We've Moved!

Hey all -- so we made the move over to typepad. The new site is up and running, though we'll still be tinkering with some of the archived pages for the next few days. So please reset your bookmarks, subscribe to the new typepad feed, and tell all your friends. We're very excited about the move and the redesign, and hope you guys continue to join us on our snarky, irate, occasionally sincere, but mostly awkward ride.

>>>>>>>>>> probablyawkward.typepad.com

Probably Awkward Goes to Queens on Spring Break

I think the preceding set of photographs from the second annual QBQ BBQ (quality before quantity BBQ) says it all: we came, we ate, we drank overpriced mixed drinks and then free beer, we met Gothamist, and then we left. What I don't think the photographs fully convey, however, is how spring break-like the whole thing was. Probably Awkward, individually or collectively, was never a part of the Cancun or Daytona Beach-going college crowd; P1060713 I can't speak for MD, but every March, I spent my collegiate spring break catching up on reading and/or learning how to drink whiskey like a man. I was at least 1,000 miles away from any sort of bikini-clad-ness and the frosted highlights of entitlement.

And then there we were, at the Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, surrounded by shirtless, cargo shorts-wearing boys and their scantily-clad female counterparts. And everyone was playing beach volleyball. On a strip of sand adjacent to, but not actually touching, the water. Despite the fact that they were all probably out of college (and, we surmised, all currently junior i-bankers), the non QBQ BBQ beachgoers all looked like they were reliving their happiest moments from Cancun 2004.

P1060716 The burger event itself got off to a slow start, but despite the kinks everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. The burger line was long but surprisingly orderly, and a laid-back spirit of shared red-meat-love camaraderie got folks to share tables, hold each other's plahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifces in line, and oooh and aaah every time a new burger creation was unveiled. Of the three burgers voted into the event: pimento, butter, and onion, I have to admit that I was freakishly surprised by how good the pimento was, how terrible the butter turned out to be, and how inoffensive the onion was (I normally can't stand onions -- I know, I know). Despite the foodie squeals of delight as we watched the guy behind the counter use an ice cream scooper to get dollops of butter from a vat of Plugra, the butter burger was just waaaay too much.

[update: We were the first in line for the onion burgers, which again, were tasty but not as spectacular as advertised. After seeing Jason Perlow's pics of the QBQ, it occurs to me that as the line wore on, the grill guys found their rhythm and got the onions properly smushed into the patties (whereas the onions in our burgers were decidedly more separate from their patties). I think I would've swooned over those burgers. Alas! The perils of being first in line!]

Sadly, for an event taking place at the Water Taxi Beach, MD and I were unable to arrive by the Water Taxi itself, no thanks to a un-updated website which failed to inform us that there was no longer weekend service from the Williamsburg dock. But no matter. We got to experience our first Spring Break of sorts, while surviving food coma and witnessing the sunset from an entirely new, slightly surreal location. I slept quite soundly, I have to say. (And yup, that's a plastic, xmas-lighted palm tree in the foreground. Welcome to Queens!)


ps: We've moved - come to our new site at probablyawkward.typepad.com ...


I Drink Alone So You Don't Have To: Marshall Stack

The other night, after a long evening of dealing with computer issues at home, I decided to head out on the late side over to Clandestino, to get out of the house and to clear my head of all technological thoughts/travails. Over a glass of Powers, some of the regulars and I got into a conversation about the neighborhood; the boys were shocked that while I would make the late-nite walk down to Canal to drink at Clando, I had never been to Marshall Stack, a bar only 3 blocks from my apartment. They told me I would love it. I asked if I would get hit on if I showed up alone. "Er... try it anyway!" they said. I promised I would. Two generous pours later, I made my way home and put "Marshall Stack" on my to-try list. The next day I went online to see what this place was all about. And I have to say -- would you go to this bar, based on this photograph (courtesy of the unfortunately-redesigned Citysearch)? Yeah, it looks pretty terrible, right? It just looks like a lot of people milling about, waiting for a drink. I could imagine a photograph of the interior of a bar, showing happy, drunk patrons and not a lot of the actual interiors. I might think: wow, those people look happy and drunk. That must be a good bar. But that photo of Marshall Stack just makes it look like the photographer was trying to take a picture of the lady in white, and at the last second she turned around. And everyone else just looks kind of ... unhappy. But I was determined to make good on my word. And so Wednesday night, I went to Marshall Stack, with hopes of, at the very least, not just ... milling around. A confession, because I'm a terrible liar: I didn't go to Marshall Stack alone. After a satisfying light meal of bratwurst and liverwurst at Loreley, KS and I traipsed over to Allen and Rivington to see what the Clandy fuss was about. Nice lighting, a very long bar, and a lot of small tables along the massive windows. A jukebox with inoffensive songs (so inoffensive that I can't actually remember any of them). And a ladies-night happy hour that included $4 glasses of a weirdly drinkable Sauvignon Blanc. Also weirdly: I didn't actually get a very good picture of the bar myself. But maybe a photograph of KS and one of our accumulating wine glasses might convince you of the bar's charms? The upshot: I would go to Marshall Stack alone, because having now been there, I can see what the nice Clandestino boys were getting at: it's a decent neighborhood spot that is, in fact, open earlier than my beloved c-bar -- and with happy hour specials. It was a Wednesday night, so it was hard to assess how insane the bar might get on the weekends, or around midnight, but we were there till nearly 10, and the noise and crowd levels were completely manageable. One downside: they've got a small food menu, featuring cheese plates and pressed sandwiches. All fine and good, except that the entire place smells of grilled cheese, no matter where you sit; it's one of those savory smells that I'm ok with, but to others it's overwhelming and pungent. Your call. Regardless, I'm pretty sure I could sit in there with a book and not get harassed -- unless it's by a random fellow explaining to me that he hasn't read a book since 1990, in which case it would be sort of charming and innocuous. That said, please leave me to my drinking. [For a more representative photograph of the space, and similar thoughts about the bar's quiet conversation potential, check out this Eater piece.]

Preparing Your Children For A Life of Back Pain and/or Tolstoy

The other day I sent a friend an interesting online article, co-written by an acquaintance, about the nature of religion and the potentially unnecessary role of [a] god in creating the fundament for that faith. [You can read that article here.] Aforementioned friend sent this reply: "thanks for sending over...I've printed it out, and will check it out after about 500 pages more of harry potter. (my own form of religion right now.)"* This exchange occurred a few days after MD and I attended a lovely wedding reception that featured a trivia game that each table could play together as a team, against all the other tables. The questions centered around the bride and groom -- their old jobs, claims to fame, those sorts of things. (And also, not exactly randomly: "What is a kleroterion?") Between me, MD, the groom's old college friends, and our friend the iPhone, Table 8 won soundly. Our prizes? We each got a copy of the new Harry Potter book. I've never read the Harry Potter books. Well, I take that back. I read about 20 pages of the first one, and then got bored, and then stopped. MJP (the bride) had once dragged me to see the first installment of the films, and that was all well and good except that it did nothing to make me want to see the second one. It's just not my thing. I sometimes feel like I'm missing out on the Cultural Phenomenon Of Our Time, but I feel like I already shot myself in the foot just by voluntarily opting out of a life in the city and moving upstate for seven years of doctoral insanity. In any event, the following thought occurred to me this morning: here I am, slowly but surely making my way through William T. Vollmann's Europe Central, a devastatingly wondrous novel about the second World War, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. At nearly 800 pages it's become an ongoing project of sorts, but one that I absolutely love -- the storytelling is full of heartache, breathtaking elegy, humour, and ... telephones. It's amazing. But the thing is, it's taken me, what, six weeks to get through just under 300 pages. And on the subway this morning I saw a woman around my age opening up the new Harry Potter, at around the 2/3 mark -- out of 800-odd pages -- and continue to read. And that came out less than a week ago. I'll admit that there was a moment of defeat that passed before my eyes. I can't seem to get through a book that I clearly am enjoying more than anything else I've read this year. And there everyone else is, speeding along through the heaviest book I've seen in ages. But then I thought: huh. There's a good chance that as I write this, millions of children will be finishing up the book. All 800 pages of it. A testament to quick reading, sure (and it's summertime for them ... oh, how I miss summer vacation!), but when was the last time such a large book got this much attention and was actually read by a fairly sizable part of the population? It's kind of maybe sort of ... awesome, really. Merchandising tie-ins aside, the Harry Potter craze has gotten people to read again. Alone or together. It's created a culture of reading that I don't remember really seeing before. Last night, while waiting for KS at Loreley, I struck up a conversation with two fellows sitting next to me at the bar. One of them saw my open copy of Europe Central, and asked how it was. We started talking about books, and then he admitted that he hadn't read a book since ... 1990. "Loose Balls," he said. "It was about the short-lived ABA, the American Basketball Association. Great book. Haven't read anything since then." I joked to this guy -- married -- that it was a good thing he wasn't trying to pick me up, since the whole "I haven't read a book since 1990" wasn't exactly the sort of thing a girl reading Europe Central would want to hear. My point: it's nice that Harry Potter's getting people to read again. And it's a little sad that one gentleman in the Lower East Side hasn't read a book in over 16 years. And also: I've got a copy of the new Harry Potter book, if anyone wants it. My other point: it's a question, really -- Now that the last Harry Potter book has come out, I know we've got two more of the films to look forward to, but ... What's next? What book/film/idea is going to become entrenched in the collective (un)conscious? And am I going to jump on the bandwagon? (I figure by the time the next cultural phenomenon takes root, I'll be just about done with Europe Central.) And: what's with fantasy? Between the Lord of the Rings films and the Harry Potter multimedia extravaganza, I'm wondering if there's something always already pleasurable about fantasy -- or if we're in a particular Moment, socially, culturally, politically, and/or otherwise, that makes the fantastic so potent. Or is it simpler than that? Is it the celebration of imaginative storytelling, the hearkening back to bedtime stories? And if that's the case, am I just an unimaginative, unloving old fuddy-duddy who insists on living in the real? Man. What's wrong with me? * There was a winky emoticon after his religion quip, and I'm actively refusing to include it.

The Early Morning After

Dear Readers -- I can't guarantee that there won't be an imminent platform change over to Typepad, the land of the user-friendly customizable website, but until I lose my mind again, I (re-)give you the blog, mid-redesign. Please be kind as we go through our growing pains (read: learn the ways of the XML). They don't teach this sort of thing in political philosophy grad seminars!


Housekeeping: Mid-Summer Edition

Probably Awkward will be down this evening from about 9pm-on (EST), so that we can start tweaking with our redesign. With a bit of luck we might even have a new masthead. And possibly be a serif-free blog. A veritable revolution, my friends! Any comments/suggestions/etc are always welcome: probablyawkward [at] gmail [dot] com. (A couple more posts in the meanwhile...)

I Rant Because I Care: Oh Lindsay

Well, to be honest, I don't care that much. I just need a moment here to rant. Lindsay Lohan is neither probable nor awkward. She just sort of ... is. She wreaks havoc on my daily life, because feeds from my Google Reader seem to revel in reporting about the minutiae of her existence, which as far as I can tell involves wearing either unfortunate, loose-fitting tops or equally unfortunate but differently ill-fitting bikinis, and in both instances carrying everything she would put in a purse in her hand while also carrying said purse (which I have to assume is thus either empty or full of whatever it is she supposedly isn't snorting -- but man, have you seen those purses? You could fit small children in there, which maybe she's doing since she's carrying a redbull, blackberry, keys, and a wallet all in her hands, as if to prove what? That she's a hydrated, moneyed, cellularly-connected person who hasn't locked her keys in her car?). Inbetween my morning bagel and reworking any number of memos about [redacted], Lindsay Lohan finds her way into my pre-noon Google Readering, and now that she's up and gotten herself arrested (again), there's really no end in sight. Is her level of intoxication directly proportional to her overexposure? Unlike Britney Spears, who has become the trainwreck that we're all starting to watch with weird empathetic horror, hoping that somehow her ongoing derailment will magically put her back on the path to tight abs and common sense, Ms Lohan is somehow always-already an object lesson in crashing and burning. Paris Hilton will just keep chugging along until she just ends up looking like her mother, which I think will happen a great deal sooner than later -- but it doesn't matter, because as much as I despise her, I have to admit that Paris is one savvy lady. But Lindsay -- I mean, I'm having a hard time imagining her seeing 25. And she just turned 21, what, a week ago? Maybe she'll pull a Drew Barrymore and get her shit together (and hopefully not have to marry Tom Green, however briefly) and then eventually date (and dump) a Stroke, and then maybe be seen around town smooching Spike Jonze. Maybe. But I really think she just needs to buy a ranch in, say, Alberta, Canada, and just hide from the public eye for a good 10 years or so. I don't know what it says about me, or her, or the media, that I can imagine taking her more seriously as a cattle rancher than as a 21 year old bikini-clad, peace-signing rehabber with an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet (sigh. oh dear me). That's all. I feel much better now. Thanks, everyone.


MD & HT's Excellent Wedding Adventure: Mid-Atlantic Driving

Last weekend, HT and I embarked upon a trip to our friend MJP's wedding in rural Maryland. No combination of plane, train, and cab could get us to the event so we decided to rent a car, an easy proposition in theory but deceptively hard in practice. First, HT schemed that we could take a chinatown bus to Baltimore on Saturday, walk a mile along a highway and below a scary underpass dragging our suitcases behind us to arrive at the rental car location. We would then drive a half hour to the wedding and return the car the following day, drag our suitcases back to the bus depot and return home. Not the most convenient plan, but one that would work. However it turns out all car rental locations in Baltimore are closed on Sunday except at the airport. G-d said Sunday was the day of rest and Hertz was not about to interfere with his divine plan. Then HT proposes we go to Newark and get a car there. I share my experience of being quoted one price on Travelocity and then showing up at Newark airport with an NYC driver's license and being told the rate was significantly higher because of the dangers of city-driving... even though I was driving into pastoral upstate new york and not the wilds of Brooklyn. HT checks, this is true, and we contemplate our next move. When all seems lost HT comes up with a brilliant idea: Greyhound roundtrip ($20) to Philadelphia. An 8 block walk to Enterprise. A 2 and a half hour drive to Maryland. The trip to Philly is without incident despite the long line for the bus. We are separated for most of the trip but eventually my seatmate (a lovely older lady who enjoys mysteries) gets off and we are reunited. When we made the reservation, HT had said:

i had originally picked a compact car, as opposed to an economy one, because i think i have an apocalyptic/cognitive aversion to the notion of an econo car. it's the same price.
I say to her now, "You just know we're going to get upgraded to a PT Cruiser." This has happened to everyone I know. Did the rental car agencies buy all of these monstrosities after the trend ended and no one renewed their leases? We arrive at the Enterprise and after a long wait are told it's our lucky day. Our compact car is going to be upgraded FOR FREE to a lovely... PT Cruiser. Or for $10 more we can get a compact SUV or a Prius. HT and I look at each other and attempt to decide what kind of douche we really are: The sanctimonious, "environmentally-friendly brand" kind OR the soccer mom in training. "We'll take the Prius." The man behind the counter says "It's a really cool car. Very different. I'll have to teach you how to start it. So you're in town for the night -- where are you going to be going?" On the reservation it says we have unlimited mileage east of the Mississippi but I get nervous and blurt: "We're not really sure... depending on what happens we might stick around town or maybe head down to Maryland." He adds Maryland to the contract and takes us to the car. It takes him about five minutes to teach HT the process. The key fob IS the key and get shoved in a special slot. Then you hit the round power button. Then the rectangular park indicator. Then you slide the "shift lever" backward to put the car in drive and of course, forward to put it in reverse. Then the lever reverts to the neutral position. The car is absolutely silent throughout. I feel like I am in the future and half expect the car to begin levitating above the ground.We begin wooshing through the streets and onto the highway and three things quickly become apparent. 1.) We are driving through a Photoshopped image. The sky is too blue, the clouds too fluffy, and all the grass too green. The day is almost too perfect to be believed. 2.) We don't know how to work the car. It takes five minutes navigating the submenus of the control panel to get the AC on, and another five to get music playing. (See upcoming essay "Information Overload: The Prius Dashboard as Failure of 21st Century Warfare.") 3.) Mid-Atlantic Drivers suck. Or more accurately, Mid-Atlantic driving sucks. The lanes are poorly marked, making every toll plaza an exercise in frustration as drivers skip between rows trying to find the EZPASS lane. There are many exits on the left, so there is no clear lane for speeding. The left lane is as slow as the right and many drivers stick to the middle using cruise control, therefore becoming little roadblocks to the flow of traffic and sometimes two or three will end up abreast creating a temporary log jam. I began to feel like we were playing Frogger -- weaving in between hazards and finding the gaps that would get us to our goal. After passing by porn stores located across the street from Christian bookstores and huge sculptures of dragons, kings and castles, we arrived at the Forest Motel where we learned smoking rooms are not a thing of the past. To Be Continued...

Random: What's Wrong With This Photo?

One of the nicer/better/funnier parts of the trip was the fact that, slightly inexplicably, MD and I ended up with a Toyota Prius -- yup, the famed hybrid -- as our rental car. MD will wax poetic and weird about the drive, but I'll just mention here that on the drive back, we decided to listen to the radio; to our amusement, we appeared to have one of those satellite radio things that displayed the names of the songs as they played, as well as the type of radio station (rock, r&b, easy listening, info, miscellaneous, and i think classical). Now that you have some context, can anyone explain this to us?

This Week in Kerfuffle: The Faith Hill / Redbook Controversy

I'm still recovering from a weekend of dealing with The Drivers of the Mid-Atlantic Region, consuming questionably-named alcoholic beverages served in a weirdly-lit Korean karaoke bar and pool hall, scaring small children and the entirety of the bridal party by wrapping my legs around MD's torso during a particularly rousing dance/grind moment at the wedding, and did I already mention the Screwy Slut? So it's no surprise that I completely missed this brouhaha surrounding this month's Redbook cover photo of Faith Hill. Apparently the folks over at Jezebel obtained a pre-retouched copy of said cover photo of Little Miss Sunshine, and well ... yeah. You should check out the before/after thing they've got over at Jezebel, which shows in pretty plain detail how Photoshop -- our second favorite magician* -- appears to have shaved off 5 inches from her waist, thighs, and arms. Jezebel's got a handful of stellar moments of snark, with links available from this post here. The big kerfuffle happened today, when the Today show ran a segment on the whole matter, and even featured a roundtable discussion with their resident psychologist as well as the editor of Men's Health, where they all waxed annoying about how the media does this/that/the other in perpetuating problematic, idealized bodies as the norm to which we need to adhere (or for which we need to diet/starve/retch/etc). During the segment, Redbook editor Stacy Morrison stood her ground, saying that "In the end, they're not really photographs. They're images." One can go in so many different directions with this statement, and with the controversy in general. I feel like we all know the general critique of media/industry/etc. And if you watch the Today segment via Jezebel, you can maybe laugh at Men's Health editor David Zinczenko justifying what they do over there (basically, real men like cover models in t-shirts, and so that's all they do! Men in t-shirts! Who needs to photoshop when you have real-esque men wearing t-shirts! Christ. Whatever). No, I'm actually curious here about this notion of image. I don't think it necessarily has to do simply with new digital technologies. I mean, take a look at this photo: It's a photograph taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady during the American Civil War. While it does really show dead Confederate soldiers following a battle, it fails to acknowledge (well, how could it?) that the bodies have been moved so that they appear closer together, that the photograph has been staged. Does this constitute an image? Or is it still a photograph? Or how about these? The photograph on the left features Stalin with Soviet Commissar Nikolai Yezhov; the one on the right was retouched after Yezhov fell out of favor and was executed in 1940. Is the one on the left a photograph and the one on the right an image? Does a photograph carry some kind of inherent truth-value? Is an image always already manipulated -- or at least carry with it a skepticism about its location within 'reality'? In a previous post I discussed the collective cognitive weirdness engendered by the photoshop revolution. We have every reason to be skeptical of what we see. But this strange question of photograph or image has me a bit perplexed -- though I'm having some post-weekend-related problems really processing this fully. Is there some kind of grand theory to be generated here about the reproducibility of the photograph already carrying the seeds of its potential falsity? Or: can we say that a photograph, regardless of its Historical Moment, captures time, while an image captures what we'd like History to be? If the latter is the case (and I'm open to suggestions/criticisms/disappointed head-shaking), then what sort of History is that image of Faith Hill suggesting? Or what kind of History is Faith Hill being inscribed into? It's an image about image, sure, if we're talking about our manic obsession about bodies and appearance and our fear of aging and time as our ultimate enemy. But maybe this particular History is also about the falling away of -- for lack of a better word, and many apologies -- authenticity, or at least the desire for it. I mean, History has never necessarily been about the truth; but in a moment where one can argue that a photograph is not a photograph but an image, I wonder if we've lost our ability to construct even mildly plausible narratives about our trajectory. I mean, what sorts of visual documentation would/could we show for ourselves? Is a faux-skinny Faith Hill what we're going to leave behind as a part of our visual detritus? We've lost Commissar Yezhov, but we're keeping the peppy country singer? Great. * This man is, of course, our favorite magician. C'mon!


MD & HT's Excellent Wedding Adventure: Teaser Trailer

This: Led to this: And discussions about the following topics:

  • Is a nice East Coaster the same as a West Coat douche?
  • What's in a screwy slut?
  • Why are people so wrong? Is it because they think they're so right?
  • Don't get me wrong... I'd live on sweetbreads if it was an option, but why in G-d's name would anyone eat scrapple?
  • What passes for a public intellectual in 21st century America?
  • Don't you think giant robots would love to parkour along that overpass?
More to follow tonight and in the remainder of the week. If anyone has a photo of me and HT dirty dancing to Sexy Back, can you please forward it along? [ht adds: I'm not a vain person, but I'd like to point out that I'm infinitely more attractive than that 'zombie diner' photo suggests. Honest. I'm even drinking decaf in that photo!]

Meet Your Blogger: Mid-Atlantic Edition

md | the continental | philadelphia, 22 july 2007 Oh, but let's start at the beginning, shall we? Upcoming: our crazy weekend away from the city.
[md: I can assure you any activities between me and the plush frog were entirely consensual.]


My dog ate my blog entry OR what I did this week

Last week I tried to change us into a filter blog. This week, I move to a LiveJournal style I didn't post this week, despite having the best of intentions and a half-written entry about my beautiful d40x. These are the things that sabotaged me: Friday the 13th: The roofie bartender at Urge (my homolocal) got me really drunk before I met up with AH, resulting in a one-ended fight, at least until I passed out. Saturday the 14th: We made up. Numerous times. Then I went home to discover they were tearing the bricks off my building to create a "brownstone" and that we would be woken up early for construction for the next month. Later, I wrote about the amazing Benjamin Tiven while AH slept. Sunday the 15th Exhausted from the last two days, I went to bed early, but then woke up every hour due to construction stress and the fact that on ... ...Monday the 16th I had an early morning meeting scheduled to discover if I would still have a job after my project term ended at the end of August. The meeting is cancelled but I discover I MIGHT be moving into a senior position involving extensive travel and tripled responsibilities. Then I end up at a party for AH's roommate and don't get to sleep until 2. Tuesday the 17th I am not sure what happened this day. I was asleep but moving. Wednesday the 18th Manhattan explodes and I have 9/11 flashbacks as I am texted, IMed, and called with conflicting reports and care for my threatened well-being. Thursday the 19th I learn I DO have a job, salary and title TBD, and a lot more work. So I buy an iPhone to celebrate and vanish into its tiny beautiful screen. And then my roommate tells me he wants me out by September 1 so he can move his best friend in. Friday the 20th I wake up every hour on the hour worrying about housing. NOW I publicly apologize. Mea Culpa. Next week, I'll be prolific. I swear.

Thriller, or: I Don't Know What To File This Under

We're not a filter blog, but I feel a strong need to pass along this video to our readers. It features the inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines reenacting the video for Michael Jackson's Thriller. I want to write something really meaningful here about Foucault and the nature of surveillance and governmentality, and possibly something about the discourse of the body as it moves through confined spaces, and maybe also something about how I've recently been reading stuff about mass parades in the Stalin-era Soviet Union and present day North Korea, and how that seems to inform a particularly strange reading of the video at hand. But really, when it comes down to it, the intersection of amusement and horror in my nervous laughter as I watched the video pretty much sums it up. update: These guys do this sort of thing quite a bit. Hmmm. [thanks to Boing Boing for the link.]


That Which Does Not Kill Me: Deep Fried Mac n Cheese

Between recent forays into the pork-permeated Momofuku universe, a profoundly unhealthy interest in bone-dry southern Italian white wines, the lack of a gym membership, and the absence of any willpower when it comes to the mushroom pizza at Rosario's, there's a good chance I won't live to see 34. And when you get to that point in your life where you realize that you might as well just stop trying to be healthy, you also then come to the conclusion that there's no point in avoiding deep fried macaroni and cheese. Really. Just give into it. You'll feel a lot better. I mean, it's a thought I've had for a long time now: who in the carnivorous, lactose-tolerant (or, like me, lactose-intolerance-be-damned) universe wouldn't love to consume a ball of mac n cheese, breaded and then deep fried? Add to that a piece of smoked kielbasa in the center, and you've got yourself an updated version of the mac n cheese n franks one would often find in elementary school cafeterias. An updated version for the glutton in all of us. Made by yours truly. Sadly, yours truly has a kitchen the size of an armchair a folding chair, and I woefully lack a deep fryer. So KS proposed that until I was blessed with a dream kitchen and fryolator, we head out into the city to try other places' take on this concept. (Sadly, too, I am not the only one with this wondrous idea.) And so this past weekend, and for a wee bit of the other evening, we crafted almost entire meals around deep fried mac n cheese. And lived to tell the tale. First up: Supermac. A wee little place in the fashion district that specializes in macaroni and cheese (including a lobster thermidor version...!), Supermac was unfortunately out of their mac n cheese nuggets the day we visited. We consoled ourselves by ordering a couple versions of their regular mac n cheese: a traditional one with American and cheddar, and a 4-cheese one with cheddar, asiago, mozzarella, and parmesiano-reggiano. The four cheese one rocked -- nice texture, with really good tang from the cheese combination (it's the one further away in the photograph on the left). Up next: after downing a couple pint glasses of sangria, we headed over to Mo Pitkins, based on a tip from gridskipper, where there had been photographic evidence of a deep fried mac and cheese loaf. On the walk over there, I may have said something to the effect of "It seems to me that the loaf, qua loaf...." I actually don't remember how I finished that sentence because KS started cracking up. Qua. It's the only bit of latin I know how to use in a sentence. Anyhow: the loaf. Insane. I mean, look at the knife that accompanied it. And the crazy cheese sauce. It was spectacular. The sauce kept the whole thing from drying out, and the breading was crisp and light (as light as deep fried anything can be). The mac and cheese itself was pretty standard -- nothing very fancy, but in that sense quite good: nothing to distract you from the deep fried mac n cheese qua deep fried mac n cheese. Having hit the proverbial wall that evening, we waited a couple of days before trying out purveyor no.3: Bamn!, the automat place over on St. Marks near 2nd avenue. The whole automat thing was sort of fun, but I suspect I'd have to be considerably more intoxicated for the whole thing to be the kind of pleasure I think it's supposed to be. In any event, their mac n cheese krokets (their spelling) were a far cry from Mo Pitkins' cheese extravaganza, but seemed to work pretty well as an inbetween sort of thing. And not so bad, having emerged from the depths of an automat. The mac n cheese was bit more straightforwardly Kraft-esque, and there was something comforting about that. The outer coating could've use a little something extra -- pepper or a touch of cayenne, maybe? -- but again, for an automat, pretty solid fare. (I'd like to add, as an aside, that we followed this up with automat-generated chicken fingers, and then some Chicken Stroganoff at Cafe Anyway. One day my metabolism is going to catch up with my gluttony, and that's going to be a very sad day.) The verdict: good stuff, but not quite what I had envisioned. I sort of think that my version would blow these other guys out of the water. Now will someone please build me my dream kitchen so I can show this city what's what?


The Quirk: Late Night Edition

TK: Do you like Lavender Diamond? HT: Do you read my blog? TK: [laughs] Was there some sort of Miranda July / Becky Stark joint post? HT: Yeah! TK: You really ought to watch "Open Your Heart." Because it will. HT: [uncontrollable laughter] TK: [after we find the video on YouTube] Did that video affect you in any way? HT: Yeah. I definitely have to blog about this now.

Questionable: Pizza Hut in Japan

Apparently it's called the Double Roll Pizza. I can't even begin to parse out my feelings about this ... thing. [thanks to Slice for the link.]

The Quirk: Slowing Building A Media Empire

Yesterday while I was home sick, nursing a case of exhaustion and general malaise, I thought to myself: I haven't heard a peep from Miranda or Zooey. I wonder what they're up to. And then I got mired in rental car hell, and promptly forgot about the quirk incarnates. And later, after fulfilling my scenester quota for the year by attending what turned out to be a sold-out show for the Next Big Swedish Sensation*, I saw someone dip (yes, tobacco) for the first time (my first time seeing; definitely not his first time dipping). Pretty easy for the quirk to get obscured, what with general sensory overload and confusion. And it was only Tuesday, no less. Wednesday is a new day, and with it comes a whole new set of things to check out via my wonderful and time-sucking Google Reader. And it was through the wonders of said Reader that I came across news that there will be a six-hour miniseries this fall on the SciFi Channel, updating The Wizard of Oz. Entitled Tin Man, the show features Alan Cumming as the Scarecrow, Ricahrd Dreyfuss (?!) as the Wizard-esque "Mystic Man," and none other than our own Zooey Deschanel as Dorothy. Sigh. I mean, I guess if you've got a character who's sort of cute, innocent, wide-eyed, gently feisty, but speaks in simple sentences, and is just an all-around darling, you'd pick this person: [That's our Zooey, at the press conference thingy promoting the show. Isn't she adorable?!] And then embedded in the article about Tin Man was a link that led me to this slightly unnerving bit of news: There's some new movie coming out, The Go-Getter, starring our dear Zooey, with original songs by M.Ward. And -- AND -- there's a duet! Zooey and M.Ward! I can barely contain my ire! You can click on the link to the movie's myspace page to check out the song -- which I'll freely admit to not having heard yet, since the myspace player doesn't seem to want to work for me right now. Could somebody please tell us what it sounds like? [Update: You can also find it here. (Thanks, MD.) And .... yeah. That's all I'm going to say about it: yeaaaaaaaah.] To be sure, the song might be really wonderful. [update: it's not.] It's M.Ward, after all. He does nice things with sounds. [update: not here. sorry! only just now discovered that it's a cover of a Linda and Richard Thompson song. still, not good sounds coming out of the quirk/ward.] But between this miniseries and the song, I feel like there are fewer spaces I can retreat to, to escape the quirk. I used to be able to avoid its cultural ubiquity by staying in, not walking around the streets of New York, and just watching television. Now I'm going to start seeing commercials for this blasted Tin Man, and I bet that the trailers for The Go-Getter are going to feature that duet. I mean, it's like the phenomenon is actually taking over all media, slowly but surely. It's making every effort to never be obscured. And it's working. Having incurred the wide-eyed charmingly-inarticulatable wrath of the quirk, I expect to hear about some new Miranda July Old Tyme radio hour any day now. * To be discussed in our upcoming Music Week. Suffice it to say, it was a little terrifying.


I Rant Because I Care: Rental Car Companies

This weekend, MD and I will be attending the wedding of our friend MJP, who will be marrying DB, her fella of many years. Besides being a pretty great guy, DB also happens to have been one of my students the first time I was a graduate teaching assistant, and the only student I've ever failed. (Oh how we laugh about it now!) Anyhow, MD and I need a way to get down to western Howard County, Maryland. Both of us are loathe to drive in or out of New York City, and are looking to keep the transportation costs low. So we thought we'd take the bus down to Baltimore on Saturday, and from there rent a car and drive the 30 miles or so to the farm where the wedding will be held. Sounded easy enough. So today when I finally got around to telephoning rental car places to secure a vehicle, I hit a stumbling block of sorts. HT: I'd like to rent a car for Saturday. I need to return it Sunday. Rental Car Man (RCM): We're not open on Sundays. HT: I can't drop it off? RCM: Nope. You'll have to drop it off on Monday. HT: I sort of need to ... um ... i can't drop it off on Monday. I need to leave Baltimore on Sunday. Um... RCM: Well maybe we can help you. Do you have a major credit card and full auto insurance coverage? HT: Excuse me? RCM: Credit card and full auto insurance coverage? HT: I have a credit card. And ... uh ... if I had full auto insurance coverage, I'd probably also have a car, no? I don't understand. RCM: Well then we can't help you. First of all, I don't understand how you can be a rental car agency and close on Sundays. Apparently this is standard practice for rental car agencies (or their branches) that aren't located at airports. How the hell do you return a car if you need to leave on a Sunday? Is this some sort of national law? No car drop offs on the Lord's day? Secondly, .... yeah. I can't even rant properly. I can't believe Enterprise Rent-a- Car has rendered me speechless. Because it's insanely expensive to rent a car in the New York metro area (which includes Newark), MD and I are resorting to this cockamamie plan: we're taking the bus down to Philly, and renting a car from there. No joke. At least we'll be able to hit a Sonic on the way down now. Gotta get me some Frito Pie Burrito!

Which Of These Buildings Is Not Like the Others?

Down on Avenue B, Saturday afternoon.


Malaysian Blogger Nathaniel Tan Arrested

On Friday 13 July, Malaysian blogger Nathaniel Tan (jelas.info, suarakeadilan.com, bangkit.net) was arrested by authorities there. He is currently under remand while police conduct an investigation into his alleged violation of section 8 of the Official Secrets Act, which pertains to "wrongful communication, etc. of [an] official secret." Tan and another blogger had posted a digitally manipulated photo of the Deputy Prime Minister dining with a Mongolian murder victim. It is unclear at this point whether Tan has been granted access to legal counsel; according to those who have been able to speak with him when he appeared in court, he has not been given clean drinking water. Tan is widely considered to be a prominent online voice in Malaysia; one of his sites, bangkit.net, is a portal for Malaysian civil society groups. According to provisions within the Malaysian Multimedia Bill of Guarantees, the government is not allowed to censor the Internet; Tan's arrest reflects the government's increasing resistance to that freedom of speech. Supporters have been asked to post this image of Nathaniel Tan on their blogs. We here at probably awkward ask any and all of our blog-writing readers to pass this along on their own sites. more info about Tan's detainment here and here.

Monday Morning Rhapsodic: Veronica

This weekend's NY Times Sunday Styles' "A Night Out With" column featured a profile of the band Spoon, a band I'll readily admit to knowing next to nothing about, except that I'm supposed to like them a lot, and that a lot of people I know love them. I am, however, familiar with frontman Britt Daniel's winning good looks, and even though I've heard very little of their music, every picture of Daniels causes me to rethink that indie rock lacuna in my life. He is an attractive man, I'll give you that -- a welcome addition to the Army of the Weak-Chinned.* Reading the profile reminded me of Daniel's cameo on Veronica Mars in season two. In it, he does a very charming karaoke version of Elvis Costello's sort-of hit, Veronica, from his 1989 album Spike. [You can watch a clip of that cameo here.] And that got me thinking about the original song and its accompanying video, which I hadn't heard nor seen in quite some time. Thanks to iTunes and youtube, both the audio and video are back in my life, and for that I am eternally grateful: Veronica is a tremendous little song,** and the video is really something else. Co-written with Paul McCartney, the song is about Costello's ailing grandmother as she was slipping further into Alzheimer's disease. It's a sweet, poignant song about memory and time, and a little bit about love, and maybe also just a wee bit elegiac. It's also incredibly catchy, with great harmonies, which I think says a lot about Costello's genius*** -- you're singing along to a pretty bittersweet song about senility. The video adds another dimension to this: on the one hand, it's a fairly literal interpretation of the song itself, a straightforward glimpse into memory, and the effects of Alzheimer's on how we remember the past. But then you've got Costello sitting in an empty room, talking about his grandmother, and as the song plays you can hear his voice quietly singing along, over the tape playback. And there's something about the whole thing that ... I dunno. It's really touching without being schmaltzy. I'll confess to getting a little teary when I saw the video again. That's all I got for you. No funny, quippy ending. Just watch the video, I guess. It's good stuff. * Crack open a nice bottle of Greco di Tufo with me and I'll explain. ** Possibly even better is the demo version of the song, which is available on the deluxe edition of Spike. Stripped down to guitar, piano, and vocals, Veronica becomes that much more sparse and elegant, without losing any of its poppiness. I can't seem to locate any version readily available online, except ... erm ... here. (The visuals are a little distracting, no matter how cute you think Kristin Bell is.) *** There are lots of folks out there who think of themselves as true and proper Elvis Costello fans, and who insist that he's done nothing good since 1979's Armed Forces. To be sure, it's a spectacular album, but I'm a bit more generous about the Costello oeuvre, and think that his genius started to slip around the time that he and Diana Krall got together, when he started getting super-sentimental, and not in a nuanced, Veronica-esque way. I am not the only one who thinks this.


Photo Week: Where We Go To Stare

There are all sorts of places online that feed our ocularcentrism. Here are our favorites: [ht] * Tastespotting. A compilation of food porn, submitted by amateur photogs (with links back to their own blogs/sites). * Runs With Scissors' Looking Through and Back set on Flickr. Some great, oldskool pics of life in NYC. * nikolai_g's spacetime set on Flickr. Lovely pinhole photography that never fails to make me sigh. * The Lomographic World Archive site. Lomo cameras produce some of the most amazing photos I've ever seen. The color/light variations are otherworldly. (I gotta get me a Lomo!) [md] I am so predictable (ruins, ruins, ruins): * Dead Machinery * Urban Decay * Rural Ruin * My friend Matt's travel photography (links forthcoming) ["old columns" photo taken by Grant Edwards, from the Lomographic World Archive site (id no.70043994)]

Photo Week: Pretty Persuasion (aka the Photoshop Post)

Several years ago, I was a research assistant for a professor of American political economic history who was working on a manuscript about the 1896 Democratic National Convention. My job was to retouch a number of cartoons that appeared in newspapers at the time; scanned from microfilm, the images were dirty and inky, and so I had to clean them up by removing errant pixels -- and sometimes fill in the blanks. The scanning sometimes failed to pick up the outline of an important face; at other times, the professor wanted me to highlight parts of the cartoon that might otherwise have been obscured: that is, I sometimes had to exaggerate a face, or a building, or the presence of a bag of silver coins (it was an interesting moment in American monetary history, with myriad debates about whether gold, silver, or greenbacks should be the national currency. Fascinating stuff! Erm. Anyway....). Long story short: lots of photoshopping. The ethical questions of image manipulation in an ostensibly scholarly, historical text aside (that would require its own full week of rumination and blogging), working with photoshop for a year and a half made me a little pixel-crazy. I'd dream about using the photoshop eraser function on people. Seriously: everything started to feel like it could be reduced to -- and reconfigured by -- its constitutive pixels. I started to see everything as a possible jpeg file. It was weird. And then recently, these vacation photos entered into my life. [Click to enlarge] Reportedly taken on Whidbey Island (in Puget Sound, north of Seattle) and Bryce Canyon in Utah, I seriously thought that these photos were taken of perfectly reasonable, nice human beings standing in front of gigantic backdrops of those locations. Seriously. Look at them. I mean, I had received an email from my father shortly after he, my mother, and various aunts, uncles, and cousins had gone on this slightly oddball trip to Utah (if you know my family, you know that we do not travel well together, and not in a quirky Little Miss Sunshine sort of way); in his message, my father said something that set off various alarms, and which prompted the presumption of photo manipulation: We went on a hike. Er. Right. The mental image of my mother hiking is nearly as ludicrous as this "actual" image of her standing near the edge of the canyon that she reportedly hiked into. There's something about the way the flash is hitting her face, and the weird flatness of the canyons behind her, that scream Gift Shop to me. And as for AH, posing serenely somewhere on Whidbey Island -- the thing is, I know that he and MD actually went there. Or at least they say they did. There's a whole set of photos from the wedding they went to. And yet ... doesn't he look like he's about 100 miles away from whatever that lake/mountain scene is? Like maybe it's a bluescreen? [I am reminded, sort of stupidly, of Lost, specifically of that photograph of Desmond and Penny, where for an entire season we're led to believe that they were at some marina or harbor, when in fact the photo was taken in London, in front of a photographer's backdrop, and then we find out that it's taken moments before Desmond breaks up with Penny, and so the photo has poignancy beyond its locational fakery, and christ, anyway.....] There's also this photo on the right here, of our intrepid co-blogger, also presumably somewhere in the Puget Sound region. See what I mean? In this photo, it looks less like he's standing in front of a backdrop, but rather actually photoshopped into a real landscape. If not for the slight shadow to his left (indicating... just past noon?), I wouldn't have believed that our friend had actually left the comforting environs of his metropolis. I have no understanding of the technical explanations for why photos that aren't actually photoshopped end up looking like they were. [You can read here to learn how to check for actually photoshopped images.] But I am fascinated by this cultural moment in which, thanks to "advances in technology," we tend to assume that any photo we see has most likely been retouched one way or another. This has partly to do with our nearly hysterical interest in celebrity and its attendant proliferation of image as icon as image ad infinitum, but is related more to what I'm going to assume is a general malaise and/or beleaguered cynicism about what constitutes "the truth" these days. [It's not for nothing that Truthiness has so much currency.] We've become a society of doubters. The photos and images on probably awkward (both original and swiped) have occasionally been edited for cropping, lighting, and white balance. And the sometimes-necessary black bar over the eyes, to protect the innocent. But nothing else. I'd like to think that the intersection -- the dialectic, if you will* -- between text and image in probably awkward produces an effect whereby one medium illustrates the other, and that that interplay privileges neither text nor image. The images here are as important, as thought out, as the text, and in that sense we feel no compulsion to perform any funny/funky manipulation of the images; they should speak for themselves. We don't present photoshopped images without calling attention to their photoshoppedness. It's our job here to do the doubting (we've got skepticism in spades!) -- but in that doubting, we're also trying to get closer to something more honest, more aware. I don't know what it means then, when the devices we rely on to accurately capture our experiences begin to make those memories of real events appear constructed or false. I mean, it's good to question things; but sometimes it'd be nice to you know, not have to. My mother insists that she went on that hike, and that she got mild heat stroke from it. It's a sorry state of affairs that even with that photograph as evidence, I'll probably never believe her. Oh, Photoshop: ruining family relations one image at a time. *Tongue-in-cheek, folks.

Photo Week: Mystery!

I took this photo yesterday at the Sixth Street Community Garden, at 6th and Avenue B. I quite like it. I have no idea what kind of plant it is. Can anyone help me?


Photo Week Profile: Benjamin Tiven

I must preface this profile by saying I began writing this before reading HT's profile of Jason Oddy and decided I ought to read it before posting to ensure some sort of continuity of tone. I was struck by the similarity in subject matter but shocking difference in the reaction each evoked. When viewing the world through the lens of Benjamin Tiven, I see a world where chaos has resolved into symmetry, decay and motion has been halted, and absence no longer signifies loss. He chooses subjects (abandoned islands, forgotten fields and factories, ruins overlooking the sea) which once held life but now are still and empty. Despite this, there is not a sense of loss; the photos are at once elegiac and joyful. There is a sense that Tiven has not lost anything but has found an oasis of stillness. It is the world after Rapture -- Time has stopped, everyone has left, and Tiven has inherited the Earth. However, the photgrapher, meek, is also absent. When I view this images my mind knows that some agent shot these photos, stood in these structures, and strode on these fields. But the silence and stillness is so complete that these obvious, logical facts become unbelievable. The quiet is so absolute it seems impossible that it has been or ever will be disturbed. Tiven creates a Utopia for the agoraphobe and some hope that a world without us might not be such a bad world after all.

But more than any of this, I love these images because of how they make me feel. There is something about them that evokes a nostalgia for my rural youth, the art I tried to make in college, and inexplicably, math rock and hardcore. I see them and I hear "How Nothing Feels" and feel a longing to visit this world, if only for one frozen moment. But to invade this space would be to destroy it and in knowing that, I know loss. If anyone would like to start a "Buy MD the Governors Island series" fund, I certainly wouldn't stop you either. [check out Benjamin Tiven's work here.]


Photo Week: Meet Your Blogger (II)

ht, by md. clandestino | 12 july 2007.

Don't Act Like You Think You Can Dance

I sometimes watch So You Think You Can Dance with my roommate. It is always a mistake -- I can't get through an episode without railing against their perversion of my favorite performance art. But this post is not about how crass or banal the choreography is, or the disservice done to a generation of movement artists by enforcing narrativity on something purer and more primal. Their insistence that dance must "tell a story" betrays the ability of dance to show a feeling, underline a concept or deconstruct the discourse of bodies and space. But this is not about that or the linked insistence for all dance to be heterosexual duets, with an insistence on the gender norms and "chemistry." Their "dance" is really porn for tweens, a desexualized, defanged, societally-appropriate erotic moment. The underlying "story" here being one of adherence to classical forms of dance and relationship, resolving in marriage and waltzes. But I will also let that slide, like Shauna through the legs of Cedric in the Mambo.

This post is about Adam Shankman, Ayn Rand, and arrogance. Danny and Anya both do amazing physical performances to a "Contemporary" piece set to a not very good hiphop song about relationships ending. Danny jumps through the air with a freedom that suggest he was meant to fly, not walk. Anya shows precise control of her every motion. The flaw in the performance was its "story" -- the nature of the piece is separation, which eliminates any chance at the chemistry the judges fetishize and at the end Danny pushes Anya away and walks off, a crude, unsubtle ending to what was an otherwise impressive performance. Adam Shankman (a guest judge to pimp his remake of Hairspray) who has gushed about every other dancer so far says to Danny "Your performance was arrogant. You dance as if you've already won the competition." The other dancers pander. They make exaggerated comical expressions, give Bob Fosse spirit fingers and do everything but wink at the audience. Danny moves with grace and precision and has a look of pride. He knows what his body can do and is impressed with its strength and himself for realizing its potential. To quote Ayn Rand [I left my Fountainhead at home! Will add! Sorry!]. When I one day create the Broadway adaptation, he will be in the running for my Howard Roark. Danny's crime, like Icarus's, was to fly (literally) too close to the sun. Is this hubris or a call to all of us to realize our potential? Watch below and see if you think Danny deserves to value his achievements:

Photo Week: Meet Your Blogger

md, by ht. clandestino | 12 july 2007.


Why I Photograph Food: or, A Paean To Pork Belly

Readers of probably awkward might have noticed that we revel in food consumption. It doesn’t have to be Burger Night for MD and me to talk/IM/email about places we want to try out, places we need to go back to, or even just random links to bigger/better/weirder ways to consume pork products. I can’t speak for MD, but I’ll confess that I think about food constantly. Around 9am I think about where I might have lunch (if it’s a weekday, most likely somewhere terrible and chain-like; I work next to Port Authority); by 3pm on any given day I know what I’m doing for dinner. And it’s generally not about hunger. It’s about the pure pleasure of thinking about what sorts of food I’m going to put down my gullet. Accompanying this perhaps off-kilter obsession with food is an OCD-like need to photograph nearly everything I’m about to consume. To be sure, I don’t take pictures of my morning bagel, or my noontime sorry excuse for a salad, or anything I prepare in my tiny Manhattan kitchen (since it’s usually a bachelorette’s dinner of soy-protein-products, to balance out the ridiculous levels of meat and cholesterol I ingest when I’m dining out). But put a plate of hot food in front of me, and there’s a good chance I’ll whip out the Lumix and snap away. I’ve embarrassed dozens of friends and family members this way; since I never use flash, I figure that I’m not really interrupting any other table’s dining experience; I’ve never been asked to put my camera away. It’s become something along the lines of second nature to me at this point. Why do I do this? It’s partly out of a post-graduate-student nervous-tic sort of thing, to continue to document and archive my daily life. And it’s partly out of sheer technological ease: I probably wouldn’t do this with a regular film camera. But I do it mainly because I love food, and I want to remember all the good (and bad) things I’ve eaten. The visual component to food cannot be denied; plating and presentation at a reasonably decent restaurant are carefully-thought-out processes; at some places, it’s something of an art form. But even more fundamentally: food itself can be an art form. Even at places that just dole out the hot noodles with Taylorist efficiency, the interplay of textures and colors makes for something really quite lovely; the visual experience adds another dimension, another layer of depth and complexity, to an oftentimes already wonderful and sensual unfolding. And a photograph can capture that in a way that the other senses can only do ephemerally. Truth be told, my rather profound love of food – both eating and photographing it – is no doubt in part me overcompensating for what I (un)lovingly think of as the lost years: a combination of questionable dining hall fare in college, minimal meat consumption, and then, in my early grad school years, what I’ll euphemistically refer to as an aversion to ingesting fat. Or calories. The road back from my slightly antagonistic relationship to food took a while (and not made much easier by living in the middle of nowhere – sorry, Ithaca), but I’m pretty happy that I finally got to a place where I can’t stop thinking about when/where/how I’m going to eat pork belly again. In that regard, my taking pictures of food is something of a badge of honor – a daily reminder/reflection of finally being in a place, literally and mentally, where the pleasures of food can be experienced in so many – and such lasting – ways.