Friday, March 23, 2007

Luscious Halal

I love New York, I really do, and I'm going to miss the place like hell whenever I leave for good. J and I just formulated our 5-year plan, and the integral part of it requires exiting NYC in order to raise kids who will get a few years under their belts before their initial exposure to subway porn, grit, and rampant F-bomb deployment.

This kind of planning is necessary when starting a family unit, but it's entirely new for me personally, as my philosophy up until now has been to put big life decision-making off as long as possible and think about my future in terms of where my next meal is coming from.

Which brings me to my point. My favorite thing to do throughout the day, right or wrong, is to plan what I'm about to eat. For those of us who love food, NYC is our theme park mecca. It's Epcot Center for the epicurious. Where else on earth can you make a three-tabbed spreadsheet of restaurants within a five block radius, listed by 26 different kinds of cuisine, with 89 entries?

So now and then you stumble on something that truly blows your mind and makes you reconsider everything that came before it. It could be jamaican jerk roti, korean fried chicken, chorizo tater tots, or some other kind of wacked-out combination of things you thought you already knew, or something that comes out of the blue, like Halal food.

My favorite form of Halal food, gloriously, is nothing more than skewered slabs of lamb mixed with chicken over rice and salad, with scattered spices, a chopped up pita, and cocktail of white, hot, and BBQ sauces. Oooooooooh Lord. And the best part is, it never costs more than five bucks for about three pounds of food.

You can usually find Halal on street corners, where nomadic cart jockeys hone their culinary skills by taking a dozen orders at a time and somehow remembering them all while they simultaneously slice, chop, flip, and make change like angry, mustachioed, middle eastern Edward Scissorhands. The carts look like this:

They say you can get the best Halal in the city from a cart on 53rd and 6th, right across the street from Radio City. I've never been, but this is what the Bobby Flay of sidewalk Halal looks like:

You can find reviews of this nameless cart on all of the serious food review sites on the web, and it's amazing to me that someone can come to a huge, completely insane metropolis in a foreign country, set up a cart selling $5 piles of meat, and literally become famous within a few months.

And these guys work HARD in every kind of weather on any given day. My buddy Kevin called me from the cart a few months ago during hurricane conditions horrendously late on a Friday night. I wish I could post the message - it was classic - but here's a transcript:

"Hey man...I'm at the Halal cart in know, the one I told you about. It's raining, goddam, it's freezing. I'm about 20th in line, but I can smell it!"

(unintelligible, windy)

"Remind me to tell you..."

(loud metallic bang)



"Whoa...crazy...the cart tent just blew away. Okay, I'm almost up. Talk later, man."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Knife

I'm that guy at the bar talking about how kids don't know a damn thing about music these days, but with guys like Grizzly Bear around, I know it's only transitory and we're all gonna be okay.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bud Selig is a world-class ass monkey.

The titular character of this post is the acting commissioner of Major League Baseball. He's been known to make some controversial calls in his day, including the advent of the Wild Card (good), the World Baseball Classic (bad), interleague play (meh), the strike in '94 (shameful), basing the World Series homefield advantage on the outcome of the All-Star game (huh?), and his reaction to the ongoing steroid problem, which has been weird at best. Those are just a few examples of a slew of them. I'd say he's the second most despised man in baseball after Barry Bonds and/or A-Rod -- as for those two, the former has sullied the name of baseball by ego and artifice, the latter has sullied it by earning obscene amounts of money.

But back to Bud. His latest gift to the fans is a $700 million deal that intends to give the rights of the MLB Extra Innings package solely to DirecTV. This package used to allow fans who wouldn't normally be able to watch their favorite teams because they moved outta town - like me - access to the televised games. It used to be available on both satellite and cable. But Bud, in his infinite wisdom, decided to deprive those of us who are unable to get satellite tv.

There are no words to describe how much I want to shit on this guy's head.

Earlier this month, Bud responded to the fan uproar by calling their concerns "ridiculous". Regardless, he altered the deal by giving cable tv companies and other dish networks until the end of the month to strike a similar deal. Boston Globe writer Eric Wilbur provides this analogy: "That's like saying Bush has until 3 p.m. today to get out of Iraq."

This may seem like a trivial matter, but there's been such a parade of idiots trying to ruin America's pastime over the years that ruining baseball seems to be baseball's surrogate tradition.

Friday, March 9, 2007


J's birthday today. She's 30!

I'm one of the many people telling her that your thirties are even more fun than your twenties, but I don't think she believes me.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The poetry of spam.

I hibernate in the winter months. When you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, you have to. Especially in upstate New York, where I grew up. But after stints in Boston and now New York City, it's become an annual habit. I resubscribe to Netflix after my annual warm-weather break, pack the queue (there are 67 in there right now), and go directly home from work to open and watch my daily Netflix gifts.

This past February I went out and socialized 3 times, maybe. Nothing I'm proud of. But nothing provides a greater sense of joy these days than parking it in front of the tv with a can of Strongbow and a DVD of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Netflix aside, a minor passion during the hibernative months is caressing my PowerBook G4 and cruising the Internet for good times. I'm referring not to porn, but to the reams and mounds and piles of amazing, pointless stuff you can find to entertain yourself on the web. Of course, there are web pages devoted to literally everything you can possibly think of, as well as things that should legally be outside the realm of human creativity. In that spirit, I vowed to create something new on the web: a site to praise the unintentional loveliness of contemporary spam poetry.

Most of us have received dozens of these. The subject headings of these poetic spam messages are always nonsensical, enough to draw you into the hidden message within - usually having something to do with Viagra or a pretty 17-year-old Russian girl named Petra who wants nothing more than to do your laundry after becoming your mail-order bride.

These spammers have always been around, regardless of your surfing habits. Sooner or later, they will find you and send you email. This is a fact. But what's so unexpectedly respectable about it is their efforts to elude the spam police. In order to stay under the radar, they string together the craziest slop with their message hidden inside, as if Petra was a Russian nesting doll within layers of computer generated refrigerator magnet poetry.

Whatever algorithms the spam police employ, they are completely flummoxed by something like this:

Neo-syriac AKA One-Decker Oak Thistle

nonmember bank pale-blue Non-quaker
Passion sunday nipa alcohol
organ-piano paradise flycatcher methyl alcohol
open-spokenness Odd fellowship
mussel crab Oxford corner O station palm crab
paper-clothed never-vacant mid-nineteenth
paddle board never-resting
peacock green oak thistle
neck rot milkwort family middle-sizedness
nine-eyed eel open-pit mighty-mouthed Militia bureau
moose elm milk snake nephelite-tephrite Neo-platonism
mis-lie one-roomed Non-israelite mummy wheat moving cluster
mid-lake Paleo-american paymaster-generalship
mid-channel peak factor out-of-vogue mis-seat
paper-slitting mid-zone mug-wet mis-hit new-laid padge owl
open-spokenness net valuation moudy-warp needle-made
Neo-roman obturator fascia Michaelmas
crocus new-grown palm family
open-hearth process oval chuck opossum tree
new-fashioned pearl-bush paunch mat peace-preaching
one-ideaed paper-stamping ninety-one pearl-fishery
Mid-may never-setting name plate night raven
olive-growing patty-cake M star narrow-headed
oval-lanceolate news writer olive scab night shift
one-decker night monkey motor torpedo boat olive berry
V*I*A*G*R*A $5.99
pharma#ceuticals whole$ale
enhanccce your natural splendor
reply to message

This is a real piece of spam I received through my email spam filter at work. There's more imagery in that email than in anything else I've read lately, poetry or not. I love the made up words, like "mug-wet mis-hit new-laid padge owl." J.K. Rowling would've sold the Book 7 rights to Satan to have come up with that.

But after my grand plan to create a spam poetry site, I realized that among the 5 billion people or whatever that inhabit this planet, there was another hibernating nitwit like me who beat me to the punch. I'm way behind, actually. The Register covered it, Wired covered it probably a dozen times, and a Christian Science Monitor contributor was embarrassed to discover that he was beaten to the punch 2003. So I'm meta-slow.

But the best one is by this girl Kristin who creates her own poetry using the subject titles of spam she receives.

The moral of the story is...I don't know what the moral of the story is. Spam isn't all bad?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tom Cruise: prophet?

Just came across this video of some genius at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences who's come up with a computer screen that responds to hand and finger movement. It's like a full-scale version of the new "multi-touch" technology employed in the new iPhone, which made me get hot in an earlier post.

Looks like our interaction with computers is going to go the route of Tom Cruise in Minority Report, with kooky gesturing and dramatic, intense shoving and sorting of intangible objects. They're coining it, eerily enough, "the Minority Report effect."

God help us when we look to Tom Cruise for things we can expect in the future.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

omg, shoes!

There's nothing better than cruising YouTube on a Friday afternoon and finding this.

Ray saves the day.

Even though I worked from home yesterday, I had a thoroughly nasty day at work. We all have one of those now and then. Only now and then, if we’re lucky.

My job’s okay. I get paid well to do what I like, I’m good at it, and I even enjoy it occasionally. I definitely lucked out when I landed this nutty gig. But yesterday, my job made me want to dig my guts out with a spoon and bake a casserole out of them, which I would ceremoniously present to my boss at the next company potluck.

But even so, it turned out to be the perfect time to come across the latest edition of one of my all-time favorite video podcasts, The Show with Zefrank. Everyone should check this out. Each day for a year (beginning March 16th, 2006), Zefrank films himself giving a rundown of whatever’s in the news. He’s always insightful, always snarky, and never condescending. He usually distills down to three minutes what the Daily Show covers in thirty. And I didn't realize it until just the other day, but he lives literally around the block from us. Anyway, in yesterday’s podcast, Zefrank covered the recent Internet sensation that is “Whip Somebody’s Ass.”

If you’re not familiar with “Whip Somebody’s Ass,” basically what happened is, this guy Ray was speaking with his daughter when she’d been experiencing a particularly excruciating day at work, and he pondered that for awhile and sang her a song called “Whip Somebody’s Ass” as a kind of mantra she could sing under her breath when someone was giving her a hard time. It’s soulful – almost like a gospel dirge, and it sticks in your head like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s incredibly useful for when you want to whip somebody’s ass but can’t or won’t. The lyrics go like this:

I’m about to whip somebody’s ass / oh, I’m about to whip somebody’s ass / if you don’t leave me alone / you’re gonna have to send me home / cause I’m about to whip somebody’s ass

So Zefrank, while on a business trip to St. Louis, visited Ray at his home and interviewed him about the genesis of the song and his general philosophy. And this guy is fascinating! He’s a pastor at his church, so that throws an initial kink into the story, but listening to this guy talk about his views on faith, humanity, and ass-whuppin was the best thing that happened to me yesterday. God bless Ray.

Check it out here.

If job boredom is your problem, however, there's a simple solution. Throw Paper!