Sunday, April 24, 2011

Crunch-a-tize Me Cap'n!

It is nice to know that, despite a bloody war in Afghanistan, unrest and instability throughout the Middle East, and crushing unemployment and economic uncertainty at home, ABC News can devote more than 15 full minutes to rabbits running rampant at Long Beach City College.  I suppose I should be more forgiving, since it is Easter today - the holiest day in the Christian calendar. 

Mini-Sunday school for those of you who may not have had religious studies: Easter commemorates the resurrection of Christ, who after being betrayed by one of his disciples, was crucified.  Three days later he rose, dressed like a bunny, and hid colored eggs all over the yard.  Everyone was so happy, they put on a bonnet, had a parade, and ate marshmallow Peeps - except the Jews, who may or may not have been responsible, depending on who you believe.  Anyway, no one blames them anymore because modern science reveals they were all constipated from Passover, and having to eat all that matza (or Matzoh, if you spell it that way.)

This may not be strictly accurate, but you get the gist.

Also, an interesting personal fact that people are surprised to know (and which bears only a tangential relationship to this topic) is that I was in a Jewish fraternity in college.  Neil is always shocked when I remind him I was in a fraternity, because he says he can't imagine me being hazed.  The truth is that hazing was a lot different in a Jewish fraternity: basically they just make you answer a lot of math questions and make fun of you if your father isn't a doctor or an accountant or a personal injury lawyer.  Then they get you drunk - which usually takes about a drink and a half - and, voila! - you're in. 

Anyway, I would have written about Passover, but there isn't much to say.  The food at Cousin Nancy's was really good this year, and the evening wasn't interrupted by any sort of First Responder, so any chance of a good blog got destroyed (like the ancient temple, though this holiday is pretty much the only one that isn't about the destruction of a temple.  Instead, the story of Passover is part of the holiday itself, and is retold every year.  To summarize: Slaves.  Egypt.  Plagues. Wine. Freedom. Israel. Dayanu.)

To continue our mini-Sunday school, for those of you who never studied Judaism, Dayanu means, "It would have been enough."  It refers to telling the story of Passover and, involves looking back and saying, "If God had only set us would have been enough; if God had only led us out of would have been enough; etc."

I think the purpose of this is to help us understand irony, as it is often spoken by a table full of people who are more inclined to say things like "She couldn't have made a green vegetable?"  Or "You know, you could have been a doctor or an accountant or a personal injury lawyer."

(Also, Passover is known for having the Four Questions, which are:

1. Where did you get your car?
2. How much did you pay for it?
3. What kind of mileage does it get?
4.  What do you pay for gas?)
So, without a Passover blog, we will turn to Easter, and the Easter-i-est food of them all:

Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries.

(Seriously: it's like a bowl of Cap'n Crunch that someone has accented with little Easter eggs made out of cereal.)

So here's my dilemma:  Yesterday, Neil and I were in the grocery store to pick up a few produce items for dinner.  As usual, I wandered the aisles, hal-wondering why a grocery store seems to be the only place that can counter-act my adult ADD.  (Truly, I can get distracted in the middle of a sentence, but put me in the cereal aisle and I've got the laser focus of a fighter pilot.)  As I was comparing the nutritional value of the cereal I wanted - Crunch Berries - with the cereal I thought I should eat - Kashi GoLean Crunch - I was forced to the following conclusion: Crunch Berries are better for you.

How could this be?  I must have been misreading the label, or otherwise missing something.  But after buying both boxes and comparing them endlessly (or, for about nine minutes) it does appear that Crunch Berries are the healthier breakfast:

Calories (without milk):

Crunch Berries: 100
GoLean Crunch: 200

Calories from Fat:

Crunch Berries: 15

GoLean Crunch: 40


Crunch Berries: 11g
GoLean Crunch: 12g


Crunch Berries: 190mg
GoLean Crunch 140mg


Crunch Berries: 25% of US RDA
GoLean Crunch: 8%

Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6:

Crunch Berries: 25%
GoLean Crunch: 0%

Folic Acid:

Crunch Berries:  100% (stunning, really)
GoLean Crunch: 0%

Total Carbohydrates:

Crunch Berries:  22g
GoLean Crunch: 36g

In summary, GoLean Crunch was slightly better on sodium, and turned out to have more dietary fiber (8g, to 1g for Crunch Berries), but other than that seemed to be a worse bet.  True, it also has 9g of protein, to only 1g for Crunch Berries, but if I want protein for brekafast, I'll just eat eggs - not that crappy sugar cereal with no vitamins.  (Yeah, I know the Cap'n Crunch people just spray the vitamins on with some sort of chemical spray that's like Miracle-Gro for kids, but who cares?  It's still vitamins.)

This seems a worthy victory for kids everywhere who are screaming in the cereal aisle for Apple Jacks and Lucky Charms, and being forced to eat Honey Nut Cheerios instead.  Suck it, weird cartoon bee, who's your daddy?  That's right, bitches, Lucky the Leprechaun.

Anyway, Happy Easter - I'm off to find some Easter eggs --- at the bottom of my cereal bowl.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bethenny Never Shuts Up

We have to take a detour today, and divert from our originally scheduled topics. 

I had initially thought I’d write about our weekend in Sag Harbor, which included buying something called “Fat-Ass Fudge” from a chatty Yenta who told us she has previously been a psychic.  She kept saying things like, “Want to taste my fat ass?” and “I’m a fudge packer.”  I’m always game for sweets with a touch of the supernatural, and Neil is a magnet for the marginally insane – so it could have been quite a post.

Then I thought about reporting on our dinner with Suz, in a post entitled “My Favorite Macedonian.”  It would have allowed me to share the story about how I got her to order cuttlefish at the maiden restaurant of Top Chef Season One winner, Harold Dieterle.  It also would have given me the opportunity to riff on Macedonia (you’d only know it if you were a dork who played Risk as a kid; it was a Balkan nation-state located in what now comprises parts of Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia.  The dialect is similar to Russian and other eastern European languages….See, we can laugh and learn all at the same time.)  I love it when people tell you they’re from places that haven’t existed since the early 1900s.  I had a paragraph on Persia that would have killed.

But, lo, a request from an old friend in Boston came through during dinner.  Could I please write about 
Bethenny?  Have I not written enough about Bethenny, I asked Neil, and Suzette of Macedonia? 

Apparently I have not.

Here goes – but, I swear, this is the last time.

Because writing about Bethenny means giving her more attention and more ink – and that’s all she’s really about.  Plus, it means writing about Bravo, and that’s starting to tweak me a little bit, too.

To catch up those of you who might be unfamiliar with the princess of self-promotion, eye-rolling, hysterics and sugar-free pre-mixed margaritas, Bethenny is Bethenny Frankel – old friend of a friend of an old friend of mine (so confusing, right?  That needs a map: Eric -> old friend -> her friend -> Bethenny. J.)  After years of apparently plotting and scheming to get on television – sort of a modern twist on Lucy Ricardo, without the Cuban bandleader or the actual talent – Bethenny first graced our televisions as a contestant on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.  Which turned out to be as welcome as “Law & Order: Trial By Jury” or “CSI: Toledo” and bombed after a single season.

She made it through most of the season based on drive and unadulterated ambition, but it was clear that her motivation for doing the show was now to emulate Martha’s success as a gracious hostess or home economist, but rather to build an empire of product and personage through television.

She returned to the collective consciousness on Bravo, cast – almost in the Sophia Petrillo/Carla Tortelli-like supporting role of comic second banana – in the inaugural season of “The Real Housewives of New York.”  Neither married nor non-working, she was clearly not a “housewife” by definition.  “Real” is arguable.  She reeks, however, of New York City, with the accent and the quips and the incessant eyerolling, made all the more comic by the fact that some might consider her to resemble a resident of Who-Ville.

Yet, despite not having been disqualified from the show on the very terms of its existence, she actually thrived there – creating just enough drama to cause a comfortable level of hostility among the women.  As the series progressed, she moved further and further towards the center of the conflict that seems to define the franchise: trumped up arguments between wealthy women of the local ethnicity (OC: blonde; NY: Jewish; NJ: Italian; Miami: Latina; Atlanta: African-American; Beverly Hills: plastic surgerized.)

We all should have seen her own franchise coming.  Augmenting her reputation with a series of books and products about food and nutrition, she’s become her own brand: Skinnygirl.  A series of books that tell women they can be fun, flirty and thin, basically by eating a little bit less of whatever they want – provided it's “natural” – she then branched out into consumer packaged food with Skinnygirl Margarita.  It’s a bottled, “just-open-and-serve” concoction that taste less like a party drink and more like a linty old Jolly Rancher you fished out of your pocket during a three-hour meeting at work.

In season one – Bethenny Getting Married – the cameras followed her as she got, first pregnant, then married (I know at least two women who’ve done this and neither got a show.  One, however, got fired.  Now she works for a company that cans fish.  THAT’S a TV show.)  Bethenny’s beloved is a cute – if doltish – guy named Jason who acts like he’s sort of above it all, but you can tell he relishes every moment on camera. 

The current season, Bethenny Ever After seems to involve her turning 40 and crying a lot. 

Get in line.

Personally, I hope they keep changing the title every season.  I can’t wait for “Bethenny Going Through Menopause.”  That kid’ll be about 15, and Jason will be over it.  I’m looking forward to watching her work her way through two or three bottles of Skinnygirl between some serious door slamming and a hot flash.

The instant fame of Bethenny – indeed all the Bethennys – in fact, all the “Bravo-lebrities” who’ve made getting on television more an act of will than one of talent, can be traced back to one source: Andy Cohen.
You may or may not know Andy – but in New York he has become ubiquitous.  This spring, every pay phone and taxicab seems to bear an advertisement for his late night gabfest with the “Bravo-lebrities.”  According to the ads, in which he appears to burst through a sheet of paper, he’s “tearing up late night.”  I suppose that sounded a lot better than “prancing across your TV screen.”

OK – it’s not that I don’t like Andy.  When he did the “Watch What Happens” reunion shows of Top Chef and Project Runway he was a pretty decent moderator.  It was sort of nice to have the programming executive who put these shows on the air interacting with the casts.  Plus, he clearly watched and enjoyed the shows, so you got to experience it through the eyes of a genuine fan.

Also, I used to see him out in New York and, objectively, he’s an attractive guy.

But when he moved from occasional host into a weekly late night slot, something weird happened.  He became all affected and juvenile – with weird facial expressions and catchphrases like “the Mazel of the week” and “Tweet Me.”  With the perpetually-hoarse-Brenda-Vaccaro voice and the fawning all over his guests, it’s like watching a show hosted by the girl who sat next to me in eighth grade homeroom.

Tweet this.

I really want to end here – because I think this post is seriously fucking funny – but I think I need to take my medicine and at least do a little self-discovery before I retire the laptop. 

This post was the most inspired I’ve been in weeks, and flowed the most easily.  Yet it is clearly fueled by jealousy.  MY OWN SHOW PEOPLE.  Where are the legions of fans lobbying for me to be the new voice of late night?  I’m one part Chelsea Handler (a little bawdy), one part Andy Cohen (a little too gay..ugh, I know- but so true) and maybe one part Bethenny (blind ambition.)

Still, if you want to laugh along with someone struggling with work and middle-age while exhibiting the personal judgment and cultural taste of a drunk 16 year old girl…I’m your man. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

I know all my readers think we live some sort of fabulous, glamorous life, like a real life version of Sex and the City, so I hate to burst your champagne bubble and tell you that the only party we went to this weekend was a three year-old’s birthday.  Not that there wasn’t alcohol (with a house full of children, clearly that’s a must) – but my days of partying like it’s 1999 ended in, well, 1999.

Besides, if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know a family event can be fairly amusing – particularly with my family – though I’m sorry to inform you that our story does not end with someone leaving in tears, in an ambulance, or with a lesbian.

There’s a first time for everything.

Anyhow, Neil and I arrived in the burbs  shortly after 2pm on Sunday – which always requires readjustment for us.  When the company includes – indeed, is dominated by, grandparents and children – the event usually forces me to surrender brunch and dinner to some sort of hybrid Frankenmeal served around 4:30pm.  Or – as I like to call it – Happy Hour. 

Thus, we generally arrive just as I’m about to pass out from hunger, and eagerly scarf down a glass of wine and some baby carrots.  Apparently, having a houseful of children means all your food must be petite, precious, and aptly named.

I found my mother perched on her usual kitchen stool, merrily slurping down a glass of white wine and not helping.  This continues a decades long tradition of my mother and sister arriving at each other’s homes and behaving like a guest – much to their mutual chagrin.  My stepfather was in his usual position, pacing behind her, and if he weren’t bald when they married six short months ago, he would be by now. 

My dad, meanwhile, was the designated photographer, and was skittering around the house snapping photos of the kids.  His partner was sitting off to the side looking miserable and thinking about how soon they could leave without being rude.

Moving swiftly from kitchen to table and back again, my sister was putting out food while my brother-in-law served drinks, and together they greeted their guests – many of whom were friends from their neighborhood, or old friends from their respective childhoods.  It’s so weird to me – Neil and I each only stay in touch with a handful of people we’ve known since high school or college, and many of them live far from New York.  However, my sister and brother-in-law still hang with people they’ve known for years – and I see how that shared history can be comforting – which always strikes as being like a scene out of some Ben Affleck movie set in Boston.  Except, instead of everyone working construction in Southie, they all work in finance or do pilates and drive around in SUVs the size of Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, my nieces and nephews are growing up so quickly it’s amazing.  The eldest is finally past the shy stage and marched right up to me, gave me a hug, and told me about her new Justin Bieber poster.  It’s nice to see that – though not yet seven years old – she already understands our family tradition of women falling in love with gay men.  Soon she’ll be drinking Scotch in the Village and looking for her second husband.

She was also wearing a royal blue sleeveless sequined dress, an outfit that was only missing backup singers.

Her sister managed to make it through the afternoon without shedding blood – her own or that of another child – which was reason enough for celebration. 

The birthday boy seemed oblivious to the fact that all the attention was for him – which is a personality trait I cannot relate to at all.  He was just happy that there was a Thomas the Train cake and a clown.

Oh yes – the clown.  Two, actually.  One surly guy who looked more like a caricature of a hobo than a clown.  He blew up balloons, mostly in the shape of swords with hilts –though that’s not what they looked like.  One girl put the tip of a "sword" in her mouth and I nearly lost it.  So sweet to see her re-enact the night her parents met.

The other “clown” there was a girl wearing pigtails and a pair of pants with a cowskin print on it.  She did magic, but it was all dime-store stuff.  If she had any real talent she would have been able to make her cameltoe disappear.

If you’re getting the impression it wasn’t a festive event, you’re totally off-base.  It was actually quite amusing – and certainly the high point of a week that also included:

·         Flight delays in both directions, including flying through thunderstorms.

·         Trying to figure out what those stupid talking twins are saying, and why they’re so popular

·         Attempting to get invited to the Royal Wedding, and possibly ending up on Britain’s most wanted list (who knew the Queen was so sensitive about Wall comments on her Facebook page?  Besides, her aura of accessibility totally screams that she wants strangers to call her “Liz” and offer to escort her to the nuptials by offering something stiffer than Prince Philip.

·         Hallucinations that most of the aforementioned actually happened.  Gotta stop hanging out with Charlie Sheen.

Warlock out.