Monday, October 12, 2009

Requiem for the Death Star

There has been mad drama at Death Star, Inc. (DSI) over the last couple of months. Again, we found ourselves embroiled in contract drama that finally culminated in me and several co-workers (including my boss) leaving for a smaller company. It was a good three year run with DSI but I'm excited to go to work for a smaller company where my experience, skills, and connections will be provide me and my employer greater value.

I'll be doing the same job by day at the Department of Stupidity and add some company responsibilities in the areas of proposal writing, marketing, and business development. I started out in the contractor game doing tech support and I've been attempting to run away from that field at full speed since then, so this is a move I've been trying to make for a while. Even though this will certainly mean I'll actually have to work kind of hard for the first time in years, I'm also a bit excited about work.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Drinks With a Monkey

So last Wednesday I got a text from NylonThread informing me that DCist was having its 5th birthday party at the H St Country Club and invited me to come on down. I ended up being able to make it down there and, trying to make the best of a short night out, I immediately pounded a Jim Beam & Coke. For whatever reason, I wasn't finding the mixed drink satisfying so on my next round I asked for a shot of Beam and a beer. As I'm picking up my drink, I see something floating in it and it turns out there about a half dozen fruit flies in my shot. I inform the bartender, she immediately cracks open a fresh bottle and replaces the shot.

Not too long after that, Guns & Roses starts playing on the juke box and I take that as my cue to take Monkeyrotica, NylonThread, and IMGoph down to Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar (Sorry Mark). I get my check and I'm flabbergasted to find that I was charged for the shot with the flies in it. I ask the bartender about it and she says, "Well I gave you a new shot" as if somehow that excuses her from serving me a drink with bugs in it.

Now I worked in a few bars and restaurants back in the day and the solemn promise I made to myself when I left that behind was that I was never going to be one of those assholes that talked a bunch of smack about working in the industry and proceeded to tip %15 or be an obnoxious douche who felt the need to correct every waiter and bartender on the finer points of service. So when this dipshit bartender acted like she was doing me a favor by replacing an insect-laden drink I let the shit ride, gave her a %20 tip and headed downstairs.

Problem was I couldn't let the shit go, so while I'm waiting for everyone else to get ready to break out, I quickly outlined the story to the guy working the door and asked him his opinion. He seemed to agree with me, but he called a manager over. So I tell her the story too. At this point I'm paid up, I don't want another drink and I don't even want my money back; I just want to get the fuck out there and go to a place that appreciates my patronage a little bit more. Well this fuckstick manager gives me a bunch of nut roll about how "in the industry" if a mistake is made and they make it right it's perfectly OK to charge the customer and she was actually correct about that. It is OK to charge a customer for a corrected mistake, but doing so doesn't usually win you any loyal customers.

I actually wasn't going to write about this incident. It's a little too close to a "I'm a blogger, fear my poison pen" tantrum for my liking, but the shit didn't sit well with me. The bartender and manager's reactions tell me that the folks staffing the place don't have a good grasp on what their job is or how to do it. I received only the most perfunctory apology and neither the bartender nor the manager made any mention of appreciating my business or hoping that I would come back so they could knock my socks off next time.

I dunno if it's just that the places I bartended I had more autonomy or what, but I would have NEVER charged someone for a mistake like that and depending on the surrounding situation may have just comped the whole check. While discussing this with Monkey and the crew down the street, he made the point that margins are thin on H St. and HSCC is generally populated by douches trucking in from 'burbs in a futile attempt to be edgy and cool. In that context it actually makes sense to hold the line on giving out free drinks. The last thing you want is for the word on the street to be that you're an easy mark for a couple of free drinks for some Tucker Max wannabes from Arlington.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I'm not quite sure how this happened, but for the first time in several years I feel like I have some kind of idea what's going on in the NFL. I didn't realize this until last weekend when I found myself making a convincing argument that the Raiders are going to the playoffs this season. Am I a deluded lifelong fan of the Silver & Black? Yes, but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong. Keep reading to find out why the Raiders are going to finish above .500, make the playoffs, and could take the AFC West.

The Raider's O-Line is a big question mark going into this season, but they signed a couple of guys this off season to create some competition for the tackle spots. Barnes is a devastating run blocker who cleared huge holes for the Jaguars rushing attack last season. Henderson showed a little something late in the season in 2008 and can provide Raider's QB JaMarcus Russell the time he needs to get the ball downfield. Robert Gallery didn't become the anchor of the line at left tackle that he was predicted to be, but is well on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl caliber guard.

The Raider's troika of running backs Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush will provide the necessary depth in the backfield to weather the punishment of a 16 game season. I'm predicting that McFadden lives up to the flashes of brilliance he showed last year and will rush for 1400 yards this season. Remember, you heard it here first.

Rather than regurgitate what has been written elsewhere about the Raider wide outs, I'll just give you a link to the bleacherreport breakdown. Teams are going to have pick their poison this season, stack the box to slow down the Raiders' running game and let JaMarcus go deep on that ass or commit to stopping the passing game and let the three headed monster of McFadden, Fargas, and Bush run buck-motherfucking-wild.

The Raiders' defense has some players, but has yet to come together as a cohesive unit. The big story right now is the addition of Richard Seymour to the defensive front. That is, assuming he plays for the Raiders this season.

The real deal though is that the AFC West is weak and whack. The Chargers won the division last season with an 8-8 record, LT has peaked as a premier NFL running back, he's getting long in the tooth and brittle and the Chargers weren't even sure they wanted him back this season. Merriman can't seem to stay out of the headlines; popped for steroid use in 2006 and now he's caught a charge for choking a 90 pound woman. Add in Rivers' bloated contract, the ham-fisted GM-ing of AJ Smith, and Norv Turner as head coach and that doesn't sound like a winning team.

As for the rest of the West the Chiefs are terrible and the Broncos are starting Kyle Orton at quarterback. This is a division that is ripe for the picking.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Real Pizza on the Hill Finally?

Earlier this week I heard one of the patrons at Peregrine asking some dude when the pizza joint (in the spot formerly occupied by Ben & Jerry's on 7th St SE) is opening up. The reply was that they were going to be opening some time next week. I was rolling by the place today and saw this sign up in the window.

7th Hill Pizza also had their sign up

But perhaps more important than all of that, they seem to have all of their administrative ducks in a row too.

I am waiting for this opening with bated breath, in the hopes that my days of trucking out to Valentino's for a decent pie are over.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Littlest Rat

At 1:12pm on July 6, 2009 our family became complete when we were joined by the Littlest Rat. LR weighed in at 10 pounds 12 ounces and when he was born the midwife told WifeRat, "Congratulations, you just gave birth to a two month old!!"

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. If you saw my last blog post, that was sent from Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club after I had taken the family to Ocean City for a day trip to the beach. Why go all the way to Ocean City when North Beach/Chesapeake Beach is less than an hour away? Well, WifeRat needed to get to the ocean while she was pregnant. A couple of months ago I had promised her we would get to the ocean before the baby was born and I had to, as BabyRat would say, "Keep it a promise."

The next weekend was the 4th of July. So naturally there was a cookout (organized by others in the building), fireworks, and much excitement. WR only made a brief appearance, just long enough for everyone to gawk at her big belly, before retreating back to air conditioned comfort.

I'm also happy to report that on the 4th of July we met a new babysitter! BabySitterRat is 16 and her and BR are in love with each other, they spent a good portion of the late afternoon/early evening on the 4th playing together and seem to be a perfect match. When I asked BabySitterRat's parents about her working for us, her Dad asked me, "Does your child ever hear the N-word in your house?" I was stunned and didn't know what to say, mostly because I drop the N-bomb all the time around the house*.

So I'm standing there giving this guy a blank look going, "Humina, humina, humina," when he breaks into a broad smile and says, "I meant the word 'no'." He goes on to explain that BSR had been taking care of some kid, told him he couldn't do something, and the parents came home and gave her a raft of shit for "disciplining" their child. At this point he got involved and told BSR's former employers they were idiots and decided that after that incident he needed to find out where people's heads were at before he allowed his daughter to work for them. Seeing as how I'm the kind of guy who wanted to talk to him *before* I hired his daughter to look after my kid, I don't think we'll have any problems.

Finally, the Monday after the 4th of July, WifeRat woke me up and informed me that she was in labor while weeping tears of joy. We hugged excitedly and cheered our good fortune that I could just take BR to school while she delivered the baby before I went back to sleep. I was buffeted by twin feelings of panic and calm as BR and I had a fairly normal 7am start to a school day. The morning started so normal (with the exception of calling the mid-wife and birth assistant) that the original plan was for me to stop for coffee after I dropped BR at school.

By the time I actually left to take BR to school, WifeRat reported that her contractions had started coming fast & furious. When BabyRat was born WR went into labor about the same time (4am-ish) and we didn't even go to the birth center until 2pm, but it was pretty clear that the LittlestRat was coming and coming quickly. WifeRat talked on the phone to Go To Girl while I ran BR to school real quick.

I won't get into all the details of the birth, but I must confess that I did fall asleep for about 25 minutes towards the end of the birth while holding one of WifeRat's leg aloft. What I will say is how awesome our midwife and birth assistant were through out the whole birth experience, I can't imagine that we could have had two more thoughtful, kind, encouraging, and professional women attending LR's birth. They were truly amazing and I will spend the rest of my life being grateful to them for helping my wife bring my son into the world.

*I find it most hilarious to address my Irish/German/Norwegian wife who hails from North Dakota as, "Nigga." Of course WifeRat doesn't find it nearly as funny as I do, but sometimes she'll let out a titter of amusement in spite of herself.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

I used Shazam to discover All The Things I Look For by Dennis Ferrer


I've just used Shazam to discover All The Things I Look For by Dennis Ferrer. I thought you might like this track.

If you have Shazam on your iPhone or iPod touch, tap here to add this Tag to your list. To get Shazam on your iPhone or iPod touch visit the App Store.

Shazam is free to download and use, so check it out.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Nigaz For Life

Over at Stinque they say, "If it smells, we're on it" and they didn't miss this rather hilarious story. Of course I tweeted that shit and now I'm posting a link to the BBC story here on my blog just in case anyone missed it.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coffee the Way It Should Be


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blog Fail

I took another run at posting everyday for a month and fell off the wagon after less than a week. I may try the everyday posting this again at some point in the future, but it will have to wait for a while 'cause the newest member of Swiss Family Rat is due to make his or her appearance sometime in the next three weeks.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Teddy Folkman to Help out at Annual Brainfood Charity Event -- June 11


3rd Annual Brainfood Grill-Off Brings the Heat of Competition to DC

Top chefs team up with amateur cooks to benefit local nonprofit


WHAT:             Teams of award-winning chefs, amateur grilling aficionados and Brainfood program graduates compete for top honors at the 3rd Annual Brainfood Grill-Off. Brainfood is a DC-based nonprofit that uses food and cooking as tools to teach life skills and healthy living to teenagers in a safe and positive environment. In addition to the grilling competition, highlights include hors d'oeuvres, open bar and live auction. Thanks to the generosity of Reznick Group and other sponsors, 100 percent of ticket sales will support Brainfood after-school and summer programs, including hands-on instruction, educational field trips and guest chef demonstrations.


WHO:               Top local chefs team up with amateur cooks, including:

·         Glenn Babcock, Nage

·         Anthony Chittum, Vermilion

·         Daniel Giusti, 1789 Restaurant

·         Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore's (and finalist on the new season of The Next Food Network Star)

·         Jonathan Krinn, Inox Restaurant

·         Jon Mathieson, Inox Restaurant

·         Cedric Maupillier, Central Michel Richard

·         Bryan Moscatello, Zola

·         Shannon Overmiller, The Majestic


Emcee for the evening is Leon Harris, WJLA-TV ABC7.


WHEN:             Thursday, June 11, 2009

                        6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.


WHERE:           Decatur House on Lafayette Square

                        1610 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20006


COST:              $75 per ticket

                        $3,000 per team entry




·         Professional chefs help amateurs turn fresh ingredients into culinary masterpieces

·         Brainfood graduates – all DC high school students – show off their cooking skills

·         Event photos:


About Brainfood:

Brainfood is a nonprofit youth development organization that uses food and cooking as tools to teach life skills and healthy living to teenagers in a safe, healthy and positive environment. Local high school students participate in our programs either twice a week after school or five days a week for six weeks during the summer. Activities include hands-on cooking classes, lectures, field trips and community service projects. Brainfood graduates are equipped with practical cooking skills, an introduction to the food industry, a framework for nutritious eating, and leadership and life experiences that prepare them to make a difference in their communities. Brainfood is in its 10th year of operations and has locations in the Columbia Heights and Chinatown neighborhoods of Washington, DC. For more information, visit:



Monday, June 08, 2009

Real World DC Links - Updated

Borderstan is posting about the not so secret location of the Real World DC house. Prince of Petworth has also posted about the future home for DC's hand picked new residents. Some site name Vevmo has pix and stills of the house up and a very active message board for people who seem to care about all of this just a little too much.

There is, of course, the obligatory Real World hate site up that comes complete with Twitter stream.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Night Lights

Typical whirlwind Friday. We've been grilling and having low impact Happy Hour with another family or two on Friday evenings since we got a new outdoor set about six weeks ago. There are two things that initially led us to believe that WifeRat and I would be together forever. The first thing was travelling together and the second was entertaining together.

WifeRat and I both love to entertain and, perhaps more importantly, we love to entertain together. Neither of us thinks too much of last minute dinner guests, unexpected visits, and hastily called get togethers. At varying times in our relationship both of us have nervously called up the other, sheepishly explained the need for assistance, and then come home to an almost magazine worthy spread of food and drink in miraculously clean place.

Rather than grilling tonight, the kids from across the street were over. The folks that live across the street from us have a daughter who is about six months older than BabyRat, a son who is 2 1/2, and they just had a third about 6 weeks ago. Naturally BabyRat and the daughter are BFF and the younger brother is always invited to tag along when the BFF comes over. When I realized that I could easily accommodate a couple of extra kids in my dinner plans I called across the street and got the OK.

So rather than an ad hoc grill session/Happy Hour, we had the neighbor kids over for dinner to add some excitement to the end of the week. It was hectic, but fun to have three kids at the dinner table with us tonight. The BFF's mom says that she's a picky eater, but all I know is that kid chows down whenever she's at our house. It's kind of cool though to have neighbors whose kids are at your house enough to notice something like that.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Teddy Folkman Named Executive Chef at Capitol Lounge

Does posting a press release count as my post for the day?

Teddy Folkman Named Executive Chef at Capitol Lounge
The Next Food Network Star Finalist Brings Acclaimed Cuisine to Capitol Hill

Washington, DC- The Capitol Lounge, one of Capitol Hill's most storied restaurants, is raising the bar to a new level this summer. Finalist of Food Network's The Next Food Network Star and co-owner/executive chef of Granville Moore's, Teddy Folkman has entered the fray on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Chef Folkman, debuting on Food Network's The Next Food Network Star on June 7th, will unveil a menu that touches both on his celebrated dishes at Granville Moore's and Capitol Lounge's classic pub fare. Dedicated to enhancing the Capitol Lounge dining experience, Chef Folkman brings his own signature style and pedigree to a block that already boasts the likes of Food Network's own Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery and Barton Seaver of Sonoma. He formally assumes the role of Executive Chef on June 8th, 2009 with a new menu launching that week.

Beginning Sunday, June 7th, guests are welcome to watch each weekly episode of The Next Food Network Star at Capitol Lounge (229 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC) with Chef Folkman. Episodes are scheduled to run Sundays at 9pm EST. Other viewing party locations include:

-The Argonaut - 1430 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC
-Reynolds Street Bar and Grill - 34 South Reynolds Street, Alexandria, VA
-Veritas Wine Bar - 2031 Florida Ave NW, Washington DC
-Enology Wine Bar - 3238 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington DC

The Lounge's new menu will feature Folkman's signature dishes, Moules Fromage Bleu and his one-of-a-kind frites, in addition to items including Fried Tabasco Oysters, Goat Cheese Poppers, Crispy Tuna Rolls, and made-to-order pizza. Chef Folkman will work closely with leading purveyors and vendors to bring guests top-quality ingredients. He will be a significant presence at the restaurant and oversee all menu developments.

"It is really exciting to be able to take over the kitchen of Capitol Lounge. When I first moved to DC in 1999, I lived around the block. Because of that and my love for their pizzas and wings, it is a place where some of my best memories lie. I'm hoping to create some new memories and bring some really fun gourmet bar food to what is sure to be one of the most exciting blocks in the city this summer," says Folkman.

Restauranteur Joe Englert opened The Capitol Lounge in 1994. After numerous fires in the last two decades, one which left the venue inoperable for months, the property has received a major facelift. A series of renovations on both floors has been completed in recent months leading up to Chef Folkman's arrival. Additionally, the Lounge will now showcase an expanded beer list of 70 items, 12 of those on draft, and 30 wines to compliment Folkman's offerings.

"I've always craved change," says Englert. "I've always felt that the only way for a restaurant to remain viable is to keep up with trends and movements. Americans, in general, and Washingtonians in particular, now demand fresh, innovative food, and this is exactly what Teddy will deliver. The kitchen will have much more attention to detail and we will be a very attractive night out for young families, foodies, and anyone who works on the hill."
Capitol Lounge will continue serving dinner beginning at 4 p.m. every evening and will begin serving lunch at 11 a.m. on July 8th, 2009.

About Teddy:

Teddy's cooking experiences have taken him all over the metropolitan DC area, where he started as a commis at Cashion's Eat Place. After working as a Sous chef at The Reef, Clyde's of Georgetown, Evening Star Cafe, and Vermillion, he headed the kitchen at The Reef and Balducci's Food Lovers Market. Teddy is co-owner and Executive Chef of Dr. Granville Moore's Gastropub in the Atlas District on Capitol Hill.

Teddy has been an integral part of Granville Moore's success, gaining notoriety from the Washingtonian (Best of 2008 - Top 100 Cheap Eats), Washington City Paper (Best of D.C. 2008 and 2009 - Best Mussels), Imbibe Magazine Top 100 Places to Drink in America (Top Ten Gastropubs), and "Every day with Rachel Ray". He was challenged to a Moules-Frites showdown in March 2008 with Food Network Star Chef Bobby Flay - and won!

Teddy has appeared on Fox5 News, DC 101's Elliott in the Morning, and The Mike O'Meara Show. As well, Teddy goes back to the Food Network as a finalist on the upcoming season of Food Network's The Next Food Network Star. Teddy serves as a volunteer at Brainfood and local metropolitan schools and currently resides in Alexandria, VA.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bad Training Class

I've been in a SharePoint Designer training class for the last two days that has largely been a waste of time. I'm far from being some sort of website guru but what I needed was more SharePoint specific information about data sources and pulling info from .xml documents, not a class on how to use Designer to edit HTML and apply master pages. I probably could have taught this class myself with two days of prep time.

Perhaps most disappointing was the fact that the instructor didn't actually have a lot of SharePoint specific knowledge. This kid's (and he's definitely a kid, he might be 25) specialty is DreamWeaver and he's just applying his knowledge of that program to follow along with a really shitty book provided by the training company, New Horizons. Yes New Horizons, your training materials suck.

Honestly, it's not really the instructor's fault that I'm not getting what I need out of this class; I blame our client's training coordinator for that. Since I'm the de facto lead SharePoint developer where I work, it probably would have made sense to consult with me about exactly what I needed to learn in a SharePoint Designer class. And since it would have made sense to do that, it didn't happen.

The real problem with not learning anything of real value in this class, is that we (really I) have been kind of stuck on a couple of SharePoint projects. It doesn't matter that what our client is asking for is shit-in-your-pants stupid, they are now going to expect that I will be able to surmount all previous obstacles and will probably ask for some additional bells & whistles just so they feel like they got their money's worth out of their training dollars.

This brings me to the problem with the gov't and their lack of need for efficiency of any kind. Rather than doing some sort of cost/benefit analysis to determine if it makes sense for me to spend a couple of months developing a "staff locator" or automated meeting agendas or whatever type of computerized snipe hunt they come up with, they just say, "Do it." They don't care how little benefit they will get out of it, they don't care if what they're asking for doesn't make any sense, and they really don't care how much it costs. They want what they want and, as gov't contractors, we're obliged to give it to them. Seriously, it's like working for children sometimes; they just want to see how far they can push you before you tell them "No."


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What's the Opposite of "On Blast?"

I do a lot of whining, complaining, and otherwise excoriating various people, places, and things for slights and misdeeds both real and imagined. I experimented with a regular feature called "on blast" that ended in abject failure. To balance the karmic scales, it seems like I should talk about the good things that happen in my life with the same enthusiasm.

Too bad today was far too annoying for me to write a glowing post about anything. I'm just trying to get rid of some of these old drafts and I somehow thought that I was going to be able to muster up some enthusiasm when I sat down to write.

Last time I did this posting everyday for a month thing, I gave myself a 500 word minimum on posts. Things being what they are these days; WifeRat is 8 months pregnant and I've been extremely busy at work for the last couple of months; I don't know how realistic it is to set such a lofty goal. All I know right now is that I'm tired, it's almost ten o'clock, and I'm done doing anything other watching TV today.


Monday, June 01, 2009

A Sign?

For what was probably the first time in a couple of months, we had a weekend day with absolutely nothing planned. No family obligations, no rugby, no school nonsense, no work stuff, no date night, no play dates, no friends coming to town, no nothing. It was a relief to be able loll around in the bed this morning with our most pressing concern being whether to make French toast & bacon or shoot down to Sidamo for breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

After breakfast (I went to Sidamo and brought it home) we took the paper downstairs to the backyard to sit around the table and chill. We made some paper airplanes out of the mass of circulars until I finally got moving on cleaning out the back of the car so I could finally get the bikes & bike trailer out of storage.

Once I got everything home and made sure it was in working order (pumped up the tires and swapped out an uncomfortable seat), we went for a little ride around the Hill. We stopped at Lincoln Park to let BabyRat run off some of the energy she had accumulated during her nap and ended up at Matchbox for a fairly early dinner.

$.88 soft serve cones at Dunkin' Donuts proved to be too much to resist following our meal and by some unplanned miracle, we end up at home exactly at bath time. Of course, none of this was enough to get that recalcitrant child of ours to just take her little ass to sleep in a timely fashion but you can't have everything.

By the time I finished watching the Tivo'd Super League Championship game I was starting to feel pretty worn out. I still forced myself to go grocery shopping at Whole Paycheck lest we end spending another week doing a la minute dinner planning which often takes the form of going out to eat.

On the way home from the grocery store I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to stop by Jimmy Valentine's. Not surprisingly, I ended up having a pretty informative conversation there before I came home to put away groceries and finally take a shower after living like a dirty frat boy all weekend.

Now it's 2am and I'm having trouble sleeping, so naturally I decided to get up a do a blog post and I notice that it's June 1. A perfect time for me to re-commit to this blog and see if I can bang out another month of non-stop blog posts.

It seems like a good time to do it; I have so much to write about and my first day's post is already done. Who's with me?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

H St. Country Club - Quick First Look

Despite my lack of posting over the last couple of months, somehow I was graced with an invite to tonight's preview of the H St. Country Club. I guess it makes sense because I do talk about eating a lot, but it caught me off guard. I try not to take myself, or this occasionally asinine blog, too seriously; so the idea that I might be credentialed to something as a media member is kind of flattering.

Anyway, I bounced down to the Country Club about 8pm to soak up my share of the free food and drink being provided. When I walked in I was given a press packet filled with boilerplate about the Country Club and its chefs, owners, and management and a drink ticket. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

My first drink was an excellent frozen guava margarita that was suggested to me by Joe the bartender. I can just imagine the brain freeze I'll get this Summer when I suck one of those down after walking the half a dozen sweaty blocks between my crib and the Country Club. Then with drink in hand, I took a stroll around the place.

I had been to the Phish Tea Cafe, the restaurant that previously inhabited 1335 H St. NE, and they had only used a fraction of the space and not nearly as well. Big Joe knows what he's doing, is well capitalized, and it shows in the final product he's put together here. The H St. Country Club (HSCC) has a unique concept that has been executed very, very well.

I'll spare you a lot of blather about sumptuous wood tones and all the decorative flourishes that you'll see throughout the bar. The mini golf course upstairs is what much of the buzz about HSCC has centered on and it lives up to the hype. Even with the shitty camera in my iPhone, I managed to get a couple of half-decent pix of the mini golf course.

I know a lot of foodies are hyped up for Ann Cashion's new joint, but it looked like they were only serving selections from the bar menu tonight. Everything I tasted was good, but there's only so much you can do to nachos and quesadillas to dress them up. I missed out on the empenadas (which looked great) but consoled myself with the hot lima bean dip which is much, much better than it sounds.

The only disappointment of the night was my second drink, the Hot Tamale; a Ketel One Martini with jalapeno stuffed olives. The olives were a little mushy and not nearly salty enough and the jalapenos should have been hotter and lacked the vinegary tang that I was looking for.


Monday, May 25, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - H Street Country Club Opening

H Street Country Club

May 22, 2009



DC's most anticipated concept opens in its hottest corridor

Washington, DC - The H Street Country Club, H Street's newest and most anticipated concept in Washington will be opening Wednesday, May 27, 2009. With celebrated, James Beard-Award winning Chef Ann Cashion as the creative mind behind the menu, this 6,800 sq. foot, 300-seat dining destination will serve up fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine with both southern and northern accents. Locally trained Pablo Cardoso (formerly of Jackie's & Cashion's Eat Place) will serve as executive chef. Guests will experience the country club's ground level "locker room" upon entry, designed with dark maple lockers and a 40 ft. bar covered in warm plaid print. An open eat-in kitchen is set past the shuffleboard, pool tables and skeeball machines. The second floor features space for dining and a DC-centric 9-hole mini-golf course, including scaled monuments and memorials, the Awakening of Marion Barry, and towering K Street Lego Lawyers.


The restaurant will provide an entertaining and modern setting in which to meet and connect while enjoying top-notch Mexican cuisine.
"This project has been in the works for a long time. We are excited to be able to bring great food and a unique atmosphere to a growing neighborhood." said owner Joe Englert.


The chef will work closely with leading purveyors and vendors to bring guests the highest quality ingredients and the freshest foods available.  The menu, a blend of both traditional and contemporary dishes, will include items that excite guests' taste buds. The main floor El Norte menu boasts Chili con Queso, Nacogdoches Meat Pies, Spicy Tamales, and Lobster Tostadas. The second floor dining room will feature items including Chilaquiles with Roasted Duck, Snapper Veracruz, Lamb Enchiladas, Pork Rib Carnitas and Chicken Escabeche. All ingredients will be of top quality and delivered fresh daily.


Celebrated Chef Teddy Folkman will be a significant presence at the restaurant and will oversee new menu developments. Chef Folkman began his culinary career as a commis at The Reef and Cashion's Eat Place, and currently presides as the co-owner and executive chef at Granville Moore's. Management of the day-to-day operations will fall on co-owners Ricardo Vergara, Blair Zervos and Assistant General Manager Kristin Cook, who will bring an eclectic flavor to the Atlas District community and beyond.  Chef Cardoso will be at the helm of the H Street Country Club's culinary offerings, and will maintain a consistent execution of the restaurant's cuisine.


The H Street Country Club will showcase a wide variety of high-quality wine, beer and cocktails in a fashion that will compliment the menu. Spanish and Latin wines will headline a drink menu that includes an array of Mexican beer, sangria, margaritas, and 20 different tequilas. Cocktail aficionados will love the club's signature drinks, such as the "I Wanna Jana", which combines Patron Silver & Chambord chilled & muddled with fresh lime, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and honey, or the "El Luchador" that combines Sauza Tres Generaciones Tequila & fresh lemon sour with muddled cucumber, cilantro & a slice of jalapeño pepper. The design of the restaurant and golf course was executed by artist Lee T. Wheeler of Arlington, VA. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Sculpture, Lee has created an extraordinary and innovative space that will awaken the imagination of the Country Club guests. The series of DC-centric golf holes on the second floor captures the rich and, at times, comical history of our nation's capital. Contemporary lighting and creative construction of tables and lounge chairs provide for an intimate and comfortable space.  The sleek look of the entire venue will exude the modern, urban vibe for which H Street is known.


The H Street Country Club will be open daily from 5:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5:00 p.m. - 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.  The restaurant is located at 1335 H Street NE, Washington D.C. Walk-ins are welcome and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. To contact the restaurant, please call 202-399-HSCC (4722).  For more information on the H Street Country Club, visit




Media Contact: James D. Silk
H Street Country Club
202.399.HSCC (4722)

H Street Country Club • 1335 H Street, NE, Washington DC 20002 • 202-399-HSCC (4722)
© 2009 All Rights Reserved

Visit for links to our mailing list, Facebook and Twitter.

powered by


Sunday, May 10, 2009

HillRat Laid Bare in ABC Form

I got tagged with one of those silly blog memes and I'm a good sport so I'll play along.

A - Age: 39, but I do turn the big 40 later this year.
B - Bed size: King, natch.
C - Chore you hate: Dusting
D - Dog's name: No dog. Did I lose a war or something, why am I cleaning up dog shit?
E - Essential start your day item: A snuggle with BabyRat
F - Favorite color: Black
G - Gold or Silver: Silver
H - Height: 6'3"
I - Instruments you played: Drums . . . poorly
J - Job title: It depends. I work for a massive gov't contractor at an equally huge gov't agency, so I have two titles. Gov't job title is Business Analyst, contractor job title is Sr. Technical Writer.
K - Kids: 1+. BabyRat, currently 4 and a player to be named later, due to drop on July 6
L - Living arrangements: 2BR condo on Capitol Hill
M - Mom's name: Carrie
N - Nicknames: Too many to list
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Broken leg ('85) and Pericardial window in '01
P - Pet Peeve: Stupid motherfuckers.
Q - Quote from a movie: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. "
R - Right or left handed: Right handed
S - Siblings: 1 younger sister
T - Time you wake up: 7am
U- Underwear: Boxers
V - Vegetable you dislike: Any vegetable that's overcooked
W - Ways you run late: Staying somewhere for "one last beer"
X - Rays you've had: A lot
Y - Yummy food you make: I made Eggs Benedict with butter-poached lobster for my Mom and wife yesterday for Mother's Day
Z - Zoo animals: I love those big ass elephants


Friday, May 08, 2009

jimmy valentine's lonely hearts club

These folks like to keep a low profile; so the less said, the better. -HR


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Moms on the Hill (MOTH)

From a MOTH post:

Hello, MOTH gardeners and driveway "owners" --- Neighbors and community members are reporting that they are receiving tickets for parking in their own driveway (which is not legally theirs, according to DC law) and for having treebox plantings over 18 inches (under an 1870 law governing public spaces).

One woman I know got tickets for each violation, the car in the driveway and a Yucca plant that exceed 18 inches. I have heard that new inspectors have been hired, and are being encouraged to ticket and tickets have indeed been issued. The curb cut that leads to the driveway and the driveway itself, if located in the front or side of the house, unless set far back like in some NW neighborhoods, is public space and parking in apparently not permitted there. So people who have been parking in what they believe to be their driveway for years are getting tickets from DDOT. Perhaps the city is trying to raise funds any way it can in these trying times.

As for the treebox, a tree is permitted, of course, but even a tulip that reaches a little 18 inches, or a sunflower, as I have have liked to plant, can result in a hefty fine. Some have complained to ANC and Wells' office, but be forewarned--the fines will keep coming, I understand.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Quite Breaking News - Shooting at 1400 Maryland Ave NE

Frozen Tropics just posted that there was a shooting this morning at 1400 Maryland Ave NE. Fox News also has a story up.

DC Alert pegged the time of the shooting at 8:47am and reported that the gunman was last seen heading on foot towards H St NE. Suspect was wearing a gray & black jacket, dark pants, a skull cap, and a black ski mask.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rumor Mongering - H St. Country Club

I've totally fallen off with posting lately. Between rugby season taking up a lot of time, my boss actually making me work, and a pregnant wife I just haven't gotten around to doing much writing. The great irony is that being busy means that I have more material to write about, but less time to actually do the writing.

I was talking to a former neighbor this morning and he told me that the reason the H St. Country Club hasn't opened is a problem with WASA. Apparently the Country Club has a six inch water pipe coming from the street but only a three inch pipe servicing the property which can't meet their needs.

I asked about the fact that there was a restaurant in that spot previously and got a little background information that the former tenant wasn't using the entire footprint of the property and they didn't have a sprinkler system. I guess there's a little more regulatory oversight on H St. these days.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mangialardo's FTW!!!

I'm 2 for 2 on good lunches this week. Suggestions for tomorrow?


MF Doom's New Album

From a Tweet from the Humanity Critic.

Reclusive Rapper Doom Talks New LP “Born Like This.” and Responds to Fan Rage


USDA Cafeteria = Abomination

You would think that the HQ of the motherfucking USDA would be participating in CSA (community supported agriculture) wouldn't you? You'd definitely be wrong, because we have the same disgusting Sodexho crap that they serve at every cafeteria in town. It wouldn't be so bad if it were cheap, but it's hard to get a filling meal (that's not 70% bleached white flour) in that place for less $8-10. Barf.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Feminist Links

Here's some feminist stuff that I've been looking at online lately

Pet Peeve: Dads Who “Babysit” Their Kids

- The title says it all, but as a dude who doesn't think much of leaving the wife at home and taking his kid with him to a rugby game all day or having his wife go out of town for a conference for a couple of days (although that hasn't happened for a couple of years now) I definitely feel the sentiment of this post. I'm not fucking "babysitting" I'm parenting my child, having a dick doesn't render me incompetent in the child care department.

This one comes from the womyn at The Pursuit of Harpyness, a feminist website. For the most part the authors and denizens of the site are a little too hardcore for me but they link to, as well as write, some cool and interesting shit so I continue to check them out.

What do I mean by "too hardcore?" Well, I got ripped into for having the temerity to say that I'm a reluctant feminist. They seem to not realize that that kind of shit is a big part of why feminism has such an image problem. I appreciate and respect their blood & thunder, take no prisoners approach; they're Malcolm to Ms. magazine's Martin; but at the same time it doesn't do much to bring people into the fold that aren't aligned with them and their world view.

Is It "Perilous" To Be A Female Blogger?

- Rather than a rant about how tough it is for women bloggers, it's a jumping off point for discussion. The author talks about some of the ridiculous comments they get on Jezebel and cites an article from the Washington Post (that I read when first published) about women bloggers who have been threatened with violence, but doesn't extrapolate that out to the entire internet. The comments that I saw were pretty reasonable and some bordered on thought provoking.

The nonsense about the threats was disappointing but not surprising to me, especially when you think about who's blogging and commenting on blogs. I usually imagine a pasty, overweight, thirty-something loser, who's still living in the basement of his parent's house, or maybe a socially inept but professionally successful tech guy, or 19 year olds showing off for each other in the dorms. None of these guys are doing very well with the ladies and they're all clueless as to why. They're not getting laid, so it has to be 'cause those stuck up bitches are dykes or they just don't want to be with a "real man" like them, right? No surprise that group of Casanovas is using the anonymity of the internet to work out their anger towards women.

That's Not My Name: Beating Down Online Misogyny

- I guess I found this via a Tweet from the Reverse Cowgirl earlier today. The title link just takes you to a panel description at SXSW, this link right here was posted by one of the panelists and has a ton of links to hot shit.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March Family Programs

NBM Family Activities

March Family Programs at
the National Building Museum

Flying in the Great Hall  

A Day of Flying
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Model Airplane Workshop
9:00 - 11:00 am

Construct your own rubber-band-propelled model airplane with the DC Maxecuters, then try a test flight in the Great Hall. Ages 8 and up. 

Prepaid registration required by March 12, 2009. 
Learn More.

Flying in the Great Hall
11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Watch as the DC Maxecuters fly their model airplanes in and across the Great Hall!
FREE. Drop-in demonstration program. All ages.

Summer Camp at NBM  

Summer Camp at the NBM

Two-week sessions for campers entering grades 3-5 in fall 2009

Sign up today!

Building Artists
July 13-24, 2009
Discover the Museum's great architecture through different artistic mediums. Learn about the building arts through creative movement, visual art, pop up architecture, and even puppetry!

Worldly Builders
July 27-August 7, 2009
Take a trip without ever leaving D.C. to three regions from around the world to explore their structures and cultures. Discover through hands-on activities what makes Russia, Greece, and Alaska "green", aesthetically pleasing, and exciting.

Young Designers
August 10-21, 2009
What makes D.C. a great U.S. capital? Using visual art, photography, storytelling, and building arts activities, redesign a new capital that celebrates the ideas and diversity of young people today!


National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day  

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day & Opening Ceremony
March 28, 2009
10:00 am - 5:30 pm

Join the National Building Museum and the National Cherry Blossom Festival in celebrating the annual opening of Washington, D.C.'s cherry blossom season. This annual family day invites visitors of all ages to enjoy hands-on activities, captivating martial arts demonstrations, and exciting indoor and outdoor performances that explore Japanese arts and design.

Learn More

The National Cherry Blossom Festival(R) Family Day and Opening Ceremony is sponsored by Target(R). The event is also supported by The Home Depot, The Washington Examiner, and Westwood College.

NBM Logo 401 F Street NW Washington DC 20001 | 202.272.2448 | Red Line Metro, Judiciary Square
Free Admission | Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11 am-5pm


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Separated at Birth? - Updated

The latest installment in an occasional series.

I was first alerted to the presence of Chris Dane Owens by the folks over at Coilhouse and immediately started "Chris Rolling" my friends with his video. Then the other day Ann Coulter's ghastly mug appeared on my screen for a few moments spouting nonsense. Sometime later it dawned on me that Chris Dane Owens and Ann Coulter were twins who were separated at birth.

I won't speculate on whether or not one or the other of them may have had gender reassignment surgery, I'll leave that the commentariat. I report, you decide.

UPDATED!! At WifeRat's suggestion, I added the Nelson twins to the mix. If I had more free time and some programming skill I'm sure I could make a funny game out of this, but this will have to do for now.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Answer is NO!

Earlier this week I found myself seriously contemplating retiring from being an active Young Boy rugger. You don't want to be a guy who hangs on too long and loses the respect and admiration of his mates and opponents that has been earned over the course of many years by thinking too much of yourself and your abilities.

As I sit here on the couch; with a golf ball sized lump on my head, a bag of ice on my ankle, and just about every muscle in my body begging for relief that will not come any time soon; I know that I do still have something left in the tank. Perhaps even more than I suspected. I know that the time for me to retire has not come yet and probably will not come any time soon.

I don't think I played particularly well today in large part because I'm so out of shape. I wasn't bad, I didn't embarrass myself but I could feel the years and the lack of training over the last nine months. My quads were still aching from Thursday nights practice when I left the house this morning and I cramped up about five minutes into the second half of the game against the Hooligans.

My body wasn't there, but my mind, my rugby mind is sharper than ever. It seems with every passing year as I lose another step or half a step, I see the field better. The game slows down around me as I see holes open up that I wouldn't have seen five years ago or I see where my opponent is going with the ball before he even has it in his hands. This knowledge, this vision will help me continue to be a player who can dominate a game and be a force on the field, but only if it's in conjunction with a more intense training program.

My body is screaming at me and I know that I have no choice now but to start working out outside of the one night a week I make it to practice. There's no other way that a guy who is closing in on 40 can be an effective utility forward (the only thing I can't do in the scrum is hook) unless he keeps his fitness up. Even though I've never been much for weight lifting and conditioning outside of practice, I will start now because this game is like an infection, a virus, a sickness with me and I hope that I never recover.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

jimmy valentine's lonely hearts club - Weekend of March 6-8

this friday, 3/6, Sinister Intelligence Agency sorts through their tastemaker's grab bag ranging from indie to industrial, AND AND AND they're bringing Digit216 down from NYC to blast out a gravity-bending d&b set, word is your face might melt

this saturray, 3/7, doors open at 9 for the THE BOOSHIE BALL (flier below). we're white-knuckled in anticipation for what purports to be quite the sensory overload as local designer Ginger Bray shows off her latest line in fabulous women's fashion while DJ's Sammy K & Hanik, Ray Casil, John Michael, & Dan Soda throw down slamming house and techno (some of you may (or may not!) remember john & dan's block-shaking 6 hour set at our last Johnson & Johnson party (the monday before inauguration)). we've been told to expect champagne & models, professional video stimulus, a raffle for one of Ginger's custom designs... apparently all we're missing is scooby & the mystery machine, though perhaps mr. guiness will make one of his pet-me-i'm-needy appearances. great dance music guaranteed, this will definitely be a blast

and of course every sunday y'all can battle D Thrett on the old skool nintendo (she got a refurbished one w/ the original controls), 2 player games like Mario Bros., Dick Tracy, Milon's Secret Castle, Hudsons Adventure Island, Friday the 13th... it's, like... culture

you been warned

jvlhc krewe

(Click for full-sized image)


Monday, March 02, 2009

Time to Hang 'Em Up?

This Thursday will start my tenth year of playing rugby. I've had a good run; I was Captain of my team for a few years and held several different positions on the team's executive board but managed to avoid being President. In retrospect that was probably a mistake because I was Match Secretary for three years running.

The Match Secretary sets the team's schedule, is generally responsible for the majority of the day-to-day logistics (getting directions to the team for away games or getting your opponent directions to your home field, making sure you have a lit field to practice on, a field where you can play games, getting the fields lined, etc.) of running a rugby team. Because our union is run by miserable shitheels, each team has to fend for itself with regard to fields, so it's a never ending struggle to say the least.

According to WifeRat, every year for the last 3 or 4 years I start talking about hanging up my boots. Not Timberland boots, rugby boots. Almost all of the rugby slang and terminology used in the States is British in origin because there is no distinctive American rugby culture. So your cleats are "boots", your rugby gear is your "kit", and you talk about your 'mates; not because we're trying to sound snobby and British but simply because there are no American words for those things and rough American translations always sound kind of goofy.

Anyway, I guess before I made some sort of half-hearted offer to retire from being a full-time, active player just to make sure it's still cool with the wife that I kept playing rugby. At this point I think we all know that I'll never stop playing all together until I am physically unable to roll my old bones onto the field. But there's a big difference between turning up for a couple of B-sides each season and the Old Boy/Young Boy game and actually being a fully committed player.

The difference this year is that I'm really not sure I want to keep playing. A lot has changed in the time since the Spring 2008 season ended; I coached my first team, my Dad died, and my wife is pregnant with our second child. All of these things bring a new perspective and new challenges.

Coaching for the first time really opened my eyes to the fact that after my playing days are over I still have something to give this game that I have come to love so much. I always knew that I would be a good coach, for many years I worked as a technical trainer; breaking down subjects and making them understandable, creating documentation, and commanding rooms full of people who all thought they were the smartest person in the room. Still, just like I was shocked at how eagerly my teammates made me their leader and followed me without question as Captain. I was just as surprised to find that my young charges at MSUM Rugby wanted me to ride their asses, to correct them, and to push them harder than they could push themselves as their coach.

It was exhilarating to say the least. I heard myself starting to sound like my high school football coaches reflexively telling my players, "Hurry back, hurry back!" at the end of each repetition of a drill. I loved standing on the sled, lining up my players, and seeing them explode like a fist each time I yelled, "ENGAGE!" I finally came to understand the weird, sadistic glee that my coaches always seemed to take in running us until we barfed. I dunno, maybe it was just all the yelling I really enjoyed.

Without a rugby team to keep me anchored I don't know what I would have done out in Fargo in the wake of my Father's death, so I owe those boys out there a debt that I can never repay. Being back in DC has brought the old man's passing into sharp focus for me, just like I knew it would. I have all kinds of shit related to Dad's passing to deal with, not the least of which is a now empty 3 family house in Newark that needs to be sold. Can someone explain to me how a man who kept every single bit of documentation, for every toy he ever bought his Granddaughter in a neatly labeled folder dies WITHOUT HAVING A FUCKING WILL?!?!?!?!?

In the immediate aftermath of my Father's death, when my Mom felt like I wasn't doing enough she told my sister that I don't take care of her I take care of my wife. To which my response is, "No shit Sherlock." Apparently my Mom has forgotten that she and my Grandmother had similar pissing matches over whether or not my family came to visit her often enough and a whole host of other issues including who should sit in the front seat when my Mom, Dad, and Grandmother were in the car together.

Women in the audience who have sons, please do not engage in this kind of "Woe is me," horse shit when your son gets married it will cause him great pain. Married women, please be patient with your husband when your Mother-in-law goes for the psychological Cobra Clutch Backbreaker and reduces him to whimpering pile of neurosis.

Another soul will be joining our family this Summer. Naturally this means that the few moments I get for myself each week, will be reduced to approximately no moments for about six months after the new kid gets here. I knew this ahead of time, but I have to wonder if the last few months before my home is invaded by a screaming shit machine should be spent playing grab ass with my friends or doing home improvement projects that won't get done for several years if they don't happen now. There's also the fact that BabyRat is starting to show some interest in playing sports herself and if she has a game at the same time I have a game, I know I'm shit outta luck.

The last few years as I've adjusted to being a family man, I've felt like if I didn't keep playing rugby the little part of myself and my life that I keep just for me would wither and die. Now I know that piece of me will never go away; it might become infinitesimally small, it may never see the light of day, but it will always still be there. This is the life I chose for myself, I have no regrets and the joy that my family brings me makes up for the sacrifices I know I must make to do right by them a million times over.

If I choose to keep playing I know WifeRat will support me, but the question I continue to ask myself is: do I have anything left? I finished the Spring '08 season strong; I led the team to a tournament win playing tighthead prop for four games and scored four tries that day. Of course, the next week I got folded, spindled, and mutilated by a PAC team that was out for blood.

I'm not sure which of those guys was the real me. Was it the guy who limped off the field after getting destroyed by a Super League front row or was it the guy who showed the next generation of young bucks how you win a tournament? I guess I'll find out on Thursday night when I go to practice.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yea Boooyyeee!!!!

Home of the world's best chicken parm sandwich.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Street Closings for Tonight's Obama Address to Congress

Thanks to DC institution Jason Cherkis for the timely information!

DCist also has the 411 for tonight's street closures, complete with map.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oscar Predictions from MC RoboChrist

Tomorrow's the big night and I just got MC RoboChrist's picks, so here they are.

Before I get to the predictions for some of the least dramatic races in years, quick reviews on two movies I saw this past week...

Revolutionary Road *** - Solid film, horribly depressing. Kate Winslet, while very good in The Reader, is actually better in this film. Odd that she got the nom for The Reader - and that could cost her. Leo is good - he's really one of the few great pretty boy actors. And they both get to ham it up suburban angst-style, a la Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. There are bits of this movie that are fascinating. Winslet's character - a June Cleaver mom miserable in suburban New York - descends slowly into quiet madness, scene by scene. It's really a great performance. Just as unsettling are her arguments with hubby Leo, which are frighteningly reflective of REAL marital dust-ups. And Michael Shannon is great as the institutionalized son of Leo and Kate's neighbors. He pops up in two scenes visiting Leo and Kate while on a day pass from the nut house. He instantly pegs just how miserable they are in the burbs - and being nuts, he isn't afraid to say it in brutal fashion. Best parts of the movie, actually, and an interesting ploy by the writer - personifying the crux of their unspoken anger so it can in fact be spoken. We also get to see the nice boobs on Leo's mistress - played by Elia Kazan's granddaughter! I'm sure he's proud. In the end, though, the fact that the suburbs weren't all Happy Days and Father Knows Best just isn't all that original. Cutting half an hour might have helped.

Man on Wire ** - I usually dig documentaries. But I kept waiting for this one to say more, and it never delivered. It's the story of Phillipe Petit, a tightrope walker who got his 15 minutes back in the mid-70s by setting up a wire between the WTC towers (with many accomplices) and doing a 45-minute circus act 101 stories high. That in itself is cool - and probably warrants a 30-minute piece on History Channel. But the filmmakers instead make Petit out as some sort of counter-revolutionary hero ... and it just bothered the fuck out of me. I'm not a law-and-order guy by any means, but I just did not like the guy. He was - and is - the kind of egotistical dick who manages to surround himself with people so enthralled by his charm that they'll do anything to make him happy, including putting their lives on hold for months to pull off an admittedly cool stunt (and get no thanks at all - he in fact broke up immediately with his girlfriend and stopped speaking to his best friend). The other problem - besides the movie's horrid pacing (again, there were really 30 minutes of good material here) - is that there is no mention of 9/11. Would seem to me that if you're going to do a movie about the guy that pulled this stunt, you need at least five minutes of what he and his team were thinking watching the towers fall - even if it's kind the self-indulgent bullshit I expect. "I was sad to see my greatest canvas go away forever" ... or something like that. Who knows - maybe the fact that I hated the guy by the end of the film was the point. But I was left bored and angry.

Okay, now for the picks. Again, I don't see much drama here, other than the Best Actor category. There will be a surprise somewhere - there always is - but this could be the year where the surprise is that there are NO surprises. On top of all this, Hugh Jackman is hosting. That ought to be a drag. Count on 2-3 useless musical numbers and a few jokes about how bad Australia was. Jon Stewart, he's not. Heck, I'd be happy with Whoopi or Billy Crystal. Oh well.

Best Picture: There is virtually no drama here, despite some recent momentum PR-wise for Milk. Hollywood wants to thank Bollywood for reminding us all we can be happy. And in a year of no great films - and in which the best film, Gran Torino, was overlooked - it's as much a lock as a movie has been since Lord of the Rings.
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Gran Torino
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Frost/Nixon

Best Director: No drama here, either. And I can deal with Danny Boyle winning. I just think he's going to win for what is, at best, his third best film. Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary were great movies. Slumdog tries to be great and fails, largely because it's trying. Plus, I get the sense this film is good despite the direction. The story and editing really make it stand up.
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog
Who Should Win: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon

Best Actor: There are two horse races in the major categories, and this is the tightest by far. Early on, everyone figured Mickey Rourke was a lock for The Wrestler. And he is very good. But the successful PR for Milk has been shifting the race toward Sean Penn for some time. In the end, I'm going with the notion that the Academy queens will not be able to stop themselves from writing the story - and reward Rourke's "career-redeeming performance" - rather that vote for the hammier, politically charged role (Penn) by an actor who has won before, and who would undoubtedly provide "the industry" with a satisfying FUCK YOU coda to the Bush presidency in his acceptance rant. In either case, I hope they both lose. I thought Richard Jenkins was great in The Visitor - he just didn't play the kind of ham role that wins Best Actor Oscars. Plus,he was great as the dad in Six Feet Under.
Who Will Win: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Who Should Win: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Best Actress: Slight horse race here between Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Meryl Streep (Doubt). Streep could genuinely win an Oscar every time she acts. She's that good. (This is her record 15th nom.) And if she won, it probably wouldn't be a tremendous surprise, particularly since the Academy seems to have set Winslet up for another disappointment by a) shifting her role in The Reader to the leading category even though every other awards jag put it in the supporting category and b) nominating her for the lesser of two great performances. In the end, Streep has been suffering from "she's won before" syndrome for almost 30 years. And Winslet had a great year. Still, much as I lust for Ms. Winslet, I think the one who's really getting screwed is Melissa Leo, for her performance as the trailer park mom turned border smuggler in Frozen River.
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who Should Win: Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Best Supporting Actor: This is such a lock I'm not going to spend more than a couple lines on it. Heath Ledger was FANTASTIC in Dark Knight. He took on a role that a three-time Oscar winner mailed in 20 years ago and delivered a classic. Add in the maudlin sentimentality of his death and it's impossible for the Academy not to vote for him. Again, they LOVE to write the story. (They never release the final vote, but if they did, I'd bet this will be the most lopsided of the major categories.)
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Who Should Win: Ledger

Best Supporting Actress: This is a mess since Winslet wasn't nominated here. I wouldn't be surprised by any of the nominees winning, but the prevailing wisdom (or lack thereof) is that Penelope Cruz is going to essentially get a Lifetime Achievement Award for playing the lunatic ex in Vicky Christina Barcelona. (Plus, remember that Hollywood's fave pedophile isn't Roman Polanski - it's Woody.) I'm cool with that. She's a good actress and has tremendous cans, to boot.
Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Cruz (there are just no stand-out performances here)

Best Original Screenplay: I really loved the writing for In Bruges (Martin McDonagh). His script is certainly the all-time leader for the most gratuitous uses of the word 'cunt' in a movie - award-worthy on its own. Interestingly, McDonagh won an Oscar for best short film three years ago. If voters remember that, he has no chance. As it is, with the PR for Milk really striking a chord, this is where the voters will DEFINITELY reward the film. Also, it's the only Best Pic nominee in this category.
Who Will Win: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Who Should Win: Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay: The best thing about Slumdog was the writing, whether you loved the movie, as most people did, or just kinda liked it - like me.
Who Will Win: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog
Who Should Win: Beaufoy

Enjoy the boring show, all you pricks.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spiritual Renewal, Pt. 2

I meant to write this post on Monday, but I got laid the fuck out with the flu for a couple of days. [update] I've now been trying to finish this post for a week.

I left off talking about my slow slide into emotional oblivion regarding my father's death. I don't know that I've hit rock bottom with this thing yet, I'd like to think that I have, but it seems kind of unlikely based on what others have told me about dealing with the death of a parent.

I had been feeling shitty (not physically, emotionally) all last week, but the lone bright spot was that Ta-Nehisi Coates had a book signing coming up in College Park that I planned to attend. If you haven't read his book "The Beautiful Struggle" run, don't walk, to your nearest book store and pick up a copy. Just like I try not to be too hard on stupid motherfuckers, I also try not to sweat dudes too much that I think are cool, smart, tough, or whatever. I mean, no one wants to be a dick rider, right?

But rules are made to be broken, so here goes the one time you will catch me on someone's tip like this. I won't go so far as to say this is the best book that I've ever read or that it's my favorite book of all time; I'll need to read and re-read the book several more times before I'll be comfortable making that pronouncement, but this book did speak to me in a way that no other book I have ever read has.

In the same way that "Catcher in the Rye" has been a cultural touchstone for generations or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is practically required reading for teenagers, "The Beautiful Struggle" deserves a place in the pantheon of great American coming of age stories. "The Beautiful Struggle" is an instant classic, written in a unique style that seamlessly melds literature and hip-hop into a brilliant narrative about fathers, sons, and the journey from boy to man.

Needless to say, I was very excited to meet Ta-Nehisi at his book signing. When I arrived I saw Ta-Nehisi browsing through the store so I approached him and introduced myself. I shared all of the thoughts above with him and he seemed to be truly humbled and grateful that his book evoked such a strong reaction from me. As cool as it was to meet Ta-Nehisi, it was a total mind blower to meet his father, Mr. Paul Coates, who was there that evening. Even though I had only read the book a few months before I had forgotten how funny it was and it took on a whole new life when I heard its author reading it in his own voice.

BigDaddyRat was a man who loved to read and he shared that love with me, it was one of the many, many gifts he gave me over the course of our time together. In some ways, I guess my upbringing led me to (incorrectly) believe that I was the only young Black man out there that was into Sci-Fi, that liked to read, and saw no disconnect with those things and being Black. So in that context it was reassuring and comforting to be at that book signing, to know that "The Beautiful Struggle" spoke to others in the same that it spoke to me.

Being at Vertigo with some other Black men of letters was exactly what I needed that evening. It gave me a sense of spiritual renewal to feel, to know, that no matter how isolated I may feel or be at a given moment, that I'm a link in a chain.

I had a rough couple of weeks, but for the time being I'm on the upswing.