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Chicago Foodie

Saturday, September 22, 2007 by Michael Reynolds


See? It's not just me saying this, it's the Wall Street Journal:

In Chicago, Chef Trotter is the dean of a scene that surpasses New York's as a thrilling place to eat. Alinea, Tru, Blackbird, Nomi and others sprung out of a restaurant culture started by Charlie Trotter's.

That's right: Chicago. Not New York, beeyatches, Chicago. Not Paris, biches, Chicago.

Charlie Trotter, the subject of the above article is my personal god. I've had five transformative restaurant experiences in my life: The Inn at Little Washington, Trotter's, Tru, Michel Rostang and Alinea. (Some that didn't work for me, despite the reps? Lucas Carton, Everest, Taillevent, Fearrington, Blackbird, Magnolia Grill.)

The Inn was lovely food but it was the service that amazed me. Then I hit Trotter. Paul on the road to Damascus. It was like that. I fell to my knees and prayed to Charlie.

It's Trotter's 20th anniversary. I wonder if he knows and likes Grant Achatz, the young chef at Alinea who has been so cruelly hit by cancer. In my mind the two of them are like Gauguin and Van Gogh, two creative wonders who overlap and connect.

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Spare Me Your Psychodrama.

Thursday, September 20, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

You get together with friends. You decide to go to a club, have a couple of drinks, listen to some music.

You get to the club and one of your buddies decides to make an ass of himself. He's insults a woman, calls her a whore, and disses her boyfriend. The boyfriend takes a swing and nails your friend. You:

a) Go after the boyfriend.
b) Apologize to the boyfriend and get your idiot friend into rehab.

Call me a pussy, but I go with (b). And I say to my buddy, "Don't get me involved in your drama. Don't make me a pawn in your little games. If the other guy had started it, I'd back your play. But if you're going to be a stupid, fucking drunk looking for stupid fucking fights to make yourself feel important, leave me the fuck out of it."

Got that MoveOn.org?

Having said that, let me add to Mr. Bush: shut the fuck up you pathetic, dishonest hypocrite. You've done nothing but slime your opponents and attack the patriotism of your critics. You don't get to talk about what's disgusting. You're hiding behind the skirts of a good soldier. Shut up and serve out your time you contemptible, gutless, disgrace of a man.

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Who Am I Wearing?

by Michael Reynolds

I know this seems improbable but next Thursday it seems I will be seen walking down a red carpet at the Museum of Modern Art. Yes, that Museum of Modern Art.

My friend Alex LeMay will be premiering his documentary film, Desert Bayou, and since I own a tiny slice of his company, Taproot Productions, and since I'm his un-compensated, un-credited writer-of-last-resort, I'm commanded to appear.

I know what you're thinking. "Reynolds at a film premiere? At MoMA? Why does the phrase 'baboon in church' come to mind?"

We get the full guest list tomorrow. It's possible that there will be celebrities. Don't know who, but of course I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a drunken Britney.

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I Use Those Pointy Parentheses.

by Michael Reynolds

Hey, I managed to add some links! I didn't even have to get my son to do them for me. (He won't help me because I won't help him do his Spanish homework.)

Added to the links: Internet Ronin, Conblogeration and The Kitchen Drawer. Only one of these three openly can't stand me. I'll take those odds. They're all smart guys, they can all argue, they're all interesting. Even the one who can't stand me.

Now that I've figured out how to laboriously type html code into my template, if you have a blog I haven't linked to that I ought to link to, send me a message in the comments below.

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GOP: Grand Ofay Party? (Update)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Some radical voices are suggesting that the Republican party simply doesn't give a damn about anyone but white people.

DailyKos? MoveOn? Hillary? Um . . . no. Try Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich:

"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."

Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed.

"For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."
Wow. The GOP indifferent to everyone but white folks. White straight folks, I should add. White, straight, middle-class or better folks. White, straight, middle-class or better, religious folks.

It's the big tent of the GOP. The big white tent. A little roomier every year.

UPDATE: A commenter has taken me to task for suggesting that the GOP has a race problem. I refer gentle readers to this, in USAToday, dated 7/14/2005:

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman apologized to one of the nation's largest black civil rights groups Thursday, saying Republicans had not done enough to court blacks in the past and had exploited racial strife to court white voters, particularly in the South. [My bold.]

"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," Mehlman said at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Mehlman's apology to the NAACP at the group's convention in Milwaukee marked the first time a top Republican Party leader has denounced the so-called Southern Strategy employed by Richard Nixon and other Republicans to peel away white voters in what was then the heavily Democratic South. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Republicans encouraged disaffected Southern white voters to vote Republican by blaming pro-civil rights Democrats for racial unrest and other racial problems.

More recently, however, Republicans have been working aggressively to build the party's support among African-Americans, who have long voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. In 2000, President Bush got just 9% of the black vote. He improved slightly to 11% in 2004.

"It's clear the Republicans really are trying to make inroads with black voters," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta and co-author of The Rise of Southern Republicans.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush agreed with Mehlman, although the president did not express similar regrets in the speech Thursday to the Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis.

"Ken (Mehlman) said it was wrong to try and benefit from racial polarization. We agree fully," McClellan said.

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The Irony Gods

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 by Michael Reynolds


This news is a bit old at this point, but I just heard about it. Grant Achatz, the 33 year-old chef of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, has cancer of the tongue:

“I wanted to personally report that I have been very recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. I have consulted several prominent physicians and will likely begin aggressive treatment within the next few weeks. I remain, and will remain, actively and optimistically engaged in operations at Alinea to the largest extent possible. Alinea will continue to perform at the level people have come to expect from us — I insist on that. I have received amazing support from friends, family, and everyone who has thus far been told of the disease, and I look forward to a full, cancer-free, recovery.”

I twice had the extraordinary pleasure of dining at Alinea. Achatz is simply the most brilliant chef I've ever encountered. I don't throw the word 'genius' around. Achatz is a genius.

The irony here is obvious. Fortunately I'm not religious, so I don't have to strain to rationalize the sort of God that would afflict a great culinary artist with cancer of the tongue. It's like blinding Van Gogh. It's a crime.

Hang in there, Chef.

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Hillary and the New Math

by Michael Reynolds

Nice shirt, Barack.

I don't know if Hillary's new health care plan is any good. If you want deep thoughts on health care, go read this guy. I don't think the details will matter much to the primary election.

There are two main knocks on Hillary. First, that she's trying to buffalo the Democratic Party with a myth of inevitability:

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, says that Hillary’s campaign is trying to convince people of the “myth of her inevitability” as the Democratic nominee, but that it really is just a myth and a myth that eventually will catch up with her.

“Hillary is a quasi-incumbent in this race and, as such, a lot flows to her,” Axelrod says. “She is a way station for a lot of voters. But as this thing becomes more engaged, particularly in the early states, that will change. And I think Iowa will set the tone.”
Sure. She's trying to look inevitable. John McCain tried the same thing on the GOP side, he crashed, and the GOP gets into the whole inevitability thing much more than the Democrats do. To employ a bit of circular logic here, the fact that Hillary's effort to seem inevitable is succeeding is evidence of, well, her inevitability. She's managed to look inevitable for quite some time now. Obama appeared out of nowhere, riding every magazine cover in the country, and Hillary emerged as inevitable as ever.

You know why she's looking inevitable? Because she's a really good candidate.

The other knock on Hillary is that she's unelectable because of her high negatives. Dick (toe-sucker) Morris has been riding this hobby horse hard. In fact his deep understanding of Hillary's negatives is what allowed him to predict confidently that she would never win the New York Senate seat. The one she won handily. Then won again, even more handily.

There's a basic math error at the core of this theory. It goes like this: 46% (or 40% or 48% or some other percent, depending on your poll) of the country cannot stand Hillary. All it will take is raising that high number another couple of points, and tada! she loses.

The problem is Hillary is a known commodity. 100% of the people who are ever going to dislike Hillary, already do. Which means rather than that number rising? It's going to fall. Because a lot of the people who hate Hillary only hate the person they think she is, not the person she is. In short: Hillary-hatred is at saturation point, it can only drop.

Hillary started her New York race with very high negatives. She was just a wife, she wasn't a real New Yorker, she only pretended to root for the Yankees, she had the scandal stank of the White House years all over her, she was cold, she was arrogant and she had thick ankles. And yet, she is Senator Hillary Clinton.

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Star For The Wife

Sunday, September 16, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Starred review from School Library Journal for K's "Home of the Brave."

From School Library Journal:

*APPLEGATE, Katherine. Home of the Brave. 250p. CIP. Feiwel & Friends. 2007. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-312-36765-7. LC 2006032053.
Gr 5-7–American culture, the Minnesota climate, and personal identity are examined in this moving first-person novel written in free verse. Kek comes to the U.S. from war-torn Sudan via a refugee camp. He arrives on a “flying boat” and is mystified by “not dead” trees in winter. Through his fresh eyes, readers see both the beauty and the ugliness of our way of life. The words themselves are simple, but Applegate introduces some hard ideas. How does someone know he has done well at the end of the day if all the familiar benchmarks are suddenly gone? Kek is both a representative of all immigrants and a character in his own right. A creative thinker, a problem-solver, and an optimist despite the horrors that have befallen him, he is a warm and winning protagonist. He bridges his herding culture and our own by finding a cow that needs his care, even in a metropolitan area, and uses ingenuity when threatened with yet more loss on that front. Kek will be instantly recognizable to immigrants, but he is also well worth meeting by readers living in homogeneous communities.–Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

Once again proving that I may be all kinds of stupid, but I have very good taste in wives.

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Al Capone Went Down For Tax Evasion.

by Michael Reynolds

Beats there a heart so arid, so empty of joy, so cut off from simple pleasure, that it does not soar at the news that O.J. Simpson has been arrested on a felony charge?

Is it still schadenfreude if they've really got it coming?

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