My Own Private Idaho Potato

First, the Monokini Constant readers may have figured out that I spent most of November far from home. In fact, I was in Los Angeles, playing with and listening to this year's fierce and frolicsome USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program Fellows. Were I employed by one of this nation's foundering dailies or weeklies, I'd have been expected to blog at least daily about my SoCal travels. But I have no such obligation, so I'll allow my sun-soaked brain to right itself and -- what's the word? -- process, percolate, evaluate the cinematic … [Read more...]

Our Great-Grandfathers’ Butts

At this unsure moment, sex doesn't seem to be on everyone's lips. A decade ago, the bodies politic were forever getting it on, at least in the then-pulsating media and groovy groves of academe. But now the topic has cooled to family-room temperature. Of course, I'm not sure about actual coital statistics -- so this could be a New York Times trend story. It's like when, as a graduate student, I read that hetero anal sex was unusually popular in Europe during the reign of Napoleon.  So were Empire silhouettes. Any statistical … [Read more...]

Archie Date Update

A while back, when it was "leaked" that the 600th issue of Archie comics would be a wedding announcement, I myself made a modest proposal. Today, the New York Times published an Archie follow that pulls my facetious wishful thinking into the real -- albeit comic -- world. Sometimes, buried sentences such as these just cry out for attention: "The polls that I've seen ran about 80/20, Betty over Veronica, with Jughead continually coming in a strong third," said Mr. [Michael E.] Uslan, a comic-book historian, a longtime "Archie" fan and a producer … [Read more...]

The Best Pesto

A Modest Lesson in Journalistic AdviceIt may be odd for a former restaurant critic to claim that he always thought anyone could cook anything well, but it's true. Cooking in a restaurant shouldn't be rocket science, yet it certainly isn't easy. Silly Hell's Kitchen and TV shows like it are staged exaggerations, but their working assumptions -- of instinct, teamwork, communication -- are all honest kitchen keywords. This is my preamble to what could seem like a brag, but it just so happened that tonight I made for myself what could be the best … [Read more...]

Next Round: Bill Viola Versus the Pope

Who Would Expect a Video Artist To Be a Hero?   Every week's cultural and political news is actually a puzzle to be solved, a jigsaw set with antagonistic pieces. Here's one part of the puzzle that I find heartening, though others may not. is an auction and art-market site that also has a kind of magazine attached, Late last week the mag lifted part of a story almost verbatim from Catholic New Service. I myself will borrow the beginning of the original: Pope Benedict XVI has invited hundreds of artists to meet with him in the … [Read more...]

Has ‘Project Runway’ Jumped the Sharkskin?

And Other Crucial Parts of the Culture Puzzle I've never been a fan of purely reactive writing. Most of it banishes those errant ideas and images that have no obvious connection to the fake trend or genuine outrage of the moment, but are nonetheless a writer's best reason to write. It's a puzzle, then, to find novel ways to react "new" to the daily cultural-political flood. Maybe the task can be accomplished in pieces. Jigsaw Part 1: Bloodsuckers I'm afraid that our favorite TV "crossover" shows are withering. You know, crossovers, the … [Read more...]

Why You Need Editors

The evidence is overwhelming that someone has gathered up the world's editors and placed them on a ship to sail around the globe, over and over, all by themselves, never to dock again. How would you like to be author of that boat's daily newsletter, or its menus? ("No, I beg to differ, our style requires two Ls in "fillet"!) Just as bad editing drains the life from a living thing as does as any fanged character on Alan Ball's True Blood, good editing does the opposite. Sometimes that means as little as a kind word to a nervous … [Read more...]

Hip! Hip! Yaphank! — or What to Do on Your Weekend Vacation

Most everyone old enough to know who Irving Berlin is knows that "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" was written in 1917 at Camp Upton in Yaphank, Long Island when the composer was called "Sarge." It became part of a musical revue called Yip! Yip! Yaphank! I know it's not Yip, Yip, Yaphank or Yip, Yap Yaphank, both common mistakes, because the New York Times review of its 1918 run at Manhattan's Century Theatre (on the Upper West Side!) spells it with the three exclamations -- way before the decimation of all our copy desks, so it must be … [Read more...]

My First ‘Out There’ Recipe, or Why I Am Not Elizabeth David

Lettuce Soup. For vegephiles. To my friends Meredith, Sasha, and Daphne.If you can score a real head with dirt still on it, or harvest your own -- I know, lets out most of my faithful correspondents -- or just pretend with what's left in the fridge, this recipe will make your lettuce almost sumptuous. And, unless you're an Asian cook, chances are this will the first time you've put heat to this particular leaf.Ingredients: that lettuce, and it can be a few days gone, because it will still throw its faded lettuceness into the broth; garlic … [Read more...]

A Quasi-Kosher 4th With Yankees, Mets, Weinsteins

One of the reasons I became what people call a "food writer" was my clam-broth baptism in the behemoth, much-mourned Brooklyn restaurant called Lundy's. That fish palace on Sheepshead Bay coalesced a constellation of 20th-century American values: collective melting-pot festivity (it seated more than 3000), the promise of local unpolluted cornucopia (littlenecks and fluke from right outside, sort of), institutionalized racism (underpaid all-black staff), and working-class strife (a bloody strike). My personal … [Read more...]