only because of my personal connections to Japanese culture, but because these films were as comforting as a soft blanket and a warm fire during the long days of winter where I'd leave for work in the dark and return to my Empty Nest, in the dark.
One of the great contributions Ozu made to the mechanics of film making was the idea and practice of the "pillow shot". These are static shots, usually devoid of people, that are beautifully framed and placed in the film at key points. During a typical Ozu film pillow shots are placed a points of friction or crisis in the narrative. They can also serve as scene transitions. Ozu's favorite pillow shots include deep focus shots of the ocean or mountains with a traditional Japanese lantern in the foreground; this shot usually symbolizes a character's struggle with traditional values clashing with modern change. There is also the interior pillow shot of tranquil domesticity shot low and again, in deep focus, with a perfectly arranged bud vase and flower in the foreground gently wafting in a random breeze. There is an oft referenced scene that is repeated in several films but most effectively in "Tokyo Story" (Ozu's most representative and famous film) that shows an interior of complete, Zen-like arrangement pierced by a steaming tea kettle just on the edge of the frame. Both pillow shots, the bud vase flower and the steaming kettle, allow the viewer time to absorb, process and intensify the heavy underlying domestic tension of the scene that came before. These pillow shots also set up an emotional framework for what may come after. They are poetic pauses that allow time for contemplation during the film. A very Japanese sort of device that has proven itself over time to be accepted universally by the film audience. We see examples of pillow shot variations in any number of modern films i.e. Robert De Nero calling Cybil Shepard for a date from a pay phone as the camera shows a quick static shot (again deep focus) of a dingy hallway or Christoph Waltz going through the silent pantomime of preparing beers for himself and Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained". Quiet, still scenes that freight large loads of emotional tension from one scene to the next.
All of this emotional and symbolic manipulation aside, the Ozu pillow shots stand alone as a sort of beautifully wrought moving postcard from post-war Japan which lovingly depicts the pastoral and industrial landscape. Initially, I enjoyed these shots as a small wonderful window into a time when I was a small child living in Japan. Then I came to appreciate Ozu's mastery of the form once I learned that the pillow shot had a purpose other than as a placecard for scenic change. So not only am I delighted with the story-telling in Ozu's films; I can now gain several different sorts of pleasure from his skill with the strictly visual realm.
Here's a somewhat long, yet very well done montage of a selected pillow shots from Ozu's films shot in color:
Now that I've managed to completely drown my thirst for all things Ozu, I think I can set him aside and go on to my next filmic interest, Aki Kaurismaki the Finnish director who created a delightful film I watched recently called "Ariel" which is a symphony of dead pan, dry humor blended with tragic violence. I watch "Ariel" and as a movie buff I can immediately see where Quentin Tarantino got his visual style from for "Resevoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction". As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. Everyone influences everyone else.
Sidebar: I watched "A Somewhat Gentle Man" again last night and plan on writing more about it later, but I recommend this one highly. So funny and well done. It stars Stellan Skarsgard, an actor you will all recognize even if the name doesn't ring a bell. He is a journeyman actor whom I think deserves the same amount of Oscar attention as the aforementioned Christoph Walz has been receiving these past couple of years.
- Current Location:Shot from Below
- Current Music:Beethoven - Sym. No. 5 Adagio
The radio is constantly on at work. In a lot of ways it is a sort of intelligent white noise that floats above all of the industrial noise in the kitchen. You wouldn't think so, but it is incredibly noisy in a commercial kitchen and I know I've lost a good deal of hearing over the years because of all my time spent there. The least painful part of the noise is the music/talk coming out of the beat up old boombox perched on a ledge in the back of the kitchen. Control of the radio and who picks what station is left up to whoever has the energy or the will to mess with the thing. This means the station choice is left mostly up to the first shifters who roll in at 5 a.m. They are almost to a person, country music fans. Now, generally I despise what passes these days for country music. I'm old school, Grand ole Opry when it comes to the country side of the musical spectrum. Give me Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves with some bluegrass and cowboy music scattered in there for flavor and I'm okay. Modern country these days owes more to Allman Brothers, The Band and Bruce Springsteen than it does anything I'd consider the roots of country music. So when I come into work and B93 Thunder Country is cranking, my brain as learned to filter that shit out so much so that when people ask me what I think of this or that on the radio I can honestly say, I didn't hear it or I wasn't listening even though it's loud enough that it rides just above the general din. I also avoid listening to the country station because I hate the jingoistic patriotic cheer leading they feel compelled to indulge in at every opportunity. I mean , every day at noon they play the Star Spangled Banner. It reminds me of growing up and all the random military bases we lived on where the anthem was played three times a day. This patriotic thing is in the same category as church going for me - I've done my share of participating in both, I'm done, now leave me the fuck alone.
It's rare that I, the chef, gets control of the radio. When the opportunity arises I still sometimes delegate the choice to someone else with the caveat, "No Country, Christian Rock, or Hip-Hop". I usually only take total control on my own when we have breaks and I'm in the huge kitchen alone or with just a few others. Next week is Spring Break, which means I'll be doing R & D by myself and that means I can indulge my kitchen music mojo. This means you can count on coming into the kitchen and hearing Alt-Rock, Be-Bop Jazz, Classical Symphonic, Punk, Electronica, Classic Rock, Opera, Folk, World and most anything else. Except for Contemporary Country, Christian Rock or Hip-Hop.
The other day, a rarity occurred and I was offered a shot at choosing a station. It was a fairly light day for everyone, a lot of the machinery was idle and quiet, so I picked NPR. It was Friday and I like to listen to Science Friday with Ira Flatow when I can. The rest of the kitchen krew expected me to pick something different. My eclectic audio tastes are well known which is part of the reason I don't get a shot at playing kitchen DJ very much. My pick was met with general approval and mild surprise. There are evidently a lot of NPR fans in my kitchen and it just hadn't occurred to anyone to listen to talk radio once in a while instead of Country Thunder.
Ira did a segment on a phenomena that is in its infancy, but one that I feel will be as big a deal as smart phones in a few years. Domestic drones for civilian use. We got into our usual weird work conversations about the subject after the segment was over. Ira and his guest mentioned that probably the first use of drones in civilian air space would likely be courier drones in urban environments. Bike messengers will disappear and be replaced by small flying things zipping around a hundred feet above the streets. This was cool, but seemed implausible to us. When the guest suggested that one of the first uses would be pizza/food delivery we all perked up. You mean you could have a flying robot deliver pizza to your door? That would be friggin' awesome! I said, they'd have to electrify or armor them somehow to keep drunks from trying to climb on them. My shift leader, hearing this, said that they should design a heavy lift version capable of 300 + pound loads.
"Imagine. You get too shitfaced at the bar to drive so you grab a Designated Drone at the door, flash it with your GPS home tag from your phone, strap it on and it flies you home. Like the future version of the horse and buggy - just pass out and the horse walks you home."
One of the line cooks gets a wry look on his face.
"Yeah, imagine the skies filled with drunk bastards puking and peeing on you from above. it would suck to live in a bar's flight path, which with this system would be pretty much everywhere."
And then from there the conversation got really stupid. Still, it's an interesting subject. I don't think civilian drones are implausible at all. People once scoffed at the thought of everyone having a cell phone not all that long ago. This seems to be the same sort of thing. Years from now, when I arrive at your house to visit my old LJ friend in person using my leased Southwest Airlines Boeing Hybrid Electric Heavy Lift Strato-Drone pack, I'll be able to tell you I told you so to your face.
- Current Location:Right above you
- Current Music:"Mexican Radio" - Wall of Voodoo
One of my guilty pleasures is reality TV. And the more ridiculous the better. Now I don't mean badly done "ridiculous" as in transparently scripted reality TV like "Lizard Lick Towing" or "Operation Repo" both of which are so unreally real that they wrap around the mobius strip of reality in an infinite loop that makes you dumber the longer you watch. This Infinite Stupidity Loop is powered from an exponential vector developed by the boys at CERN and applied by the programming Overlords at Bravo and Tru TV. No, the reality TV I'm talking about is the plausible, well edited but still ridiculous fare offered by three reality shows in particular. These shows constitute what could basically be called soap operas on the cheap and are indeed the descendents of that hoary, well-worn, well-loved TV programming warhorse from back in the day.
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" (RHOBH as it's known in the fan-o-sphere) is offered by the current king of reality TV, the Bravo channel, which used to show lots of opera, Coldplay concerts, and art documentaries until the guys wearing the green visors in the front office came up with a way to actually make money. Namely, having a camera crew follow a bunch of rich, entitled, good looking housewives around as they made their way through their rich, entitled existence. This was the premise for the first series in the franchise, "The Real Housewives of Orange County" which was a smashing success. TV being TV, they proceeded to replicate the brand using the same formula but changing the location. There are "The Real Housewives of New York", "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" along with my favorite, the aforementioned, "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills". It's my favorite because the women on this show are so rich that even the "poor" ones amongst the group still have more money than countries like Chad, Honduras and even maybe Lichtenstein. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little, nevertheless, there is serious money here - the kind that has a life of its own that just keeps coming no matter what the general economic climate is. It's this existence unfettered by money worries that I find fascinating to watch.( Read More on Trash TV...Collapse )
After watching RHOBH for two seasons now, I've come to the conclusion that not having to worry about money and bills and eating or any of that stuff causes you to turn into a seventh grader with shaky self esteem and an inability to deal rationally with anything life may throw at you. Time and again the show's producers show us how these women deal or spectacularly fail to deal with problems that money just can't solve. And therein lies the hook that the show sinks into your work be-numbed brain crying out for effortless snark and delicious schadenfreude. And of course there is the extra added bonus of the cast living in the glittering bubble that is the entertainment/entitlement capital of the world, Hollywood. This only serves to ratchet up the social stakes while completely dismissing as insignificant, mundane life problems like husbands committing suicide or husbands banging a string of mistresses while you are eight months pregnant. The show is a paean to surface and money. It is a world I don't think I could survive even if I had the juice to pay the cover; I just don't have the right mind set. I don't have the social tools.
The women routinely undergo plastic surgeries for flaws that even the High Definition cameras have a hard time picking up. They spend every waking second examining how they look both dressed and undressed. Getting old is the ultimate sin unless you are fortunate enough to carry it off with the right combination of genetics, surgery and gym time. A couple of the ladies meet this criteria. One became the breakout star of the series and had a spin off show debut this season.
Lisa Vanderpump (yes, Vanderpump) amassed an 85 million dollar fortune with her husband Ken who possesses a particularly Midas-like talent for creating and running restaurants and nightclubs. Ken, as evidenced during the show, is content to lounge around on his entrepreneurial laurels at their hilltop Beverly Hills manse puttering around with a pack of purse dogs while Lisa "manages" the Hollywood celebrity hotspot Sur. The title of the show that documents what goes on at Sur is called "Vanderpump Rules", which is a bit of a misnomer. Lisa Vanderpump is a 51 percent owner in a restaurant staffed by the most beautiful. photogenic and self absorbed people I have ever seen in foodservice, but it's to be expected, this is Hollywood and these are all actor/models only posing as waitstaff. Sur is like a modern day Brown Derby or Chasen's where the elite of Hollywood meet and greet. That said, even the Brown Derby had enough of a working class vibe to it that a tourist or regular person would feel perfectly comfortable reserving a table for lunch to nibble at a Cobb Salad whilst gazing at whatever Hollywood royalty that happened to blow in the door. This is not true for Sur where you get the distinct impression that if you are not some simulacrum of a Perfect Human you will likely stick out like a hobo dipped in pig shit amongst what looks like the best the Ford Modeling Agency has to offer. The show makes me feel like an ugly troll just watching it. The staff is beautiful. Lisa is beautiful. The restaurant is like the garden of Eden. Even the bar backs and bus boys are so good looking I'd consider getting a tuggy from the ugliest amongst them even though I'm about as hetero as they come. It's just that intimidating. And mesmerizing.
The breakout stars from the show are an aging (by Hollywood and modeling standards) male model named Jax (real name Jason) and his on again, off again, girlfriend and self proclaimed princess, Stassi. Not Stacey. Stassi. Pronounced STAAH-ZZI; like the East German secret police for you aficionados of Cold War history.
Jax is 33 and going through a mid-good looking crisis. He has run head first into the reality of aging in Hollywood i.e. old is irrelevant and not for hire unless you have some useful talent. Jax's talent is that he can bartend okay, he looks great in sweaters, and he can fuck random vaginas like nobody's biz. He's got a puppy-like infatuation for Stassi whom he both cherishes as his One True Love and shits on by fucking a random bottle service girl in Vegas, getting her pregnant and then lying about the whole thing. Yeah, this is how things go in the land of the Beautiful People where the only thing that matters is what stares back from the mirror, and no one is who they say they are.
Meanwhile, Lisa is portrayed as a blending of the Mother to All combined with Ring Master of the Circus of the Beautiful yet Flawed. She offers sage advice to her charges like "Be on time.", " I'm running a business here, don't you see?" and "You can't keep doing this over and over." In any other restaurant management situation she would be completely out of line with her meddling in her staff's lives, but somehow this approach works with all of her impossibly good looking bartenders, waitresses and waiters. I'm reminded of the film "Boogie Nights" where Burt Reynold's character spends a lot of time stroking the egos of his employees and friends with empty compliments, false interest and transparent glad-handing. I realize by watching "Vanderpump Rules" I am viewing a live action, reality version of Paul Thomas Anderson's iconic film brought forward from it's 70's setting to modern times and that what has always been true of Hollywood is still true today. The place can be a pit of disposable empty lives.
The need to huddle in empty compliments and flimsy relationships to survive in LA is boldly evident in an unlikely niche reality TV program about the scions of Iranian ex-pats and political refugees called "The Shahs of Sunset". The subjects of this program are a tight-knit group of friends within a narrow community in LA of Iranian descendents who prefer to be called Persian because as, one of the group explains, "the name just rolls off the tongue". Not to mention that trumpeting your Iranian heritage in America these days is not exactly going to get you a lot of cheers and attaboys.
"Shahs" is on its second season and has its own star in the openly gay real estate agent Reza Farahan who has become the narrator and driver of most of the program's story lines. Reza is shown reconciling with his father and grandmother after years of estrangement, Reza struggles to balance his long time relationship with his partying philandering ways, Reza is shown playing games with his circle of friends by pitting them against each other for his favor and friendship, we see Reza pushing his office partner Mercedes (MJ) Javid out in favor of the more ambitious and reliable Mike Shouhed. The core circle of seven friends is split up between those that work in real estate or those that are almost totally supported by their parents. The ones without jobs are not lacking in ambition though. One, Golnesa (GG), has a burgeoning hair extension business who counts retired porn star Jenna Jameson as a celebrity client. Another, Asa Rhomati, is a musician and self proclaimed "Persian Pop Priestess" who owes no small part of her niche musical success to her boyfriend, Jermaine Jackson III (yes, THAT Jackson). She also has started a bottled water business featuring water that has been "blessed" by the power of diamonds, Diamond Water.
As with any reality show the crux of a lot of the action and conflict comes from the dysfunctional members of the cast and "Shahs" has a couple of doozies in the persons of Mercedes (MJ) and Golnesa(GG). MJ is forty, unmarried, probably alcoholic and unabashedly proud of her plump figure and her ability to out-party her hard partying Persian friends. MJ is one of those arrested development train wrecks who is at the stage of life where she finds herself with a monkey on her back and any attractiveness she ever had quickly disappearing. Combine this with a mother who is a bit of a selfish monster along with a father who is doting, clueless and frail and you can't help but sympathize with MJ as we watch her "Days of Wine and Roses" moment play out. The circle of friends are her only life line. She is trying to help herself by going to therapy, but the therapist isn't addressing the partying, drinking or drug abuse (alleged) preferring to stick with MJs mommy issues instead.
Golnesa (GG) is 35 and has never had a job. She is the princess of her family and her father pays for everything. The hair extension business is really her sister's and Golnesa only tries to horn in on that when daddy suggests that her gravy train is going to end very soon. Golnesa has an enormous anger management problem and is continually flying off the handle. Her hair trigger temper comes along with a real verbal skill at spewing death threats and insults. She gets physically violent at the drop of a hat and her preferred weapon of choice is a knife. In one episode, Golnesa attacked her friend Asa at a party because Asa had complimented Golnesa's boyfriend on the fact that he had not opted to change his distinctive large nose with plastic surgery. Even saying nice, complimentary things can earn you the wrath of GG. Golnesa is going to therapy also, but so far it's not working. If things keep going this way Golnesa's dad won't be supporting her, the state of California will. The second season ended with her being estranged from the circle of friends and broken up with her boyfriend because she ended up brandishing a knife at a dinner party meant to be a peace conference between antagonists.
The overall dynamic of the circle of friends isn't the attraction for me in "Shahs". What I like is the little glimpses of immigrant back story you occasionally get, and the blatant, over-the-top materialism of their culture. Reza has made a lot of money in real estate as have MJ and Mike, but you never see them sell anything and if I were a customer and saw this show, I'd think twice about plunking down that 5 mil for a one bedroom condo in the Hills. Fortunately, their customer base of traditional Iranian, sorry, Persian immigrants and the Arab community in general don't tend to watch reality TV.
From what I can put together, the parents of everyone in the group were all refugees from the time of the Shah of Iran's downfall and the coming of the Ayatollah. I get the impression that mommy and daddy skipped out of the country with as many bags of money they could transfer into Switzerland and this was the nut they had when they landed in sunny LA all those years ago. True, some of the parents had to leave quickly with relatively little. The operative word here is "relatively" and in this case it is relative as compared to what the Shah managed to haul out of Iran before the clerics took over. So even the folks who left with little, weren't exactly having to live in a tent city in the desert outside LA. As open and detailed as all the friends are about most anything else; money or rather the exact source of it is a taboo subject. This taboo isn't restricted just to this program; nobody discusses money on any of these shows even though it's the flaunting of this wealth that's the main draw.. The wealth is just there and talking about how it got there is considered bad form. And in that way, the refusal to acknowledge the wealth as earned or unearned upholds the Beverly Hills code which has as its foundation that old saw from F. Scott Fitzgerald who said all those years ago, "The rich are different from you and me". Gaze in wonder at me but mind your own fucking business.
- Current Location:Ready for my Close Up
- Current Music:"The Third Man" Theme - Anton Karas
Italian Pork Loin Agro Dolce with Grecian Potatoes Skordalia-style and Ethiopian Berbere roasted carrots
Been going to a lot of local chef association meetings lately, trying to do a bit more networking. Towards what end I really don't know, but the meeting agendas have been pretty interesting. Last month we visited a local brew pub that is making organic beer, whatever THAT means. This month we visited a coffee roaster and distributor which featured a dinner with coffee/food pairings throughout the meal. I've backed way off on my coffee consumption this past year, but I went ahead with the plan at this meal and wound up getting a pretty wound up on caffeine. Topped the night off by drinking some coffee made from beans that had passed through the digestive tract of a mongoose. It was very mild and light with no harshness at all. The stuff sells for 200 bucks a pound, which was totally worth it only if it would have sent you on an 8 hour mind trip complete with animal Spirit Guides. Otherwise, its kind of a hype in liquid form. Josh, the Sous loved it though.
"This coffee is delicious!"
"Yeah, it's pretty good."
"It's fruity with a really interesting finish to it. Can't put my finger on that taste at the end."
"Oh I don't know...could it be...poop? Mongoose poop, to be exact?"
"You're a dick."
The whole coffee roasting gig is pretty underwhelming to me. The process is stupidly simple and all it takes is a lot of money for equipment and an ability to watch the clock and set a thermostat. And in this case, the owner controlled all of his roasting processes via software on his iPad, so really, you could be a gibbering idiot and still roast some good coffee. I'll give this guy his due though, he knew the principles behind it all. That said, I was ready to leave after about ten minutes of him droning about First Crack and Second Crack in relation to coffee roasting. However, there was a female chef there I knew from her days as a food broker. Sat next to her at dinner and we chit chatted about her new job and other stuff I immediately forgot because I was too busy trying to think of things to say that wouldn't come out completely moronic. She's totally too young and out of my league, but it was good practice and she was fun dinner company. Kinda hope she comes to the next meeting. I have a mind to push this cart a little further to see where it goes. Just for the hell of it. Of course, if she mentions that I remind her of her dad, I'm out.
The chef meetings are good respite from recent family tragedies and drama not least of which is the surprising, but not unexpected death of my nephew. He had been struggling with heroin and Oxycontin addiction for about two years and was showing signs of climbing out of that pit. He had been in a halfway house located on the other side of the state and was making weekend trips back home with a goal of moving back there permanently. It was on one of these visits that he died. He'd taken a bath after he helped my sister in law shovel snow off the drive. Evidently, he had popped a few oxys he smuggled in from a friend. Passed out, sunk below the water and drowned. Mom found him, dragged him out and performed CPR while waiting for the EMTs. This wasn't the first time they'd had to revive him at home, only this time it was way too late. So there was the whole sad ritual of youthful death. A funeral home, open casket visitation, full-on Catholic funeral mass with luncheon provided by the parish and then the long black parade out to the cemetery. Teenaged mourners pie eyed with the shock of mortality as they passed by the open casket. Way too many bad memories of her mother's death for Z-girl, who had a hard time of it, but I coaxed her through until she balked at going to the cemetery. She couldn't bare seeing him buried. The permanence of that act too overwhelming. I felt/feel just terrible for my SIL and BIL who really had no tools or reference points with which to deal with an addicted son. His death has left them completely unhinged and obliterated. His three surviving brothers are whipsawing between anger and grief which is only natural.
I'm sort of the odd man out in that side of the family since my wife died, so I don't feel comfortable stepping in like I am a real part of it all. This, even though I was with Eileen for 26 years and knew all of her brothers and her sister for all of that time. Always felt outside and still do, but not so much with Eileen's sis and her hubby who were closer to me than the rest. I'll wait a while before I touch base - they wouldn't remember a call now even it was Obama giving condolences. That said, I remember that no one on that side of the family but her sister called me a few weeks after Eileen died to check up on Z-girl and myself so I owe her that at least. The rest can go hang.
Then Z-girl slammed head first into an academic brick wall known as "Discrete Mathematics". She was told by her advisor in an e-mail that she was failing the class and needed to contact her professor to see about possible solutions, one of which was to withdraw from the class. Z-girl hasn't failed at anything so this was a total shock to her. Luckily, we have a great communicative relationship and she met me for lunch to tell me about it. Complete melt down with incoherent sobbing, jabbering about how she's not smart enough and that everyone's so competitive and she is totally lost. I did my job and picked her up, brushed her off, gave her lots of hugs and calming words of encouragement. She's a planning sort of girl, so I knew that having some sort of plan A, B and C would calm the storm so I made up an action plan on the spot that had no relation to what might really need to be done just to get her up off the floor and thinking rationally again. It worked and she went off to send e-mails to her prof to see what could be done. So we shall see.
Next day, she calls me and says she got her Psych mid term back and that she's carrying a D right now, but it was okay because she went to her prof who showed her a bevy of extra credit quizzes she could take online for credit which would shoot her grade back up to B- land. She told me she's planning on spending her weekend going through them She learned from the Math disaster and took care of the problem on her own without me. I'm so happy.
- Current Location:In the Kitchen with Juan Valdez
- Current Music:Neil Young - "Tired Eyes"
I just realized it's been nearly a month since I last posted. Time just fritters away sometimes. I've been spending a lot of time on FB since I got a new phone at Christmas. Live Journal is unwieldy for mobile posting but FB seems to be made for it. Live Journal is a different animal really that doesn't need mobile use too much other than checking in and reading your feed. My phone's one of those smart ones that came with an annoying but doable learning curve. Didn't see a need at first, but it's been pretty convenient as a work tool and as another way to keep up with the Z-girl. Expensive though, but with Zoe paying her share my actual phone bill only went up ten bucks. But how long is the kid going to keep paying her bill? That is the question. We'll see. Anyway, I like a lot of the features of my phone particularly Face Time which is basically a mobile version of Skype - the sous and I can communicate visually when we're at two separate remote catering locations. It's already saved us a lot of hassles. Z-girl went to a meeting in Grand Rapids and promptly got lost, even with Google Maps, so she Face Timed me. I had her scan the area, I noticed a land mark and was able to guide her back to familiar territory. She also sent me a live feed of a dance routine she was watching at a conference she went to in Detroit. Kind of nifty.
I read this afternoon that some commercial space aviation company is planning a manned Mars flyby and is looking for volunteers of middle age to go. They prefer married couples, which opens all sorts of comedic possibilities right there. If I was in better shape and ten years younger I'd love to give this a shot. Even if it meant spending 18 months in a capsule the size of my Honda Civic. Now, if I were still married I know it wouldn't work because although I cared for my wife very much, we just weren't the sort of couple who would even think of being in close proximity for a large length of time. We did most everything together, but we always knew we had to have "me" time in there just as a safety valve. Hell, we'd get into knock-down, drag-out fights during simple three hour drives. I'm pretty sure that on an 18 month space flight, one or both of us would be going out the hatch sans helmet.
All that aside, I find the prospect of this sort of flight, exciting. I'm a space geek from way back. I stayed up til the wee hours last summer watching the live feed of JPL landing the rover on Mars. Thinking about how they did that still boggles my mind. The only thing is that would worry me is this particular operation is being run by some private concern and I'd feel a whole lot better if the engineering wizards at JPL had their hands on the controls, as it were. The risk of death is probably pretty high, but it really sounds like the only Grand Adventure left right now. Everest has been climbed, the Moon walked upon, the bottom of the sea mapped. A dash around Mars has just enough good old fashioned whiz-bang about it to maybe help ignite the world's passion for exploring space in person once again.
Back here on earth, I have a new student assistant who's helping me with special projects. He's a Communications major who's specialty is marketing and video/film editing which has been an enormous time saver for me as far as getting any sort of video work done. He's also a movie fan which makes it easy to talk to him using techy jargon when we talk about video production. The kid works very fast and has a wide streak of OCD so not only is he getting assignments done quicker than I can spit them out, but even his drafts are near perfect. He has a good eye, but is still working on fundamentals. His dream is to become a cinematographer. I've given him a movie list to watch - he hadn't heard of any of the films I suggested...kids. He also thrives on deadlines. He called me today and asked if I would send him a deadline schedule made out through April. Well, all right then, wonderful. I'd love to keep him here after graduation, but he has his heart set on finding fame and fortune out in LA. I think he'll do okay. Told him to put me on the guest list if he gets an Oscar nomination someday.
A few weeks ago he talked to me about doing a Harlem Shake video with me and some of the staff. I had no idea what this was so he showed it to me and it looked like fun. Evidently its one of those here today and gone tomorrow internet fads. I've always liked to rock out and dance but the Harlem Shake isn't music that typically inspires me to get my groove on. I did my best, though. My sous was all excited to do the video, but he got cut out of the frame. He bitched at me about it for a whole day until I had to tell him that I was the fucking chef and it's all about me until his plans for my demise come to fruition. Which won't happen any time soon because I'm old, but I'm wily.
- Current Location:Riding the Rover
- Current Mood:accomplished
- Current Music:Bowie - "Life on Mars"
A few days ago I was blowing snow from the driveway, puttering along mindlessly when I saw a pink something fly out of the chute and go sailing into the yard. At first I thought it might be a small animal or bird, but the color was wrong. Bright, fluorescent pink. I turned off the machine and tramped over to take a look. A small tangled wad of pink fabric of some kind. I probably looked like some sort of curious Inuit, bundled up in my parka and snowmobile mittens, investigating a rare find on the arctic tundra. I took off a mitten and picked the thing up holding it close to my face so I could train my bottom bi-focal lens on it. Fabric all right. With writing. I doff my other mitten and take hold of it with two hands. I'm not sure what I'm seeing. It takes a few seconds for my near frozen eyeballs to relay the information to my brain that I am standing, transfixed, in my snow covered back yard holding a Victoria Secret "PINK" brand thong close to my face, staring at this tiny bit of fabric like it was the Holy Grail itself. Once recognition kicked in I instinctively flung the thing away while my brain shrieked, "Thong!No!Thong!No!Thong!No!Nononono!
Once I recovered from my mental thong trauma event a few seconds later, my Sherlock Holmes brain kicked in and I began to puzzle out the mystery of why there was a thong buried in the snow in my driveway. Okay, so I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I'm not stupid and in no time I figured it out. A few days before, Z-girl and her roomie Mol, were at the house doing laundry. Both girls had mountains of clothes and they spent the afternoon washing, drying and watching Cartoon Channel. I made them dinner then they had to leave to go to separate study group meetings. Mol asked if I would throw her last load into the drier and she would pick it up later. I offered to throw the clothes in a basket and bring it in the next day when I went to work. Evidently, a pair of her underwear fell out of the basket while I was getting it into the car and I didn't see them. Case solved, which would have been all well and good. However, my brain kept ticking along and soon I had several grim scenarios going through my head, all of them involving me being labeled as some sort of thong stealing pervert who likely had God knows what else sort of sick things going on at my house. I had visions of computers being confiscated and reporters staking out my house, going through my garbage. Me having solemn discussions with my company's lawyer and the college's provost eventually winding up with me in a tiny room talking to a detective. I've watched enough "Law and Order", I know how this shit goes down.
I decided to come clean so I talked to z-girl at the campus coffee shop.
"So guess what shot out the snowblower this morning while I was doing the driveway?"
"Omygod - you didn't run over a cat or something?"
"No. Just a thong."
"A thong? Where would that...whaa?"
"I think it fell out of one of the laundry baskets you guys had this weekend then it got snowed on."
Z-girl proceeds to have a giggling fit.
"Do you have any thongs by chance?"
"No. It's probably Mol's."
"That's what I thought. Shit. What if she misses it?"
"She won't miss them. She has tons of clothes."
"You don't get it. What if she misses them, then puts two and two together and assumes that I have them. And since I haven't said anything, she'll think I'm some sort of panty stealing perv."
The giggling fit breaks down into uncontrollable laughter.
"Oh, that's really really funny. Wait'll tell her!"
"What? NO! HELL no! Nononono - you can't say anything! We just do like we do with everything in this family. Kill it with silence and eventually it will be forgotten."
"C'Mon dad - it's no big deal. It's friggin' hilarious! The funniest crap always happens to you."
"No. You will say nothing. You have no idea what could happen. Now, let's talk about something else. Stop laughing."
So. This was a week ago. It's almost time for Z-girl to do laundry again. I figure if Mol doesn't come along to do laundry too, then I will know that she thinks I am a perverted old man. Which I might be, but not like that.
- Current Location:Under Cover of Darkness
- Current Music:Paranoid - Black Sabbath