Monday, June 30, 2008

A Farewell to Memes: Part III

As amateur historians of the funny web, we believe that the trend of stitching together "previews" for movies that never were began with "Brokeback to the Future" and its numberless spawn ("The Empire Brokeback", "Brokeback of the Rings", and "Brokeback Mountain - Christian Edition" among those we have viewed). The original remains the classic, the others inferior knock-offs (if you ask us).

But then along came the guffaw-hockers behind "Must Love Jaws", "Glen and Gary and Glen and Ross", and (posted below for your convenience and pleasure), "10 Things I Hate About Commandments".

Now these people know previews!! Betty and Bimbo have laughed at all three of these little gems so hard they have snorted.

Let the ten day countdown to weblessness begin...for now let us revel in a Mardi Gras of the modem.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blogging for Bucks? or Betty's Ongoing Battles with Technology and Careers

Betty's blogress is on hold this week as she learns all about Ernest Hemingway for an article. BUT BUT BUT a possibly fruitful idea occurred to her today.

Betty realizes that she is a product of her time. This is not good or bad, but it is obvious. Just as Betty laments the onslaught of the Internet, the phasing out of the CD and the ubiquity of cellphones and iPods and iPhones, so too will some fetus of today regret the passing of the fetus technologies of future.

So why not embrace her times? Her habits and addictions? And by "embrace them" she means "make money off of them"!

Not kill two birds with one stone (yuck!), but, but, but --- nuzzle two puppies with one hand?!

In other words, why not put all this Twittering and Blogging and MyFace that scares the Greatest Generation to good use by DOING IT FOR THEM OR FOR THEIR CAUSE?

OR -- Why not write a blog that is a little more professional and polished than this one and scout fans?? And by fans we mean fans who will pay us to blog, and their friends.

Thoughts? Ideas? Impeccably dry witticisms re: doing two things with one hand?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Books of My Life

Betty found an interesting post today about books that have changed your life. Blog author Kevin Kelly calls such books "tools" and asks us to consider the books that have actually changed the way we live and act in the world, helped us make a decision, set a course in our life, "books as levers".

Betty is not used to thinking this way about books, but considers this an interesting experiment. She will post her list soon, and in the meantime, awaits yours.

And while we're at it, let's do this for movies, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wake For the Web:Part II, and Upcoming Blogathon

So today's funny Internet film needs no introduction. It is one of our all-time favorites, but be forewarned that how hard you laugh may influence what happens to you in the afterlife.

In other news, we want to have another Blog-a-Thon before Betty breaks outta the net. Since this blog is nothing if not patriotic, we were thinking the Fourth of July would be a good day to 'Thon. Please let us know if this sounds good to you! Betty likes Blog-a-Thonning for Waggytail Rescue since she knows their work and can vouch for its high (and cute) quality, but she would be open to suggestions of other worthy causes, too!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Enneagram and the Zodiac

Sometimes I feel like Carrie Bradshaw! But I don't have a Mac.

Consider this poignant question I am typing: "Even though the Enneagram and Astrology are silly and bunk (or, as Wayne Campbell would say, "both bogus and sad"), can we learn anything about ourselves from them? Are our fates written in the stars?"

I just threw in that last bit for flair (and fidelity).

I actually think the Enneagram is pretty great. I like that you can easily identify which type you are without taking a stupid test (though they exist if you are stupid, hate spontaneous introversion, or enjoy tests). And because it was invented by humans trying to convince us that their system works, it pretty much works. For newcomers, here are the nine personality types of the Enneagram (adapted from Wikipedia and

Type 1 - Perfectionists, Reformers, Judges, Crusaders, Critics
Life for you is about adhering to your strong internal set of standards. Sometimes, you wish that you could let go and have more fun. This can be hard for you to do because of your strong work ethic. Privately, you may criticize yourself for your shortcomings far more than you ever criticize anyone else. Because you can be so hard on yourself, you long for positive feedback, serenity and happiness.
Virtues: Visionary talents, integrity, high standards, drive
Vices: Resentment, self-righteousness, rigidity, anger
Spiritual goal: Serenity

Famous Ones: Ralph Nader, Ernest Hemingway, Eleanor Roosevelt

Type 2 - Helpers, Givers, Caretakers
Relationship orientated, you reach out to others and are often the first one to lend a hand. A good listener, you focus on the needs and concerns of others. You usually know what people need and feel, and enjoy taking on the kind of role where you can show your giving and generous nature. You have developed the gift of flattery to the level of an art form because you see how this skill can be a currency for creating intimate rapport.
Virtues: Emotional intelligence, kindness, intuition
Vices: Pride, patronizing, bossy, manipulative
Spiritual goal: Humility

Famous Twos: Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Carter, Mia Farrow (I think Twos are probably underrepresented among the famous.)

Type 3 - Achievers, Performers, Status Seekers
You want to be competent, productive, accomplished and dynamic. More importantly, you want to be good at what you do and to look good doing it. Continuously seeking attention and admiration, you aren’t afraid to showcase or promote your talents and ambitions. Because there is no second best for you, you keep trying until you reach your goal. You strive for and often develop finesse. Your high level of self-confidence, enthusiasm and energy tends to rub off on everyone around you. Your positive attitude is often motivating to others. Always on the go and energized by starting new projects, you can achieve a great deal but are also at risk of burning out.
Virtues: Energetic, Positive, Enthusiastic, Industrious, Confident
Vices: Vanity, Confusion, Exhaustion
Spiritual goal: Honesty

Famous Threes: Paul McCartney, Jay Gatsby, David Bowie, Madonna, Barack Obama

Type 4- Romantics, Individualists, Mystics

Motivated by the need to understand and to be understood, you desire experiences that are rich with feeling and meaning. You long to freely express yourself. You feel your emotions deeply and are not afraid to go emotionally where others fear to tread. This includes having an exquisite, intuitive ability to distinguish between subtle emotions that others often miss. Painfully self-conscious, you are often overly focused on how different you are from others. A true humanitarian, you have a natural passion for protest. At times intense and contrary, you are not afraid to think for yourself and voice your point of view.
Virtues: Intuition, Creativity, Transformative abilities
Vices: Envious, Moody, Self-Absorbed
Spiritual goal: Equanimity

Famous Fours: Johnny Depp, Bob Dylan, Angelina Jolie

Type 5 - Experts, Observers, Thinkers, Investigators, Sages

Studious and scholarly, you develop expertise in any area that is of interest to you, often in more than one field. You believe that knowledge is power and feel it is imperative that you be as a means of survival. Often scientific, you have unparalleled powers of mental perception due in part to your ability to remain detached and unaffected by your emotions.You have an inquisitive and observant nature with an insatiable appetite for information. You think things through before offering your perceptive insights regarding systems, people or how the world works.
Virtues: Insightful, Astute, Good Instincts, Loyalty, Kindness
Vices: Greed, Arrogance, Aloofness
Spiritual goal: Transcendence

Famous Fives: Samuel Beckett, Annie Leibowitz, Franz Kafka, Alfred Hitchcock

Type 6 - Skeptics, Heroes/Rebels, Loyalists, Guardians, Defenders

You often exhibit unwavering loyalty and responsibility, but once betrayed, they are slow to trust again. You can be wary and cautious one minute and/or rebellious and courageous the next. You possess an endearing childlike reactivity and often take the position of the devil’s advocate. Depending on the situation, you can be friendly and outgoing or reserved and skeptical. A ‘good soldier’, you prefer the role of buddy, loyal family member or trusted employee. You are attracted to people who are strong, protective or have prestige.
Virtues: Loyalty, Dedication, Courage
Vices: Fear, Paranoia, Persecution Complex, Contrarian
Spiritual goal: Faith

Famous Sixes: Woody Allen, Christopher Hitchens, Spike Lee, Michael Moore, David Letterman

Type 7 - Epicures, Enthusiasts, Adventurers, Sensationalists
You embrace life for its varied joys and wonders, and live for and in the moment. You seek excitement, new experiences, people and travel. Uneasiness is kept at bay by keeping busy with interesting and diverse experiences. Seeking a positive future with unlimited possibilities, you believe that the sky is the limit. You enjoy new ideas and live in the world of your imagination where you can manifest your dreams. You have a talent for squeezing the boredom and monotony out of routine tasks, turning the mundane into the magical.
Virtues: Loving, Creative, Joyful, Visionary Abilities, Kindness, Innovation
Vices: Greedy, Indulgent, Selfish, Flaky
Spiritual goal: Concentration

Famous Sevens: Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Branagh, Mick Jagger, Babe Ruth, Liz Taylor

Type 8 - Leaders, Problem-Solvers, Mavericks
You are charismatic and exude confidence. You have great pride in your ability to face, endure and overcome adversity, believing that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Your assertive stance and imposing presence make you a ‘force of nature’. You like challenges and usually overcome the kinds of obstacles that limit or deter others. You seek control over your life and and fear being controlled by others.
Virtues: Sense of Justice, Honesty, Leadership, Responsibility
Vices: Pushiness, Excess, Myopia, Intensity
Spiritual goal: Innocence

Famous Eights: Martin Luther King Jr., Johnny Cash, Sean Penn, Fidel Castro, Mike Ditka

Type 9 - Mediators, Peacemakers, Preservationists
Considerate and gentle, you have an innate ability to make people feel comfortable and at ease. You are very accepting and readily empathize with others. Focused on the well being of others, you may at times lose sight of your own agenda. More intellectual than you let on, you have a natural gift for seeing many different points of view. Often the strong silent type, you have the power of patience, persistence and resistance. You see yourself as having stamina and take pride in your ability to endure. You tend to procrastinate and take longer than others to make up your mind. When you do make a decision, you are like an unstoppable elephant pursuing its goals. Not one to self-promote, you would rather be discovered than announce yourself.
Virtues: Acceptance, Peacefulness, Openness, Patience, Easy-going
Vices: Inaction, Sloth, Passive-Aggression
Spritual goal: Action

Famous Nines: Bill Clinton, John Goodman, Abraham Lincoln, Ringo Starr

Woo! That's a lot. But I think it's pretty easy to figure out which type you are. And probably which type most of your friends and family members are. And the Enneagram presents itself as a total system, so the types are connected to each other in interesting and plausible ways.

Let me know what you think of all this. Maybe you think it's bullshit. I find it helpful and interesting, in a simple way.

The famous people examples are more obvious caricatures/exaggerations of the types than anything else.

Fun fact! The Enneagram of Personality first reached a mass audience in 1984 when a Jesuit priest named Patrick O'Leary published a book titled "The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery".

An Irish Wake for the Internet

As you may have heard, Betty and the Internet will part ways for a month this summer. Betty wants to find fun off the screen, and the Internet has plenty of other friends to hang with. In this age of time-suck, Twitter (which everyone should still join), and the "informative" distraction, Betty's seems like an uncontroversial and downright worthy undertaking, doesn't it?



Yesterday the project was challenged from many sides!

Someone in Sao Paolo told Betty (verbatim, via Skype chat) "i think its dumb. are you trying to challenge modern society or something" and then Bimbo cheekily suggested "Why don't you do it for one day?"

MOVING ALONG WITH MY INTENDED JOURNEY OF SELF-IMPROVEMENT, Bimbo is helping me find all our favorite Internet videos that we've laughed really loudly to in our days together. We'll post a new one every couple of days. Mirth city!

OK, so we're kicking off this series (of which you may refer to us as "the curators") with a classic. The most disastrous TV interview of all time. Good thing the Internet was there to make us aware! We hope you enjoy it as much as we always have, and that you find its many insights remain "truetruetrue".

Lights, camera...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Climate Change and the Olympics

As Betty and Bimbo and Cocoa (the dog, not the clown) watched the 7 o'clock news on CNN last night, they caught depressing story after depressing story, each registering a different degree of sadness, but striking a common chord: climate change. From the floods in the Midwest to the fights over Brazilian forests to the latest typhoon in the Philippines, to the tanking (no pun intended) of economies everywhere, we may draw the a common conclusion: climate change is upon us, and accelerating towards an unknown future.

Last week Betty read that the coach of the Australian Olympic Track & Field team would be forbidding his athletes from attending the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Games for the very simple reason that Beijing's air quality is unquestionably harmful to human lungs. International agencies like the World Bank and the United Nations consistently rank Beijing's air among the world's worst. So the Australian coach is forbidding his athletes from arriving in Beijing until the second week of the games, when they'll be competing.

Last year, IOC Chief Jacques Rogge had said that endurance events could be postponed or cancelled to protect competitors' health during the August 8-24 Games. In startled response, hoping to avoid this kind of embarrassment, Beijing announced that it will ban around half the city's three-million-plus cars from the roads during the Games. Plus, many factories will be closed down and all construction work ordered to halt. Needless to say, many Chinese workers who depend on construction for paltry incomes are unhappy about this, and this official temporary ban on construction offers no long-term solution to anything.

More guest-host trouble broke out last week, when even more Australian teams followed the track squad's lead and announced -- with great delicacy -- that they, too, will refrain from the opening week's events, including the opening ceremonies. The teams will either stay INDOORS in Beijing and prepare to compete all week (gymnasts, basketball players) or arrive in Beijing for the second week only (cyclists, runners, and all other outdoor athletes who need to breathe air that is not the color of mud).

The Olympic organizing committee in Beijing is pissed, and has issued statements attempting to guilt-trip the Australian Olympians into appearing (for the world) at the opening ceremonies.

One spokesman said: "We need, as a human family, to be together in a place and not think about all the things in the world that divide us." Click on the link above for more - the same spokesman even suggests that Australia owes China an appearance at the opening ceremonies, since China posed no embarrassing problems as a guest at the Sydney games in 2000!

I can only conclude from all this pussyfooting and the frantic, extreme, and temporary anti-smog measures imposed by the Beijing organizers that the spirit behind the 2008 Olympic games is hollow, hypocritical and corrupt. On the part of the Chinese or the local Beijing government, there is no intention of taking measures to fight climate change in a sustainable way -- say, by encouraging less consumption or discouraging new polluting factories that are spreading like wildfire across the country. Of course, this is all linked to the global march of capitalism that is exploding in China right now, but that's a blog post (or a dissertation) for another day.

Right now, we need to acknowledge the absurdity of sending athletes -- not mere diplomats, but ATHLETES -- to compete in a place that does not have enough clean air for people -- let alone Olympic runners -- to breathe safely. We need to understand that the organizing committee is panicking because one team has decided that they are going to compete with their lungs intact. We need, as a human family, to be together in our constant and vocal opposition to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

And if we do tune in for the sports, let's remember to root hard for Australia -- although they probably won't need it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Disappointed in Obama

Barack Obama has deeply disappointed me by deciding to forgo engagement in the public financing system. Not only does this go back (or "flip flop") on a pledge he made last year, but it also cedes the issue and the political and moral high ground to John McCain.

The most resonant criticism of Hillary Clinton that many Obama supporters and other Clinton critics brought to bear during the primary was the fact that it seemed like she'd do anything to win. That attitude that the means justify the ends is exactly what turns so many people off from politics.
So, to argue that forgoing public financing gives him a better shot to win because of his superior fundraising abilities is - for me - to miss the point entirely. It's not about winning at all costs -- it's about changing the system.

Obama is right that the campaign finance system needs deep change. But he is deeply misleading to characterize his decision to depend entirely on private money as a "declaration of independence" from a broken system. I do applaud his continued refusal to take money from PACs and lobbyists but the fact remains that he is hauling in more $2,300 checks than anyone. The fact that he also is getting hundreds of thousands of $25 and $50 checks doesn't mean that private money should stay in politics.

Hopefully this is not a first step in the morphing of Obama into just another Democratic presidential candidate. We shall see.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Summer Fling

Like you, Betty has some summer goals: read a heap of books, do her album, complete her little jobs, research and write-up her pieces for a top-secret collaborative project, throw out 85% of the contents of her house without accidentally throwing away her dog, general soul-building, etc. But how will these worthy projects go? That soul isn't going to simultaneously harden and relax itself, Betty.

So Betty is adding one more project to the list, one she hopes will prove rewarding and interesting in itself. For one month, from July 11-August 11, Betty will deactivate her e-mail account. Doesn't that sound so short? It really is so short. Betty is looking forward to it. More details to come.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More from Forster, Betty's Latest Flame

He is absurdly young - not twenty-one - and he will be engaged to be married at twenty-three. He has no knowledge of the world; for example, he thinks that if you do not want money you can give it to friends who do. He believes in humanity because he knows a dozen decent people. He believes in women because he has loved his mother. And his friends are as young and as ignorant as himself. They are full of the wine of life. But they have not tasted the cup - let us call it the teacup - of experience...Oh, that teacup! To be taken at prayers, at friendship, at love, till we are quite sane, quite efficient, quite experienced, and quite useless to God or man. We must drink it, or we shall die. But we need not drink it always. Here is our problem and our salvation. There comes a moment - God knows when - at which we can say, "I will experience no long. I will create. I will be an experience." But to do this we must be both acute and heroic. For it is not easy, after accepting six cups of tea, to throw the seventh in the face of the hostess. And to Rickie this moment has not, as yet, been offered.

- from The Longest Journey, Chapter 7

Land of Plenty

Myself, Koko and Magwitch are about to embark on a journey like no other. The LSAT's and Michael Brennan's Congressional race delayed our trip, but we could only wait so long. We are off to Foxwoods.

"Liveblogging" is not an option (no wireless,) but expect an update tomorrow or Friday. Hopefully we will all still be alive and have some money left over to pay our internet bills.

Also, while I have never been to Ledyard, Connecticut, I have no plans to move there (nor will I after this trip.) I think Ledyard is one place that Betty and Bimbo can cross off of their list of places to move.

Lastly, I was thinking we should have a "Pick the VP's" sweepstakes here on the blog. Thoughts??

Jasen, formally known as "Obamarama"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Sex and the City" Not a Dog

Hey! The "Sex and the City" movie was not too awful! Yes, the script was ostentatiously lazy (and relied too much on screeching to convey joy), but visually the movie drew in and held the eye and emotionally it often made sense. Like the show, you can welcome it into your life no matter how you're feeling -- it's like an aspirin taken in ice cream. And there were some funny lines, maybe about 20 of them!

First off, a word to address to those who will charge that the movie is bad for women or bad for everyone. The film, like the show, takes place on a fictional plane of reality and should not be berated for that. Once we understand "Sex" like we understand "The Simpsons," and see Carrie's shoe collection as we see Homer's donuts (or whatever)-- then we can kick back and enjoy the real and sticky jelly-joy that awaits us behind the glazey sprinkley exterior.

Enchantment has its uses. Unlike Anthony Lane, I can only conclude that the writers did a great job stretching the material to cover 2.5 hours. The story, though grand in its events, is simple in its messages: that forgiveness is better than bitterness, and that there a exist a muliplicity of Goods and Good Lives, and that it's up to each one of us -- like children on a scavenger hunt -- to make a Good Life from the Goods that work for us. We must make our own treasure maps.

Though simple to understand, this message is not easy to live by, and it's a good thing the movie is so fun and ridiculous and illogical -- all qualities that make its moral even more memorable, as attractive to contemplate as it is difficult to realize.

All four actresses were good in the film, with Sarah Jessica Parker taking a few unexpected trips into telenovela-acting territory. But Kristin Davis deserves special recognition for her gifts as a comedienne (Yes! Lucy style!), including the jumpiest cartoon eyes this side of Itchy and Scratchy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Top Ten: An Ode to the Neighborhood

1. The Seward Park Library - Where Betty gets all her books. And this list was born on the occasion of Bimbo getting his library card today!
2. Fine Fare - Our supermarket. Always reliable and stocked with cookies, and cheese.
3. "Cobblestone Park" - where Cocoa runs free behind our house, and where we can read in the shade on benches during hazy days.
4. The basketball and handball courts next to cobblestone park, where we run and play. And where there's a playground and BBQs and outdoor birthday parties for kids. Popular themes include Dora the Exploradora and Spongebob.
5. Full City Coffee (s.k.a. "Roots and Vines"). Weird place that somehow fits into the fabric.
6. The church a few doors down, where there's always something happening.
7. East Broadway's slope through old Jewish New York and Chinatown, down to City Hall. Full of trees.
8. Moishe's Bakery next to our building. Great cookies, nice people.
9. Yemeni convenience store, bafflingly called "Hill Grocery" (hill? what hill?) open 24 hours, across the street, a skip from the old mailbox.
10. So many different people.

Friday, June 13, 2008

E.M. Forster

Well, it is odd and sad that our minds should be such seedbeds, and we without power to choose the seed. But man is an odd, sad creature as yet, intent on pilfering the earth, and heedless of the growths within himself...He leaves it to the specialist, which is as if he should leave his dinner to be eaten by a steam-engine.

-- from Howards End, Chapter 34

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef Season 4 Finale

The day has finally come. What are we all going to do with ourselves now???

Lisa, Stephanie and Richard Blaise battled it out for the title of Top Chef in Puerto Rico, with the help (sort-of) of world-renowned uberchefs : The woman from Spotted Pig, the guy who runs Blue Hill, and that tall, awesome-looking French dude with the shocking white hair and blue eyes. (Due to a spotty wireless connection, I am doing a bit of a rush job on my front stoop, so certain facts remain unresearched. Three cheers for Time Warner Cable, but at least my TV is still working!)

The requisite curve ball of tonight's competition was the sous chefs not showing up on the day of service. All three simply nodded their heads and stared when the news broke, sighing a silent, collective "Whatever".

Based on the last three season finales, I was prepared for the dinner service to be somewhat anticlimactic – when the judging is this strict and the food (allegedly) this refined, it doesn’t leave much room for high drama. Still, the tension at tonight’s service was the most I’ve felt in four seasons, and it seemed to be extremely competitive among all three. No dish crashed and burned, and no chef had more than one that the judges absolutely died for. Of the three chefs, Richard didn’t elicit an overwhelmingly positive or negative response – which made me nervous for him. I think they could have given him a break for one substandard dish if another was spectacular.

Lisa won the first unanimous praise with her second course, which was a coconut, Asian- style soup seasoned with citrus and lemongrass (I think). Stephanie’s third course – a lamb dish with olives and braised pistachios (? – again, don’t quote me on this) was a happy surprise, and was arguably the most well received dish of the total service. Everyone really liked both Richard’s (again with the banana scallops, Richard?) and Lisa’s dessert, and Stephanie’s was the clear loser. But it wasn’t a total disaster.

In the confessional commentary, Tom seemed – oddly - to be pulling for Lisa, warts and all. He made a point of saying that sometimes abrasive personalities can be an asset for a chef (you don’t say, Tom!), and seemed to be won over by her cool-as-a-cucumber act during preparation. And at the excruciating judges table faceoff, Lisa was palpably faring better than her competitors. While I was sweating bullets.

The judges are careful to remind the audience and the chefs that this game is about each individual competition, not the cumulative performance of each chef. But if they had stood by this at each finale, the outcomes might have been different. Tiffany could have taken Season 1 and Dale Season 3, but they didn’t. There was never been a completely shocking Top Chef finale, and tonight threatened to be the first.

Maybe we can thank the editing room for this, but from start to finish, the undercurrent of tonight’s episode was this question: If Lisa wins tonight’s challenge, does she deserve to be Top Chef?

When Richard copped to “choking”, I nearly swallowed my arm. On the one hand, he forced the judges to recognize that he didn’t present the best meal of the evening, but they knew that already. On the other hand, he challenged them to recognize that up until this point, he has been the most solid competitor. At least in his opinion. But while Richard’s strategy was historically apt, Stephanie could have presented the very same argument, and her meal was better than his tonight. In hindsight, Richard’s confession could have influenced more than just his own fate.

Like past seasons, the judges broke down the meal by the winners of each course, but unlike past seasons, the final decisions for each course were somewhat ambivalent – likely due to the individual preferences of each judge. It ended like this:

1st course: Lisa/Stephanie

2nd course: Lisa/Richard

3rd course: Stephanie

4th course: Richard/Lisa

I always loved Ted Allen, but I never loved him more when he said: “We agree that you liked one dish more than the other in each course, but the question is how much”. Clearly this was a nod to the fact that while Lisa may have edged out her competitors on the course-by-course tally, did she edge them out enough to win?

Fortunately for Stephanie, the answer was no. Phew!

Congratulations Stephanie. I’m really glad you won – even if you didn’t *quite* deserve it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Guy Savoy: "A Meal is a Celebration of Life."

Do foamy little plates of edible Jackson Pollack swirls and Robert Rauchenberg 3-D collages made of beet, lemon, and orange rind sound like fun to you? Then you will like new French cuisine. In Paris, Betty and Bimbo sampled the fare of French culinary artist Guy Savoy, and they can only describe this foray as unforgettable.

Savoy's food is not conventionally tasty or satisfying, but this does not mean that it is not fun to eat. Also, the service at a three Michelin star restaurant is crazy. Betty was actually hurt when she and Bimbo did not get a big wet kiss from the waiter, the host, their personal table-jester ("Hubert", who said he thought we were French but was probably lying) and the three sommeliers (wine, bread, dessert; actually, even the "bus-man" was kind of a sommalier of dirty dishes!) on their way out the door -- 3 hours after they came in for lunch!

The menu was in ten languages. The meal kicked off with toasted foie gras on a silver stick -- Betty passed, and Bimbo thought it "ehh". Next came a cup with homemade gazpacho ("that tasted like it hit a wall of oil -- yum," said Bimbo) with a tomato surprise underneath (!) the cup, and fresh seasoning on the side. Speaking of sides! Did we mention that we got two different kinds of homemade butter in pastel colored globes? And that one was sweet butter and one salted? Let's just say Betty ate a lot of butter.

After the tomato surprise, the bread sommalier came by to offer us breads from her cart based on what we had ordered (which she knew- maybe there was a mic under the table!). Over the course of the meal, we had about five different kinds of bread, and our favorite was the chestnut bread. But of course, they all tasted good -- especially with butter.

Also, Guy Savoy came out in his chef scrubs and welcomed us! He also welcomed the men at the next table who at one point were shouting about Euros and probably deciding the future of France.

Then our appetizers came out -- "canons of vegetables" -- different poached vegetables stuffed with other vegetables with an (optional) "chicken jelly" to spread around on it. The vegetables were delicious and tasted like no vegetables we have ever known - they tasted more like toys! But the chicken jelly was definitely made for chihuahuas to eat with their peanut butter.

Next came "colors of caviar" -- seven layers of different treatments of caviar; one was a green paste. Bimbo found it "delicious and sophisticated" while Betty didn't care to indulge. But she did like that it looked like a small, delicate ice cream treat.

Things took a dip when the famous asparagus and truffles soup arrived. Betty found it strained (literally *and* figuratively!). Bimbo enjoyed his lobster - baked in a sauce of dried fruit and its own coral. Earlier, Hubert had hailed this dish as "the best of the land and the best of the sea" and to Bimbo's buds, he wasn't wrong.

Betty loved her brioche with truffle butter (another butter!) that the bread sommalier prepared to go with her overhyped soup.

Next came an "amuse bouche" to prepare our palettes for "dessert." It was -- get this -- "Earl Grey ice cream" that really tasted like the tea -- including that dry-mouth aftertaste. Eerie!

Then we had a tiny little strip of what looked and tasted like proto-apple-pie. Maybe it was a strand of DNA for an apple pie to be.

Then Bimbo had cherries with sour cream ice cream -- the best part of the meal, he said. Betty had a chocolate thing with a lime powder around it that was off-putting. She could just picture the chefs dusting off lime Tostitos all over her cake in the kitchen.

We were so full at this point, but there was more. The dessert cart came at us, hard. Lemon-tinted weightless square marshmallows ("it would be such a pity to miss it" sighed the waiter), strawberry macaroons, oh! and cheese! Bimbo tried five different kinds of cheese, and by tried we mean gobbled down with gusto.

Overall, the meal was a super experience, and one we will not soon repeat. Betty's taste buds had never been so attentively brushed with such a diversity of flavors and feelings. It was like being four years old again! Remember the first time you rode in a car? It was kind of like that.

Bimbo gives the grub an "A-minus". But he admits that he is incapable of cultural commentary on the place because "it's just my idea of heaven."

Pictured: Guy Savoy, Asparagus and Truffle Soup with Parmesan and Brioche, Colors of Caviar

Sunday, June 08, 2008

When Betty Was A Broad

Hello Dear Readers and Bloggers of the World!

Betty and Bimbo have returned from Paris, and a beautiful and enlightening week. We feel lighter and more turned on. We want to move there someday!

It was Betty's first time in Paris! She loved the cramped and lovely streets of the city center, visiting the outskirts with Bimbo, eating delicious fresh French and Middle Eastern foods, the continuity of history, the stone churches, the Seine from all sides, the quiet and the green, the absence of high speeds, the prevalence of movies and books, the endless cafe, the infinite languages and ways to get through, the details of Notre Dame, the statues, the dogs sans leashes, the hidden gardens with plenty of benches, the space to read, the drive to communicate, and the maxing out of her six day museum pass in all the neighborhoods! If you are ever in Paris, get this pass. You get to cut to the front of all the lines ("queues") of fanny packs and compulsive cameras, and it pays itself off so quickly! Plus you can slip it in your pocket and feel like a card-carrying member of the art club! And it folds itself out like an orange accordion, with a nice heft to it.

Betty and Bimbo felt like urban pioneers, travelling light and off the technogrid, and their alarm clock was really church bells!

We will have more to say about food in France shortly. Right now we have jet-lag and must lie down.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Remembering Bobby

The Times has three remembrances of Bobby Kennedy today on the op-ed page by his children Kathleen, Joe, and Kerry. All three are lovely and I have pasted brief quotes from each below.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: I thought of another time when he’d given me very personal advice, in a letter after his brother Jack was killed. “Dear Kathleen,” he’d written then. “You seem to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren, you have a special responsibility. A responsibility ... to be kind to others and work for our country. Love, Daddy.”

Joseph P Kennedy II: Robert Kennedy had a wonderful way of allowing others to tell him how the world looked through their eyes. Indeed, so many people across this nation were grateful for his belief in their worth — they knew his faith in the humanity of his fellow Americans.

Kerry Kennedy: As an adult, I recognize that the lessons my father taught us children mirrored the beliefs he wanted the nation to embrace — that we must build a system of justice which enjoys the confidence of all sides; that peace is not something to pray for, but something everyone has the responsibility to create every day; and that we must muster the courage to face the truth about ourselves as well as those we consider our enemies.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Top Chef Finale Part 1: When Dead Pigs Fly

Normally I’m jealous of my cats and wish I could trade places with them. But not tonight! As I was drinking a beer, white-knuckled with anticipation of how the first installment of the finale would pan out, my faithful furry friends H.J. and S. were by my side, their heads turning to and fro, looking at everything and nothing in particular. Not even four neo-cadaverous pigs could turn their attention to the television! But I have to admit, for the first time in my TC-obsession history, there were points during the episode that I had to turn away. More than ever, I was reminded of the moral conflict that accompanies any vegetarian/anti-specist when supporting a project, and an industry, whose primary function is to subordinate anything potentially edible for the good of a tasty dish.

Stephanie won her first Quickfire Challenge of the season, just when the Quickfire immunity clause expired. But it bought her a much needed confidence boost and the advantage of choosing not only her own sous chef, but the sous chef of each of her competitors, from the four runner-runnerups: Dale, Nikki, Andrew, and Spike. I think she made the right choice for everyone involved. There is no question that Dale is the strongest, even though he almost ruined it for her by leaving the pork belly out overnight. Nikki is a sweetheart, and works better with women than men, making her the the best choice for Antonia - a more strategic, bitchier choice might have been to pair Spike with Antonia in light of past conflicts, but as Stephanie said, she wanted to create teams that would work well together and minimize unnecessary drama. Good on her - too bad if Lisa wasn't happy about being assigned Andrew. It's not Stephanie's fault that nobody likes her.

It was a really close call tonight. Not just between the bottom two, but between the winners and losers altogether. Every chef was aware that the slightest error can be a fatal one, at this stage of the game. I share the in the judges’ bewilderment that Antonia would choose to lump all of her dishes onto the same plate – that’s just asking for trouble, because it suggests that you aren’t taking your own work seriously enough to force a distinct response to each dish. But I don’t think it’s so terrible to cook pigeon peas al dente – anyone who has observed their own palate evolve will recognize the virtue of the slightest undercooking: Antonia’s failing was that it wasn’t slight enough – but her strength in the judge’s table faceoff was admitting openly to exactly what got her there.

Antonia’s behavior turned me off during the gorilla challenge in episode 2, and during the EC where she was really aggressive even though she had immunity. But almost immediately afterwards I swung to her favor – I really enjoy her snarky but spot-on assessment of her competitors in the confessional, and the fact that she saves her commentary for the private sessions. She opened a restaurant during the break, and has a young daughter at home. This cannot be easy for her. I was really starting to pull for her, and I never liked her more than I did tonight. If she had made it to the top three, she would have earned it fair and square – not by “squeaking through” as Lisa did, and admitted it herself.

But it wasn't to be: The judges couldn't get over the undercooked pigeon peas and the haphazard construction. Antonia really wanted to win this, and wasn't ready to go home. I was pretty disgusted that Lisa - after insisting that she would be the one to go - was expecting fanfare from her competitors for getting by. It made me think of the idiom of looking a gift horse in the mouth: And I can only hope that we won't have to look so closely at an animal's cadaver next week. The only thing I want to see dead is Lisa's chance of winning Top Chef.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Whither the Hillaryites Now?

McCain or Obama? Or Cynthia McKinney or Bob Barr?