Friday, July 27, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Toddy

Daisy Dumont checks out the Toddy.

The Toddy came yesterday. For those of you not hep to the cold-brewed coffee revolution the Toddy is the world's premier cold brewer. You dump a pound of coffee in the bucket on top, add water and twelve hours later 48 ounces of concentrated cold-brewed greatness flows out the bottom. Previously, I'd been using a pickle jar which was good for making twelve ounces or so but was tough to clean, small, and, hey, its not a Toddy. Cold-brewed is the new, hip way for making iced coffee and uses a technique long popular in New Orleans and Latin America. The coffee is less acidic and less caffeinated and, IMHO, make far superior ice coffee.

Iced coffee is an odd product because it seems everybody wants it but no one likes it. It's like there's an elusive perfect cup of iced coffee out there just around the corned, forever out of reach. Several years ago, Time Out New York ran an article on where to find the best iced coffee in New York. The conclusion was that they all sucked. I have had my own bad ice coffee experiences. Once at the Rockefeller Center Starbucks (not that one, the other one) the barista poured hot coffee over some ice and gave that to me.

And, of course, it's always overpriced.

A few observations:

I hate the name. The Mom of one of my best friends from high school used to call him Toddy and it we used to tease him by calling him Toddy.

The Toddy cold-brew was really strong. Maybe it was the coarse grind or the New Orleans style coffee (included in the package when you buy it off the Toddy website) I used but instead of 3 parts coffee cut with 1 part water I used 1 part coffee to 1 part water with a lot of milk and it was still very strong.

The cold-brewed flavor was oddly inconsistent in the course of the glass. It started a little bitter, achieved a velvety almost-chocolate goodness in mid-glass and then was a little watered down at the end.

So, a big thumbs up for cold-brewed coffee and the Toddy. If you like iced coffee go for it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Everything I Consume: Blackmailer

I had high hopes for this book. It was written by George Axelrod, who wrote Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and Manchurian Candidate, two of my favorite movies. He also wrote Paris-When It Sizzles, an unfunny movie that seems to be on TCM every other week.

After a swift start this one fizzled and got bogged down in a plot that really didn't need to be so confusing. It's about a publisher who gets offered the final manuscript of a Hemingway-esque writer who recently committed suicide. The characters live in a world that revolves around a bizarre townhouse with two-way mirrors, secret recording devices, an elevator and lots of telephones. There's also a character who can duplicate any voice.

Like Chekhov said, if you introduce a character who has a gift for duplicating any voice in the first act you know he's going to do it by the end of the book.

Everything I Consume: Flight of the Conchords

I have nothing to add to this clip of Flight of the Conchords performing "Think About It, Think, Think About It". Just freaking watch it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

(A Skosh of) Panic In the Streets

I left work at six last night and instead of going to the subway I headed east to the post office. I quickly noticed there were more than the usual sirens and speeding emergency vehicles. I heard someone on the street talking about a manhole explosion. As I approached Lexington Avenue and 24th Street I could see the crowds standing on the corners and even in the street looking uptown. The steam pipe explosion (as I later found out) was at 41st street , a little under a mile uptown but Lex is a straight shot and uphill so we could all see the clouds of steam still pulsing out of the ground. The cloud itself was quickly engulfing the yellow building across from the Chrysler Building. Almost everyone was on cellphones or PDAs trying to get more information. I don't think there was a sense of fear in the crowd more a concern and anxiety. Some people were taking photos. I tried to call The Wife but I couldn't get through on my cell phone (thanks, Cingular). It was a real 21st century moment.

After I went to the post office the cloud had completely covered the yellow building and steam was still pulsing out of the ground. I headed to the subway figuring it was probably an isolated accident and if it wasn't I should get to my family. I finally got The Wife on the phone and walked to Sixth Avenue to take the F home since I figured the 6 wasn't going anywhere for awhile.

So, that's my steam pipe explosion story.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Bad Guys Won!

Ever wonder why the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series? Or, more precisely, why the Red Sox lost the Series? The answer is on page 223:

On August 1, 1985, two hours before an evening game against the White Sox at Fenway Park, twenty-five members of the Boston Red Sox held a closed-door team meeting to debate the pros and cons of a potential players strike. One by one the team's veterans defended Haywood Sullivan and Jean Yawkey, the Red Sox owners, who fancied themselves the head of a big, happy family. "I've been here for more than ten years," Dwight Evans said, "and they have our best interests at heart." As other old-timers nodded in agreement, one of the club's least popular members shook his head, a look of disbelief crossing his face. When it cam time to speak, Bobby Ojeda held nothing back.

"You know, fuck the owners!" he said. "The owners don't give a fuck about us!I don't care what you say. They're gonna try and pay us as little as they can. Yeah, if you're older you don't wanna miss a paycheck being on strike. But I'm young and I say fuck 'em!"

When the gathering ended Ojeda was confronted by several furious teammates one of whom cornered the pitcher and said, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"Fuck you," countered Ojeda. "And fuck your dumb-ass opinion."

Three months later Ojeda was traded to the Mets. He started two games in the World Series and the Mets won them both. Here's the box score of the second one. As Andy Bernard would say, maybe you've heard of it.

I haven't finished this book yet. I'm at the point where the Mets are about to fly to Boston for Game 3 so if you see a forty-year old guy in a loud shirt reading this book on the subway today or tomorrow and weeping in blissful recollection it's probably me.

Still Kicking Him Around

Last week an amazing memo written by Richard Nixon in 1970 came to light. It describes his frustrations getting the American public to seeing his "warmth". Like so many insecure people in power (like Bobby Valentine or most of my ex-bosses) he finds a way set himself up to fail by demanding the public see human side but blocking any attempt to tell people about it. He rails again and again at his frustration that the world does not see his "warm items" like "breaking his back to be nicey-nice" to his Cabinet (his Cabinet!), the tears in the eyes of people he invites to White House church services and "the calls that I make to people when they are sick, even though they no longer mean anything to anybody." To paraphrase Buffalo Bill Bittinger this memo better than 90% of the crap out there.

I really think if humanity make it to a Star Trek future 400 years from now, Hitler, the Beatles and Picasso will be practically forgotten, but they'll still be talking about Richard Nixon just like we're still talking about Henry VIII.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Busy Weekend and Minute Mystery

The weekend was action-packed. Daisy Dumont's paw is fully recovered! I will not miss the visits to the vet but I will miss leafing through the NYC Pet Project book while waiting for the doctor. Look! It's Richard Kind and his three dogs! Look! It's George Hamilton. Look! It's a lesbian couple with a three-legged cat! Anyway, thanks Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group.

Saturday night we watched The Good German which was OK but not very interesting and not worth of an Everything I Consume.

Sunday we went to a friend's birthday party in New Jersey and by Gwendolyn's bed time the family was completely exhausted. I walked a cranky Owen around the apartment as The Wife read stories to Gwendolyn.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I know and dread that sound. As a homeowner, I hate leaks like Darren McGavin hated the neighbor's dogs in A Christmas Story. We had two bedroom leaks in our old apartment and have a had a bathroom and window sill leak in our current one.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I found the source. It was a new one; the water was coming from the top of the heating pipe in my kitchen. I stared at it for a minute hoping it would stop and go away.

It did not go away.

I went outside and climbed up the fire escape to look inside the Upstairs Neighbor's apartment. Maybe it was an air conditioner or, as has happened before, a hose was left running on the roof. The apartment was dark and I remembered that the Upstairs Neighbor had been out of town. There was nothing going on on the roof, either. I went back in the kitchen and looked at the ceiling.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

At this point you have all the clues you need to solve this mystery! Can you?

The Wife was still reading to Gwen so I grabbed Owen and went upstairs to check things out. The Upstairs Neighbor's door was open but the apartment was dark. I knocked and called out, "Hello!" but I didn't hear anything. Even though I know from mysteries this is when you usually find the dead body in the bed I went inside. Hopefully, holding a seven-month old would protect me from trespassing charges or fleeing killers.


No answer. I looked around the apartment and saw the refrigerator open, empty and out of its usual position.

"Hello there, give me a second to get dressed."

It was the Upstairs Neighbor calling out from the bedroom. I walked out of the apartment and waiting in the hallway. A few minutes late the Upstairs Neighbor came out and said she'd been defrosting her refrigerator and fallen asleep. Since she had been away for so long there was no food in her fridge so she thought this was the perfect time to defrost. She said she was still on "London time" and had been sleeping since 4:30. The Upstairs Neighbor got out some towels and dried up her kitchen floor. In a few minutes the dripping had stopped.

Home ownership is never dull

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Everything I Consume: Shroud of the Thwacker

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It seemed a parody of The Alienist was as relevant as one of those Mel Brooks movies that comes out several years after the movie they were mocking but this book was a lot of fun and goes off in a completely different direction. The story goes back and forth in time between the nineteenth century investigation of the fictional Thwacker murders and author Chris Elliott's attempts to investigate them. I don't want to ruin it but eventually it all comes together.

I especially enjoyed the complete lack of historical consistency where Boss Tweed, "Mayor" Theodore Roosevelt and Houdini interact. Sadly, this attitude may have bit Chris Elliott in the ass.

This book brings up the sad state of the comic novel. It seems to be a dying art form. The only other recent comic novel I can remember is Mike Nelson's Death Rat. Maybe you need to be a star of a cancelled TV show to sell one. Back in the day there used to be some very funny mystery writers like Craig Rice and Jonathan Latimer but I don't know about anyone like that today. Maybe all the talented comic writers are working in television and movies or writing self-indulgent blogs.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I Was a Production Artist With a Slow Afternoon

Has this ever happened to you? You're driving a car or sitting in an airport or taking a dump or sitting with hot compresses over your eyes and you think, "I'd like to listen to some old-time radio right now?" Well, I listen to a lot of OTR (that's what people like me call it, OTR) and sure, you can listen to the classics, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, You Bet Your Life, Suspense, Escape, Night Beat, Johnny Dollar, X Minus 1 or You are There, all fine shows but might I suggest…I Was a Communist For The FBI? That's how the announcer reads the name of the show, like it's the most astonishing concept possible that someone could have worked as a communist for the FBI. 55 Years later I doubt it surprises anyone but this is a very good show.

I Was a Communist For The FBI is based on the memoirs of Matt Cvetic who spent about seven years as a double agent inside the American Communist party. It was made into a movie in 1951 starring Night Beat's Frank Lovejoy. The lead is played by Dana Andrews at his pathetic, world-weary best. His life is a pure paranoia of working for a secret organization while inside another secret organization. He is constantly watched and constantly thinking on his feet and making excuses. Episodes are filled with tension over just being able to make a mail drop or find a pay phone. He has led this secret life for years and doesn't know when it will end. Even his family has abandoned him. One of the best parts of the show is that Cvetic is no superman, he acts like most of us would. He constantly complains and feels sorry for himself to the point of whining. Cvetic has trouble remembering the many code names he has to use and recognize and often lashes out at his FBI or CPUSA handlers.

Cvetic's job is especially difficult because he is usually unaware of the true motives of either group. His bosses and both sides never tell him the whole story and when he asks they tell him to stop asking questions. Then he has to resolve the situation so the America-hurting schemes fail but Cvetic isn't implicated.

It's a great show and you should check it out.

Here you can buy a copy of every episode

Here you can download some episodes. "I Can't Sleep" is a good one.

Here are the FBI's FOIA files on the series. The Bureau didn't approve of the show and actually kicked the real Cvetic out in 1950 because of erratic behavior.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

Obviously, I miss my wife and kids when I'm not with them but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited about being by myself from Sunday night until I pick up the rest of the clan at LaGuardia tonight. It has not gone well.

My flight was delayed leaving Akron-Canton.

I was seated in the middle of a college musical theater group that frequently broke into song. I thought I was through with that when I left Northwestern.

It took forever to get a cab and the cab driver couldn't open his trunk.

I yelled at the cab driver and had to apologize to him.

I ordered takeout and it was cold.

The next morning my train to work sat at Delancey Street for 20 minutes destroying my first chance to get to work on-time since my hours changed.

When I got home from work my PS2 broke destroying my chance of a night of NCAA06 bliss.

One of my cats took a poop on the rug.

It took a very long time to clean up all her other poops on the rug.

I was too tired from doing everything else to work on the new family budget.

This morning, I was rushing to get a pre-work haircut (if you don't have two kids you have no idea how hard it is for me to get a haircut) when I noticed Daisy Dumont's paw was bleeding. It didn't look that great. After a lot of wondering what to do I took her to the Vet. She has an abscess and will have to wear a collar and go on antibiotics but she'll be up and stealing my food again soon.

Because of this I had to take cab to work and got in at 11. That is not getting to work on time.

On the plus side I finally saw Cradle Will Rock and that was pretty good until the actually performed their heavy-handed titular play. Everyone in the world was in it including the ubiquitous Uncle Junior and Miranda's housekeeper.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What the Hell Happened, America?

It used to be you'd go into any supermarket or large drugstore and there would be a vending machines selling small football helmets for a quarter. Usually the sticker containing the logo and the face mask were separate. It was almost impossible to get your local team which explains the day I ran through the Green Acres Mall yelling, "I got the Jets! I got the Jets!" scaring the crap out of my mother.

These machines have disappeared.

What the hell happened, America?

I hadn't seen one in years until I was in a Wal-Mart in Mansfield, Ohio this weekend (I know. I know.) and they had a machine selling helmets for a dollar! Back in the day you could get a whole division for a dollar!

Anyway, I blew three bucks and got a Panthers, Buccaneers and the buzzsaw known as the Cardinals.

It was cool but what the hell happened, America?