Sunday, June 24, 2007

You Can't Taste Television

I thought this blog post about Hell's Kitchen was great, although the blogger, Nick Fox, seems a little starry-eyed about reality TV, especially when it comes to celebrity chefs. Great chefs don't make TV. Great chefs make food. When you become a TV star who's regularly watched by people who have no intention of cooking a meal (ahem), you're officially a celebrity chef, and you have to choose your place on the continuum. Are you about the food? Or are you about the brand? I think Ramsay cares plenty about food, but it's also clear where he lands on that continuum.

Ramsay runs a business, and he knows his brand. His role is to be controversial, to be devil-may-care, to feud publicly with someone somewhere, and to be ruthlessly intolerant of anything that doesn't come up to his standards. You might be able to be ruthlessly intolerant without throwing plates and hurling insults, but it wouldn't make good television, and your brand recognition? Well, it doesn't take an adman to tell you that notoriety is worth cash. Just ask Paris.

If this product isn't your style, don't worry--the brand has something for you. Try "The F Word," the program Ramsey shrewdly introduced to flog the "softer side" of Gordon. You know, like the Sears campaign. He does very little yelling at the nervous would-be-chefs, spends time with his children, teaches women who can't pick the oven out of a lineup how to prepare a meal for their friends and family (he laughs at them occasionally, but he doesn't yell), and even loses with surprising grace when challengers prepare a tastier dish than he does (almost every week--the challengers quickly discovered that desserts are Gordon's bete noir).

Hell's Kitchen is just one product. I don't know for certain, but I'd say the whole brand has a healthy bottom line. And after all, you can't taste television.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Couldn't have said it better myself...

At one point during a meeting today, one of the other IT guys slipped up and said, "I think that would be a better waste of our time." And let me just say that there's not a better summary of how things were going.

When the business folks outlined their solution, though, an image popped into my head. Imagine a yellow school bus, a Mercedes, and an old Plymouth side by side. Now lash them together with duct tape and try to drive them down the road. Oh, and imagine that when something breaks, they send you a dude in a hat with some more duct tape.

Fabulous solution. Dibs on the school bus. Wait a minute--I'm just going to get a helmet, because I think it's going to be a bumpy ride....

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Probably Do Look Skinny

My stuff finally arrived--yay! One of the things I recently unearthed was my scale. I'd already been to the doctor, and the doctor's scale actually showed me at my normal weight, and we all know that never happens (the doctor's scale, like the camera, adds ten pounds). So I thought I'd take a look at what my scale had to say.

Turns out I've lost 8 pounds since the doctor's appointment, which actually puts me in the Weight Watcher's "normal" range (lower than the CDC's body mass index, because Weight Watchers have a lower target for youngsters). Even if the doctor's scale is right and my scale is now giving me a best friend's assessment of my weight, some kind of net loss is implied.

All I can say is that New York definitely agrees with me. I have to walk at least some every day, and I've been trying to hit 2-3 miles a day (which isn't hard if I skip the subway). I have discovered a grocery delivery service that brings me fresh fruit and delicious calorie-controlled meals. (Tonight is salmon couscous washed down with a delicious pinot gris.) Delivery is only $6 an order. I can order once every couple of weeks and supplement that with the carton of milk. It's definitely worth it, especially since their prices are sometimes better than what I'd pay at the cheapest market I can walk to.

I could get used to this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Maybe I Look Skinny

No, that's probably not it. My super is probably just supernaturally nice. He has fed me on Sunday twice in a row. Last weekend he bought me a cranberry muffin, which was the sweetest gesture ever, if not the sweetest muffin ('sup with cranberries? why do people eat them? They're so tart they almost taste angry).

Today he brought me a toasty thing from a street fair a couple of blocks away. It was cornbready and cheesy and still hot. And he is officially my favorite human of the day. I don't know what that thing was, which is a good thing, because if I could ask unsavory characters for it on street corners, that would now be my sole pursuit in life. As it is, I can plead ignorance and narrowly escape total addiction.

And no, he didn't tell me what it was. Probably because at nearly 6 p.m. I'm still in my pajamas, so he just handed it through the door and said, "Try this. It's from the fair" and then retreated to his apartment. (What? Why should I change into jeans and put on my face and everything just to haul boxes around my apartment? It's silly.)

This sounds like fun

I was in Trafalgar Square for New Year's Eve once. I cannot imagine that any serious television viewing will occur, but it would be fun to try. That said, it's amazing how small Trafalgar Square can get when there are thousands of people in it, so hags should probably stay at home in front of their Tivos.

Darling, Let's Never Part Again

My sofa is here. It's been three months since I saw it, and I can barely contain my excitement. It's nice to have the other stuff, too. I'd like to hook up my TV and get my books on bookshelves. It's lovely to see my chairs again, and my cheery table. But really, the main thing was the sofa.

The rest of my stuff arrived, too, and although everything seems to be settling in without too much anxiety, I do think another round of downsizing is in order. I have some clothes that are just plain silly. My TV cart, which looked pretty tiny in my old place, looks like it's bidding to take over a quarter of my living room, now, so either we need to teach it to share or I need a smaller TV stand. The screen that I ordered, while lovely, may just be too darn busy for such a small space (although it's still preferable to looking at my kitchen, which is adequate to my purposes but not especially fetching).

It's coming together, but for now, there's only one rule. No matter how great the chaos, I have to be able to sit down on the sofa. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Well, reinstalling the media center drivers and their associated paraphernalia did the trick (it seems my helpful help desk employee actually deleted a video card driver, which is a strange thing to do in the service of making the computer start up faster). But from now on, no one from work touches my PC. I think I'll reinstall the HP help, too (which he deleted with the verbal flourish, "You don't need them now, you have us").

And thanks to HP, which actually puts all these reinstallation and troubleshooting tools where a novice (read, moron) like myself can find them, even under the influence of rage at having my leisure time stolen and even at 2 in the morning.

Why I'm Not Watching a DVD

On Thursday, I was waiting for stuff to come to my house, so I couldn't go in to work. This was unexpected, and my out-of-office message only covered me for Wednesday. My boss didn't know I wasn't coming in. I wanted to rectify the situation.

I remembered the technical geniuses at our help desk showing how I could remotely log in from home, so I called them. I had some trouble, so they remotely connected to my home PC. Immediately, they were horrified. "What's all this extra crap you have here? My God, what are all these things?" I should have been suspicious when they pondered deleting my PMP Exam study program, but I wasn't.

They deleted a bunch of stuff. Games, HP help programs, stuff like that. Well, lo and behold, they also deleted something called a "video decoder." So now I have a slick media PC that can't use media.

Words cannot express how pissed off I am at them for single-handedly removing all the fun from my PC and turning it into something that can be used only to surf the internet and work. Oh, and as a doorstop.

I'm trying to fix it myself, but so far no joy. I have downloaded free video decoders--nothing works. I have tried to restore my machine to the day before they started screwing around with it, but to no avail. I'm now using HP's handy dandy application reinstaller to reinstall the media player (that didn't work) and some other associated stuff (results TBD). But in my opinion, work has stepped well and truly over the line by ruining my Friday night.

And really, had I known these were my options, I would have just CALLED my boss or e-mailed her on my crackberry. Because truth be told, I want to play a DVD or CD on my computer almost every day. I'm looking forward to reformatting my iPod for Windows (damn it), which will entail reloading my music onto it, which will mean that I will need the computer to recognize music. And at this point, I don't really care if I can never use it for work again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Things I Could Get Used To

This is probably the funniest article about chronic pain ever.

Culture Shock

Walking everywhere is fine. The noise, the weather, the shopping, all fine. Even the entitled superiority of New Yorkers everywhere is surprisingly easy to get used to, once you learn to drift along with the zen acceptance that we employed when friends from eastern Europe once insisted that they had a much better Grand Canyon in their own country. (N.B., wine helps.)

The culture shock is in the advertising. It still makes me laugh hysterically and snort at inappropriate moments. (Don't look at me like that. There are moments when a good loud snort is entirely appropriate. But I find that if you snort near a particularly superior New Yorker, you begin to feel threatened--like the guest of honor at a cannibal picnic.)

A fiesta of examples greets me in my Sunday Times, a gift from my mother. I don't know what an ad in the Times costs, but I don't think it could be exaggerating to say it's got to be gobs and gobs of cash. Naturally if you're going to throw that sort of money around, you're probably not advertising the topsy tail. You're not even advertising products of any kind. ("Products" are so commercial. How crass that would be.)

No, you are advertising wackadoo items for people with more money than sense. Frippery. Lifestyle. And, oh yes, ludicrously expensive real estate. I don't mean the 200 square foot apartment that costs half a million dollars. That part of the culture shock is over--that's no longer ludicrous. I mean the kind of real estate where the luxury is so over the top that you couldn't successfully satirize it.

The frippery isn't especially funny. It's a little revolting, like a horror movie that's all blood and no good scare. But it does convince you that Forrest Gump could write a really high-end ad. Your average high-end frippery ad (for, say, a watch that costs more than a home would cost out west) is a big photo of the frip in all its sexy hedonism, and then tiny, tiny text that tells where you'd go to buy it. Never the price (perish the thought--there you go being all crass again). But you see what I mean? All Forrest needs is your business card and a glossy photo and he's done.

The real estate ads, however, are hysterical. My favorite is an artist's rendering of a building that looks like Sims live there. It's plastered against a blue sky drawn with the sky blue crayon, and the only other buildings in the picture flank it diminuitively like the maiden aunts standing next to the graduate in a photo taken by an over-proud mother. The caption promises that the building (and therefore the lifestyle that it affords you) is "Stylishly Proper."

The part of my brain that presents me with a running commentary of everything I read and watch trips all over itself when I read that. "Are you serious?" one part of it asks. "You can't be serious" another part guffaws. "What would the building be doing in the picture if it were improper?" asks another, conjuring up a picture of the building getting into the back of a limo with its vestibule riding up over a skimpy thong. Then I start to imagine the target audience of this ad, and imagine a day during which a bunch of women prance into the building dressed like the Queen Mother, with wide brimmed hats and perfectly coordinated outfits and white gloves. My brain sort of wants them to burst into song, ideally the sort of song that ends with one of them being popped into a hamper and sold into white slavery like Mary Tyler Moore in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," but that would be very undignified.

I know that this part of my brain is going to get me into big trouble. I think the only questions are "how big" and "how soon?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Brooklyn Sounds Like...

the ambient soundtrack of "Rear Window," except with more traffic noise and... children! Lots of children! I don't have an issue with the children, who are preternaturally wholesome. They are outdoors. They have skateboards and jumpropes and chalk. One of them has a kazoo tonight. I ask you, did you think that any modern child would have the wherewithall to figure out a kazoo? 18 levels of your hardest video game, yes, but I would have forecast that they'd all be stumped by a kazoo. Not only that, he seems to be enjoying it. It's all so very '50's. I feel like I live in the set of "Rear Window," except that not one of my neighbors resembles Raymond Burr.

None of them really fill the role of the loony sculptress, either. Which I think is odd. You would think that Brooklyn would be liberally sprinkled with loony sculptresses. My neighbor does have a canary, but it just doesn't have the same impact without the loony sculptress.

No, my question was, where were the children in "Rear Window"? Were the apartments in Jimmy Stewart's little community just too damn small? I remember a lot of studios, but the salesman had a railroad apartment, and I'd wager that some fairly affluent children are, even now, growing up in smaller homes somewhere in this city.

At this point, my practical accounting mind intervenes and decides that children were probably a Big Hassle. Child labor laws and that sort of thing. I know Hitch worked with kids in other movies, where they were bona fide characters, but I bet if you don't need a kid in your movie it's wiser not to have any. Still, it's odd, because the neighborhood is practically its own character in "Rear Window." What, they couldn't get a kid to skip rope when Thelma Ritter ran to get the name off the moving van? I think I may have to watch that movie again.

Fear not, sometime soon my furniture will arrive and I will have something to do besides look out the window. Although I've already missed the first episode of "Hell's Kitchen," which Fox is heartlessly failing to broadcast on MySpace. Losers.