Wednesday, January 25

News that sticks

My ground breaking story du jour from Dublin: "Ireland spits out chewing gum tax."

You will meet your five people very soon, Mr Albom

Osama Bin-Laden, book critic, unleashes his weapons of mass deconstruction on ace Detroit Free-Press sports columnist turned best-selling schlock-meister Mitch Albom's "Five People That You Meet in Heaven":

"I could have scratched out a better book on my wall with a sharp flint. Fellow word-lovers duped into reading this propagandistic pabulum, take heart: I will seek personal vengeance and see to it that Albom meets his five people very soon. (Apologies to those who reside in or around the Detroit area.)"

Bonus review: "Life of Pi": "I needed a few more dollars in my shopping cart to receive free Super Saver Shipping from the entrepreneurial vultures of Amazon, so this ended up costing very little: the best six dollars I ever rerouted from my joint Swiss bank account with Halliburton."

Tuesday, January 24

Sorpresa alla'Italiana

A few pix from my surprise birthday trip to Rome (Thanks wifey!), where not only was the destination a secret but my brother, a gang of friends, and brother- and sister-in-law Peter and Siobhan showed up to help me ring in the good side of 30 yrs old.
Many thanks to Bernhard and Cristina for shepherding us around Roma, feeding us in their home, and showing us their favourite super-secret Sardinian restaurant. (Un/fortunately, maggot cheese was not on the menu) Also to Peter and Siobhan for the super deluxe dinner with a marquee view, and to everybody for traveling such a long way. But most of all to the lovely Kelly for setting it all up, and holding the surprise together in the face of adversity and one particularly insane taxi driver.

Amos and Bella at St Pete's

The Forum at night

Amos and the Birra Gigantica

The hazards of indoor flash photography

The Emerald Isle

I'm doing a two week stint in the Reuters Dublin bureau to fill in for a sick colleague, so posts may be a bit sporadic (ok, even more sporadic) due to work and heavy Guinness consumption. There are only 3 people in the bureau, so it promises to be a good jack-of-all-trades time: living in a hotel Eloise steez, writing about housing prices, new pharmaceutical plants and gay civil unions in a country where homosexuality was illegal until 1993 (!).

One fun piece I did today is about the new Lonely Planet guide, which urges Ireland to put all that shamrock, leprechaun, Blarney-stone business on the backburner and promote the hip and trendy aspect of a country that's gone from being one of the poorest in Europe to one of the richest in a mere decade.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 18

Hustle and Flow

It's 4:30 AM inside the Golden Q, a pool hall in Woodside Queens, New York City. I sit and talk with a man who goes by the name Cornbread. He speaks to me about Harlem in the 1950's, the music and the nightlife. To his right is Lefty, an 82 year old retired police detective who is whispering into the ear of a 17-year-old high school student.

Photographer Christopher LeMarca documents the fast-disappearing community of "underground pool hustlers."

Friday, January 13

A shower of justice and freedom

Those liberal communist Earth-loving gub'ment regulators want to take away my god-given right to buy a triple showerhead. Well they may win this round, but they can have my Commando 450 ("It's only used in the circus. For elephants.") when they pry it out of my cold, dead yet extremelly well-scrubbed fingers.

With a low-flow shower... We are weak. Ineffectual. Un-Kramer-like.

I just took a bath, Jerry. A bath! It's disgusting. I'm sitting there in a tepid pool of my own filth. All kinds of microscopic parasites and organisms having sex all around me.

Gastro-Culture Wars

Focaccia versus Big Mac. Michele D's erects Golden Arches in the central piazza of ancient Italian town lauded for its historic bread.

"The long red mat was taken away secretly during the night," Libération reported, noting too that the "enormous M" over Piazza Zanardelli was "also packed up surreptitiously." The windows were covered "like a shroud on the victim of a culinary battlefield."

"Today," the newspaper said, "there are no longer Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets or industrial fries in Altamura."

Thursday, January 12

More Funny

If you've been living in a cave -- or, even more rare, a cave without broadband -- it's only just possible that you haven't seen the Saturday Night Live skit "Lazy Sunday," the faux-Beastie Boys rap song about cupcakes and going to the movies. If this is the case, cease reading at once at go watch it.

Here's more from Andy, Akiva and Jorma:

"Stork Patrol", a bump and grind R&B ode to...a bird. "Yo peep it -- I know you love Victoria's Egret." Holla.

"Awesometown," failed Fox pilot that eventually led to all three guys working on SNL. Jack Black also George Washington

The 'Bu, a laugh-out-loud OC parody with a cameo from "Scrubs" star Sarah "fake Becky on Roseanne" Chalke. "Young, sexy people that live in Malibu call it The 'Bu, because when you say the entire word, it takes time, and then you wouldn't be young anymore." Spoiler alert: "fake Ryan" is...a ninja.

More material at The Lonely Island

Wednesday, January 11

John Madden serves "Turhumanheaducken"

"Mr. Madden served the suspect item to the players immediately after the game and, although he referred to it by its full name, Vikings players were apparently too excited or hungry to realize that what they were eagerly devouring was, in fact, a roast turkey stuffed with a rotisserie chicken, a baked duck, and a deep-fried human head," Green Bay Police Chief Craig Van Schndyle told reporters.

"Place-kicker Paul Edinger, safety Darren Sharper, and quarterback Brad Johnson are among those being held for medical observation while we analyze the marbled gray matter in the 'oyster' stuffing, the makeup of what we originally thought was cranberry sauce, and the head itself."

Police are currently questioning Madden concerning how he obtained the head, whether or not he had help cooking the turhumanheaducken, and the current whereabouts of Monday Night Football statistician "Malibu" Kelly Hayes, who was last seen grocery shopping with Madden Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 4

Best Eats 2005

Taking a page from Chocolate & Zucchini...

Best Meal(s): A Cantina de Mananan, Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy. Two consecutive nights in June. Impeccable seafood one night; the next, PansĂ´ti al sugo di noci (ravioli with herbs and ricotta with walnut sauce).

Best Feast
: Blow-out birthday meal at the River Cafe in West London with seven friends.

Favorite restaurant, London: Tapas Brindisa, Borough Market

Favourite food person: Bill "The Raclette Man" Oglethorpe, affineur at Neal's Yard in Borough market. Creator of the world's best toasted cheese/grilled cheese sandwich, which recipe and ingredients I have shamelessly taken as my own, and giver of raclette.

In the off-season, Bill travels the world ("to replenish his raclette roots," he told me one year), including a trip this year to the United States.

"Oh really?" I said, ever the expat gringo. "Where?"
"Michigan," he said. scraping a molton load of raclette cheese onto new potatoes.
"That's where I'm from! Where?"
"Outside of Detroit," he said, spooning on a load of spicy gherkins. "Ann Arbor. I stayed on this guy's couch, he owns a deli called Zingermans..."

Bringing us to the Best Nascent Food Empire category...

It's not just a deli anymore...Zingerman's has expanded big time with a Roadhouse, Creamery, cookbook and ever-growing mail order business (which sells cheeses from Neal's Yard, see above). The fried chicken I had at the Roadhouse would have met with praise from my relatives in Nashville -- ditto for their ridiculous selection of bourbons.

A few other favorites...

-- Neighborhood pub grub: The Talbot
-- Fast food: Itsu
-- American food in London: Bodean's burnt ends (Monday and Wednesday only)
-- Coffee: Monmouth
-- Butcher: Spotted Pig

Tuesday, January 3

Deep and Deeper

More musings of a profound nature from Jack "Deep Thoughts" Handy:
This is not a game.

This is not something where you can dress your kid up like a hobo and send him out trick-or-treating, because, first of all, your kid’s twenty-three, and, secondly, he really is a hobo.

I used to be like you. I would put my napkin in my lap, instead of folding it into a little tent over my plate, like I do now, with a door for the fork to go in.

Maybe one day it will be a game again. Maybe you’ll be able to run up and kick a pumpkin without people asking why you did that and if you’re going to pay for it.

Perhaps one day the Indian will put down his tomahawk and the white man will put down his gun, and the white man will pick up his gun again because, Ha-ha, sucker.