February 2009 Archives

Bug-Eyed Lament

Spoilers for the Top Chef finale follow.

The W and I wailed in dismay last night as we watched Carla get steamrolled out of making her own food. At the start of the season we never would have guessed Carla would make it to the finale ("That's what I believe, Tom!"), but we've been rooting for her the whole way. And what got her there was staying true to herself, executing perfectly on simple dishes. So when she let Casey talk her into sous viding her beef, a technique Carla had never used before, the chorus of "Nooooooooooo!" from our living room could be heard down the block. When Casey nudged her from a cheese tart to a cheese souffle, we knew Carla was in trouble. I just felt so terrible for her. She lost for the wrong reasons, and she'll never know what would have happened if she'd only cooked her own food (or drew a different sous chef!). I think the judges would have loved to have awarded her the title, if Carla had only given them the room to do so.

But if it couldn't be Carla, at least it wasn't Stefan. The man was clearly the best chef throughout the entire season, but he was just so insufferably smug about it that each week I not-so-silently hoped for his comeuppance. Crowning him as Top Chef would have been respectable and certainly deserved, but schadenfreude was certainly more satisfying.

As for Hosea... meh. He was good but not great throughout. Head judge Tom Colicchio has long maintained that they make each decision in a vacuum, with no regard for past performance. This season's winner certainly bears that out.

Hosea won the title, but Carla won our hearts.

Comments (3) | last by Matt Lovell, Mar 3, 5:05 AM

25 Things About Me, Dammit

I'm determined not to get sucked into Facebook, but I have to admit that whenever a friend posts their 25 Things, I zip over to read it. This meme jumped the shark last week by appearing on the front page of USA Today's Life section, but that's never stopped me before. I'll post it on my blog, however, thereby asserting my Facebook independence.

1. I don't think anything coming out of a kitchen can possibly be more satisfying to the senses and the soul than a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (Alton Brown's Chewy recipe, naturally). That something so simple can make me so happy is a recurring delight. And if I actually have some milk in the fridge? Nirvana.

2. I know that if instead of watching television I used that time to be productive, I could achieve more of my life's goals. I get that. But here's the thing-- I like watching television. I'm genuinely interested in the stuff I watch. And you book snobs can get your noses back parallel to the ground, because much of what I watch gets me thinking every bit as much as, and sometimes more than, a good novel.

3. I've loved game shows all my life, and always wanted to be on one. Now that I've done it, the experience was so much fun that I can't wait to do it again. I'd quit my job to go on the professional game show circuit in a heartbeat, if only some Google gazillionaire would put up the cash to make such a thing happen. I'd also accept a very modest salary to simply appear as a permanent partner for contestants on a new version of Password or Pyramid, in a mythical world where producers realize that it's more fun to watch people you don't know play the game really well than to watch marginal celebrities play the game poorly.

4. My jaw sometimes clicks when I eat. Most of the time it's quiet and normal. But sometimes, every time I chew there's a sharp click and my jaw seems to snap in and out of place, over and over again. This happens most often with bagels. Until I got married, I never realized it was audible to others, but my wife hears it every time.

5. I lied about something once, when I was a kid. It was a stupid lie, a futile denial in the face of a friend's admission of my guilt. But I was supposed to be the good kid. I didn't do stupid, careless things that damaged neighbor's property. So I stuck with it. I made up a bigger lie to provide an alternate explanation. Nobody bought it. The guilt has stayed with me ever since. The neighbor-- the sweetest man you could imagine-- died recently, and I never came clean with him. After that incident, I never played with that friend again.

6. When I was very young, before I was old enough for kindergarden, whenever I went out with my family I kept a deathgrip on a penny. Always. Because I knew that sooner or later, I'd see a gumball machine. And when I did, come hell or high water, the handle on that machine would turn. Oh yes, it would turn. I'd put that penny in the slot and, in a Henningesque feat of legerdemain, I'd turn that handle, reach my hand into the slot, and pull out something bright and shiny and sweet. But it wasn't about the gumball, or the candy, or the prize. It was all about turning the handle. And pushing buttons.

7. I once won a radio call-in contest by knowing the full name of Bullwinkle's enemy (Boris Badanov). My prize? A sack of family board games. I now own over 500 games. Most people think that's a lot. I know many people with more.

8. I don't understand how rational, educated people in the 21st century can believe in God. Want to believe? Sure. I get the appeal. But actually believe, in the face of no evidence but a book of questionable provenance? I don't think I will ever understand that.

9. I believe in life on other planets. In the face of no evidence.

10. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed about flying. Poorly. Not William Katt, flail-my-arms-around-in-midair bad, mind you-- that would be an improvement. No, in my flying dreams, I fly slowly and often can't get more than a couple of feet off the ground. Turning doesn't always work so well, either. WTF? In my dreams I could be anything, and my subconscious casts me as a fifth-rate Mystery Men reject? That is so messed up.

11. I like to sing in the shower, but I generally sing the same song every time-- an a capella version of Styx's Crystal Ball I heard Tommy Shaw sing on a radio concert a long time ago that eliminates the chorus and has great, extended harmonized notes at the finish. So much fun to sing with the shower reverb. Every now and then I throw in The Ballad of Billy the Kid.

12. I'm very good at listening to critical feedback and acting on it. I value honesty. If I do something that annoys you, I'd rather be told about it so I can address it rather than have you fume silently or kvetch behind my back. I won't resent you for saying something-- in fact, you'll rise in my esteem for having the courage to broach the topic.

13. I cried when Spock died.

14. I wrote the install program for Sierra Online's Windows games. I recorded my own voice as a placeholder for the sound test, expecting it would get replaced before it shipped. It didn't. For a few years in the nineties, my voice was on millions of PC computers, saying in my best Worfian voice, "Your system is correctly configured for playing wave files."

15. I've played cribbage in most of the major parks of Europe.

16. The first 45's I ever bought? Coward of the County (Kenny Rogers), Escape / The Pina Colada Song (Rupert Holmes), and King Tut (Steve Martin). My taste hasn't improved since then.

17. I believe the existence of career politicians is one of the worst things ever to happen to our democracy. All senators and congressmen should have a limit of one term, so they can focus on making the right decisions instead of making the decisions that will get them reelected.

18. I've gained over 30 pounds since graduating from college. Worse, my body is starting to react differently to some foods than it used to. Tomato sauce now frequently gives me heartburn. This is a betrayal of the highest order, and if I ever get my hands on my stomach, I intend to draw and quarter it in the public square as an example to keep my other internal organs in line. I'm talking to you, arteries!

19. A couple of times a year, I dress like a pirate and ride around in a van with 3-5 other similarly-dressed friends for 32 hours and solve puzzles. My wife married me anyway.

20. I have Restless Legs Syndrome.

21. I have no patience for shopping for clothes, and even less for trying things on. I can happily browse all day in a book store, however, and I can while away hours in the kitchen section at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

22. Fashion be damned-- I like tucking my shirt in. It looks tidier, keeps drafts from blowing up my shirt in cold weather, and helps keep my pants from falling down. Who decides what's fashionable, anyway? I refuse to give power over my personal clothing decisions to some nebulous snootier-than-thou zeitgeist. When summer comes around, you can bet I'll sometimes wear socks with my sandals, because it's convenient and practical. Take that, fashionistas!

23. I hate wrapping paper. It's a waste of money and resources. Reusable gift bags are fine, though. And can we please, as a planet, just agree to a moratorium on styrofoam packing peanuts?

24. Milk chocolate? No thanks. Dark chocolate? Yes please. Caramel? Gimme gimme gimme. Black licorice? Hell no.

25. I believe spelling, punctuation, and grammar matter.

Comments (6) | last by Greg Aleknevicus, Feb 10, 2:37 AM

I happened to be looking at the Wikipedia article for Keyser Soze today, and saw this:

In his 1999 review of Fight Club, film critic Roger Ebert commented that "A lot of recent films seem unsatisfied unless they can add final scenes that redefine the reality of everything that has gone before; call it the Keyser Söze syndrome."

So naturally, I tried to think of films besides Fight Club and The Usual Suspects that do that. The only ones that leap to mind are The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The Village comes close, but the twist arrives earlier than at the very end of the film.

Am I missing any outside of the Shayamalan oeuvre? I recall hearing that Vanilla Sky had a twist, but I haven't seen the film so I don't know if it qualifies by having a reality-redefining twist.

For our purposes, let's only consider films after The Usual Suspects (1994). And please, no spoilers.

Comments (14) | last by Wei-Hwa Huang, Mar 11, 1:53 AM

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