Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2006-2007 Holidays...When It All Started

During the Holiday Season of 2006, I realized it was the first one where I was in some sort of a household, apart from the one my parents created.  It was my 5th year of college (I was in a 5 year professional program, the 5th year was a requirement not a choice) and I was living in an apartment off-campus with one of my best friends, Zach.  the holiday season had come upon us and I was feeling the good cheer.  Though I was still preoccupied with finals and papers, I managed to stay in the season.

It was the first time I bought and decorated a (fake) Christmas Tree for a place I lived in.  It came out so well!

As Christmas neared, I realized that people were sending Christmas cards left, right, and center.  Since Zach and I were technically out in the world on our own, I decided that we too should have a Christmas card to send out.  So, with my fabulous Photoshop-ing skills, I modified a picture my roomie and I took that Halloween (we were Turk and J.D. from Scrubs), found a cheezy lookinng background somewhere on the internets, and tossed on some text.

The card was so much fun to make and it was received so warmly, I decided that I should do one every year.  This was just the first, but I've yet to do my best.

07-08 and 08-09 retrospectives are still coming, building up to the unveiling of this year's card!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Berlusconi Slapped Across Face By Catholic Church

While that was not a headline, it may well have been one!

No, the Pope didn't take his staff to the backside of of the divorced, theiving, womanizing leader of one of the most overtly Catholic countries in the world (wow, those are good reasons).

Instead, some nutty Italian took a page out of an Iraqi journalist's play book:

Apparently, Berlusconi was walking through the crowd (shaking hands, kissing babies, all that politician schmuk) to his vehicle after giving a speech at some political rally in Milan and one of his countrymen decided to hurl a small replica of the Milan Cathedral at the Prime Minister's face!!!  That's right, a replica of a cathedral was smashed into his face!!!  Now, I'm not sure what you know about this guy, but he's a little bit of a jerk so I think this was a long time coming.  The only thing I'm actually surprised about is that his (current for now) estranged wife wasn't the first to knock out his teeth.  Poor guy, he looked so bewildered as to why anyone would ever want to harm him.

Classic!  I love it!  He should have taken a dodging lesson from ol' George W, though.  That guy dodged twice!

And as a bit of a throw back, I think we might have a celebrity reader in our midst (or maybe just a celebrity's costume designer - though probably, neither).  Remember my post about white dinner jackets?  Well check out this performance from this year's AMAs that happened last month (less than a month after my post).

Now, I said:  "For men, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT wear a formal white dinner jacket.  I don't care what its called, its just not practical ... besides, its out of place unless you're ... attending a dinner party in the 1950s"

Now, I'm not saying that the incredible Mr -Z was literally at a dinner party from the 50s, but the set of his performance was a formal dinner club/lounge from that era (ish), so his choice to wear the jacket was appropriate and well-advised.  And wasn't that performance out of this world?  I mean, how dapper did he look up there with the incomparably talented and beautiful Ms Keys?

(pic from here)

 (pic from here)
So whoever made that call, you're welcome for the warning and the idea.  And make sure you stay tuned, more fashion advice might happen here in the future (it will,but might not be as immediately important).

And later this week:  My (now) annual Christmas/Holiday Card.  I'll post previous years' ones as the week goes by to whet your palette.

Until then, ciao!  (That was for you 'Silver Tongued,' but really just 'Sleazy' Silvio B.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

To Give Thanks

Yesterday was one of the greatest of American holidays: Thanksgiving Day.

Though it was originally similar to, and may in fact be derived from, European harvest festivals.  Its a day that has truly become a signature American Event.  Though Canada might try to claim the first Thanksgiving (I know, its just so adorable of them to think they're that big), lets be honest, America had the first real Thanksgiving and we know how to do it right.

First, lets look at the places who have an official, annual, State-Declared Thanksgiving Day.  Grenada celebrates their annual Thanksgivng Day holiday on October 25.  They have it to celebrate and commemorate the anniversary of the American-led invasion of the island in 1983.  Then, we sent in the military, along with some coalition forces, to respond to levels of unrest after the deposition and execution of Grenadan Prime Minister (though he actually rulled the country more like a dictator would - along the lines of 'free' Iran) Maurice Bishop.  There's still disagreement about whether we should have engaged, but the country has a holiday to selebrate that action, so you're welcome Grenada.

The Canadian version is the second Monday in October.  Before they had a regular date, they used to just declare it for whaterver reason they felt was appropriate.  Like if Canadia wins the Olympic Hockey Gold Medal, or scientists declare an overpopulation of moose and hunting season gets extended, or the national dealership says there's a sale on Zambonis, or whatever it is that floats Canadian boats.  Now, its just a nationalized harvest festival where you're supposed to be greatful for the bounty of harvest the lands of Canada yielded.  Weak.

Though there had been thanksgiving days and celebrations in America since 1619, and though what we modern Americans regard as the 'First Thanksgiving' was celebrated in 1621, it was quite some time before we got a National Thanksgiving Day.  Periodically, throughout the years, leaders of American colonial settlements proclaimed days of Thanksgiving - but they were not regular declarations, though often they were to commemorate some sort of victory in armed conflict, having survived and come out of a particularly harsh winter, or (of course) an especially bountiful harvest season.

The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving in America was given by the Continental Congress in the year 1777 to celebrate vicroty over the British in Saratoga (Suck it, England).  Since then, American Presidents would intermidently declare national Days of Thanksgiving until the year 1863.  That year, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving Day.  From then until 1939, each American Presidant took time every year to declare the final Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving Day.

In 1939, because November had 5 Thursdays, President Franklin D Roosevelt declared, not the final, but the fourth Thursday of that month to be national Thanksgiving Day.  Then, in 1940 and 1941 he declared the third Thursday of November to be national Thanksgiving Day.  I'm sure that at this time they didnt have presidantial approval ratings, but FDR was just trying to stimulate the economy (how oddly relevant).  Because, at the time, advertising for Christmas sales was considered so crass and classless to do before Thanksgiving, FDR thought that by moving up the date of the Thanksgiving Holiday (seriously, where did those days go), retailers would experience greater sales due to increased time for Christmas marketing campaigns.  Apparently, there was such an uproar that on October 6, 1941, Congress signed a joint resolution making Thanksgiving Day the final Thursday of November starting the next year, 1942.  There was a little bit of unhappiness about that so in December, the Senate made it ammended the resolution so that the fourth Thursday of November (no matter whether the month had 4 or 5 Thursdays), beginning in 1942, would be Thanksgiving Day.  On December 26, 1941, the President signed the bill and since then, the occurance of Thanksgiving Day in America was federal law.  Dig that.

Over time, the celebration of Thanksgiving Day was morphed and become a sort of hybrid occurance that encompases and elevates many aspects of our daily indivudual and collective lives.  Thanksgiving Days used to be religious celebrations, often tied to being greatful for a bountiful harvest.  Now, the religious portion of Thanksgiving is almost wholly put to the side; the aspect of plentiful and delicious foodstuffs is still a primary aspect of the holiday; but the current methods of celebration would not be recognized by the settlers of Plymoth.

For out modern Thanksgivings, we have the build-up to Black Friday and the anticipation of the Chirstmas shopping season.  We have sporting events, where we watch athletes more skilled than most of us could ever dream of being, matched in battles of physical accomplishments.  We have Turducken, and I think that stands on its own.  But something that has not failed to carry through, which I think our settling ancesters would be tickled pink to still see, is that the idea of being thankful and greatful is still what makes the holiday.

I hope that everyone took some time yesterday to realize that even though all our days may not reach perfection, and though we may not always be satisfied with what we might have, there are usually many things we can and should all be thankful for.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Remember, you're supposed to give thanks and be greatful for what you have and what you've been able to attain.  Afterall, its been federal law since 1942.  Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder...

...but when a building is fugly, it doesn't matter who beholds it, it's ugly.  Let's just take this little diddy here:

This structurally broad-shouldered guy is the J Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington DC.   It is a consensus uggo.  The only beholders who could possibly allow their eyes to see beauty in this are the guy who designed the thing (Hoover FBI Building), Stevie Wonder, the guy who designed this quintessential piece of Stalinist-era stereotypically oppressive Russian apartment block (which I found here),

or Noel McKinnell and Gerhard Kallmann who designed the East Coast landmark that is Boston's City Hall (photo from here).

So why am I on about ugly buildings?  Well, talking bad about ugly buildings is one of my favorite things to do.  Its almost automatic when you have an architectural education like I did; where often beauty was prized over function, reason, and practicality.  But really, I was inspired by an article that came up on my Yahoo! homepage a few days ago.

The article was Bunny Wong's "The World's Ugliest Buildings" for the October 2009 Travel+Leisure.  Its a good enough compilation of 15 ugly, stupid, and generally bad buildings (certainly no list of 78, but good enough), but I'd like to point out my favorites.  Let's start with the buildings that are really just a joke that took structural form.
We start with the Page 6 Building: the Longaberger Home Office in Newark, OH. (photo source)

The company is a woven basket company...get it?!

Lets look at what Bunny said:  "’s as if, in 1997, a giant-size Little Red Riding Hood set down her seven-story hamper on a flat section of Ohio. ... True, the company purveys handcrafted baskets. And founder Dave Longaberger’s dream headquarters was a replica of his favorite basket. But hey, Crate & Barrel employees don’t schedule meetings in a 10-story sofa."

Nicely said, though I might be interested in working for Crate & Barrel's corporate office if they did meet in a 10-story sofa.  As long as it's right across the street from the Vizio headquarters - which would of course be a 12-story flat panel HD screen.  Sweet.

I'd work late on Mondays during football season.  Clocking out coincidentally right after the Monday Night Football game (assuming the Vizio building gets cable).

I love what reader/commenter adriannakaden said: "I live about 10 minutes away from this building, and I'm sick of having to look at it whenever I go into Newark. Yeah, I know, I know, people are going to say 'Well you don't HAVE to look at it,' but come on guys, it's a huge basket right beside the highway, you can't miss it! It's rediculous looking"

Exactly!  I mean, when you go to the Zoo, you don't HAVE to look at the monkey playing with himself in the middle of the primate cage.  But really, its so ridiculous, you can't help but look.

The next little mistake we talk about is the Page 8 building: The Fang Yuan Building in Shenyang, China.  (photo source)

Bunny said:  "This 25-floor office building, finished in 2001 in the northeastern capital of Liaoning Province, is a weird mishmash of ideas. One is a reference to old Chinese coins, which have square cutouts—just like the structure’s square center. Other parts of the design are like a garden-variety corporate building, with a concrete base and, on the sides, steel rims with glass grooves...Princeton-educated Taiwanese architect C. Y. Lee...wanted to meld East and West. In this creation, urban concrete-and-steel commercial structure meets ancient Chinese currency."

While not exactly a stinging criticism, it gets the point across - this building's design really doesn't exist to make much of a point.  Designing things in the shape of money or monetary symbols is for the designers and creators of Richie Rich (the American-created comic character).

Its a silhouette of ancient Chinese currency, extruded and put on a clumsy (that's being charitable) base that's a split mastaba beneath a stubby skyscraper whose wide faces were designed by Michael Graves in the mid-80s and and whose narrow faces wanted to be like a split Boston Federal Reserve Bank.

The only time a professional building designer should ever be allowed to design a crass, miss-mashed edifice like this one is if the thing is going in Las Vegas

or Dubai

Both these places of obscene carelessness are home to awful built things that must have been conceived in an inebriated, snarky, or practically joking state of mind (maybe all of those).

Now, let me tell you about the 'beauty' of our Page 4 building:  The Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois.

A few years ago, when I was a student visiting Chicago, I was riding the train on Chicago Downtown Loop with a classmate.  As we were passing this visually jarring, huge friggin' building, I turned to take a picture of it saying, "I just had to get a picture of that crazy thing."  In a surprise move, a sweet looking old lady sitting in the seat in front of us turns around and says something along the lines of, “why do you want a picture of that ugly ass thing. Here in Chicago, we hate that piece of shit.”  Wow, tough town.  I'm not sure whether that anecdote says more about the people of Chicago, but its sure as hell says something about the way this building is held in the minds of the people who have the unfortunate luck to live with it everyday.

I guess Chicago's Washington Library is a little like I.M. Pei's Louvre pyramids in that way.

The locals either LOVE it or HATE it.  Its the same, except that all the locals HATE the Washington Library. On this little (a full city-block) mistake of the bull market 90s, Bunny said: "If buildings came with footnotes, this one...would have pages worth of citations.  Neoclassical references collide with a glass-and-steel Mannerist roof; throw in some red brick, granite, and aluminum—and a bad sense of scale—and you’ve got way too much architecture class for one day...The Chicago public library has a helter-skelter application of motifs and styles that’s [unfortunately, completely postmodern.]"

What this means is that the building tries so hard NOT to be something like this:

that it just doesn't have enough time to try and be more like this (i.e. the roof):

not enough time or money to be more like this (i.e. the massing of the base and the lack of distinct ornamentation, imagine about 4 of these in a row and you'd have a nicer base for the library):

and not enough time or class or gonads to be more like this (i.e. the middle parts of both this and the library building are similar but not - and that's not good for the library building, showing lack of vision, ability, and scale).

To sum that up, the Harold Washington Library in Chicago is just, flat-out not good.

And this brings us to the last, and my 'favorite' ass-ugly building.  The Page 2 show stopper: The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.

A few months ago was when I first heard about this building.  I looked it up and I almost fell out of my seat at its bold, unapologetic ugliness.

This thing is like the ugly duckling that unwisely got out of the lake, got chewed up and spit out by a lawnmower, didn’t die because its guts and bones were just too damn strong, and hobbled around for a time while the other ugly ducks laughed and pecked at it.

Bunny said: "With its concrete sides sloping at sharp 75-degree angles, this stark 1,083-foot-tall, not-quite-finished hotel looks threatening and out of place on the Pyongyang skyline.  Its history is odd, too: the country ran out of money for the project in the early 1990s, and it was airbrushed from photos [for quite some] time. After a 16-year hiatus, construction began anew last year...Supposedly the 3,000-room hotel is an attempt to outdo South Korea when it comes to impressive skyscrapers. It’s undoubtedly emblematic of the ruling dictatorship’s hubris."


Truly, only an egomaniaicle dictator (as if there is any other type) with his own personal waterslide in the pool of his vast estate could ever imagine, sanction, start, stop, and after almost two decades resume building of this thing.  And now that they’re facing most of it in glass (which really doesn't help the looks at all) and trying to finish it, I'm so excited to see this once-damaged ugly duckling transform into a grown up, butt-ugly, cluster-flub of junkiness.  Maybe one day in the future, when Kim Jong Crazy-Leader III decides to have an open and non-hostile dictatorship like China has, I could stay in that hotel and see what it feels like to live in one of the imaginings of a certified nutter.

Well, I guess that's it for that.  Thanks for taking this trans-continental and trans-chronological journey through unfortunate buildings.

In the next blog post, I'll talk about Thanksgiving and why its evidence in the case making America better than any other country on the face of this Earth.


P(L)'s note:  (Edit 11/31/2011) The desire for marginal historical accuracy and cultural sensitivity have precipitated an edit about the Russian apartment block.  Thanks to the blog's commentors for keeping us honest.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Extreme Survival - My Man-Crush on Bear Grylls

When I talk Extreme Survival, I'm not talking about being in Southeast DC! (That was funny because SE DC, as a very unfunny fact, has a fairly high crime rate.)

I'm talking about Bear Grylls.  Yeah, the guy from that Discovery Channel series Man vs Wild - Bear F-ing Grylls.
He's a certifiable British Badass, emphasis on both British and Badass.  His show is like a cross between the Boy Scouts and the Army Rangers, on steroids...without the emasculating side effects (of taking steroids, not being British).  He's such a British Badass, he makes David Beckham look like Elton John.

This dude's been a badass from birth.  Really, his name is Bear.  Heck yeah!  A couple months ago, I saw him in an episode in Alaska (I think Alaska, I know there was alot of snow) and in the first half of it he had captured a deer, strung it around a tree, and tied its antlers to the trunk (Bear said that a deer with a free head could easily stab you with its antlers unless it is restrained.  "If you control the head, you control the beast.").  Then he leaned over, pulled his knife out, and drove it into the base of the deer's head, where its skull joins its spine, and killed the thing.  To start the butchering of his food, he cut the thing's throat and blood literally poured out.
Then he said how much nutrients fresh blood contains, and he stuck his face in there and literally drank the blood from the deer as it poured out!!

Now thats friggin' badass manly stuff!  Oh yeah!!

And as an example of his British-ness, read this excerpt from the Discovery Channel's bio on him:

  "In June 2005, Bear broke a world record by hosting a dinner party at a table suspended below a hot air balloon at 24,500 feet. He rappelled from the balloon's basket to the table, where in full naval uniform he ate a three-course meal before saluting the queen and skydiving to earth."

Hosted a dinner party?  Three-course meal?  Saluted the Queen?  Yeah, I call British on that one  I hope he ate with a splayd.

He's so British and Badass.  I mean, c'mon!  He even delivered his own child!!  Though maybe that's just a British man thing (though I suspect he did this for all 3 of his children).  Or, it could have been a '08-'09 Holiday Season fad in England.  Following is a news clip** from England that could (sort-of) support either theory:
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But enough of singing the praises of Bear Grylls.  If you get Discovery Channel on your TV, watch it (check your local listings, broadcast times and dates may vary).  Or find episodes on the internet (preferably in a legal manner).  And if all this didn't convince you, does it help that in just about every episode, he gets naked (or at least shirtless),

eats some sort of grubby insect thingy (or snake, or a fish he just pulled out of a river or some sort of other raw flesh),

or he drinks his own pee - as evidenced in this quote from his blog:

  "It made fighting a big pit viper rattlesnake interesting! (Although I did eventually get it. I then could eat it, and then use its skin to store my urine in whilst in the burning hot salt pan desert. (The cocktail of snake innards and pee was truly terrible!)"

And if those things arent enough to convince you, check out this quote from the same post from his blog:

  "I was then in the swamps - these are always the toughest shows to do- and I did end up having a pretty full-on encounter with a 6ft alligator. I came out on top, just, skinned it for cordage for my camp to sleep in, rubbed the alligator fat on me for mosquito repellant and then ate it."
The question is how could you NOT watch AND love that.

**The Bugle: Audio Newspaper for a Visual World
Issue 57 - Hats off to Obama, Shoes off for Bush
By Andy Zaltzman, John Oliver, Tom Wright

From Times Online, December 21, 2008

Thursday, November 5, 2009

About Government, Sans Politics

For all we receive from society (not necessarily the federal, but specifically the immediate and local governments) - roads and related infrastructure, usually clean water, museums, certain grants and scholarships, and a portion of public television and radio - we are compelled in a mandatory manner to give back few times. Once a year on April 15th when our taxes are due (admittedly, we might be compelled to relinquish a larger percentage of what we’ve earned for our talents and labours than we might like) and the dreaded but socially important jury duty. Can anyone guess which social compulsion I fulfilled today (Nov 5 2009, that should give it away)?

Now, I relish the privilege of paying back for my voice as a citizen, you used to have to be male, of the majority class, and landed; but now you just have to pay taxes and show up for jury duty. Its sweet! I hadn't served before today, but now I understand why many people don't like it. There's alot of nothing going on there. But the worst thing is that they shove you and an ugly ass building. Really, I think a prison hallway might be nicer than the courthouse hallway. And the courtroom - beige acoustic panels and honey stained wood slat paneling with some sort of hovering, halo like lighting system and white noise coming through the speakers. Man, it was bad, but it was my civic duty.

Ans speaking of civic duty, Tuesday was Election Day. I hope that if you are a registered voter you did vote. You know what they say: thumbs separate us from the other animals, our minds separate us from the apes, and the ability to democratically vote separates us from the Canadians. Or something like that. I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.

I met a fella on Tuesday and he said he was from Virginia and I didn't even wish him a Happy Election Day! What's wrong with me? My mother would be so ashamed. I was out of the area for a week visiting home and I turned back into a Texan, not caring about the tiny slice of the rest of the world that isn't in that state. It was so negligent and rude of me, but I'll take this moment to share Election Day wishes from a show that I've grown to like more, especially recently.

Once again, I can't speak either way about the ad at the front end of this video.

If you didn't vote or aren't registered, you have plenty of time before next November where there will be tons more things and people to vote on.  Its midterms!  Hell yeah!  What, you're NOT excited about that?  Odd.

And remember how we elected that new guy into the White House last year? (No matter how you voted, you voted for a new guy.)  Anyway he's been hosting alot of really sweet events at the White House.  It makes sense, I mean, think about it.  When you get your first big, sweet ass house, what're you gonna do?  Thats right, throw a bunch of big, sweet ass house parties.  And you'll keep throwing bigger and badasser parties until the neighbors finally complain and the cops show up and people scatter and hide in the closets and showers.  Now I'm not saying the White House parties are gonna get that big, but look at it this way, a few weeks ago they had an outdoor rock concert of Latin music!  Thats a helluva White House Party!  I guess its been a gradual progression to get to that point.  Check out this clip from a poetry slam they hosted a while back:

Now that's a sweet party!  I love that Miranda guy!  He's awesome.

That's all for now my friends!  Until next time!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going to a Dinner Party Where Formal Attire and a Single Utensil Are Required?

Here's what you do.  For dress, women should wear a knee length strapless number (if a late fall or winter event, something calf- but not quite ankle-length will do well) that is muted in tone but not too dark.  A colour appropriate for the season, but forgiving enough in case some of the sauce from the entree drips off your utensil en rout to your face (it seems like ALL entrees nowadays have a sauce, best to err on the side of caution).
For men, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT wear a formal white dinner jacket.  I don't care what its called, its just not practical (for one, see the above sauce warning)!  And besides, its out of place unless you're attending a dinner party on a yacht (like P Diddy does here in 2008 for Roberto Cavalli's annual Cannes Yacht Party - he's pictured with the host because he knows the rules);

attending a dinner party at the home of someone in the original Rat Pack; attending a dinner party in some European consulate; attending a dinner party in the White House; attending a dinner party on the set of the AMC show Mad Men (these people followed that rule - but then again, they're the actors);

attending a dinner party in the 1950s; attending a dinner party and you are LITERALLY James Bond (the British spy, not some chump who just lucked into that name - as Sean Connery and Roger Moore, respectively, did when they were themselves that man).

Now, for the single utensil, there are four aspects which need to be taken into consideration.  Because of the (probable) occasion and level of formality called for, you first have to consider the potential elegance of the object (30% of equation).  Portability (22%), practicality (22%), and versatility (26%) are the other necessary considerations.

Now, depending on your age, dexterity, origin, favorite foods and place of residence, your thoughts might first jump to taking Choplery (as pictured below).
I mean, sure, a set of chopsticks is technically a single utensil no matter whether they're married with the amenities of 'Western' cutlery.  They can be considered highly portable if they're not too big to fit the inside breast pocket of a men's jacket or a woman's clutch/handbag.  They can be elegant if of a high quality, non-toxic-coated wood product or done in a stainless steel mirror finish.  And if you chose the cutting Choplery, you can takle the issue of larger-than-bite-size food items.  But its not completely practicle.  What if there is a soup corse (no doubt there will be)?  What if the desert is a custard or a mousse, perhaps a sorbet or an ice cream (this is a formal dinner, not a 7-year old's birthday party).  So, the Choplery loses partially on practicality and almost wholly on versatility.

The best multiple-capability utensil must be uni-, not bi-directional to truly be formal-party-appropriate.  The importance of keeping food off your person cannot be understated - a bi-directional utensil always presents the danger of having an end with messy foodstuff too close to a diner's person and certainly too close to a gentleman's cuff.  So this brings us to the mealtime multi-tasker so many of us were introduced to as children - the spork.

Now, there's two prominent versions of the spork.  There's the utility (or camping) spork:

This version is preferred by those hardcore backpacking types whose meals are likely to be taken sitting on a stump or boulder at the edge of a camp fire and will most like consist of some type of (most likely, lumpy) gruel or the flesh of a caught and/or killed wild animal.

And common spork incarnation #2 is the flimsy piece of plasticware so many of us know so well:

I remember getting these in bagged lunches at the Boys and Girls Club back home.  They came in packets just like the one pictured here.  Except I remember ours having little salt and pepper.  Hopefully Im remembering wrong because those lunches consisted of a fruit punch/juice, a (usually soggy) bologna or ham sandwich, a bag of chips,  and a (usually frozen) fruit cup.  Sometimes we'd put the chips in the sandwich just so it would have some mouthfeel and non-wet bread texture.  The thing about these sporks, though, was that they SUCKED.  You'd use their spikey end to pop through the plastic seal of the fruit cup.  But if you didnt utilize it at the right angle, the handle portion would bend or the spikes would simply not penetrate the thin plastic seal and just bounce off.

As I think I've illustrated, a spork simply cannot be elegant enough for this fancy dinner party.  Besides, there's no good way to cut with a spork, making it weak in the categories of practicality and versatility.

To tackle this conundrum I did a bit of trans-continental research and (from a sampling**) found that (statistically speaking) a staggering one out of two Englishmen - when asked what they would chose were they only allowed use of a single utensil - would use a soup spoon.  A soup spoon!  For a whole meal!  Really, no wonder they [1] lost The Revolution to a bunch of ragtag, but ultimately heroic, settlers; [2] still revere their royalty and pay for their extravagances even though said royalty has no real political power; and [3] democratically elected the now derided Gordon Brown to be their leader (retrospectively speaking, maybe they aren't so ready to be without a ruling monarch).  Here is the documentation of the sampling**:
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The other half of the sampling had an answer that bellied the grit and intelligence of what made Britain so good at Empire (when it was en vogue).  This half knew you needed the basic abilities and ideas that make the spork, but you need a utensil with more class and more cojones.  This half chose THE SPLAYD!
As you can see, the Splayd is effortlessly elegant.  And if you understood its history, you'd understand why the Brits would know so much about this eating device.  It was made in the mid- to late-60s and comes from Australia - making it one of the coolest things to come from the land down under along with pre-Wolverine Hugh Jackman, boomerangs, and Outback Steakhouse.  It takes the idea of a spork (as illustrated in the below diagram from this blog post),

but makes it more practical by giving the ability to cut.

Since this is obviously a gorgeous piece of design and is just as portable as any fork or spoon, the Splayd receives perfect marks in the categories of elegance and portability.  But just as there are inevitable shortcomings in the design and building of multi-use spaces, there are slight shortcomings in this multi-use utensil.  As they say, it can be designed perfectly for a single use or imperfectly for multiple uses.  And according a review of the Splayd (the outcomes are graphically resented here)

it receives pretty good marks for versatility, but gets a not quite stellar mark for practicality.  Though its good for many things, the Splayd is not quite great for enough to make this world single-utensiled (thoug it is your best choice for this dinner party).  You might have to ask your table neighboor if you could use their Choplery or soup spoons when they're done with them.  But a man in a tuxedo or a woman in a dinner dress can often get anything they ask for (just watch the previously mentioned James Bond movie series).

To sum up this essay-length blog post (you're welcome, person who told me I should write longer posts), the Splayd might be good enough to be the only utensil most people need for most of their meals, there's just some foods that a Splayd can't handle.  I have, however, been inspired to want to host a Splayd dinner party one day.  It may or may not be a (semi-)formal event and the menu is a work in progress.  At least that'll ensure another blog post!


**Source of Sampling:
The Bugle: Audio Newspaper for a Visual World
Issue 93 - Oil is Running Out, Bring on the New Stone Age!
By Andy Zaltzman, John Oliver, Tom Wright
From Times Online, October 16, 2009
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sand Art? You’re Damned Right.

In this year’s Ukraine’s Got Talent reality TV competition, a young woman by the name of Kseniya Simonova killed the competition. Her act brought wonder and awe through a hybrid of performance art and an unconventional visual arts technique using her hands, a light box, and sand.

The Guardian, a UK news source, did a write-up about it. But that write-up used a reporting method which is becoming more the norm, but which really gets my goat. Now, how do you know that news sources are relying too heavily on the so-called ‘new social media’ for their content and less on respectable and proven journalistic techniques? When one of them puts out a piece about an artist and her work, and along with a barely passable regular review publishes comments saying that “sand is her bitch” from noted authority Jgoo24, and “I just jizzed in my pants” from art-world luminary deaddevil6. Nice.

But, before we criticize both the sources and content of these critiques, let's at least determine what the subject was of the art they were commenting on (maybe it was Warhol-esque, pop art styling, music and movie diva lips – which might make the comments more appropriate and acceptable). Here’s an excerpt from that Guardian piece:
”Here, she recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the Second World War … a weeping widow …an obelisk for an unknown soldier ... with deft strokes … she moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene ‘you are always near.’”

Oh, ok, there you go. Well done, The Guardian.

Here’s the full write-up.

And in case their embedded video didn’t load up (which happened with me the first time I went to that page), its right here:

As you can see, that Kseniya Simonova lady really does got talent. I wonder, could something so artsy get so far in the American version of that show? Or do we just appreciate dirty joke telling grandmothers a little but more?

Monday, October 19, 2009

It Could Go Either Way...

Last month (September), I was wandering around downtown DC with one of my very good friends.  We walked into one of those 'souvenir shops' that is really just a giant President Obama themed t-shirt outlet.  Seriously, this place was huge (that's a hard 'h' sound, but I'll address that in a future post)!  There's a Safeway Grocery Store in DC (and in this case I apply that label quite liberally) that is smaller than this t-shirt and nick-knack emporium. [see Link: DC Locals' Grocery Feelings ]

Anyway, while perusing their wares, I stumbled across this little diddy:

I'm having a hard time deciding if its a good or bad joke; of it its accidentally, blatantly, or not actually racist.  Does it depend on the wear-er?  On the place and/or situation worn in?  I don't even think I laughed when I first saw this.  I think I just thought, 'Wow, Really?'  Then I whipped out my phone and took a picture.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Setting the Table - Rule 1: No Sporks

Hello Everyone!  Welcome to my blog ‘Bringing the HaHa.’

There’s been a number of moments in my recent past where I thought to myself, and even verbalized to a few people ‘I should really start a blog.’  Usually this occurred after a particularly quirky and/or entertaining dialog, or after an especially impassioned diatribe about/against something (sometimes to someone who didn’t care quite as much as I did but still found my rant enjoyable because sometimes I say things that are funny, though in context), or as I sat alone in my apartment and read/saw/heard something that almost knocked me out of my chair.

People say, the first date will determine the tone for the rest of the relationship, or your first day at work sets the tone for the rest of your career in that office environment, but I don’t buy that.  My first post will not set the tone for the rest of my blog.  To me, its more to metaphorically set the table (thus the title of the post).  As long as its not terrible, I think it will be a successful first post.

I’m 25 a year old resident of the District of Columbia.  I live alone in a none-bedroom studio apartment in view of the Capitol dome.  I’m currently a laid off architect who spends the bulk of his day searching for jobs, gardening, watching C-SPAN, listening to NPR, reading various papers, books, and blogs, exercising, and cooking.  Its an interesting existence that allows surprising happiness.

When I’m not in my apartment, I’m usually out exercising.  Therefore, most of my days are spent in pajama pants, comfy shorts, and t-shirts.  So whenever I go somewhere socially or on errands I get excited and overdress.  I mean, I wear khakis and a sports coat to the grocery store (but I shop in the middle of the day on weekdays because there’s not so much of a crowd).  I feel like the character Marshall in the TV show How I Met Your Mother (awesome show, watch it) when he takes a not ideal job because he wanted “a reason to put pants on in the morning.”  Good times. 

Welcome to the blog.  Let me leave you with belated Holiday wishes in the form of a video (sorry about the ad that is part of the video link - I can speak neither for nor against it).