Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's been a strange few days

Sunday night we had some friends over for dinner and Jessica was holding our dog and noticed that his lymph nodes were swollen.  He'd been acting lethargic too, and it was worrying enough that I took him to the VCA Animal ER on Monday, Memorial Day.

ASIDE: If you ever need emergency care for your pet, go to VCA at 18th and Alabama.  They were absolutely great.

The vet felt around and said it was lymphoma.  I wasn't really processing it and was like, "What's lymphoma?"  Lymphoma turns out to be cancer and it's incurable and basically now my dog is going to die.  We're working on treatment options with our regular vet but it doesn't look great.

I just found out I have cancer. Does this is any way get me more treats?

So that was Monday!  On Tuesday, we found out that my Dad's cancer, which we thought had mostly gone away, had metastasized and is now all over and it's pretty bad and my sister and I are flying to be with him on Friday.

My Dog and My Dad Have Cancer!  It's a country song.  Except it's real.

I'm not putting all this out there in a shameless ploy to get your sympathy, but more by way of explanation about why I probably won't be blogging for a while, or if I do, it's probably going to be pretty depressing.

I'm gonna need some whiskey
Cause I feel pretty blue
My Daddy got the cancer
And now my dog does too

I guess I'll work on the lyrics some more.

Oh, one funny story at least has come out of this so far.  Last week my Dad was doing some testing to check for brain cancer I guess and our half-sister sent my sister a text and she looked at her phone and it said "Dad has passed" and then she clicked on it and the rest of it said "his cognitive testing with flying colors!"  And the moral of the story is BE VERY CAREFUL HOW YOU PHRASE YOUR TEXT MESSAGES.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gun control: a thought experiment

One of the most depressing features of mass shootings is how rote they've become.  With minor variations, they usually follow the same storyline: disturbed man with legally obtained gun or guns shoots people to avenge some perceived wrong.  There is an outcry, people wonder "How could this have happened?," and then everyone moves on until the next one.

Photo from Chicago Tribune

There is going to be a next one.  There is no possibility - zero - there will not be a next one.

One thing that does not happen is any concerted effort to make it more difficult for anyone, including the mentally ill, to obtain guns.  If you can't pass any meaningful gun control legislation after 20 CHILDREN are killed in school, what would it take?

That's a question I've been thinking about since Newtown.  Here, let me reframe it:

In today's political climate, what set of circumstances would have to transpire to prompt the passage of meaningful gun control legislation?

We know what IS NOT enough.  Routine mass shootings - say, 5 to 10 victims, barely register.  The NRA probably wouldn't support keeping a gun away from the murderer himself for 5 to 10 victims.

20 schoolchildren and 6 adults in a school isn't enough.

Killing 13 people on a military base in the US isn't enough.

The largest mass shooting in US history was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.  32 killed.  Remember how, after that, there was a national movement to institute enhanced background checks for firearm purchases?  No, because that never happened.

So definitely more than 32 people have to die.  How about 50?  What is a single gunman using legally purchased weapons killed 50 people, say, at a cookout in a park?  Would that do it?  There would definitely be a CBS Special Report and a lot of speeches and a lot of people would say something should be done but my guess is no, nothing would change at 50 dead.  If you feel differently, I'd love to know why.

What about 100?  What if 2 killers, acting together using some legally and some illegally obtained firearms, somehow managed to kill 100 people in one incident?  Definitely 2 CBS Special Reports.  Definitely a special address to the nation by the President.  Definitely a moment of silence before baseball games.  Legislation?  Introduced, but killed by the NRA.

There was one event, however, where all of Congress came together (except for Rep. Barbara Lee, who now looks heroic in retrospect) and said "Because of this number of people killed, we are willing to launch 2 wars at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, wars that are only tangentially related to the killings."  I'm talking about 9/11, of course.

So that's my number.  3,000.  If one or more gunmen were able to shoot and kill 3,000 American citizens in a single incident of unimaginable horror and violence, then I honestly believe Congress would stare down the gun lobby and say "I am SO SORRY but - and I am REALLY, REALLY SORRY - I am going to have to vote for this almost-guaranteed-ineffectual wave towards gun control, because I will 100% get voted out of office if I don't.  I'll do my best to water it down.  Please don't back somebody in a primary against me."

And then we'd wait for the next one.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

This US immigration application is amazing

Thanks to Internet communicant LSUcaligrl I have been alerted to the existence of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-485, "Application to Become a Real American And Quit Living in This Filthy Hellhole I Call a Country" oh wait no it's actually "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status" but same diff really.  This is what you fill out to live here.

Obviously, we only want the Good and True to hang out with, so the questions on this form are CAREFULLY DESIGNED  to weed out Bad People and Undesirables.  How do we do that?  With the HONOR SYSTEM.

Page 3:

It's the world's worst game of "I Never"!  In the past 10 years, have you ever been a prostitute or procured anyone for prostitution?  DRINK!  Apparently, if you did a little hooking 11 years ago, we're cool, but that $50 BJ in '05 will keep you right the fuck out of USA.

Page 4 gets even weirder:

Do you intend to engage in a little espionage or maybe overthrow the government?  BZZZZT SORRY NOT THE COUNTRY FOR YOU.  There is something so wholesome and aw shucks gee whiz about these questions.  I know it's a formality and they probably use it to also charge you with perjury if you say "no" and then later espionage against the US, but I love the unspoken assumption that some chucklehead applying to live here will go "Shit, I DO intend to do a little espionaging," and check "YES."

Also, this form clearly hasn't been updated since 1955 what with the "Are you a Communist" question instead of "Are you whatever the Westboro Baptist Church people are."  Also, were you a Nazi?

Question 13: Do you plan to practice polygamy? If so, do you have contacts in the reality show production industry?

So let this be a lesson to you Communists, Nazis, weapon traffickers, people who have "called for" "severely injuring any person," labor camp servers, and people who have gotten weapons training: MOVE ALONG, NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Greater Shitshow Theory

Yesterday was Bay to Breakers.  If you're not familiar, it's an annual event where a Kenyan wins a footrace, then people from Concord get kneewalking drunk and throw up in the Panhandle while careening across the city.  Before we go any further, let's pause for this picture from the Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub, which I hereby designate the Official Picture of Bay to Breakers for All Time:

What happened here?  Why did a quirky, annual only-in-San Francisco kind of event turn into a gigantic shitshow where 50,000 bad apples ruin it for the other 5?  It's something I like to think of as the Greater Shitshow Theory.  The GST works like this:

1. A group of people begin a regularly-held cool event.

2. When it begins, the event is limited to a smallish in-the-know clique.

3. Word gets out and more people are attracted to the event.

4. The event begins to grow unmanageably large.  The original founders are no longer interested and may be disgusted.  Coors Light is usually involved at this point.

5. The event spirals out of control and turns into a drunken shitshow.  It is either then cancelled forever or throttled by the authorities.

There are plenty of examples.  Castro Halloween used to be a uniquely SF kind of gathering where people would dress up in well-thought-out, cool costumes, head to the Castro, hang out and have fun.  Then a bunch of drunk assholes showed up and ruined it.  Believe it or not, when Santacon first began in 1994, it was seen as a kind of transgressive event, instead of the frat boy Jagermeister nightmare it's become.  To some extent, the same thing has happened to Burning Man, although it's easier for the People in Charge to keep a lid on it because of the remote location and high barriers to participation.  Suburban straights have even started to fuck up Gay Pride Weekend, as documented by the great Civic Center blog here and here.

History shows us that this is nothing new.  Woodstock begat Altamont, and eventually begat the dystopian nightmare that was Woodstock 99, which featurted the spectacle of Roid Bros starting fires while Limp Bizkit sang "Break Stuff."  If they had made the Human Be-In an annual event, it would today be sponsored by Red Bull and attended by dudes in sombreros carrying 30-packs of Bud Light.

True to form, that's what happened with Bay to Breakers.  I remember when it was a big, but pretty mellow event.  People drank - a lot - but held their shit together.  Here's part of a Chronicle story on the race from 1991:

A half-dozen young men ran the race in diapers while guzzling from baby bottles filled with beer.
The strange parade of fitness freaks and thrill-seekers also included four wild-eyed guys wearing ballerina tutus, a group of runners carrying a huge Trojan horse, and a gentleman decked out in top hat, tails and cane.
"It's a whole lot more fun in a costume. The crowd's enthusiasm picks you up. People cheer you on, especially if they can recognize the animal," said Grace Cooper, a San Francisco artist who ran with a flock of folks in penguin suits.
"Some people cheered, 'Go ducks, Go ducks! But we corrected them,' " she said, pointing out her orange beak, bulging eyes and polka-dot bow tie.
- - - - -
All things considered, the charity and promotional event went very well. There were no reported heart attacks or deaths. And brigades of green-jacketed organizers helped police the crowd while others collected the tons of trash left behind.
After the race, thousands of runners gathered at a nearby amphitheater in Golden Gate Park filled with huge balloons and booths set up by corporate sponsors. While some sacked out on the grass, others had picnics and listened to vintage rock and roll.

No mention of fights or people pissing on houses.  Yesterday I walked about a mile along Fulton near Golden Gate park, not far from the route, around 3:00 p.m. and was continually dodging horrifically drunk kids stumbling along the sidewalk.  On Central near the Panhandle, a guy screamed "FUCK OFF" at a girl wearing underwear and pushed her down onto the sidewalk.  Luckily her friends weren't too shitfaced to help her out, and the guy started slurring an apology.  Ugh.  The GST strikes again.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Peter Hartlaub put up a piece at SFGate about how shitty B2B has become.  Cranky Old Guys unite!

Friday, May 16, 2014

TK's Recipe of the Week: Chorizo and White Bean Stew

Happy Friday!  The Republican nominee for Senate in Nebraska (which is to say, the eventual Senator from Nebraska), Ben Sasse, has some interesting ideas about government and religion! On his website, he says "Government cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances."  That's what Al Qaeda says too, Ben Sasse!  Cool!  Luckily, my religion forbids the payment of taxes to the government, so I'm off the hook, right?  What the fuck.

My religion is actually chorizo.  That's it.  No god, just chorizo.  The Presidente of Sausages has been featured here before, in Chorizo, Red Pepper, and Fingerling Potato Hash (still the best brunch recipe of all time) and I'm pleased to announce its return today.  This stew is super easy to make and also delicious, fulfilling two of the three requirements for a Perfect Meal.  (The third is wine and you have to supply that independently of this recipe.)

It came originally from Bon Appetit.  Thanks, Bon Appetit!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh Mexican chorizo
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
5 ounces baby spinach (about 10 cups)
Smoked paprika (optional)

Let me stop right here and say DO NOT USE that cheap-ass chorizo that's all soft and comes in a plastic tube.  I'm looking at you, Reynaldo's. Either get fresh loose chorizo from the butcher OR in a pinch you can use the fully cooked chorizo they sell at Whole Foods.  I can't remember what the brand is but it's pretty good considering.

OK let's get started.  Now would be a good time to have a glass of grenache.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate.

(If you're using the precooked stuff, slice it up before you saute it, and also you won't need anywhere near 15-20 minutes.  Just enough to get a nice crisp to the outside.)

Reduce heat to medium. Heat the other tablespoon of oil in same skillet. Add onion, garlic, and thyme sprig. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5-8 minutes. Add beans and broth and cook, crushing a few beans with the back of a spoon to thicken sauce, until slightly thickened, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add spinach by handfuls and cook just until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Slice chorizo (if you were using the raw chorizo, AS DISCUSSED ABOVE) and fold into stew; add water to thin, if desired. Divide stew among bowls; pour everyone more wine; talk about how great your life is now that you have a bowl of chorizo and white bean stew in front of you.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Many Faces of Vic Vegas

You know I love me some Bar Rescue, the maybe-somewhat-staged show on Spike TV in which noted bar expert/bar-related Intermittent Explosive Disorder sufferer Jon Taffer and crew make over a failing bar, which usually involves cleaning up a shithole, installing new taps, hanging a bunch of flat screens on the wall, and calling it a day.

Last night's season finale was a cut above the usual episode, however, in its outsized cartoonishness and over-the-top conflict.  It was great.

Now, Jon Taffer, although he is clearly an amazing person, can't do it alone.  In every episode, he is accompanied by a Master Mixologist (in recent episodes, more often than not, it has been Russell Davis, who worked in some capacity at Rickhouse and appears to be a legit cocktail guy) and a chef (this season, usually former Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry, who, again, appears to be legitimately good at what she does).

Russell and Tiffany were absent last night, and OH THANK GOD because in Tiffany's place we got VIC VEGAS, who looks like a UFC fighter and, we will learn, is the UFC of chefs.  A little Googling reveals that Vic Vegas was a former contestant on "Next Food Network Star" and his goal appears to be making Guy Fieri look restrained and classical.

Vic Vegas, a former contestant on "Next Food Network Star," is opening a restaurant this weekend in the hills of Anthem.
Simply called Vic's, the 180-seat restaurant opens Saturday, promising unobstructed views of Las Vegas with a menu the chef is calling country club meets rock 'n' roll.
"To me, the experience at Vic's will be like being seated in the rear of a Bentley while cranking up "Welcome to the Jungle" with someone like The Rock as your chauffeur," he said.

What a coincidence!  That's exactly what Thomas Keller said he wanted French Laundry to be like.  ANYWAY, w're not here to talk about Vic Vegas' culinary vision.  We're here to talk about Vic Vegas' amazing reaction shots.

What happens on the show is, before Jon Taffer + crew come in to save your bar, they sit in an SUV outside and watch covert secret surveillance footage of all the jackassery that you, the bar owner, either commit or permit to be committed.  Last night's episode, as it happens, featured two roided-out owners who occasionally did some male stripping and then also got in fights, as if they couldn't think of any other ways to express their affection for one another.  Vic Vegas watched the proceedings from the SUV and his reactions ranged from horror to a profound sadness.

This is the "Oh my God why you gotta do that to an innocent mozzarella stick?"

Vic Vegas is pained.  "I am pained."

This is the "Now what now?"

Surprise, with an extra cup of surprise on the side.  In fact, I love this whole tableau.  JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WHAT JUST HAPPENED.

And finally, a deep and penetrating sadness that not even a Bentley driven by the Rock could erase.

One final note about Bar Rescue: apparently they tried to recruit Shotwell's, a perfectly fine bar that, to my eyes anyway, in no way needs the services Bar Rescue provides.

One can only image what they'd do to Shotwell's. They took the bar last night, a sports bar called The End Zone, and gave it the massively uninspiring name Houston Sports Hub, which sounds like an athletic complex with raquetball courts and a pool.  What a fucking terrible name.  My dream is that they'd rename Shotwell's something like T.J. McBeery or the Blendery.  IN FACT, Shotwell's should go all pomo and go on the show IRONICALLY.  I mean, we'd all know it, but Jon Taffer and Vic Vegas wouldn't.  Hilarious!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Red lanes of the world, unite!

Ed, you lovable doofus. "Muni forward!"  That sounds like either the lamest office party chant or a leftover Cold War-era Soviet Young Pioneers slogan.

ANYWAY, here's the idea.  These red lanes are supposed to be for buses (and taxis I think) only, thereby making buses go faster because they have their own special lane and don't have to sit behind cars while cars sit still at stop signs because the drivers are reading text messages or looking at Twitter on their cell phones.  I don't do that and I would never do that.

The way they work is that sensors inside the red paint can detect when a normal passenger car is driving in the restricted lane and the sensors activate a series of embedded electrical generators, which send a powerful shock up through the street, leaving the driver of the car in intense, excruciating pain.

j/k, that doesn't happen.  The way they work is they rely on the Inherent Goodness of Humanity to keep people from driving their cars in the red lanes.

THERE'S ONLY ONE CATCH: There is no Inherent Goodness in Humanity.  People drive in the red lanes all the time!  WHEEEEEEEE LOOK AT ME IDGAF!!!!

And that just happened to be randomly captured by the Google Street View car. If you ever go to the Safeway on Church & Market, you know what I'm talking about.

What's the solution?  Wait for the Sun to swell and engulf the Earth as it dies in 2.8 billion years.  Pending that, a little enforcement!  Not SFPD's strongest suit, but it's so crazy it just might work.

Muni forward, comrades!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Attack of the Smoke Detector Bird

Baby Beyonce is 13 months now (and fucking adorable, I assure you) and at this point her sleep pattern is such that she goes to bed around 7 pm and gets up maybe once or twice a night, usually around 1:30-2:30 and then sometimes again in the 4:00-5:00 range.  The Wife typically attends to her during these fairly routine and brief episodes.  Other than that, getting enough sleep has not been too bad.

Until recently.

We have a large tree in our backyard, and it appears that it has now become the morning hang of some kind of bird.  I'm not sure what kind of bird exactly except it sounds like the LOUDEST MOST DEFECTIVE SMOKE DETECTOR IN HISTORY and its preferred time to GO FUCKING NUTS is about 5:30 a.m.

Here's the tree. NOT PICTURED: Smoke Detector Bird
I know you're thinking I'm overdramatizing this but we sleep with a white noise machine on in our room and the call of the Smoke Detector Bird cuts through that like a Caramel Unwrapper through the quiet part of the symphony.  It might be OK if it had any kind of pleasing, mellifluous tone, but it's more like an abrasive BEEP every half second.  I tried to identify it online and the closest I could come is the Downy Woodpecker but that's probably not it.  The sound is close but not nearly as annoying.

One morning last week I finally lost it and decided to take some action, so at 5:45 a.m. I got up and found half a lemon in the fridge.  I opened the back door (we're on the second floor so we're level with the tree) and fucking CHUCKED THAT THING at the tree.  Voila, the sound of BEEPing receding into the distance.

It's back again.  This morning, right on schedule at 5:30.  Fucking bird.  I don't have an infinite supply of lemons so I don't know what the fuck.  I think we might have to move.

ONE OTHER THING.  Another year of SF Weekly's Best of San Francisco awards, another year I didn't win Best Blog.  Um, congratulations, Bold Italic.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Bars That Time Forgot, an occasional series, vol III: Great Water Bar & Cafe

(In The Bars That Time Forgot, we will, on occasion, pause to remember a drinking place that has shuffled off this mortal coil.)

This installment is a twofer and has a surprise twist ending!

Great Water Bar & Cafe was, incongruously, a bar with a Thai restaurant inside.  

I couldn't find any actual pictures of Great Water.  This is what 373 Broadway looks like now, anyway.
In fact, now that I think about it, almost everything about Great Water was incongruous.  It was at 373 Broadway - where today sits uber-utzy Coi, a fancy-pants restaurant where dinner costs $195 and features things like "fermented carrot" - which is in the heart of the Strip Club and Douchebag Dance Club District (next door to Centerfolds, in fact), but had nothing in common with establishments of that type.  No doorman, no oonce oonce music, no fancy cocktails.  Just drinks and pool and Thai food served through a window in the back.  I used to live up the hill in North Beach and went there pretty regularly because it was one of the least annoying bars in North Beach and that's really saying something.

Inside it seemed like they were going for sort of a British colonial Caribbean theme, with ferns and lots of wood and high ceilings.  There were a couple of pool tables and an excellent bartender named Tim who was affable and remembered what you like.  A couple of years after Great Water closed, I ran into Tim smoking outside Elixir on 16th (and coincidentally, Elixir will feature in an upcoming episode of Bars That Time Forgot) and he said he'd gotten a job on a cruise ship.  Hopefully things worked out for Maritime Tim.

As I mentioned, there was a window in the back wall from whence one could order and receive Thai food.  I never ate there so I don't know what the deal with that was.  

I'm not sure when Great Water closed. Maybe around 2005?  I guess there was nothing that special about it - it certainly wasn't a destination bar - but it was the kind of place you'd automatically feel comfortable in and it was a nice respite in a part of town with lots and lots of bars but very few you'd actually want to spend any time in.  

WHOA WAIT A SECOND.  I was just doing some followup Googling and discovered to my surprise that this same location was also home to something called "Bierhaus on Broadway"!  In fact, this guy recommends it, says they have "over 100 microbrews," and, amazingly enough, says, "The bartender Tim, was very helpful between free sample shots and other brewpubs and breweries to visit."  I assume Bierhaus on Broadway was before Great Water (that review is from 1995), so I guess Tim came with the bar!