Saturday, December 31, 2005

some recommendations...

A follow-up on Pepperwood Grove wine: I tried the Cabernet, and I wasn't impressed. Stick to the Syrah.

Last night I learned that Donald Trump is considering a run for Governor of New York. He would not be good for that state. Stick to Spitzer.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Native American Commander in Chief

There is plenty of talk about the first woman President or the first black President and even the first black woman President. What I would like to see is a Native American President running on an environmental/restorationist platform. That would be restoration of the buffalo and Native social structures.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

an example of when democracy doesn't work

Xmas in NY part 1. The day after Xmas it was raining, and so the idea of going to a movie made sense up until the point it was clear that everybody else had the same idea. The gridlock around Roosevelt Raceway Cinemas rivalled any LA freeway at rush hour, and by the time we managed to find a parking spot the show was sold out. We had agreed on "Chronicles of Narnia" because Lisa and Irene wanted to see it and I was being open-minded about it. Unfortunately none of the other movies or start times were good back ups, so we decided to rent a dvd instead.

The Westbury library being closed, we proceeded to the Blockbuster on Glen Cove Road, which was full of bare shelves, especially for the movies we wanted to see. I managed to find four or five interesting possibilities, all of which were shot down by Lisa and Irene. In the good faith spirit of democracy I let them select one called "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". Unfortunately this film proved to be so bad on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start to critique it. We reached a very democratic consensus that the film was a regrettable peice of crap that in no way improved the image of Mr. Brad Pitt or Ms. Angelina Jolie, who were rumoured to be humanitarian heroes.

It was necessary to get revenge on this film by renting "March of the Penguins" the following night. This simple documentary on the life cycle of the emperor penguin was pleasant enough and lasted only 80 minutes. "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" was two whole hours -- the length alone should have been a red flag. Increasingly when choosing a film I try to remember to check the length of it. That way I have some sense of the swamp I'm about to plunge into.

Friday, December 23, 2005


1. The modern world will not fit in a teacup. It is simply larger than a teacup.

2. Last night I had a very carefully worded conversation and exchange of ideas with Bill Clinton. My dreams aren't always so verbal, but this one could probably be transcripted. I remember telling him about how his administration successfully projected an aura of normalcy while simultaneously pushing the envelope in many new areas, and he nodded in agreement. The conversation took place in my old room in suburban New York.

3. On Sunday we saw the Monterey Symphony perform in the barrel room of Blackstone Winery. The accoustics were remarkable. As I expected, there were space-heaters strategically placed throughout, and we sat right next to one. I realized that I enjoy classical music more if I don't recognize it, when it is frighteningly vast, and there is no end in sight. I like the idea of being swallowed whole by a huge piece of classical music, sort of like Jonah and the whale.

4. There is a Coldplay song out that lifts a riff from Kraftwerk's "Computer Love". When I first heard it in a bookstore I stood frozen for twenty minutes until I figured out where I'd heard it before.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

peanuts & pinot noir

On Saturday we met Ted & Tatiana in San Luis Obispo, a good midpoint between them & us. They took the bus and met us outside the Big Sky Cafe. The restaurant was serving a very healthy vegetarian borscht that didn't seem the right color and tasted more like minestrone, in a good way. After lunch we walked the streets of this very pedestrian-friendly city. At least one older building had been removed and the entire block from Phoenix Books/Boo Boo Records was in the process of being rebuilt. We had coffee in the little cafe between the book and record stores where we discussed peak oil and agreed that learning a difficult foriegn language must burn calories.

At the chamber of commerce I finally learned that it's possible to hike the craggy peaks surrounding the town. For years on end I wallowed in ignorance and even imagined such hikes weren't possible, so this information constituted a minor revolution. I look forward to hiking every accessible crag.

Ted & Ta were looking for the right kind of black tea to take back, and my instincts led us to a gourmet foods store I'd passed before but never been in. Sure enough the shelves were alive with the "assam" style of tea that was apparently the object of their quest. Across the street was something calling itself a "fireplace store" that was actually a kitchen accessories store. We then offered to drop them off at the bus station, which was in a part of town I'd never seen. I wrongly imagined it would be one of the cleanest Greyhound stations in the nation. A trip to the bathroom proved otherwise. Their bus was soon to leave so we left them with their bus that was soon to plunge into the dark night, and the empty, melancholy bus station with its vending machines full of peanuts.

On our way back I wanted to stop for a bag of mixed nuts but Lisa felt it would be better to have a proper meal in Paso Robles. The meal I had at a place called Odyssey was perfect -- brie and artichoke hearts with salad, washed down with a glass of pinot noir.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Pepperwood Grove

Yesterday evening I went to Safeway determined to find a decent new wine. Something called "Pepperwood Grove" with a snazzy lime-green label was on sale and appeared to be the best value. I bought the Syrah and was not disappointed. It reminded me of some of the better Blackstone wines. If you find Pepperwood Grove on sale, give it a shot.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Citrus-flavored Listerine

I must admit that the new citrus-flavored Listerine caught my eye, and in the land of theory it works. But I'm sad to report that in practice it doesn't live up to expectations. It tastes like one of the artificially-flavored medicines I was given in the 1970's, possibly for a cold. It's in no way as pleasant as say baby aspirin or chewable vitamin C.

Lisa disagrees. She likes it. "It's got an interesting flavor" she says.

In any case we're stuck with two bottles of the stuff, since we got the two-for-one special at Target. That alone should have been a red flag that all was not well in citrus-Listerine land. I'm looking forward to going back to "classic" Listerine. This is their "New Coke" moment.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Where's the "Reverence for Life" when you need it?

The scheduled execution of Tookie Williams casts a pall over this entire evening, regardless of what one does. Yesterday I finally got around to watching the "Downfall" dvd from Netflix, and that well-made but exceedingly heavy film is still haunting me. After seeing Hitler under a microscope, I can't help but feeling that Schwarzenegger, the other oddball-Austrian-turned-statesman-of-a-much-larger-land, has some nerve to use his power to send a man to his death. It would be much better if he used this opportunity to affirm a culture of life.

The USA treasures capitol punishment as though it were an endagered species. Modern Europe on the other hand forbids it. I lean heavily toward the European position, but I do wonder exactly how they deal with their homicidal maniacs (they do have some). If they have figured out the answer -- life in prison? cutting-edge rehab? -- then the USA should eagerly embrace it. But what specifically the Europeans do with their criminals, apart from running a more civil society that reduces the level of crime in the first place, seems to be missing from the conversation.

The paradox of the European position came home to me while watching "Downfall". While it's great that they've done away with capital punishment, it wasn't that long ago that they had something worse, namely casual and random murder and suicide on a scale that I don't think America has ever seen, even in the Wild West or during the Civil War. Could it be that Europe's centuries of bloodbath have reached a saturation point that enables them to evolve to the next level?