Monday, April 30, 2007

The good-old days of American cuisine

I have no idea where to begin about this, as well as the rest of the Gallery of Regrettable Food.

It reminds me of a Fourth of July dinner years ago with some step-relatives in small-town Virginia. One of the dishes was a casserole of beans (the sweet sort, with lots of pork fat) and slices of corned beef hash with pineapple slices laid on top. There was a maraschino cherry in the center. Apparently, this was a variation on a classic family dish they had all grown up with. For some time, they debated the merits of canned corned beef hash versus Spam. Yes, Spam. Then again, these are the same people who call a Jell-O mold with celery and canned fruit "salad."

It is comic and frightening that we, as a culture, have invested so much in trying to justify our food production industry that we try to invent dishes just to make use of pre-packaged crap. Tuna Casserole, anyone? Ham Salad? American Cheese?

Anyway, there's a brilliant gallery of old food advertising at Plan 59. And just think of it... if we feed our kids dishes like this, they're guaranteed to come out looking like this.

Bon appetit!

Spring Beers pt. 2

Today's selections were to test two different white beers, or wit biers.

1. Southampton Double White Ale from Southampton Publick House [Note: hopefully you'll have better luck getting the site to come up.]
This is a decent beer. That's about the best I can say. The coriander and orange peel are evident, but overall the beer lacks much to distinguish it. If you're in the mood for a white beer, I'd pick up Allagash instead, or one of the several other good ones that appear around this time of year.

2. Victory Whirlwind Witbier from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania
I really like Victory's beers, in general. Their Prima Pils is killer, as is the Golden Monkey. That said, I wanted to like Whirlwind more than I did. It was a good example of a wit, but it didn't really jump out the way I expected a Victory beer to do. This one has won awards in the past; maybe this was just a down year.

Down night for beer. Maybe I'll open an Erdinger or Bell's to cleanse the meh-ness.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

today's news

From the NYT today:

KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 29 (AP) — A shooting at a shopping center here on Sunday afternoon left three people dead, including the gunman, the police said.

An elderly woman found dead earlier in the day may also have been killed by the gunman, the police said.

The authorities said they went to a home early Sunday afternoon to check on the woman, whom relatives had not seen for days. She was found dead and her car was missing, said a police spokesman, Tony Sanders.

The car was spotted later in the day by a police officer, who pulled the driver over and was shot in the arm, the police said. The officer, whose wound was not life-threatening, returned fire and shattered a car window.

The car left the scene and was later spotted at the mall, the Ward Parkway Center in southern Kansas City. The police said the man shot four people in the parking lot, two fatally, then went inside.

The gunman was shot to death by the police inside the mall.

The police did not say how the elderly woman died or whether the gunman was a suspect in her death. But they did say they believed that the events were connected.

That quiet sound you hear is me shaking my head. How many more of these do we need before something changes? How many more?

Spring Beers!

I'm going to start a little feature on my unread (does anyone really visit?) blog... seasonal brews. This is--hopefully--a prelude to my return to brewing. Anyway, 'tis the season for wits, saisons, bocks, and more...

The first three entries are:

1. Red Sky At Night Saison Ale from Heavy Seas
This one is a nice take on the classic Belgian saison style. It has a sweet, rounded flavor with spicy notes and a relatively light body. At 8% ABV, it has a solid kick, but it is good enough to have two before switching to something lighter.

2. Heller Hound Maibock from Flying Dog
This one was my favorite of the bunch. It was clean, crisp, and tasty without being overly sweet. At just over six percent ABV, it also had a good late afternoon kick without leaving you crocked.

3. Merry Monks Belgian Style Golden Ale from Weyerbacher
The Weyerbacher guys like beers that are a little over-the-top, and their take on the Belgian Trippel is no exception. While this one won't quite compete with drinking a Jupiler in Brussels, it's a tasty beer with a potent kick. My preference, given the choice might be Avery's Karma or one of the Ommegang bottles, but this one is certainly close behind.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Green Design

I am working on a major new project at work--the rethinking of a planner we did two years ago, as well as two other publications that will be wrapped into it. Since the green movement finally seems to have gone mainstream, this seems like an opportune moment to take the Cradle to Cradle and sustainability questions to the fore.

The question of paper is an easy one. Finding good recycled papers and synthetic papers takes little effort. If I truly want to think the whole process through, however, I need to look at even the corporations and their facilities--from Mohawk's wind-powered paper mills to Neenah/Fox River's considerable efforts at waste-free manufacturing.

Then there is the question of printers, namely finding a printer that can print and bind 18,000 160-page books with the least amount of waste and emissions. There is also the question of writing specs for wire bindings and ink that meet the ethical standards.

Finally, there is the question of design, and it is likely that some of these other considerations will influence the design itself.

more thoughts on the gun question (while I hear helicopters overhead)

Adam Gopnik has a great piece leading off The Talk of the Town in this week's New Yorker. He delves into some of the questions we should be asking in the aftermath of the Tech shootings, particularly the insistence by officials and others (I'll leave it to you to sort the others, for now) that questions about gun control would unnecessarily politicize the incident. For instance:

If the facts weren’t so horrible, there might be something touching in the Governor’s deeply American belief that “healing” can take place magically, without the intervening practice called “treating.” The logic is unusual but striking: the aftermath of a terrorist attack is the wrong time to talk about security, the aftermath of a death from lung cancer is the wrong time to talk about smoking and the tobacco industry, and the aftermath of a car crash is the wrong time to talk about seat belts.

The point is dead-on. How often does a tragedy strike, and we're told not to talk about the causes--as though that would somehow dishonor the dead. Or in my case, more than a few people wondered whether I wanted to get a gun for protection. And when I argued that the answer was fewer guns, their answers were often that tighter gun laws wouldn't have kept the kid from getting his hand on that .44.

Then again, wouldn't having fewer handguns anywhere reduce the likelihood of something like this happening? Gopnik goes on to reference the tragedy ten years ago in Dunblane, Scotland, after which the British government tightened their already-restrictive handgun ownership laws. It is now illegal for a private citizen to own the sort of weapons used at Tech, the gun used to shoot John Locke, the gun used to shoot me, and so on and so forth. After all, a handgun exists for no other purpose than to shoot people; such things have no place in a civilized, democratic society. As Gopnik writes:

It’s true that in renewing the expired ban on assault weapons we can’t guarantee that someone won’t shoot people with a semi-automatic pistol, and that by controlling semi-automatic pistols we can’t reduce the chances of someone killing people with a rifle. But the point of lawmaking is not to act as precisely as possible, in order to punish the latest crime; it is to act as comprehensively as possible, in order to prevent the next one. Semi-automatic Glocks and Walthers, Cho’s weapons, are for killing people.

I understand the essentially libertarian arguments against government intervention in our private affairs--and our rights to private ownership and private choice. What I do not understand is the insistence on these "rights" in the face of obvious evidence that such "rights" continue to damage the civility and sanity of our society. It's like the arguments defending smoking in restaurants, bars, and other public places--that it's an individual's "right" to do as he pleases. The problem is these "rights" and behaviors cause harm to people who do not choose to partake in them. After all, shouldn't it be our collective goal to make our society a safer, better place in every way possible? Doesn't the common good outweigh the privileges of the individual?

Gopnik ends with this:

Rural America is hunting country, and hunters need rifles and shotguns—with proper licensing, we’ll live with the risk. There is no reason that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun. At some point, that simple truth will register.

He's right.

I've stayed away from commenting directly on these things for too long. Unfortunately, I have now been too close to the harm handguns can do too many times. I have been witness to a man dying. I was lucky enough to be hit and survive. People I know knew victims at Tech. The shooter in Arkansas--just like the shooter at Tech--bought his ammunition at Wal-Mart. Just like that, walked into a store that claims to be family-friendly and purchased hundreds of units of death and destruction.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tom Wolfe

Watching the Colbert Report, and Wolfe is on. He is, of course, dressed in the famous white suit and a contrasting striped shirt. The strange thing is the man is old--I mean, old--but he looks like a teenager. Either he has genes as immaculate as his suit or he is the living embodiment of Dorian Gray. The only telling sign is that he has a bit of a tremor. And he has the same hairstyle as Graydon Carter.

Stop signs are not suggestions!

I watched a girl in an '07 3-series tear through a stop sign this morning on her way to grabbing a parking spot. What makes it worse is that this particular stop sign is directly in front of the VCU Child Development Center. Being the absurdly self-righteous individual that I am, I followed them down the street to the parking spot, where I said, "Do you realize you just blew through a stop sign in front of a school where there are young children and parents?" My tone wasn't exactly nice, either.

The boyfriend in the passenger seat laughed incredulously, and the girl dripped poor-little-rich-girl smugness when she said, "Excuse me? Would you mind your own business?"

"I'm minding the business of the kids and parents who go there, like my daughter used to." The girl closed the window and flipped me off. Bitch.

Granted I could have used a less confrontational approach, but what I really don't get is the sense of entitlement so many people carry. The very attitude that breaking the law is somehow not my or anyone else's business. The very idea that she (or all the people she represents in this argument) can't be held accountable. And shouldn't be. Aargh! Too bad it's pollyanna-ish to wish for a more civil society...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Old photos are always good stuff

Just found this stuff while cruising the interwebs...

This site just blew me away for the run of images, from New York to the Ozarks. Images like this one are just priceless for the history and humanity:

in Dayton

in Dayton
Originally uploaded by pkarns1970.
New pics at gallery.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The other shooting I witnessed

Brian wrote about it here. He really gets it here:
Mine involved only one professor and a seriously disturbed student, but I can't stop thinking about it right now. So maybe writing this post is therapy for me or something--I can't be certain--but it's something I feel I need to write today.

It was the first day of the fall term, 2000. I was in my second year as an MFA student at the University of Arkansas, and I was about to teach my first class of the semester. I was in my office on the 2nd floor of Kimpel Hall, with my friend Paul, shooting the breeze, when we heard two loud slaps, like a metal shelf hitting a tile floor. A voice called "help" twice, then another slap. A voice down the hall yelled something about a gun.

I recall that moment. It was Pat Slattery, our mentor in teaching composition, who was in the hallway, yelling at students to get out, amidst the stench of burnt gunpowder. We waited at different ends of the hallway until the campus bicycle police showed up.

The sense memories of that morning--it was early--were fresh after I was shot four weeks ago. The gunpowder smelled the same. The shots sounded the same, though the ones aimed at me were a bigger caliber. I do remember every moment of that morning, though I cannot recall the second shot that went into the kitchen wall rather than me.

I have cried a lot in the last month. Many things brought the tears the night I was in the hospital, just as every memory of that warm morning in September 2000 crowded back during the growing news of the Tech shootings last week. And I slumped into my chair and cried again.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gratuitous Baseball Moment

It's good to see Pettite back.

Turn Your Screw 3

Here's the set list for my recent mix CD for our little circle of music afficionados:

"I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" Wilco
"Elegant Transaction" Loose Fur
"Taillights Fade" Buffalo Tom
"Landed" Ben Folds
"Stockholm Syndrome" Yo La Tengo
"Salvador Sanchez" Sun Kil Moon
"Hold On" Tom Waits
"Goodbye Rye" Richard Buckner
"Transcendental Blues" Steve Earle
"Bandages and Scars" Son Volt
"Before I Go" John Hiatt
"Phantom Limb" The Shins
"Losing Streak" Eels
"Secret to a Long Life" Michelle Shocked
"Sons & Daughters" The Decemberists
"A Shot in the Arm" Wilco


So, we cruised back from Dayton today after my mother's grande fete. Anna was grumpy, but her mood cleared by the time we landed in Philly.

We landed in Philly with some time to spare on our connection. I thought we should stop for some food, but the lines were long--and my gut said we should move on quickly to the gate before taking any extra time. When we got there, the Richmond tag was on the wrong gate--18 when our tickets said 22. Pretty soon, it was clear that US Airways was battling some kind of massive SNAFU.

Apparently the plane that was supposed to go to Richmond had also been booked for BWI, and we were now pawns in a stand-off between two CSR managers for the airline. One wanted to move us to a 4:00 flight, on which there might not be enough seats. The other wanted to follow the original schedule, in which case the BWI passengers would actually be put on a bus headed for Baltimore.

Both groups of passengers milled around the gate areas, and I decided lunch would be the fruit and nuts we had with us. There was too much chance of losing the flight all together if we walked away. The two groups alternately commiserated--of course I understand or yeah, you could rent a car faster--and faced off--that's supposed to be our plane.

In the end, roughly a half hour after we were supposed to have left, the CSR who had advocated for Richmond threw open the doors and called out that all Richmond-bound passengers should board now, parents traveling with small children first.

It was a rickety, old propeller plane, but we didn't care. We made it home.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wal-Mart is Hell

I've known this for years. In fact, I can't remember the last time I actually entered and bought something at a Wal-Mart. Well, in the aftermath of the shooting, I received a WM giftcard. I'd been trying to figure out what to do with it until last night when we landed in Ohio, and I realized we had no car seat for my mother's Quattro.

This morning I buzzed over to the local Superstore for a quick trip to pick up a booster seat, a couple of movies I'd promised Banana, and a few odds and ends. It was supposed to be a quick trip. Supposed to be.

More than an hour later, I'd finally tracked everything down. The silly part: I still have a $5.12 balance on the giftcard.

I will add this: I'd forgotten how surly WM employees can be--especially when they're bitching in front of customers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

shitty news

Apparently someone claiming to be the suspect's cousin knocked on my neighbor's door yesterday. He asked about her. Then he asked about me. They told him I was in New York.

Suffice it to say that whatever peace of mind I'd found so far has been very, very shaken.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

VT, street crime, and gun control

The gun control debates are already beginning, as well they should. The "people kill people; guns don't kill people" doesn't hold water, hasn't for a long time. As for the second amendment, our need for a well-regulated citizens militia is long past in most parts of the country. There is also no reasonable argument for why any citizen needs automatic arms of any caliber or a gun as big as the one Tyrone Singleton used to shoot me. Ultimately, though, the problem isn't that we need more laws; the problem is that we need fewer guns. Otherwise, chaos will continue, always, to be at our collective doorstep.

Monday, April 16, 2007


One week after I tried to go off the Ibuprofen, I need it more than ever. The vicodin even seems tempting at moments.

new stuff

New pics at the Flickr gallery. Check 'em out.

Brooklyn Museum revisited

On Thursday, our last day in the city, we hopped the train one stop from Grand Army to the Brooklyn Museum.

The BMA's newly renovated entry was unveiled exactly 3 years ago, almost exactly the time I was last solo in the city. The glass entry and newly cleaned facade are a stunning answer to the classic--and dowdy--McKim, Mead and White building. Even on a dreary, rainy day, the place feels more open and welcoming. The addition of the new admission/information desk as opposed to the old trek down the hallway to the hidden entrance desk by the elevators is also a brilliant addition.

The museum continues to evolve on its interior, as well. The third floor galleries have been reorganized to mix the extensive American art collection thematically. While I suspect this method bothers traditionalists, it makes for a much easier trip with a child. The color palettes chosen for the repainted walls also liven up the spaces, which are well punctuated by monitors with old films playing, and ultimately it seemed to be a more active experience for a child.

As much as the first floor and other spaces seemed to be evolving as well, it will be interesting to see how the place changes on future visits.

trauma symptoms

I've been juggling little symptoms of the trauma backlash lately.

1. During the climactic scenes in Beauty and the Beast, flash spots fire all over the set. This left me practically paralyzed for a few minutes, even after I shielded my eyes.

2. This morning, the wind storm blowing through the area blew the trees in back so hard they were banging on the roof of the back porch. Hellish.

3. This morning, the news from VA Tech... reading the initial accounts of the shootings. I'm shaking...

Thursday, April 12, 2007


We're right on budget for the trip at this point--except for the theater tickets. I'd been planning to pick up a new bag, but I guess my new bag will have to wait for another time.

Piccolo Angolo, redux

I haven't been back to Piccolo in at least five years. More than that, I hadn't been there regularly since 1999, but it was--like so many other things on this visit--like coming home. Renato gave me that look that said I know you, but I don't remember your name. And even though they were supposed to be full for the night, he managed to swing a table for us. His daughter took care of Anna with a plate of penne after the goat cheese ravioli proved to be a miss. (I've begun to hate the weird shifts in taste that come with this age.) The house red, which he used to make, was just as basic and easy-drinking as always. They capped the meal off with a chocolate gelato bomb for Anna (and the rest of us).

In the end, I stopped back and said hello to Peter, Renato's son and a pool-playing buddy from years back. He took one look and said, "Holy shit. Now I remember you."

Good times.

Broadway, oy...

Yeah, so... Beauty and the Beast. Oy.

Certainly from a kid's perspective, the show is one hell of a good time. It's the exact story and scenes as the film--with real live actors performing all the good stuff. As theater? I could go into a critical dissertation of how bad it is. I could also go into a critical dissertation of how this is exactly how Shakespeare survived the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There's nothing truly redeeming about the show itself. It does, however, give full meaning to the recently-classic MasterCard ads. The cost of the tickets was a hit to the budget, but nothing could beat Banana's giggles in the final minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NYC, more bullets

Further proof that I've never really left behind being a New Yorker: without even thinking about it, I'm aiming us for the right end of the train and the right exits.


Apparently, I'm healing ahead of schedule. This is good. I am gaining back my range of motion and strength quickly, and the wound is healing progressively. This is all good--though Amy correctly identified it as "an angry wound" earlier. Anyway, the healing also tricks me sometimes. I forget that I am limited still by the presence of this bullet and the cavity it carved into my shoulder. That's when I grip my shoulder in pain and protection.

Double Oops, and a recovery

Banana and I got out to Coney Island today for a trip to the Aquarium, and more importantly, a chance to get some pics of Coney before it completely falls in the face of the developers. What happens, however, but I turn on the digital point-and-shoot and the battery craps out on me. It doesn't fully die, but instead teases me by acting fine and refusing to take any pictures. (Yes, I need to invest in decent batteries, but still...) Sad, sad...

The second part of the brief downturn was trying to go to Totonno's pizza--according to Gothamist and others, the best pizza in the city--and discovering that they are closed on Monday and Tuesday. Long walk for naught with a four-and-a-half year old. Oy.

On the bright side was dinner with Amy and Banana at Franny's. Wood-roasted olives, an arugula salad with mouth-puckering lemon juice, pepper, and excellent olive oil drizzled over it, potato croquettes, a basic tomato and mozzarella pizza, and a clam, chili, and parsley pie. A couple glasses of a nice Barbera and cannoli to top it all off. It was a brilliant meal--a bit pricey at nearly $100, but we could have gotten out of there for less, and considering the quality of preparation and ingredients... sigh... Good stuff.

Random Quote – NYC signs ed. #2

Seen from the F train riding through Borough Park, Bklyn...

"Prepairing Cars for Passover"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random Quote – NYC signs ed.

Outside the Asia Gate at the Bronx Zoo...

The Bullet?

It's there. It's bothering me. Thankfully, I've been able to pull myself off the Ibuprofen today. I'll take a little before bed, but it's nice to see my body begin to heal itself.

In the City

Finally got access in the city. It's been a grand visit so far, and Banana wants to know when we're going to move here.


Tough question to answer, isn't it? I'd move back here in a second, if it wasn't for all the transitions we've been through--not to mention the difficulty finding a job that would pay for us to be back here, and the need to be near Banana's mom for the time-being. Still, it's an idea that keeps lurking in the back of my mind. And when we hop off the subway and I order a bagel and when I watch Anna get savvier about the city, it gets harder to deny...


Wait. The weirdest part of coming back to the city is feeling like I've never really left. Somehow, some part of me has been attached here for the last seven years.

Strange, these parts of growing up.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Random Quote

"He doesn't explode, because he's not a volcano."

Banana, answering me when I was telling her why we needed to take Reilly for a walk.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

borat (or bore-at)

Why did this movie strike me as utterly un-funny?

As satire, it struck me as ham-handed--too obvious and not subtle enough. the segments that caused the most controversy were the best, of course. Asses making public asses of themselves are a sadly humorous commentary on our society. Nearly everything that relied on Borat himself fell entirely flat for me, however. The schtick is cute, but it's not enough to bear the weight of the movie.


"Not bad for a guy with a bullet in his shoulder." Yes, I've taken to answering questions that way. It catches people off-guard, but honestly I don't know what the hell else to say.

What happened is proving to be life-changing in subtle and surprising ways. For instance, even a trip to the dentist with Anna has a new significance. Sitting in a meeting today to discuss a project I had pushed two years ago now has more gravity--each timeline punctuated with the sense that something could change. The mundane matters of life matter more, and the "significant" concerns of bureaucracies matter less.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I have nothing to add to this one.


I'm still trying to puzzle through the details of what happened.

Today, I measured the holes the bullets made in the screens. Since the guy was less than 25 feet away, and since it was a big gun, I am confident that the holes are probably a pretty accurate measure for the caliber of gun. Anyway, the holes both measure .437". A little research on Wikipedia confirmed that this is nearly the exact diameter of a .44 caliber round.

I got lucky. Really lucky.


I promised Banana this New York trip over Christmas. We've been talking about it and looking forward to it for three months now. Before I got shot, I had made plans and had to shift them. After the shooting, I canceled altogether until I got word that I could travel. Now that I have that confirmation, I'm trying to put the trip back together. It's one promise I am determined to keep, especially now.

Unfortunately, it also looks like I may have to do a little more winging it as far as the Broadway show part of the promise goes. The Lion King performances that will work are all entirely sold out. I'm not sure I really want to hazard an evening showing. So, either there is at least one more angel out there, or I have to punt and get tickets for Beauty and the Beast instead.