Friday, December 26, 2008

And in this corner...

Even though it's almost over, you should spare a moment to think about Boxing Day. The definitive explanation of its name and its purpose can be found in this New York Times editorial. The author, Judith Flanders, argues that Americans could use a little bit of Boxing Day, provided that we stick with its original charitable purpose:

It would be good if Boxing Day were added to America’s list of legal holidays. (From over here, you look awfully light on time off anyway.) But not if it just became another day in the round of shop-eat-family-family-family.

Instead Boxing Day could return as a day of giving. Not necessarily cash — and not material to make uniforms — but rather one day a year to donate skills or effort, a day for sharing something of value in the larger community. Help someone whose first language isn’t English fill out driver’s license forms. Load an old lady’s iPod with Rogers and Hammerstein. Teach the boy next door to throw overhand, so the other kids stop teasing him.

What we really need to do is put down the punch bowl and pick up on what Punch magazine wrote more than 150 years ago: Don’t just keep “the Christmas of the belly: keep you the Christmas of the heart. Give — give.”
Fosco is onboard, except for that weird part about "teach the boy next door to throw overhand." That's pretty much like saying: "use your time to make the neighbor kid heterosexual." But, I suppose we don't have to take Flanders's advice. And, if your charitable contribution happens to involve a little foxy boxing, I think you should get double points in heaven.

Wow, Loot!

Despite the lack of fatal viruses, Christmas in Santa Cruz was wonderful, especially as it was Fosco and Oz's first Christmas spent together (last year, Fosco was in Snow Town). So what did Satan Sapna Santa bring us? I mean, besides joy and peace...

Remember how Oz has a bit of a collection going? Well, Fosco spent some quality time on eBay and came up with these beauties.

Yes, that Iron Man Mugg is a limited edition that was sold only at the San Diego Comic Con. And indeed, it does appear that Admiral Ackbar is saying "It's a trap!" (N.B., Admiral Ackbar knows when something is a trap.)

Fosco got a Mighty Mugg too! Remember Marvel's Vision? No? Well, that's why Fosco didn't have any friends in junior high. Well, at any rate, Vision was an android and a member of the Avengers (still not sounding familiar? Really?). Anyhoo, Fosco likes Vision and thinks he looks cool:

Look what Oz got for Fosco! Fosco loves this game, but had been holding off on owning it to prevent it from totally preempting his work. Is this the end of Fosco's academic career? Or does another, more lucrative, career beckon (viz. Rock God)?

Oz got a big present, too: does he know what it is?

Why, it's the IKEA Poäng Chair!

[See Isis skulking around behind it? She likes it for hiding.]

Fosco and Oz hope that, recession be damned, all of your material wishes came true this holiday season.

Christmas at Todd's

Too bad I missed Christmas at Todd's in South Bend:

Simply having a hemorrhagic Christmas time...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Santa Cruz: A Postcard

Alas, Santa Cruz has neither the cold of South Bend nor the charm of Paris. But today, on Christmas, we did have a (double) rainbow.

Peace on earth. Good will to all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Poem

It's Christmas Eve, so Fosco will take a couple day break from postings on his NYC trip. For your Christmas reading (or listening), allow Fosco to offer you a poem. The poem is "On This Side Nothing" (2002) by Jennifer Moxley. It's somewhat difficult, but it captures well the ambivalences one feels at this time of year.

To all of you loyal readers: Merry Christmas, my friends.

The objects have gone quiet. Even old
Mister Unicorn has run out of words,
despite his painted red lips. Things inured
to emptiness continue with their cold
busyness. And thus the flurry of cash
around the center silence still appears
charitable tinsel, bright with the solace
of distress, the joy of being in arrears
so much more joyful than other joys. Songs
unlike a virus have grown in this season
of record rare, they sound an echo long
in repose and leave conflicted reason
to its bafflement. Things couldn’t be worse,
or could, we could resist, or complacent
argue against resistance, neither course
puts change at risk. Though we lay adjacent
the cold garden wall and exquisitely sigh
it will come, freed perhaps of our compelling
but nevertheless compelled. It’s well-nigh
Christmas, snow covers the ground and is falling.
the thirsty birds have re-opened our hands:
though weary of ritual tending we deck
the house yet again, reenact the ends
of long antiquated customs, rectify
the aggressive apathy that binds us
to our friends. To what design? What lie lies
hidden in an ornament, in a truss
of tissue snug in a box? An old idea
forced into perverted service of the new
makes strange commerce of this cold affection
enfoiled in childish fables, a revenue
of hope out of the heart’s aphasic diction.
And if it prove false, at least daily labor
will feel refreshed in the wake of leisure.
The bonvivant who repeats “love thy neighbor”
does no harm, and Tennyson’s sad measure
of years since we last saw our friend can bring
to mind a loss reduced from one December
to the next, a comfort and reminder
that we are at worst, on this side, nothing,
and risk nothing, to fight against and yet
not cut the feeling from our breast in queer
penance to a blundering world, to split
the will in two, to tell the truth, to fear
defeat, etc. The thought-ruined things
have done their work to keep our sentiment
in trust, though now we know we raised the scene
neither for ourselves nor for the love of it,
but out of some mislaid duty to form—
a table, a ribbon, a set of rules—
to adjust the love of a furious home,
but do not think we were born to be fools
or bred to thoughtless and false happiness,
given our time’s caution and your kind lash
it has never been easy for us to say yes.

[Listen to Jennifer Moxley read this poem live here.]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NYC Journal: Central Park

Fosco and Oz were a little worried that it would be too cold to talk a long walk in Central Park. Luckily, it wasn't (although it wasn't warm). Every time Fosco visits Central Park, he marvels again: the contribution that Central Park makes to livability in Manhattan is hard to overestimate. If only every mega-city had a park like this. I mean, look at it!

The doubled towers of the Time Warner Center look pretty good:

The Plaza Hotel is one of the most beautiful buildings in this country:

Make way for ducks! If you think they're cold, look again. Those are the fattest ducks I've ever seen.

This one's our favorite. No swimming for him--he's no sucker!

The reason Fosco most wanted to walk through Central Park is that Oz (born and raised in the Sandwich Islands) has never played in the snow. So Fosco wanted to watch Oz play in the snow. Fosco thought it would be cute and he was right. Want to see how cute?

Awww. Fosco melts every time!

More NYC stories/pix to come.

NYC Journal: Buddakan

As mentioned previously Fosco and Oz's flight arrived with no delay on Friday, allowing our heroes to make their dinner reservation at downtown pan-Asian hotspot Buddakan (N.B.: if you are interested in gorgeous web design, you need to follow that link to the website).

Buddakan is a Manhattan outpost of the Philadelphia-based Steven Starr Restaurant Group. Fosco is actually kind of a fan of Starr restaurants, after eating at Philadelphia's Pod several years ago (imagine eating yummy sushi while living inside a [just-slightly] updated version of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and you'll be close).

"Top Chef" superfans may recall Buddakan as the home of everyone's favorite culinary Filipino: intense and talented (and unjustly-eliminated) Season 4 contestant Dale Talde, who was sous chef at Buddakan.

This was Fosco's second visit to Buddakan and it's always an experience. Above all things, the restaurant is gorgeous--like almost no place Fosco has ever eaten. The design concept can be described as Hitler's bunker meets Grauman's Chinese Theater. Seriously. Here are two shots of the breath-taking main room:

This time, Fosco and Oz were seated in this room:

It's like a combination fallout shelter/bordello! Sexy and fun!

And what about the food? Well, the food is consistently interesting, although there are occasionally inexplicable failures. Sadly, the first dish we tried fits into this category. When you read "Deviled Tuna Tartare: chili mayonnaise, scallions," what do you think? Well, it looks about right...

Yes, all the ingredients seem to be there: raw tuna, chili mayo (smeared on the side), scallions on top. But then there is that inexplicable layer of green stuff under the tuna. Know what that is? Hard-boiled egg whites in a green sauce (maybe wasabi-spiced?). Does that sound delicious? It's not. The tuna was fine (although redundantly tossed with an overly spicy chili oil in addition to the chili mayo), but that egg stuff was bad. Yuck.

Our other choices were much more successful. These are the Hunan beef bao with tamarind mustard and pickles. The mustard was grand.

And these are the scallion pancakes with braised beef short ribs and green apples:

It turns out that beef ribs are great with green apples. Who would have thought?

From the entree list, we chose the Mongolian lamb chops crusted with crystallized ginger. If I had my way, lamb would always be crusted with crystallized ginger.

One of the hits of the night was the earthy and satisfying (though hardly photogenic) wild mushroom chow fun. Fosco loves noodles and mushrooms and this is a perfect combination. Sadly, the pic does not capture the gorgeous mushroomy-brown lacquer on those noodles.

Dessert was excellent (which is surprising at an Asian restaurant, no?). Fosco had the yuzu-filled crepes with kaffir lime semifreddo and kalamanzi milk sherbet. The crepes are in the lower right. The semifreddo is on the lower left. And the extraordinary kalamanzi sherbet is sitting on that bird nest. It looks like an egg! Witty!

Oz enjoyed the cinnamon-spice donuts with quince crumble and cinnamon ice cream. Well, to be accurate, he enjoyed everything but the quince.

And yes, that is a hard candy in the shape of a spring. Here's the close up:

While it's not the best restaurant in NYC, Buddakan was good place to kick off a weekend of culinary fun. And there is no more visually interesting place you could eat--well, at least that you could get reservations at. Stay tuned for more posts from Fosco and Oz's weekend in NYC.

NYC Journal: Holiday Decorations

While there are plenty of holiday decorations here in the Bay Area (although it can be difficult to see them), Christmas lights are better when you're somewhere cold and snowy... like New York! Luckily, Fosco and Oz were there last weekend. Here are some pictures.

Grand Central Station (near our hotel) has opted for the simple and tasteful wreath:

Saks Fifth Avenue chose something more... maximal. These giant snowflakes plastered their facade and performed a blinky light show to "Carol of the Bells."

The Saks display windows were extraordinarily elaborate. One of them had anthropomorphic snowflakes that rotate in pattern (as if they had been trained...):

You can see more photos of the Saks windows here. Or see the whole animatronic thing here.

Perhaps the most tasteful light display was in the lobby of the Time Warner Center.

And the least tasteful light display ever has to be Louis Vuitton on Fifth Avenue:

Fosco doesn't want to seem crotchety, but he thinks hip-hop has ruined that brand. Sigh.

And, of course, there is the classic of NYC lights--the Roc-A-Fella Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Sadly, this blurry, dark shot is the best picture we got. Seriously. If only there were another way for you to see a picture of this tree... oh wait.

Stay tuned for more NYC pix.

Monday, December 22, 2008

NYC Journal: Introduction

Fosco and Oz made it back from New York City early Monday morning. All in all, the travel was pretty smooth, especially considering that New York received the first two snowstorms of the year on the two days we were flying. Interestingly, our flight on Friday arrived at JFK airport twenty minutes early! Kudos to that airline with the lavender-lit fleet.

(Sadly, Fosco squandered those extra twenty minutes and more by insisting that he and Oz take the subway from the airport instead of a cab. This was a bad, bad idea. "Beat the traffic and be in Manhattan in just 35 minutes!" Lies!)

And how was New York? Well, for one thing, it was cold. Not cold for New Yorkers, I'm sure, but remember: Fosco has lived in Santa Cruz for 2 and a half years now. As for Oz, he's originally from the Sandwich Islands and had never actually seen snow. Indeed, there was much whimpering and numbness. (Although, after returning to a monsoon in San Francisco, Fosco and Oz do see some virtue in snow.)

But, of course, even in the cold New York is just better than any other city: more cosmopolitan, more intellectual, more interesting, more fun. I love watching someone read a French novel on the L train. Or wincing as our African immigrant cabbie changes lanes four times in one block. Or seeing a building lit up for Hanukkah.

In the next few days, Fosco will share more stories and pictures from the trip (including restaurant reviews: pastries, burgers, and Jean Georges!).

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering what Fosco and Oz's kitty Isis was doing all weekend while they were gone, I'm pretty sure this about covers it:

To tell the truth, that isn't much different from what Fosco does most days...

From the Annals of Things I Do NOT Want to Watch

From the front page of the Huffington Post:

Ummm... I think I'll pass.

[Apparently, they just meant that you can watch this.]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Isis and her girlfriend

Fosco and Oz are raising a kitty named Isis. Isis has a toy mouse that she loves (maybe because there's catnip inside). The mouse's name is Condoleeza Mice, but we just call her Condi. Never having owned a pet, Fosco didn't really understand cross-species same-sex attraction, but apparently there is lots of licking involved.

Isis sez: "Don't judge my relationship with Condi. We're in love."