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AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1060 days, 22 hours, 51 minutes, 49 seconds ago

Economy: Viewpoints and Victimizations

A)  Fist things first.  Benjamin Barber at The Nation has written a macro-economic masterpiece of an article which puts forward such delectable nuggets as:

If we are to survive the collapse of the unsustainable consumer capitalism that has possessed our body politic over the past three decades, idealism must become the new realism.

Where, sir, have you been all my life?

I want my readers (the volumes and volumes of you who are out there in the aether – I know you’re there… I can hear you breathing) to read his article and thus form a basis of understanding for every grammaticaster economy-themed post from here on out.  Thank god for composers more eloquent than I.

B)  Secondly… here, on the ground level, the economic crisis is hitting home at long last.  I am getting human resource lessons from both sides of the divide – the fired and the firers.  I now have two extremely close friends/relations who have been impacted negatively (let go by their employers) by the “economic crisis.”  My significant other, conversely, works in employee communications for a company that just laid off 1200 professionals.  What wondrous times we live in.

These events seem to shore up the assessment I made last weekend:  this downturn is, and is going to be, much worse than the impression we are getting from the media and the politicians.  This is bad.  This is bad, bad, bad.

I am not saying it is time to run out and horde jugs of water, duct tape and ammunition, but it may be time to put a little extra effort into convincing your employers of how necessary you are to their organization.  Meanwhile, I shall continue to launch the resumes of my loved ones into the ever-increasing, faster-flowing stream of job seekers.  How bad is this going to get before it starts getting better?

C)  Finally, on a base, selfish level, the economy is negatively influencing my sex life.  That’s right.  My spouse comes home depressed, dejected and demoralized from days full of ruining other peoples’ lives.  The end result is that I get zero nookie.  So, please, think of little Herman.  He has done nothing to deserve this.

My Progress (or lack thereof)

Today, I finally got off my lazy ass and went to the gym for the first time in months. My New Year’s resolutions are kind of sputtering to life over the waning January days, but they are very much alive. It feels good to set and accomplish a goal — even a small one such as "do 45 minutes of cardio after work today." Now to see if I can keep it up for the rest of the week.

To that end, I have added a new little sidebar widget under the heading "My Progress" (see bottom right). Joe’s Goals is a free website that tracks your daily objectives and gives you a numerical score based on how well you are doing. I like they way it assigns both an overall daily score and weekly average while incorporating the OCD feel-goodness of checking off individual goals in little boxes. It is here on the front page not because I necessarily have anything interesting there to communicate to the world, but so that I may derive some additional motivation from the fact that my progress chart is out there for anyone to look at (and quietly judge).

Ugh. I just made the horrible observation that my score for the past week is negative. Sounds about right.

Slappin’ Skin In DC

I have watched this many, many times. It is still funny. Must share.

Change/Hope/Pomp/Circumstance

I am not going to try to pontificate on President Obama’s inauguration.  There are plenty of other, better craftsmen who will pen poetic personal testimonies of their various inaugural experiences from their own unique viewpoints.  Some, for instance, have captured “the moment” on video.  Others posted photographs.  I will simply post the full CSPAN video of the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address, which I watched live via an extremely temperamental internet connection in the faux wood-paneled offices of the Fairfield Board of Education.  I’ll let BHO speak for himself, in other words:

As excited as I am for our nation and, truly, for all of humanity, I am ready for all the pomp and flair and celebrating to be over.  I think we can all agree there is serious work to be done.  (Rahm Emanuel – my new hero – has already gotten down to business, apparently.)  I am really tired of these inaugural balls – tuxes and gowns, dancing and revelry – one after the other all night long, and the television news coverage of every single one of them.  I am tired of hearing about trinket vendors selling Obama (TM) bracelets, air fresheners, and (I swear to god this is true) condoms to unimaginative yokels on the mall.  And I am slightly frustrated about how expensive and elaborate all this ritualistic merrymaking is.  Whether or not the $150M price tag is inflated or skewed or substantially financed by private donors, the incoming administration should be aware of how petty that looks when contrasted with the economic disaster that is very much upon us. 

And that’s my soapbox.  I am overjoyed that Barack is officially #44.  Now, to reluctantly quote local embarrassment Larry Langford: let’s do something!

In closing – check out the newly (as of 12:01 PM today) revamped WhiteHouse.gov.  The website promises to “be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history.”  Here’s hoping.

x-posted @ Daily Kos

Why I will never eat at Veranda ever again.

I waited two days to blog about this experience because I wanted to approach the subject from a fair, clear-minded perspective.  I think I should start off, too, with an explanation of my wife’s and my dining habits.  The views I am going to express in this article are necessarily skewed by monetary issues, and I normally would not discuss money or our collective financial position here in a public manner (in fact, I would normally consider that to be petty and classless).  We are food people.  I have no problem dropping $200 for a good dining experience.  But I would hate for it to seem, because of that fact, that we were well-off financially or, worse, are just throwing our money around.  We are smack in the middle of the middle-class.  I’ll spend hundreds on a meal, but the light in our kitchen hasn’t worked in a year and a half.  We can discuss whether that is crazy or not at some other time.  For now, I just wanted to preface this rant with that little vignette.

Friday night I thought I’d surprise my wife by making some last minute reservations at a local fine dining establishment.  To be totally honest, I called Hot & Hot Fish Club first, but they did not have any tables available at reasonable times.  So, I figured, let’s go somewhere we haven’t been in a while.  Our first experience at Veranda on Highland did not impress, but we had been there twice since then for Sunday brunch, which was delightful.  It was on the strength of those brunch excursions that I decided it was high time to give Veranda a second chance.  What follows is a list of grievances from our Friday night dinner.

  • They indicated when I called that they had a table available at 7:30.  Normally if tables at these establishments are not in the main dining room the person taking the reservation would indicate that fact.  Not so at the Veranda, apparently.  Our table was at the bar.  I probably would have been fine with a bar table if they’d done me the courtesy of informing me that that was the case.  There were also plenty of dining room seats free.  Not a good start to the evening.
  • Nobody took our overcoats.  All the rooms in that building and they don’t have a cloakroom? 
  • Our waiter.  His name was Mike.  And he sucked.  He had no knowledge of the wines on the wine list, and was no help in selecting our Cabernet blend.  (We went with a Coppola 2006 Claret, which was decent for the price.)  He also let us twiddle our thumbs for fifteen minutes after we sat down while he jawed with waitresses, tended bar, and basically dicked around. 
  • The starters.  First, let me say that, at fine restaurants, it should be assumed that diners will be having a starter prior to the main course.  If this was Outback Steak House it would be different, but if I’m wearing a jacket and ordering a bottle of wine for the table, I don’t want you to ask me “would either of you be interested in an appetizer?”  That’s what I’m fucking here for. 
  • Those starters – a shrimp remoulade for me and fried oysters for her – arrived BEFORE the wine!!!!  Seriously?  Were they pre-made?  I want to know that my food is being prepped with care.  A reasonably long wait for each course is perfectly fine.  Waiting for wine, however, is unacceptable.  Go to wherever the wine is stored, get bottle, return to table, open bottle, pour, leave.  Bad form.  Bad, bad service.
  • The odd, sometimes too fast, sometimes way too slow, pace continued throughout the night.  At no time did I feel like our patronage was appreciated. 

The remainder of the meal was fine.  The main courses – ribeye steak for my wife, veal for me – were pretty darn tasty, as was the dessert.  But by that time the damage was done.  And it really is all about the money.  I paid $200.55 for that dinner.  If I’d been paying $80, my perspective would be much different.  But this place carries itself as if it were in the same league as Birmingham’s elite restaurants.  One of those restaurants, the aforementioned Hot & Hot, is right across the street.  Frank Stitt’s Bottega is only a parking lot away.  Highlands Bar & Grill is a short walk down the hill.  With all of these choices, why would anyone pay that kind of money for service that is downright crappy by comparison?

It is a shame, too, because Veranda is a beautiful restaurant.  The historic building and Victorian-era decor make it one of the most picturesque dining locations in the city.  Someone should really open a good restaurant there.

I’d hate to end this post on such a sour note.  If you, reader, are considering going out for some culinary delights, allow me to offer the following “top ten” list of restaurants in Birmingham (as determined by me and me alone; some casual, some upscale affairs; subject to change depending on my mood, the weather, whether or not I got a Christmas bonus, etc.).

10.  Magic City Diner II (Fairfield) – This is a personal favorite that deserves to be on this list on the strength of their peach cobbler alone.  A down-home cooking buffet in downtown Fairfield, I discovered this gem on a school board audit last year.  In fact, I am going back to that system on Tuesday.  It might be time for some soul food.

9.  Bettola – I very rarely feel the hankering for pizza (my wife, on the other hand…), but when I do this is what I want.  Perfectly selected wines go with the gourmet pizzas and other Italian dishes.

8.  Chez Lulu – A casual French bistro in English village.  A favorite for light, tasty creations.  Highlights are the daily special soups and tarts and the baked goods from the Continental Bakery next door.

7.  Ocean – When they brought out the oyster list, I was hooked.  As good as their seafood is (and the scallops are incredible), the filet mignon is the best in town.

6.  Taj India – The highest-ranked casual restaurant on my list, and for good reason.  We go here at least once a week.  The staff and owners know what we are going to order before we even sit down.  This may be sitting at number six, but some nights it is Taj or nothing.  I crave it.  I dream about it.

5.  Little Savannah – Southern cooking.  What home-cooked meals would taste like if your mother was a master chef.  And I can walk there from work!

4.  Cafe Dupont – Probably the truest alternative to Veranda.  Cajun/Creole-inspired cuisine smack in the middle of downtown Birmingham.  I had fried oysters and okra there that would make you slap your grandmamma.

3.  daniel george – Exquisite dining and outstanding service in quaint Mountain Brook Village.

2.  Hot & Hot Fish Club – This one resided at the top of this list until my second experience at number one.  And they may change places again the next time we go there.  The food is all locally grown and produced, and it is incredible.  I’d like to try sitting at the chef’s counter on my next trip, where we can see our meals being cooked and assembled.  Lively and eclectic, but never annoying.  The staff is attentive and experienced.

1.  Highlands Bar & Grill – Top notch in every respect.  Knowledgeable waiters.  Gigantic wine list.  Cozy, French-countryside inspired atmosphere.  The best, most lovingly prepared food in the city.  And when I call they treat little old me like Captain Moneybags.

He’s Gettin’ Awful Windy

From David Letterman’s “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.”  Enjoy – both the comedy and the fact that this abominable and absurd era is almost over.