Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not A Peep Out of You

Exactly how empathetic do I need to be to the woman traveling with three children?  And a nanny?  And her Kindle, which she's paying more attention to than the three extremely loud children that the nanny obviously can't quiet down, and who have now been screaming, "Mommymommymommymommymommymommymommymommymommy" for nearly an hour.

I've tried drowning it out with my iPod, to no avail.

Someone should steal this idea for Survivor.  Trying to answer 100 emails on a Friday night before the plane lands has to be harder than rolling an oversize crate through the jungle.

I love February.  Sweeps month means the season-long series are building to a climax (nothing like building to a climax...) and the reality shows are in full froth.  Jordan and Jeff, who met on Big Brother, are competing on the Amazing Race.  He's the nicest guy ever to be on a reality show and she rode his coattails to a win.  And she can't tell time.  That may not be a problem when you're occupying the same 1500 square feet for 90 days, but when you're racing around the world, through timed challenges and airports I imagine not knowing what "a quarter to three" means is a problem.

On American Idol, the addition of Ellen DeGeneres appears to be a ratings hit, though am I the only whose noticed that something about her hair color and style, her eyes, and the make up they have her wearing makes her look like a kewpie doll?  Seriously, she looks like a comic book character or a marionette.  Meanwhile, Kara DioGuardi has apparently turned into a cougar.  I had to rewind one episode to confirm that she actually made a 19 year old boy take his shirt off (it was SO not worth it.)  When the kid ultimately made it to the Top 24, the way she hugged him was like something from the 80s movie My Tutor. (Note: the clip from the auditions episode is apparently so risque, that it's been taken down by Yahoo!Video and by YouTube for "terms of use" violations.  Considering both of these websites currently have videos of busty women performing some  bikini mud wrestling and a bodybuilder grinding the gym floor in a jock strap, I'm guessing that Fox played a role in getting these videos removed.  It kills me that Fox thinks the American Idol brand has to be kept squeaky clean.  Past seasons have including a variety of strippers, sex workers, and other persons of questionable judgment.  In fact, the contestant in question here, Casey James, has a criminal record.)

But the Reality Show I am most interested in watching premieres on Thursday... the televised White House negotiations over Health Care reform.  President Obama has invited congressional Democrats and Republicans to complete the historic reform of health care that might actually provide equitable access to health insurance for all Americans, lower the deficit, prevent people from going bankrupt just because they get sick, and enable companies to actually hire workers and give raises rather than spending all their money on subsidizing ever-growing health insurance costs.  It might actually stop corporations that make tremendous profits, which do not get passed along to their employees, but get swallowed up by grotesque executive pay packages - profits that are driven by taking premiums from their plan participants but not actually paying any claims.

Or not.

Why do I have a feeling we're in for another round of the "I'm-right-and-you're-wrong-song?"

And as frustrated as I am with the President for having turned over the process to Congress, thus ceding the message, wasting a year, and obscuring the benefits of the bill with the process by which it was created; and as annoying as it is that Congressional Democrats still haven't learned how to play hardball, or take a strong progressive stand rather than always trying to split the difference, while Congressional Republicans - when in power - push through the most divisive reactionary agenda and get Democrats to vote for it by creating a fear that they'll look weak rather than principled; and as stupid as it seems that the Republicans claim to hate government but always want to run it and act like spoiled children when they're not in charge while the Democrats always just want to prove government can work so they vote for stuff even when they're out of power, making the Republicans look competent - the real frustration is all of this is a cheat.  The Democrats want to govern so badly, simply to prove government works, but can't.  Meanwhile, the Republicans undo Democrats (when Democrats are in power) by claiming that government doesn't work, and is the problem, then block everything, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is America so stupid that people don't realize that, when Republicans foment public concern about government's competence it is because the Republicans themselves are intentionally blocking accomplishments simply to create that impression for the sole craven purpose of winning elections, so they can run the government.

So, I'm not expecting much from this televised event - though, if it pre-empts Survivor, it better at least be as entertaining.

Meanwhile, at Walgreen's (I was in Chicago this week, and is there any drug store more fun than Walgreen's?) the passage of Valentine's Day means the arrival of Easter Candy.  With a purchasing window nearly as long as the post-Halloween Christmas candy run, Easter provides just as much time - but much better candy.

I had the first Peep of the season, and it was the freshest yellowest tastiest Peep I've ever eaten.

(Peep Guide:  Yellow - or "classic" Peeps are the gold standard of candy.  Chewy, squishy, unapologetically created in a lab, and coated with a color not found in nature and a sugar that is so fine and granular, it's like the beaches of Maui.  Blue and purple Peeps are more of an evening Peep - appropriate for the longer sunsets that accompany March, while sea green and orange Peeps should be avoided at all costs.  Peeps associated with other holidays - ghosts and cats for Halloween, hearts for Valentine's Day, snowmen for Christmas, etc - are a nice transition Peep; the Peep that holds you over to Easter - but the Easter Peeps are the real deal.  For the truly adventurous, you can now select chocolate-covered Peeps (in milk or dark chocolate.)  Diabetics may indulge in the sugar-free Peeps, though it's sort of like Decaffeinated coffee - it simulates the experience but not the true feeling.)

Incidentally, if you were beginning to wonder whether this entire column was going to be about Easter Candy - it's not - but it easily could be.  We haven't even gotten to the magic that is a bag of Brach's Candy Chicks and Rabbits.  Another time....

I'm not going to do a full recap of my week - though I do have a few quick tales to tell.

First, if you're in Chicago, check out the 33 Club.  It's new American in a classic men's club setting - the high ceiling, the baroque decor, the big mahogany bar.  The places just has the feel of scotch and musk and hooking up with the guy from Mad Men (not that I've thought about that.)  The amish chicken was moist and flavorful, prepared with lots of fresh herbs and served with crispy Brussels Sprouts.  The pan-fried whitefish was flaky and light and tangy and salty in a lemon-butter sauce with lots of capers.

In Lincoln (yes, Nebraska.  Shut up.  I really like Nebraska - I've been going there for eight years.  Yet - though I can navigate the complexities of New York, Boston, and Los Angeles - I get lost driving from the Lincoln airport to downtown.  This is a distance of less than 5 miles, requiring only two roads.)  Anyway - in Lincoln we met with a pair of lobbyists that totally cracked me up.  She's a Democrat who worked for the former governor, a presidential candidate and the University; he's a Republican who covers K12 education.  Together they're like a comedy team.  She's chatty and direct, he's reticent and reserved.  They're like the James Carville and Mary Matalin of Nebraska.

And - shockingly - there's a delicious Indian restaurant right in downtown Lincoln.  If you're there, check out The Oven and get the Chicken Tikka.  And - if you're with a group like I was, order the mixed appetizer, which is basically a large tray of batter-fried goodies.  One had potatoes, one had chicken...there could have been an old sneaker underneath that crispy crust, I still would have eaten it.

(A prize to any reader who can come up with a way to deep-fry a Peep.)

And that's it for this week folks.  From the heartland to heartlessland (Manhattan) where we went to a cocktail party where either I got very drunk or someone actually tried to say Vera Farmiga (of Up in the Air) and called her Mia Formaggi (which I think is awesome.)  I couldn't have been that drunk - before we headed over there Neil made Backcountry Bolognese from this month's Bon Appetit (I probably needn't state that he replaced the Antelope sausage with regular sausage, and ground venison with ground beef.  Antelope being hard to find - or shoot - here in the West 70s.)

We're heading out to my sister's for dinner tonight, which I imagine will bring me full circle to the sounds of,  "Mommymommymommymommymommymommy."

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