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Monday, May 31, 2004

the so-called liberal media. 

In the LA Times, on an article about the passing of the budget in Congress (short version: Republicans are split between tax-cutters and deficit-balancers), there is this extract:

But in Bush, the Republicans got a leader more committed to cutting taxes than to keeping the budget in balance. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the president led the GOP to a strong consensus that deficit reduction had to take a back seat to defense spending and tax cuts in order to jump-start the economy.

This year, however, with the economy starting to get back on track and deficits growing like Topsy, Republicans who were lukewarm to tax cuts before turned downright chilly. They remain a distinct minority in the party, but even a small faction can wield tremendous clout in the narrowly divided Senate.


The first paragraph ends with tax cuts in order to jump-start the economy. Never mind that the tax cuts are heavily backloaded (there effect is delayed till later, which is not a way to jump start anything), and that they are targeted to the very affluent (removal of estate tax and dividend tax), which means that they provide little economical bang for the buck (giving more money to the rich won't increase spending as much as giving it to the lower incomes).

The second paragraph starts with with the economy starting to get back on track and deficits growing like Topsy. First, the implied link from the previous paragraph is that the tax cuts worked. However, all serious economists will say that the economy would have been back on track with or without these cuts (some speculate that Bush expected this to push a tax cuts that would have little impact, so that could take credit for the expected cyclical upturn in the economy). So the implication is clearly wrong.

Some people tend to claim that the media has a "liberal bias." But even in a piece that debates about the deficit (which is clearly Bush's responsibility, for passing taxes after declaring war), the implied message is that all tax cuts are good for the economy, and that Bush's tax cuts worked. Wrong and wrong.

Friday, May 28, 2004

crime and jail. 

Something that is quite crazy: the Justice Department released the data for the inmate population in the US. There were 2.07 millions people in jail on June, 30th, 2003. That is one in 140. This is the higher number of people.

The incarceration rate is 750 per 100,000 in the US. Compare this with 114 in Australia, 116 in Canada or 95 in France!!! And Australia, Canada or France are safer than the US.

The crime rate has been going down since 91, but the incarceration rate has been going up. About 12% of the Black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.6% of white males in their 20s are in jail.

Why do American taxpayers keep paying for a jail system that is over-provisioned (a system that keeps 7 times as many people incarcerated as necessary)? If France, Canada or Australia can do with 100 per 100,000, why can't the US?

Santa Clara County and Alameda County here in the Bay Area join the top 20 of the counties with the largest local jail juridictions. SF is 55. Not something to be proud of.

Loic Wacquant, a French sociology prof at UC Berkeley, wrote a few papers on the criminalization of poverty, for instance here.






Wednesday, May 26, 2004

cheap shot 

While I don't have much to say about Meredith Brody's review this week (except: "you're on the right track, keep your head up, add a little humor and a little relevance, and you might write a good review some day"), I read the Dog bites column. Dog Bites pokes fun at the columnists of the Chronicle. See, just like me poking fun at the Weekly, there is a poking fun pecking order. Lowly me < Weekly < Chron. But there is a deja vu feeling: the Weekly has been making fun of the columnist for a long time. I remember Laurel Wellman making fun of Jon Carroll and Ken Garcia by writing up a shorter version of their columns.

The cheap shot: Laurel Wellman has been hired away from the Weekly by the Chron. And she's one of the columnist the Weekly makes fun of. With no disclosure of previous hard feelings, of course.

Of course, if there is a lesson from the Wellman episode is that it is easier to be edgy, funny and perky if you write a weekly column, rather than a daily one. But that won't shut up the DogBites writers: after all, if tickling the Chron gave Miss Wellman her new pulpit (and health insurance), they can't be no worse for trying.

DOA. 

Wednesday is the day we review the review (link not yet working at 9:30am, I read the print edition this am). Since I don't have the on-line version, I cannot cut and paste, or do my little words count games. But there is not much to write about anyway. It is a column as flat as Belgium (flat as Kansas, I guess, is the PC way of saying it). Dead on arrival. More boring than the academy award telecast. Reading and the quiet lull in the train, it's through sheer willpower that I did not miss my stop. Meredith Brody starts with a "discussion" with her friends Gail and Robert, yawn, and her prior lives in NY and Burbank, re-yawn. But she keeps it short, and somewhat related. Then she latches on the restaurant, and the big sleep can start. There is marble, there is meat, there is a salad buffet. A better review can be found there anyway.

My own experience with the restaurant: I did not go there, but I "won" a coupon for it at by voting at the Citysearch survey. It says: by one buffet, get one free of equal or lesser value. Cool! So I go to the website, and there is only one deal: all you can eat meat, for $28 or $34 depending on the night. Two for one, that's a great deal. More than that, it is a great incentive to take my girlfriend, who is by no means a meat lover: she can eat her cucumbers, nibble on a piece of meat, and no one feels bad she did not get her value worth. I call them up to ask for restrictions on the coupon, and they tell me: "-it does not include the meat." So what does it include? "-The salad buffet." Is there anything of lesser value? "-No." (it is still $15 for a salad buffet). Why do you mention on the coupon that the free menu item has to be of lesser value? -Blank. Then "the manager is in Florida, so we cannot do it." He also said "they've had the problem before."

The most surprising was that the guy sounded sad when I told him, good thing you let me know ahead of time, we were gonna stop by tonight, but now we're gonna do something else. He was sad we did not fall for deceiving advertisement 101: lure the customer in with a great sounding deal, and once inside, have them order something else (or I guess, have them pay for what you promissed would be free). McDonald's does it all the time: the outside windows say "29c cheeseburgers", but there is no sight of the offer inside, and you order a #1. For grilled meat, I recommend the Parrillada at La Luna in the mission. It's $34.00 (serves two) and comes with an Argentinian-style grilled combination of beef, chicken, sausage, morcilla, and sweet bread, served with mash potatoes and chimichurri sauce, jalapeño sauce and roasted tomatoes salsa. It's half the price per person, and it was close to all 2 big guys could eat.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

cheese eating surrendering movie jury 

Michael Moore won the Palme d'Or in Cannes with his documentary "Farenheit 911". He blasts Bush in it, for instance showing him clowning around before announcing the US he was starting the war (you know, W., people will die, maybe it deserves a little pomp), and showing the connection between the Bush and the Bin Laden families in the oil business.

Anyhow, before anyone starts blaming the French for giving an award to what 40% in America might consider bad propaganda (this is the current support for Bush), there was only 1 Frenchman in a jury of 9 people, and four Americans. So the blame should be "those darned Hollywood liberals".

But on the other hand, if we French had had a voice in this matter, we probably would have enjoyed giving the award to Moore anyway...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

get real 

A gem I found in the SF Weekly best of the bay issue:
SF Weekly provides some of America's best restaurant reviews.

Oh yeah? Funny you did not get a James Beard award, then. Keep in mind that the person who wrote this, also writes these peerless reviews. And, you know, it ain't a conflict of interest, she truely is God's gift to us, as we need, wait, we clamour, to know more about her existential struggles and her cute nephews and her teenage vacations.

Best of the bay review. 

I won't go into a detailed review. I think the point was that the best of the bay issue was totally predictable and cliche (I turned down best place "for a blind date" in my contest entries as too trite), and all I can say is: I'm FIVE for F*CKING FIVE.

I did start reading here and there, looking for the biggest blunders. On the first page, I read about Asqew grill:
The Haight location is very Hashbury, with rustic wooden beams, myriad knickknacks, and Southwestern-style orange terra cotta producing a casual, hip vibe.

I wanted to puke. Hashbury? No one called the Haight this way since the 60s. To most readers it looks like a typo. And the contradictions: rustic beams produce a hip vibe? Does she know what rustic means? Hip as a Zetor farm tractor. And what about the Southwestern-style orange terra cotta: is Martha Stewart hip? I know Martha has been working on her street cred lately, but still, I haven't seen Puff Daddy reading Living yet.


Affaires de coeur 

Meredith Brody tries hard, but her stay in France was in the early 70s, so she's off on the language thing. Two examples: about Tartine Bakery, she writes that gougeres [are] ring shaped pastries. It is a cream puff with cheese in it. It is shaped like a little ball. Then about "Cafe Jacqueline" (which is a delicious place, and Jacqueline herself is charming), she writes butchers: couples engaged in affaires de coeur (that's "love affairs," you dolt).

I am French, so I would know, right? dolt yourself. affaires de coeur applies to the angst a teenage girl for instance feels about love affaire, you know the turmoil, the concerns, the problems. Affaires by itself means "love affair". Who's a dolt?

[update: who's a huge dolt? She wrote:Boulange is a little bit of le rive gauche. Wrong gender, it is "la rive gauche." I thought everybody knew that.]


Addendum to the James Beard Foundation Awards... 

Yes, I have to apologize, but I mention the food reviewers that won a line on their resumes, but I forgot to mention the San Francisco chefs that did too. Here we go:
-Best desert chef: Emily Luchetti Farallon 450 Post Street San Francisco, CA 94102
Oustanding chef award: Judy Rodgers Zuni Cafe 1658 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94102
-Best chef, California: Traci Des Jardins Jardiniére 300 Grove Street San Francisco, CA 94102, was nominated, but Charles Phan The Slanted Door 584 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94102 won.
-Best Wine Specialist: Fifth Floor Wine Director: Belinda Chang 12 4th Street San Francisco, CA 94103 was nominated.
-Rising Star Chef of the Year: Daniel Humm Campton Place and Melissa Perello Charles Nob Hill were nominated.
-Boulevard got nominated for best service (a terrible nomination, I had very poor service there, to start with 2 glasses of champagne at $24 each added to my tab, whereas "we" were pregnant to the teeth, and did not drink; reservation time not enforced; we were denied to change to an empty table; our waitress could not take our order so that the manager had to come and take it. Poor poor service that night).


contest results!!! 

They eventually found their WMD ("ah, ah, very funny," said the Berg family), so here is the contest result:

here is my entries:


And guess what: 5 for 5!!!! I told you it was easy. Here is the official, Meredith Brody written awards:


I was perfect on 'best smelts', 'best chinese', very close on 'best pig', and a little too creative on the 'best shared table' or 'best alternative to care not cash'.

But I have to declare myself the winner. And here is an open announcement to the SF Weekly editors: I can do it next year as well, just give me 80% of what you pay Meredith Brody.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

isn't it ironic 

I could not find a print edition, it was not in the box today. I went back online to check it, 11:30pm, and they updated the title: it shows the cover of best of the bay issue. It is called Weapons of Mass Distraction, and guess what, when you click on the link, you cannot find them.

Their idea of a joke, I tell ya. Very classy. Way to keep it light, guys...

Elvin Jones, a discography... 

a short discography, since it is all the cds I have on which Elvin Jones plays:


clicking on the picture takes you to amazon for further info about the cd. If you purchase, I get a kick back, so feel free. Plus they are all very good cds.


sad day 

Elvin Jones passed away yesterday. He has a scary face on one of the best cds I own:


And indeed, the way he played was so good it was scary.
One of the few great drummers, with Tony Williams, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones...

His brother Hank (he is 85 and plays the piano) is the last one standing. He is supposed to play at SF Jazz Fest in 2 weeks, and he is amazing. He always plays a few tunes by Thad, maybe he'll toss some from Elvin as well. Elvin played Yoshi's last month, and I missed it. On the other hand, you want to go to enjoy the music, not because jazz dinosaurs are getting older and might become extinct. Horace Silver, another monster, plays Yoshi's in July.


waiting for... 

the new online edition of the weekly: it ain't up yet, and so we won't know the results of the big contest until then (or until I get my hands on a print copy).
I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

some GOOD food reviews... 

Actually I don't know if they are any good, but they were nominated for Best Writing by the James Beard Foundation, and some of them are local. Guess who it is not?

The awards can be found here.

The winner for best food review/critique in a newspaper is the aptly named Allison Cook of the Houston Chron and the award in a magazine went to Alan Richman,
Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ).

Kim Severson of the SF Chron got the Newspaper feature writing without recipes award, and Miriam Morgan, as the editor, received the best food section award on behalf of the Chronicle.

So, instead of bitching about the mediocrity of Meredith Brody, why don't I just read the Chron?


Monday, May 17, 2004

only in SF 

You would think that only in San Francisco would transexual person be allowed to compete in sports competition. Well, you'd be wrong. Transgender athletes can compete in the Olympics. I am all for equality, but I see the time were some guy would go through a sex change just for the gold (+ the marketing money that would come behind the story + the movie rights, I see Sean Penn in the role). I went on a few dates a NCAA tennis player, which thought she could beat me at a strong arm contest. Of course she lost, and I'm just a regular joe, and she was a competing athlete.

The other thing that surprised me is that the decision came from the International Olympic Committee: not a group of people at the forefront of social progress. Equal treatment for transgender people is important, so I guess the price of Sean Penn as the Olympic gold digger is low compared to standing up for equality.

geneva, shmeneva. 

Kevin Drum talks about the Geneva convention, and the memo that Bush legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales wrote to him. In the memo, Gonzales says: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Why am I not surprised: the reason has to do with death penalty. Death penalty enforces the idea that blood thirst from the victims is more important than the overall dignity of our society. In my (anti-death penalty) view, it says that the crime for which the criminal is condemned is acceptable, since the society will commit the same one on behalf of the victim. So society can go as low as the criminal, it makes it even.

The Geneva convention says the opposite: the temptation to use society's power against its prisoner is great, and it would be easy to cede to it. However, the dignity of our society is a greater good than the benefit from torture (I am talking about prisoner in Iraq, not al qaeda terrorists). But those in charge of enforcing Geneva have already given up to the dark side of the force wrt death penalty. Power tripped conscience there already. Thus, for them, Geneva, Shmeneva.

hush-hush... 

I was reading the gossip in the Chron, and found this headline:
PERRY DECLARED A HERO AFTER THEATER CATASTROPHE

Actor Luke Perry has been labeled "a hero" after helping rescue people trapped by a fallen ceiling in the theater he was performing in.
[snip....snip....snip]
Publicist Ben Chamberlain says, "Luke was a hero."


So Luke was declared a "hero" by his public relation agent. It is not at all like Luke pays him to say this kind of it, is it not? The agent also added: "90210 was a turning point in television history that formed the conscience of a generation" and "santa monica boulevard should be renamed Luke Perry bvd; heck, Luke should be a write-in for the next presidential election."

As a personal note, while I never met Luke Perry, the cast of 90210 ranks amongst the few celebrities I ran into consistently when I was in LA. They had a party at a place called Louis the XIVth, boy, it was in '95. I also ran into Tori Spelling at Bocaos on wilshire bvd. And I rubbed elbow with Jason Priestley at Sundance Film Festival (I actually ran him over, as he is a full foot shorter than I am). So I can only thank them for being so available (ok, for being so C-list, since A-list star are reclusive).

I said I would not make fun of the sports writer, as they dumb it down on purpose for the audience (or maybe not on purpose, but they are selected for their ability to level with the audience). Same thing with the gossip columnist. Just could not help it this time.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

the meaning of no 

In a weird op-ed in the LA Times, a woman who declares herself a feminist and a Lakers fan writes:

Let's suppose that the two of them had that same expectation. They chat, they inch toward each other; in short, they do what people do in a hotel room late at night, and then she says no. At a certain point, she utters the syllable. But he doesn't stop. Is this rape?

Or is it rape when you're walking down the street, for example, or in your hallway and someone comes out of nowhere, pins you down, with or without a weapon, and uses you for sex? No chat, no inching. No appointment. No expectation.


First, the premisse of her interrogation bothers me: as if being a Lakers fan was somehow incompatible with being a feminist. Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers, and is accused of rape. Thing is, he has not gone through his trial yet, so he is innocent until proven guilty, or cleared of the accusation.

Back to the passage I cut and pasted: this debate is fruitless. The definition of rape is whether or not there is force involved in a non-consensual sexual act. That the victim is in a hotel room or on a sidewalk, who cares? The definition is not based on external circumstances, but based on the referencial of the victim. The disclaimer from the op-ed writer ("I'm a feminist") comes only because she discards feminism for some repugnant "No means yes if she is friendly with him first".

It will be hard to root for the Lakers next year, as the trial is probably end up in a non-guilty verdict, as the prosecution does not have the financial means of the defense. I find it easier to try not to pay attention to the private life of the players (easier when watching the games with the sound off), and just focus on the basket-ball.

Post-script: talking about the Lakers, the finish of game 4 was amazing, and game 5 starts about now. I thought it was gonna be hard to top, until Detroit-New Jersey went into triple over-time last night. These play-offs are almost as fun as March Madness!

and the winner is... 

South Africa.

This refers to the Soccer World Cup post below, and boy was I on the money.

career at the weekly 

I was looking for a link to the job posting for a writing gig at the SF Weekly, so I went there, their career page. Could not find that one, but I noticed all the jobs are about raising money.

It could be that either they are hoping to get more ads/classified pretty soon, or it could be that they are struggling in this area and need fresh faces. Circulation at the end of 2002 was 115,272. I am looking for the 2003 number to get the answer to the question. One hint, though, is given by the fact they canned the crossword puzzle. The reason was (I paraphrase John Mecklin, the main editor) was that he did not hear anything positive or negative about it.

Of course, this is bullshit: he heard mostly negative stuff about Meredith Brody and she's still around. And it takes a leap of faith to have someone write a letter to the Editor praising the crossword puzzle. Of course, after he dumped the puzzle, he had reaction from the people who were doing it every week and they missed it big time. I think he said: "It's too late, you snooze, you lose, you got the blues."

So cost cutting combined with a need for new faces in money-raising ventures: let us make some suggestions. For instance, I don't know, why, the Eat section. Random example. Here's a lady who write 1,500 words when 1,000 is more than enough. Cut her review to 750, she'll learn to focus, and give the other 750 to another reviewer: more diversity, more readers.
The lady writes in a style that might have been hip in the 50s, while half the readership is under 34. She writes in a cutesy warm and fuzzy family-oriented way, when 60% of the readership is male (stats taken from here.)

Remember, the Eat review is the lead-in to the food section, where a significant chunk of advertising is made by the restaurants.

Friday, May 14, 2004

world cup and diplomacy. 

The world cup (soccer, need I say so) is played every 4 years on alternate continents. Alternate continent used to mean: Europe, then South America, then back to Europe, etc. This because the soccer power teams used to be Brazil, Argentina, or Italy, Germany.

2 years ago, they broke the rule, and went to Japan/South Korea. South Korea was a big deal, as they are a recently developed country. In 2010, they will break the rule even further, and pick an African country. This is major. There has never been any major sports event in Africa. No Olympics, for instance.

The 3 countries that might get picked are South Africa, Morocco and Egypt. By 2010, one might hope that the Muslim world will be appeased, but I would guess that the current inflammation will rule out Egypt for sure, and Morocco maybe. And that is sad: having a world cup in Egypt would unite everyone under the same religion-less fervor. It would not bring peace in the Middle-East in one day, but it would be one of these little steps to bring people together. Instead of tearing them apart like the Bush administration seems bent on doing now.

South Africa would not be a bad choice either. The uniting factor I mention above happens also in a country that is otherwise divided. I cannot argue that France has the same history of division that South Africa between its different minorities, but winning the World Cup in '98 with a national team composed of people like Desailly (African-French) or team captain Zinedine Zidane (from Arab descent) did a lot for the Caucasian French to embrace diversity. National teams typically perform better when they host the cup (see France '98 or South Korea'02), so playing at home might take South Africa to the last rounds of the Cup, spreading the love.

A post-script that has little to do with the above: I described Desailly as African-French, as he's black. The PC way of describing black people is African-American, but that works only for American people. I rented the movie "Hate" a while back: it is a movie by Mathieu Kassovitz that got distributed in the US by Jodie Foster, who loved it at the Cannes festival. Three losers (aka disabused youth) hang out in a project in the outskirts of Paris. The videotape jacket described them as: a white guy, a Jew, and an African-American. Man, the black dude was French. PCness had gone too far.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

dump newsweek. 

By way of Brad DeLong, I read a piece by Wesley Clark in the Washington Monthly. I had a post about Turkey and the EU that tried to express the same idea, but Clark is brilliant, and has a much broader perspective: that of the Cold War, and that of a global vision.

Why the "dump newsweek" title? Because I am impressed by the quality of magazines like the Washington Monthly, or my weekly New-Yorker, that put to shame a Time or Newsweek. I only recently discovered these magazines, and I'm beating myself up for the lost knowledge. No wonder Newsweek comes free with my credit card.

keyboardist needed for darker, moody... 

Everyone loves Craig's list. I found my appartment there, I found really cool people to play music with there, I found my car, my futon and some houseplants. It is the last pure internet idea, as they refuse ads and crass commercialism. The idea being: you'll find what you're looking for on craig's list, why link out to some commercial enterprise. They only charge for companies to place a job search, and I do hope hiring keeps picking up, so they can cash out a little bit. Added value: they've gone national (I found a sublet in Boston too last fall), but they are a San Francisco treat.

Anyhow, to the point: as a consequence of the success, there are Craig's list spammers. I go somewhat regularly to craigslist->community->musicians, and for as long as I can remember, there has been this band looking for a keyboardist to play darker, moody stuff.
They post every other day, again and again and again and again.

They must find people once in a while. But still, the post keeps coming back. Every other fucking day. They cannot keep a keyboardist more than 48 hrs? It is intriguing: is there a San Francisco shortage of keyboardists? Do all the pianists here play ligher, emotionally stable stuff? Do the keyboardists walk on them, telling them to lighten up, guys, and maybe, you know, prozac could help you with those mood swings? Do they kick the keyboardists out: see, dude, you're playing in a anthracite tone, with bluesy hints, we really need something darker, like moonless night black. Are they so moody to embrace the guy, then dump him, and then embrace him again, but now it's too late?

Well, their perseverance in their quest for the right guy might be by no fault of their own, so here is the free plug: they perform at the red devil lounge on May, 24th. Maybe I should check them out. Maybe they'll have a keyboardist by then.


The big contest (part III) 

So I did also see somewhere that the Best of the Bay issue is indeed this coming Wednesday. Entries for the contest should be received by Tuesday, 12pm, to be valid. There is no monetary prize, it is all for the glory.

Remember, points will be granted to: matching entries (Meredith and you agree a place belong in the best of); matching content (Meredith and you phrase something along the same idea to describe the place. For an example of similarity, see "Disney-on-acid" in the Morgan Spurlock posts below. Except she won't read you, so won't be able to copy you. 100 words max); matching title/category.

Winning post get posted here, unless stated otherwise.


write for the best 

This title heads a job offer in this week print edition of the Weekly (p.8 bottom right, no link as I could not find it online). It goes on:
SF Weekly has an opening for a writer to join its award-winning staff.[...]Three years' journalism experience and a live mind are required.
Applicants should send a brilliant one-page cover letter
...etc.

We can see that, were Meredith Brody to apply for her job without her connections, she would not get it: what, it requires a live mind.

I am kinda hoping that this means the Great Failed Meredith Experiment is over (it was pitched as 'an intimate and personal view through the lense of a food review written by a movie critic enamored with her lifestyle and her family, and mostly, herself', I am sure). Cause the Eat section desperately needs someone who can churn out brilliant one-pagers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

it was not an interview! 

If you check the next post, you see we were making fun of the interview that was not one. Let's look at what the interviewee, Morgan Spurlock, thought of it. He is a documentary film maker, so you would assume he did document this, wouldn't you?

Here you go:

I banged out ten of these and was taken to lunch where I would be dining with one of the biggest names in SF cuisine at one of the coolest restaurants in town.

I met Very Brilliant Reporter to Remain Nameless at Farallon, a Disney acid trip restaurant with giant glass squid and sea shell lamps. The booths were housed in molded white plastic, which reminded me of the Korova Milk Bar in Clockwork Orange. It wasn’t so much of an interview as it was a time to relax and escape the insanity of all the interviews I’d had for the past three days.

We talked movies, relationships (she loves Alex, but considers the title of Vegan Chef to be an oxymoron) and growing up in WV, and I had some of the best seared Ahi that I’d eaten in years. I also had some incredible crab dumplings that were accompanied by sliced cucumbers and just a hint of pesto. Afterwards, she twisted my arm and I had some dessert, strawberry rhubarb tart. Complete Bliss.


I wonder where she came up with her description of the under-the-sea-Disney-on-acid fantasy of Farallon. Mmmm, tough one.

I am intrigued by the description "Very Brilliant Reporter to Remain Nameless". Is Meredith brilliant? If so, why does she hide it from us? The other explanation is that: he is a film maker on a media tour, he loves the reporters, he loves the audience members, he loves the movie company people, loves'em all and all, until the promo is over. That would explain the "very brilliant" and the "one of the biggest names in SF cuisine" as well. Meredith shoes are a-shining, and he got his great plug in the weekly. He's working hard for it,though.


[update: the other interviewer he met that day he describes as one of the biggest reporters in the whole Bay Area. She is Ruth Stein, of the Chronicle. Just to give you the scale of his praise.]

Meredith interviews...herself 

We'll do a review of Meredith Brody's latest strictly by the number.

4: the levels of hypocrisy. It is a 1-restaurant review as a pretext for 2-a movie column as a pretext for 3-an interview as a pretext for 4-some blabbering about Meredith Brody. Usually she reaches only 3.

3: the triple dipping. Usually, it is only double dipping: the food column and the movie review that gets replicated in the Chicago Reader. Or the food column and the trip to Hawaii for the travel magazine. This time, we got three levels of dipping: the movie capsule, and 500 words here and 111 words there.

66: number of words in the quotes by Meredity Brody during the course of the interview.

21: number of words in the quotes by the interviewee, Morgan Spurlock.

22: number of words between quotation marks copied from McDonald's and Joe's advertisement.

2: number of real burger places whose real meat burgers pale in comparison with a processed industrial Quarterpounder with cheese from Mc Donald's.

1: Pulp Fiction knock-offs. The French call the quarterpounder with cheese "le royal with cheese". What do they call MickeyD? The answer in the Meredith-abridged below (the real answer is: WHO CARES, SO WHAT and BIG DEAL).

Ok, enough of the numbers. This week's column is particularly painful ("they were still cooked in pure raging beef fat then," or "Healthy chef Alex, no fool she, is across the bay dining at Chez Panisse while we eat.") so allow me to break it down for you, here is the shorter Meredith Brody:

"Some guy made a movie about McDonald's. I too ate at McDonalds! The guy has an egg mcmuffin at McDonald's. I too had an egg mcmuffin! The guy and I had dinner at Farallon. He wanted to push his movie, but I would not let him talk. Hey, whatever he could have to say cannot be half as interesting as me. I had a McLean at McDonalds! Then I would look for a burger. But neither Joe's nor Tower burger is as good as McDonald's quarterpounder with cheese. The French call McDonald's Mack-Dough. So I went to McDonald's to get a quarterpounder with cheese. It reminded me of another movie when I was a cool student, so I was happy."

[update: I poked fun at the construction Healthy chef Alex. It turns out it is the url of said person: www.healthychefalex.com. Blame it on Meredith though, cause it is not clear at all]

Monday, May 10, 2004

best of... 

Citysearch/SF is running its usual annual best of survey. Many categories, best french, best italian, best sushi, etc.

For once, last year, I agreed with one of the results: Hamano as best sushi. Not just because we know the people there, but because they deserve it. Too bad it is out there in Noe, not exactly a dining destination. We used to live on the block, and we dearly miss it.

On the other hand, Citysearch has the worst "customer" reviews. I put quote under customer, because most of them are phony. The most egregious example I noticed was Deep Sushi. Deep Sushi is on church, at the edge of Noe/outer mission, by mitchell's ice cream. Anyhow, the place is a tiny sushi counter who pretended to be hip. They have (had?) a dj and a pretty wait staff. But on the other hand, they would serve average food. I remember having fried oysters there: it was exactly the same as amberjack (a couple blocks up on church), except they would add a drip of some barbequeue sauce or some sweet spiced mayo. The guy at Amberjack would sell them for cheaper, and would be upfront about their provenance: bought frozen from some Japanese food company.

Deep was (is?) more about putting a nice front and squeazing their nifty margin. The wait staff would push the drinks too hard. Anyhow, if you looked at the citysearch review, they always had 2 good reviews on their page. At the time, citysearch posted 2 reviews, and Deep's were always a 10. But if looked at all the reviews, the pattern would be:2 good, one awful, 2 good, one awful. If you looked at the dates they were posted, the 2 good reviews were shortly after the awful. Then there would be a delay, then one awful, then shortly thereafter, 2 good reviews.

Of course, when a statistician sees a pattern in something that is supposed to be random, it raises a flag: there was an intervention to always make it such that the top two reviews were good. Cheaters.

Hamano is the anti-Deep: the food is good, but the environment lags a little behind. The walls are pink-ish, and the back room has no windows. But I sit at the sushi counter, and I always walk away happy.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

must be slow news day 

The Chron is giving its best on-line real-estate to a story about cheap hotels in Paris. Now, the timing is not so good: it is too late to get good deals on a flight there (plus, the kerosene is getting more expensive by the day), and believe me, I'm trying; plus, the dollar is in the tank, and will stay there until the Fed starts raising its rates and/or the administration pays attention to deficits (even in the case of a Kerry election, dogmatic Republicans will still hold the legislative power, and raising taxes until the deficit is resorbed is out of the equation).

Anyhow, one can still dream reading the Chron.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

the biggest ad on earth... 

Caltrain claims to have now the biggest moving object ever wrapped in a commercial. It operates between San Francisco and San Jose, and if you ever feel like buying a train at target, here is how the gift wrap would look:


More pictures courtesy of Flat Feet Pete who deserves a pulitzer for this scoop. A sign of the times: his page was updated while on the train, which is quite an impressive feat or a sign of uber-geekdom, depending on your own geekness (let me add, as to better seize the feat, that Caltrain does not provide any connectivity on the train, yet).

Caltrain will collect $30K/month for this little stunt. This is about 250 riders with a monthly path, according to my own estimate, so hardly negligible.

atlantic salmon. 

I have expressed disappointment that Meredith Brody would never provide information on the provenance of the salmon she eats around town. Farm raised salmon is unsustainable, they are loaded with antibiotics and flesh colorants.

More disappointment is on the way: the environmental disaster also know as the
Bush administration is planning on changing the endangered species law to also count salmon in the hatcheries to determine if the species is under risk of extinction.

The appointed person by the administration used to be the lawyer for the timber industry lobby (who stands to benefit from the rule change, as they could use land that was used to protect the salmon). Also, as usual:

The new approach, [...], ignores the findings of the Bush administration's own panel of outside scientific experts, as well as long-held views within the fisheries service.

Meaning science does not matter if it does not go your way, which is the special interest industry lobby way.

Friday, May 07, 2004

mad dog in the fog 

I truely feel sorry for my lower haight neighbors at the mad dog: they had Chelsea playing Monaco (a French team, despite being located in the Principality of Monaco) and they had Newcastle playing Marseilles.

For the French person, the outcome did not really matter: Chelsea team is made of Makelele, Desailly, Petit, all members of the French national squad. So whoever wins is still a triumph for us. But for the Brits, it made all the difference.

The results: Monaco had a tie, and Marseille won. The cumulated result with the first game a couple weeks back is that both French team advance to the Finals (one the Champion's league, the other the UEFA cup), and both British teams go home. And tears flow at the Mad Dog.

(Bunch of French guys played in the British league: Cantona for Manchester United, and half of Arsenal today is French: Wiltord, Peres, Henry, Trezeguet, etc. The Brits only gave us Chris Waddle, but what a gift! Marseille won the Champion's league with him, thanks to the most beautiful goal ever).

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Stealing a page from the Passion... 

Mel Gibson's movie got lot of free advertising in the newspapers and tv shows, what about the whole controversy that: "no Hollywood major would fund it, produce it, distribute it as it was not friendly enough to the Jews". It was a great PR move: lower the expectation on the alleged anti-semitism (have people fear the worst, then when they eventually see it, they'll say it is not so bad), but also get the buzz going about the movie.

Well, it looks like the lesson did not fall on deaf ears with one Michael Moore. (and one Harvey Weinstein as well). This is PR 101: big bad corporate interests trying to strangle the little guy. Great story line, straight to the presses.

(Harvey Weinstein is famous for his academy award PR campaigns, that include smearing the opponents of his movies with rumors, so don't believe one second that this AP piece is spontaneous.)


Contest update II 

I am open to suggestions as to what the prize should be for the contest (cf. below).

Also, for the first time today I computed the words/sentence ratio of Meredith: about 25. "The fish was good", that is 4. You have to add lots of adverbs and adjective to jack it up to 25.

For (skewed) reference, Dan Leone, in his column this week is at 10.4 words a sentence. Much easier to digest, for sure.

Anyhow, my contest entries (in two posts below) were to be meant satirical: but they clock at slightly under 26 on average for the 4 of them. So even when I am trying really hard to do too much, I only barely match her. I won't even attempt to out-Meredith her anymore, but let me state this: the smelts at Kokkari will win some best of the bay hardware.


The age of Meredith... 

We once called Meredith the writer who forgot to dust her vocabulary, or the Weekly resident Victorian scribe. I first thought this aged writing (passé, would she say) was affectation: some English lit kid masturbating with fancy words. Then, we learned that she was in Paris in the 70s. So I placed her age as about being 20 in 1970, about 55 now.

Today, we learn she was 16 in 1967, ie. born in 1951. Do the math, she's a 53yo lady. This tip if provided free of charge to restaurateurs in SF: take care of the little old lady, bring her the fancy shaped glasses and the cute little boxes, comp an old fashioned cocktail and don't overcook the spinach: it has to look verdant, not wilted.

How do we know: well, she was applying to summer school in Delphi, but world events intervened. What happened in Greece shortly before the 70s? The coup of the colonels in 1967 that turned the country from an unstable democracy into a military dictatorship.

Review: and poetry 

First, I added Robert Peyton's www.appetites.us to the blogroll on the left. I just read Meredith piece, and she is talking about an almond-and-tomato romesco sauce. It sounded so much like a redundancy that I googled "romesco sauce", and found his blog. And, but of course, it is redundant, a romesco sauce is an almond-and-tomato sauce.

Talking about redundancy, we see that Meredith does learn, though. We have been harping about "verdant green" being a pleonasm, verdant meaning green already. Well, for the first time, verdant does show up without its little brother green. 3rd time is a charm. Kuddos for Meredith for learning that 'verdant' isn't just a pretty word, but an adjective that carries a meaning.

Let's talk a little math: there are about 60 sentences (it is automated, I did not count myself) and 1430 words. So that is 143/6 = 24 words per sentence. The average is brought down by Everything sounded enticing., or Macaroni and cheese! Canned baked beans!, 3 sentences with 3 words. Take them out and you have: 26.3 words per sentence. I tell you: this is a world record!

How does she do it? It is easy: after a word like "fish", you add "pulled from the sea". As opposed to "picked from a tree" I assume (the context of boat hopping in the Greek Islands makes it obvious it is not fresh water fish). After olive oil, you add: "the province of my mother". I thought she was from the East Bay!

Another technique is to conflate differente sentences into one: The other main decorative element is a towering, backlit display of liquor bottles behind the bustling bar, a noisy locus that proved problematic on both my visits.. Now she does not really mean to say that the display of bottle is noisy. As a figure of style, it is called an hypallage if you do it on purpose, and a Meredithism otherwise.

Rhetorical question: she mentions all these Greek places she visited in NY, in London, she mentions Yugoslavia, and Italian cooking, and her parents trip to Greece, and her trip with her sister to Hawai. All highly relevant to the review, of course. Which Greek place she visited 4 month ago does she NOT mention: but oh why, the one right HERE in San Francisco.

Now, a little poetry to conclude (I kept the caps from the original). The author is Meredith Brody. It is called "The picture Caption in the Print Edition: and Smelts":

A Loaf of Bread,
a Jug of Wine:
And smelts,
in Kokkari's fancy digs.




And Have a Good Day! 

Here's a little San Francisco experience I've never had before: I'm riding my bicycle down on division st, on my way to catch my train for work. At a red stop light, I look left, I look right, it's clear, I go. I hear a horn screaming. I look around, trying to see the reason: is there some car coming my way? Nope, but the guy in his car sitting at the red light is unhappy because I ran it.

Tough, man, I shrug, and keep going. Of course, his light turns red, and he passes me, and he honks again, looking pissed. As he get stopped with the next light, I catch up with him, and stop by his open window. I ask, politely, what is the problem? He says: "you ran a light, a-hole". Of course, I laugh and ask: "why are you calling me an a-hole?" and he says: "because you run the light. Respect the rules, or get off the road, a-hole". So I make a move towards ignoring him and going back on my way, but he misinterprets it as I'm going to punch him, and is startled. Man, is the guy worked up or what? At 7 in the morning, on his way to the Gold's Gym (he was wearing the shorts). Too many 'roids in his corn flakes. Since I see that, through his tough stance, he's scared the shit out of me, I laugh it off, telling him: "Thank you, you made my day" and ride away. And indeed, I'm still chuckling about it.

Monday, May 03, 2004

contest update 

Just a clarification: the point of the contest below is not to name what you think are the best places in SF, it is to guess which ones will be picked by the SF Weekly writer who forgot to dust her vocabulary. Also, the category being awarded the "best ...." trophy and the description should be in the style of Meredith Brody.

This should be easy, as there is ever hardly any surprise with her reviews. Plus there are more entries in the Best of list as there are places she's reviewed in her 16 months in SF: so any place she said something remotely positive is in.

I should add one more entry (which she will name, I put money on it, but deserves a Best of the Bay plaque nonetheless):

Best Shared Table: Tartine Bakery, SF. Tartine is French for scrumptious deliciously tantalizing pastries carefully handcrafted by the expert hand and manicured craft of Pastry Chef Elisabeth Prueitt. Plus, the heavy country-style communal wood table looks like a prop in a peasant allegory, both earthily grounded and ensconced with the ethereal spirit of friendship. Such artifact is perfect to seat in a gratifyingly delightful ease all your brothers and sisters and parents and nieces and nephews and friends visiting from LA and the Big Apple.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

A contest 

I just realized out that the SF Weekly's Best of the Bay edition will come out pretty soon, May 19th I think. Which means that we will get a Food and Drink section composed by the Weekly's resident Victorian scribe. The good news is that the 'first person account' is banned during this exercise. Also, each 'best of' item is kept short. So these rules quite constrain the frog who writes as if she's a bull.

So I refreshed my memory with last year's work. Stuff like:

The platters [...] are complex, exciting, and rich with possibilities; they take you on a journey from flavor to intricately unified flavor, reaching resolution with the last forkful of scallop or swallow of wine.

I tried to use these directions on my journey to flavor, but it got way too existential: since I'm starting from flavor, so I'm here, at flavor, but, no, wait, flavor's there, where I'm traveling to, but I haven't moved, so I did not journey, or did I? Plus there is some conflict somewhere, I guess between flavor and flavor, the unified conjoined twins that need to be separated or something, so they can eventually reach resolution. But the resolution is found with another last bite of scallop, which is thus flavorless, right?, otherwise I would still be journey-ing or resolution-brokering between the flavor twins. But if the scallops were flavorless all night long, why did I pack my undies for my journey, since I could not even start from flavor to go there? See, this is rich with possibilities indeed.

I swear, I did not cherry pick, trying to find what would make our favorite hot air balloon look bad, I just went randomly.

The Best Of is composed of two parts, a reader poll, and an editorial side. Editorial categories are loosely/cutesy defined, so that anyone can be named Best Place to Pet the Easter Bunny, or Best Place to Wake Up Next to Paris Hilton. It does not even have to make sense.

Here is the contest: guess which cute "Best of" the artist who mistook her thesaurus for a life jacket will come up with. With the winner, of course. Extra-points will be granted for the actual description, even though it requires a subscription to Words of the Weird.

My entries (a quick first run through, I might edit it later):

Best Alternative to Care Not Cash: Fountain Court, SF. The sheperd purse is the sack to take with you to fend off frying pan-handling hobo's. They can profit from its bountiful generosity only a few days a year. This devilishely aromatic herbs accompany green verdant algae-colored bamboo shoots which have the tint of a go traffic semaphore.

Best Pig in a Blanket: Mi Lindo Yucatan, SF. the cochinita pibil can be ordered only a few blocks away from the missionary Good Vibrations, but it will have you moaning of delight nonetheless, with the delightful, gratifying, exhilarating, luscious, wet, juicy chunks of pork piled in a mountainous heap-like mound-shaped hillock and wrapped in the banana leaves they'd roasted in

Best Chinese: China Village Don't let the deceptively ordinary-looking incongruously located brightly white walled and similarly candidly lighted restaurant fool the supercilious selective Sichuan savorers in you: this is hot shit

You should try it, it is fun, and surprisingly easy.












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