Friday, June 30, 2006

no wining

I've had my eye on this tasting room/wine bar in SoHo for a little over a month now. Somehow I convinced myself that I would make the perfect tasting room pourer, and I have targeted this place to be my new employer. They sell and serve only New York state wines. I've driven through North Fork Long Island wine country before; it's beautiful, but has nothing on Sonoma County. I don't know where the Finger Lakes are (just the name makes me want to go), but apparently they grow grapes up there too. This tasting room thing seems like an exciting detour: I'll pour wine for yuppies, sure. I really want to, strangely, and have accrued a strange amount of determination about the fact.... so much so that I bought Wine for Dummies rather impulsively. Some say that the Wine Bible is really the right choice, but that book didn't look exactly like light reading. Now if only I can stroll into the place when an eager manager happens to be on their shift.

I'm not really an expert on wine, and it's not like I've had a lifelong passion for it. I find it tasty most of the time, but I'm not terribly discriminatory.... meaning it's not unlikely to see me holding a glass of Carlo Rossi or Franzia from the box if the event I'm at happens to have it sitting on the refreshment table for all to have. I can appreciate all the wine-talk and searching for varying degrees of flavors (from tropical fruits to woods used for funiture all the way to cat piss.... no joke). That said, I have had wine that tasted like licking a basement. So I don't know.

I always found it funny that if you order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, the server will pour for you a tiny glass to taste to make sure the wine hasn't gone bad or something. Is it some kind of high society thing to taste the wine and send it back because it's lost its luster? Where exactly do you draw the line with sending back wine? Imagine if I sent back the bottle on principle, or just because. How would the restaurant know? That said, I drink Franzia and Two Buck Chuck, so I'm not likely to be sending back any bottles of wine in the near future.

When I was back at home in the Bay Area, she can film it and I went up to Healdsburg where we got a quick tour of this upscale winery that her sister works at. The wine tasting came with food tasting too, little vittles to change the flavor of the wines here and there. The tuna tartar was delicious, and so was this little cornbread cracker with a dollop of some creamy cheese. The duck pâté thing was going a little far though. We weren't a fan of that.

Flash forward a week and I'm camping in Mendocino County just outside of the Anderson Valley wine country (if you haven't been to Boonville, read the book and you'll get a over-the-top-wacky but at the same time somewhat accurate depiction of hippie California mountain towns.... I was assured by one Anderson Valley tasting room employee that most events and characters in the book actually are not fiction, despite the book's insistance that they are). So my friends and I decided wine tasting was in order. Seven or eight wineries later I'm reenacting scenes from Sideways and slurring my words and pretending I know the difference between the ages of oaken barrels and making bourgeois jokes like "what kind of people actually drink wine that comes from stainless steel barrels?" I think I may have said "I'm not drinking any fucking merlot!" with too much vigor at one poor tasting room employee offering up the selection. In the end I had a great time and decided that maybe five wineries would have been plenty, dessert wines are quite tasty, and that I didn't have enough room in my suitcase to pack the four bottles I had purachsed.... so I got my hands on a tote bag to make carry-on #2.

So back to the tasting room job propsect. How does one get a job at a tasting room in the city anyway?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

a different View

1. I am not a pop culture prostitute.
2. So, Barbara Walters gave Star Jones a public spanking after Star decided she was leaving "The View" before "The View" kicked her gastric bypassed ass out the door. I don't know much about Star Jones except that she's a lawyer (verified only by Tracy Morgan's hilarious performance as her in "The View" spoofs from mid-90's SNL) and that she did commercials for Payless Shoes. I don't know much about "The View", really, except that I really enjoyed those skits from SNL and think Cheri Oteri (who has disappeared) is a comedic genius. I think I saw Joy Behar on the street once when I first moved to New York.
3. Forever now Payless to me will be known as Star Jones Shoes.
4. It's too bad Barbara Walters and Star Jones couldn't have an actual spontaneous catfight onscreen.... "Dynasty"-style, with shoulder pads and fountains and all. That would have made good TV.
5. Barbara Walters would probably fight dirty and go for the eyes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

shore leave

Sometimes I'm just tempted to put up photos and have them speak for themselves. Maybe not a bad idea while I enjoy the little time I have back at home.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

mark of the beast

So today is the mythic date of 06/06/06.... which is considerably less-mythic once you realize it happens every 100 years. Even to boil down the date to the Lucifer-heralding "666", you need to drop a bunch of zeroes and a two, so the whole superstition about today's date is hogwash. So, the only date this actually would work on would be in the year 6 A.D., but that year wasn't even established until the modern Christian calendar was developed sometime in the fifteenth century, or maybe even more recently than that. That said, it doesn't stop the local news from playing their cute little segment about it every half hour, getting reaction from people on the street. I must admit, though, that even I stop and think for a moment when my lunch across the street from work costs me $6.66.

So, I didn't have any idea what the 666 sequence even meant until I saw the actually-it's-really-bad-but-somewhat-enjoyably-campy Stay Tuned (1992) (hey, does anybody remember this movie?). Starring John Ritter (and Mindy from "Mork & Mindy") as a man who gets caught in his television after he buys a satellite dish from the devil (hence the occasional play on 666), and is forced to live as a part in hellish (ha) programming like "Northern Overexposure" and "Driving Over Miss Daisy". One can argue that such programming in our own real world probably isn't too far off.

Sticking with the devil theme, "The Simpsons" knocked one out of the park a few weeks ago when they aired an episode about creationism versus evolution being taught in schools. Some say that the show has lacked its spark for years now, but if I catch a new episode they reliably always have at least one joke that genuinely gets me to laugh out loud. This creationism episode was so much like the glory days of vintage "Simpsons", and they had some very smart and very barbed comedy: an exhibit about the "Myth of Creation" at the natural history museum with the hand of God sparking down against the earth, springing up fig-leaf clad Adam and Eve; the elementary school playing a video paid for by the Christian right, comparing the Bible with Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species written in dripping blood.... and then Darwin makes out with Satan. Absolutely brilliant. May "The Simpsons" remain on television forever.

So, whatever mythological Christian hooplah it is that has branded "666" as the "mark of the beast" I'm not sure, but to this day that term seems to me most appropriate for my high school Spanish 4 teacher.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

bee fever

I am totally mystified by the recent overwhelming popularity of spelling bees. There's been an influx in the last few years of books and movies about all things bee. Why? Have spelling bees ever been this popular? I knew that every year they televised the national spelling bee, held in Washington DC to make it seem more important and/or somehow affiliated with the government. This year interestingly enough, instead of banishing the televised national competition to some dark corner of ESPN2 weekend programming, it got a front seat in primetime on ABC tonight.

There was that oscar-nominated documentary Spellbound (2002), which I haven't seen but seems like it would be more about the stage parents instead of the stressed-out prepubescent spellers themselves; next, Bee Season (2005) about a girl and her dysfunctional family and how she gets through it by "seeing" the words or whatever; and then most recently the Starbucks-produced vehicle Akeelah and the Bee (2006) about another phenomenal girl speller with some family issues and the stock adult figures who either a) believe in her or b) don't and think spelling is a waste of time. An interesting and perhaps valid argument when it comes to the drama of a screenplay, but I digress. (Continuing with that digression, why can't Angela Bassett seem to get herself a nice juicy role on screen? We could use more of her.) Hell, there is even a deleted scene from Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) that brings up an uncomfortable family showdown at a spelling bee.

I seem to recall spelling bees being reserved for the smart-kid/nerd lot.... like I was/am. When I was in fifth grade I made it to third place in my school's spelling bee. The word that got me out: epitome. Be sure that I know how to spell that thing now, but I remember so well standing at that podium, having never heard that word in my entire life. Even the definition they provided to me was shrouded in mystery. Luckily they provided us a notepad to attempt to visualize the word (an advantage not provided to the national spelling bee-ers, it seems); I remember trying to spell the word with too many d's and m's, ending it with a y. I felt like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.
(For the record: I may not have won my fifth grade spelling bee, but I did win the geography bee that year, which I remember wasn't so difficult for me. I don't remember the winning question, though.... which is interesting, because I think the question one fails to answer stands out more than the question one succeeds with.)

The recent surge in spelling bee popularity is of suspect.... because the subject matter tends not to be the most thrilling. But lo and behold, they're able to construct entire movies around spelling bees, so there's an argument out there that spelling bees do have the right kind of narrative drama. I just don't see it.

But.... when it comes to airing it on television, I see an interesting trend. I guess most would consider the televised national spelling bee to fall in the same category as, say, sports programs. Like sports for the mind. But I see through to what those television executives are seething over: spelling bees are an untapped resource of reality television, and at a low cost because the people on screen don't have to be paid. Spelling bees aren't all that fun to watch anyway, but people do, likely, for two reasons:
1) they want to see all these crazy words they've never heard and never will hear again, and
2) they want to watch these kids fail,
because ultimately reality television is breeding a culture of competition and failure made for others' enjoyment. Do people really watch "Survivor" to see the trials or whatever the contestants play? Do people really watch to see the bugs they eat? No: they watch to see who gets voted off, who falls on their face, who fails. Same goes for the unstoppable juggernaut of "American Idol", except with that show emotionally unstable judges are thrown into the mix for theatrics. Tonight's bee still carried with it some level of expected respect that the whole reality television angle hasn't been able to tarnish and make trashy yet. However there was a gaggle of off-screen commentators (including my "Good Morning America" crush Robin Roberts), not surprisingly I guess, all assuming the holier-than-thou disapprovement likely learned from those horrible ice skating commentators.

The winning word tonight: ursprache. Yeah, I don't know it either. I'm all for understanding cognates between languages and all, but this word seems blatantly lifted straight from the Merriam-Webster German dictionary.

So, why are these competitions called spelling "bees" anyway? They'd be much more fun to watch on television if they actually introduced live bees into the mix.

above: one of my favorite scenes from Adaptation