david chang/ugly delicious

For light TV, these cooking shows show just enough substance. I caught some “Ugly Delicious” over the holidays. I knew nothing about David Chang, but he’s the pretty famous chef of Momofuko, which he started at age 26. (Can you imagine? Did I even understand how to do my own laundry at that age?) Momofuko was supposed to be a dismal failure before it even opened its doors, so Chang said the hell with it and cooked wildly. He was rewarded with great reviews, commending him for his originality and inventiveness. His co-host on “Ugly Delicious” is a food critic who gave him one of his early stellar reviews. He says Chang came up to him at a concert, and he told himself, either they were going to become best friends and he would never review him again, or he could keep reviewing him. He chose friendship! (I didn’t catch his name. He is a white guy with glasses.) Now they are like an old married couple who don’t talk anymore.

Chang shows a lot of humanity for the peeps in restaurants and comes across as very humble (could be a lie. Chefs can be as rude and obnoxious as office CEOs.) In the Episode Two: Tacos, he mentioned a Philly taco mistress who walked across the Mexican desert to immigrate illegally to the US so her daughter could become a nurse. Her daughter is a nurse, but this taco mistress’s own status is up in the air. She’s married to a U.S. citizen but illegal herself. Her husband says it’s difficult to expand their restaurant when they live in limbo, how he wants to live in a country where you can be free to be yourself. I have read about people’s arduous journeys in these illegal immigration paths, but it hit me differently when I saw the person who did it. That’s some toughness. Someone like that does well in our country. That seems to be the type of people we’d want. Chang concludes that episode saying his dad became a handyman because it was a job he could do without knowing English. Chang says he has always empathized with the immigrant just trying to do right by their family.
On Episode One: Pizza, he vehemently defends Domino’s pizza as delicious. These is apparently a sacrilegious statement in his profession, since chefs are not supposed to like fast food. The other food experts with him look uncomfortable. Chang is being so public because he hates being told what to do and think. Same. Also, same for my dad. Is this a Korean trait? Can someone tell me? I so identify with it – I go against the grain simply because I’m told not to. For better or worse, it’s one of the instincts that have shaped my life path so far.

Anyway, if I’m not careful, I will end up summarizing every single episode, so let me quit while I’m ahead. Watching this show makes me realize professional cooks are part scientist, part artist. Chang’s wife mentions she didn’t know food could remind her of childhood (I heard of that idea in a play, but thought it was a flamboyant confection) and a Toyko-ian BBQ world-class chef discusses his charcoal as “a living thing.” All these chefs are humble and touched as Chang shouts and curses to the camera about how awesome they are. I love it. Also, the show features a plethora of Korean Americans and other Asian Americans with all sorts of American accents. They are funny, weird, irreverent successful dudes. It’s an ABUNDANCE OF KOREANS! Bring it. I’m ready. (My only wish is I’d like more, ahem, weird Korean ladies on the show.)

michelle wolf

You have to be smart to be a standup comedian. Correction: you have to be intelligent to be a good standup comedian. Most specials start strong, have about ten minutes of interesting, original material and then never deepens, which is why I’ve never really fallen in love with standup. I have flirted with it, exchanged glances, but it never goes further. The whole concept of standup, to me, is it’s a presentation on your thesis of life. to you. Basically, you make your quirky point, your different way of looking at things, and then recite three examples of how your rule applies. And if it’s truly original, the jokes get progressively funnier. Each example elicits a harder laugh. (I have not studied standup. This is just what I glean from the comfort of my couch.) This comedian Michelle Wolf is pretty good the whole duration of her act. She is fun because she’s mega-liberal and quite scathing. She has one bit about abortion, how we’re supposed to feel about it. Even the most devoted pro-choicer says in a whisper full of reverence “But abortion is very serious. It’s a very intense choice.” Like it’s full of regret and sadness – very true. Wolf’s point is this is bogus, that women can feel any way they want about abortion. If you have one, you can feel devastated and sad, or maybe you feel nothing. You feel fine. It’s just a P.S. in your life.

That’s an amazing true point I have never heard articulated before.

She has this other joke about blogs – “blogs are the conversation no one wanted to have with you.”

This, of course, made me think of you.

Thank you.

the witcher

Man, this show is so bad. “The Witcher” is the poor cousin of “Lord of Rings” and “Game of Thrones.” It is so incredibly stupid, and yet – it scratches an itch. The character names are lazy – instead of “Jennifer,” they have “Yennifer.” Instead of “Harold,” they have something like “Yarold.” In a pivotal battle scene, an actor yells out “let’s do this!” What did they invest their budget in? Not the writing. I will say the special effects of slimy monsters and athletic skeletons and dragons look as good as a Marvel movie (but keep in mind I don’t really have an idea how to discern that stuff and my eye sight is terrible – I have these stupid progressive glasses now, which virtually guarantees I see the world out of focus 99% of the time.) The actors wear some weird Emmy gowns and peroxide blonde wigs go through forests and hills. No pointy ears though. The setting seems like legitimate hills and forests, but I keep expecting to see a port-a-potty something else that betrays the budget limitations. Sure, the story says it’s taking place on a magic mountain, but is it actually like Van Saun Park in New Jersey? I make fun of it, but the jokes on me, because I CANNOT LOOK AWAY. Now that we have binged the first season, I don’t know what to do with myself.

brad behavior, essence of marriage

I was listening to this meandering, slightly crabby exchange between Brad Goreski, stylist to the stars, and his husband Gary Janetti, hilarious Instagram, TV and book writer, discuss about their mundane everyday routines. They’ve been together maybe 18 years and married for two. They kvetch like a senior citizen couple, about family and other normal things that make them cranky. I found their chitchat very comforting.

One of the things they talk about is New Year’s Eve, how they always go to bed well before midnight. Janetti goes on about how he hates the pressure he feels to have epic fun and kiss a stranger at midnight. His husband Brad picks at his idea and go back and forth before they settle on the perfect way survive a New Year’s Eve party: look up from their phones, exchange a midnight kiss, then go back to their phones. Perfect. But in reality, they said it was all for naught because they can never stay awake that long. Their biggest concern on New Year’s Eve is what they’re going to eat and watch on TV that night.
Now that is the essence of a good marriage right there. Why else get married? That is a little space of Nirvana.

On another note, I just read Gary Janetti’s first book Do You Mind If I Cancel, a series of memoir-ish essays. They are as funny as people say, but also poignant. I enjoyed them very much. He speaks very well of how sometimes how lonely and wonderful it was to be a young gay man in a way that helps me imagine it.

feedback: halloween edition

I want the custum,

But I don’t want

The mask. Buy the

Custum I just wont

Wear the mask, I’ll

Do face-panit

–[NAME REDACTED]

That note is from Wonder Twin Girl regarding a skeleton costume I just ordered from her on Ebay. It comes complete with gloves, shoe covers, head back, and of course, a body suit, all making up a Halloween human skeleton costume. I thought I had killed it this year, because the bones are GLOW IN THE DARK, but Daughter quickly put me in my place. To me, the note says: hey mom, it’s great that you tried, but you actually failed. Somehow, I will make do with your fallacy because that’s just the kind of mental toughness required of me to cope with this cruel, cold world to survive. J Just kidding. I don’t see signs of my failure as a parent everywhere. Just most places.

Ha ha!

Somehow, Wonder Twin Girl has side-stepped a ultra-girly princess phase, and I am not complaining. I’m not saying she doesn’t like girly things – she does. She has particular ideas about her hair, her clothes, and her nails, but she’s also pragmatic in terms of what outfits work best for hanging upside down at the playground. She still enjoys running as fast as she can, and she has told me that girls in her class already don’t move in gym. She is still physically very cute, but has this deeply weirdo spirit too. I can’t even say she’s part adult. It’s like she’s cute young girl + eerie, 1000-year-old swamp creature. Last year, she wanted to be Chewbacca for Halloween. When she tried on the costume, complete with the hair helmut on top of the full body hair body stocking, it was like the air left the apartment and there was no sound. My daughter was gone. It was just me and this deeply creepy alien organism.

There was another time she face painted herself to look like a tiger, but the result was like this disturbing face camouflage that reminded me of the news pics of the
VietCong in the 1970s. She was so proud and gave me her patented cute puppy dog smile but with her eyes shining from this strange makeup — it is the oddest dichotomy. I don’t get it.

liz phair

Liz Phair was big while I was in college. Her album Exile in Guyville did a lot of frank language about hookups without emotional risk, and had melancholy cranked up to 11 on some songs like “Nashville.” (“Nashville” is not even that first album., so I’m full of it. Apparently I am no Liz Phair expert.)

I read this recent profile of her in New York magazine, and it’s interesting to hear about her history and how her music still has appeal. She talks about how she and her brother were adopted, and he was always a trouble who determined the course of their family. (There is always that one family member who defines the direction of the family. I wonder who it’s going to be in my group of five.) And she tells the interviewer that when she was born, she was not held for two weeks. That sure, there were nurses who probably picked her up, but none were regular, and now she is a mother and sees how crucial the beginning of a person’s life is, that she will never be able to fully trust anyone because of that time in her babyhood.

That made me so sad for her when I read that. There are adoptees who are happy and see their adoption as a sign of being wanted, but not Liz Phair.

freedom dividend

Gosh, it’s October and I already have election fatigue. I’m pleased there are so many potentially viable options among the Dems! That’s good news! Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Julian Colon, and I don’t know, maybe Andrew Yang? He could be a nut job, but man, I like the guy.

I don’t thank he’s necessarily a legitimate candidate, but I find his manner of speaking (just a normal dude) very appealing. When I was studying for an economic development project, all the consultants fretted over what they called Industrial Revolution 4.0, which made them nervous because we now have the ability to replace a lot of work with automation. Unlike previous Industrial Revolutions, there is fear that there will be no more jobs for certain sectors because they have now come up with artificial intelligence (robots) that can now simulate one of the unique things that humans can do: make decisions. No more jobs. More robots. Bad for people. So it was cool to see/hear a public figure reflect back what I’ve been reading.

He also sounds so crazy in other areas. Like in response to the gun crisis in the country, he said he’d add finger print recognition on every owned gun so that only the registered owner can use it — I don’t know. That felt too disconnected from most peoples lives for me. (Like how about no one has AK-47s? Like that feels kinda basic to me. Can we just see if we agree on that?)

But whatever, I’m not here to pontificate about any of the candidates, because what the hell do I know? I will vote for whomever is there in the end (Elizabeth Warren, please). I like when this guy responds to questions like a normal human. It’s been so long (actually, I have no memory of it ever happening) since I’ve heard someone normal at the podium. I actually love his Freedom Dividend idea. The concept is to give every American citizen $1,000 per month for one year. Yeah, I know, it sounds completely bonkers when you first hear about it, but I like his thoughts behind it — that it’s a way to help people deal with automation eating their jobs; that it’s not a ton, but just enough for a waitress to quit her job where she’s getting sexually harassed; it’s enough for a trucker to get off the road and buy a guitar and start playing in a band (true story); it gets to people who do invisible work like Yang’s wife who cares for their autistic son. This feels like an incredibly humane idea. And you know what is truly radical about it to me? It treats everyone equally — rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Latinx, Native Americans (who am I forgetting), old, young — everyone gets treated the same. There is nothing like that in our society. Nothing! So to me, this is a demonstration of true equality, and I think that scares the bejesus out of some.

Also? I like that he’s Asian and seems decent. I really like that.

vocabulary

This morning, Wonder Twin Boy (WTB) and I were looking frantically through the laundry for his chess club t-shirt.

WTB: We are never going to find it.
Me: Don’t be such a cynic.
WTB: What does cynic mean? Does it mean asshole?
Me: Does it mean WHAT?
WTB: Asshole.
Me: Who told you that word.
First Son (from the other room. he always wants to know what other people are talking about): What word?
Me: A bad word.
First Son: Which one?
Me: Asshole. Don’t say it again. It’s a curse word. And that’s not what a cynic is!

I assumed they heard it from school but when I was laughing about the story later with Husband, he said he has probably said it recently. *sigh*

the nature of passion and work

I read So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, because I heard him on the 10% Happier podcast. What he said about work blew my mind — that follow your passion is terrible advice. Passion does not necessarily lead to the right line of work, it’s more that work leads to a passion for it.

I think about work a lot. Makes sense, since I’m there for the majority of my waking life. Sometimes, my day is not bad at all and other times, I want to win the lottery — so truly, I can always think of something to complain about but if I’m being honest, my lot in life is pretty good. I’ve read pieces on the idea of work, like Toni Morrison’s piece that ran in The New Yorker. Her father taught your job is not your life; your life is the part outside of the job. With this in her pocket, she said she could work for and with any number of geniuses, ding bats, toxic people, and some pleasant people. It didn’t matter.

The New York Times ran a piece in the NY Times on passion and work, which seemed geared to people who feel dissatisfied about their job unless it was meaningful or a calling. That in itself seems like a luxury, because most people have to work to pay the bills and would die to nab an office job where physical labor is limited, there a benefits, and a better than average pay. But in the end, it was about how passion and meaning are confusing or misleading measures for job satisfaction.

Cal Newport said the idea of passion comes later. Steve Jobs always lectured to follow your passion, but Newport points out that he was not remembering his origin story correctly. Right before Apple started getting kicking, Jobs was equally enamored with meditation. It was only when he and his friend got orders for thirty computers did he begin focusing on Apple. Newport reports something like the majority of passions listed by high school students is the arts and sports. That was sobering! Sports as a career has always been presented as delusional to me.

I was once at a book launch in an elementary school in Harlem with two well-known politicians. They went around to each child in this third grade class and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. (All the kids were African American). Every time a little boy said “basketball player,” these two politicians sighed and shot the kid down with “Many are called, few serve.” Dang! I mean, sure on one hand, I feel like there’s history where they don’t want all little African American boys to become sports starts because not everyone has the gift and cash flow of a LeBron James (Is he a basketball player? Can someone confirm? I’m so bad.) — they want these kids to be upwardly mobile. At the same time, THEY’RE KIDS! Is there really a need to shoot them down and pop their dreams? What do you understand of life in third grade? (Or at my age for that matter.) In third grade, I wanted to become a waitress. That changed. This is just one of the thousands of ways African American children are discouraged that never makes the news (but more on that later).

Anyhoo, I found this finding fascinating because I always presumed my interest in the arts was a passion and I wanted to make my living at it, and I think I’ve always kind of looked down on myself for “giving up.” (Um, though when you’re an aspiring professional actor, what are you giving up exactly?) Newport says passion is derived from putting time in, by becoming an expert by working hard — then the passion kicks in. It doesn’t matter what you pick, as long as you pick something, and bust your butt at it. This is terrific counsel for someone like me who is often wondering if she should take a left or a right. Who the heck knows the next steps in life should be? Nobody. We are all struggling, we are all trying to figure it out.

rats and joy

I read this crazy article in The Atlantic, “The Game That Made Rats Jump for Joy” by Ed Yong. Apparently, there is an experiment where scientists successfully taught rats how to play hide and seek. They removed the reward system of water and food, and instead, tickled the rats in order to teach them the rules. The rats were able to understand the rules of the game and switch roles. In other words, they understood when they were to hide versus when they were to seek. It reportedly was important because it demonstrates sophisticated brain activity for animals, but rat lovers/people who keep rats as pets were not surprised as they have observed firsthand the playful nature of rats. The rats in the lab left each day completely spent, just like a toddler apparently, and would sleep hard at night. It was the happiest experiment in the entire lab for both rats and the scientists.

I opened the entire article slack-jawed and could not stop laughing in horror.

First of all, could they think of a scenario more opposite to all my hopes and dreams? Tickle rats? I cannot think of anything more terrifying than looking for rats; oh wait, I can — that would be to be hiding from rats and being found! Eeek! Shudder! Also, like what happened to these people that this is their job? What steps lead to something so strange?

I couldn’t stop laughing as I read the article, and when I explained the horror to Husband, he did not get why I couldn’t stop laughing. Oh well. We’re still married, but it’s awkward. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

As much as there is so much to make fun of in this article, it also served to be a mini wake-up call. Lately, I’ve been very absorbed in the doom and gloom of society — the racism, sexism, massacres by deranged, crazy white men, climate meltdown, etc., etc. but this article gave me some perspective. No matter what, I need a space to have fun — have fun everywhere, at home, at work, on the subway, etc. Because sure, we might get washed away by a hot ocean, I’d really like to giggle before that happens. Like the incredible Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Summit — she is amazing to watch. I feel her urgency and it’s energizing to see someone so authentic, but my god, I hope someone sneaks her a whoopee cushion once in a while, because you cannot continue in activism if you are consumed by rage. Anne Hathaway recently talked about a role where she described the character as more angry than alive — that made sense to me, and we’re all in danger of becoming that state some days.

My depressing posts to come! But for today, enjoy the photo of rats I forced myself to google! (Barf.)