Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The most expensive restaurant in San Diego

Its name is Osetra The Fishhouse, located in downtown San Diego. My girlfriend and I went there last night not because we're particularly wealthy or because we were trying to make some kind of point, but because I was fooled by the website of the steakhouse which I had intended to make reservations for. (Phone numbers everywhere, because Osetra is part of a restaurant "group" that feels it must promote all their holdings on a particular restaurant's website. Whatev -- I'm pretty dumb and hasty.) Let it be said that the other restaurant I had planned on dining at was nearly as expensive . . . but at least it was a steakhouse. There's something rather foolish about $35 fish entrees.

Well, it's an aggressively contemporary, unapologetically tacky, sullenly hip restaurant, of the sort that New Yorkers and Angelinos and Franciscans know all too well . . . except that, in San Diego, we dispense with the dress code. Indeed, one fellow at a table next to us looked like, and I'm paraphrasing my girlfriend here, as if he had crawled out of a Dungeons & Dragons convention: black t-shirt and jeans. Meanwhile, we were conformist enough to be "business casual" -- a ridiculous oxymoron, incidentally. (Since when is business ever "casual"?) There was trancy jazz music pumping through the place that sounded rather like the soundtracks to some of the better soft-core pornos I've seen. Strategic lighting deftly illuminated the two storeys: neon blues, scarf-over-lampshade reds, creamy whites. Pretentious bar, featuring a tower of a wine "cellar" rising in the midst of it. Now this bit provided our entertainment: a young blonde girl -- the "wine angel" -- sat on a cable hoist and, by some sort of lever attached to the hoist, flitted mid-air up, down, and across this tower, ostensibly to retrieve bottles of wine ordered by diners . . . although it seemed to us that she was just opening and closing the doors of the wine tower. I understand that this tacky gimmick was originated in Las Vegas -- big surprise. Myself, I think I prefer the micromini-skirted waitresses one still finds at run-down steakhouses that try to emulate some sort of 1950's heyday, but that's just me, I guess.

What about the food? It was good. My girlfriend's entree, in fact, was rather spectacular: gigantic shrimp stuffed with lobster, scallops, crab, and some sort of herbs, accompanied by a nicely done risotto. Mine was a tad disappointing: Ahi tuna rolls, obscured by spring roll paper, spinach, and "soy glaze" -- a fancy-restaurant-term for teriyaki sauce, one presumes. I might've preferred just the raw tuna. The wine list was astonishing, and not marked up to stratospheric levels (such treatment was saved for the food). Also available were endless bivalve treats and $100 caviar samplers, which we passed on, as we were trying to focus on the entrees. Don't get me wrong, all this was decadent as hell, a perfect way to take revenge against an unseasonably hot and humid late June day, but last Monday we enjoyed a far more rigorous and enlightening experience at a little place in the North Park neighborhood here in San Diego called TheLinkery, which featured a five-course meal composed entirely of an Ossabaw hog (read the details here) . . . all for half the price.

Nonetheless, there's a time and a place for such pretentious eateries as Osetra. Basically, there is a season -- turn, turn, turn -- for wretched excess and blonde wine angels. Take your significant other to Osetra while you're in town, tough guy. (And get the stuffed shrimp.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Cut and run"

So the latest focus-grouped phrase that the Republicans are employing is "cut and run", by which they're referring to a timetable for extracting US troops out of Iraq suggested by Sen. John Kerry and others. Kerry's suggested deadline, outlined in a shot-down resolution in the Senate today, was summer '07; other Democratic Senators, in a parallel resolution (also shot down), recommended that any time in the future would be OK, as long as we just get the hell out.

Of course the Republicans are right: we would be cutting and running if we followed Kerry's advice. To which I would add: So what? Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. How many years are we going to stay in Mesopotamia, expecting different results? Bush has made it clear that American forces will be in Iraq for as long as he is President: do Republicans want all this shit to continue for 2 more years? If any Bush-supporters come across this post, please explain how this would be beneficial. And while you're at it, define "victory", in terms of this military adventure. Does "victory" mean no more violence in Iraq? Just a little violence? Or merely the prevention of a bloodbath between the Sunnis and Shi'ites -- the "hey, it's not technically a civil war" strategy? (The real aim, natch, is a toehold on the country's petroleum reserves.)

I realize that most American soldiers and their families will be irritated by my comments, but hey, all I can say is that this war won't be the first time that common folk who volunteer to serve their country have been deceived by idiotic civilian leadership.

Hey folks, it's your war: defend it logically. Most of the world's Islamic terrorists are not in Iraq -- indeed, a great many reside in the cosmopolitan cities of the West. At least, so say our fear-mongering neo-cons. Well, which is it, boys and girls? If "Islamo-fascism" is the elephant in our room, why are we wasting lives and important dollars in Iraq? You'd be wrong, but at least you could logically defend, for example, the NSA's use of wiretaps as a plausible tactical move in the War on Terror. Or let me put it this way: If you were an al-Qaeda operative, wouldn't you rather be in the West, planning the death of thousands of civilians, instead of taking out a few jarheads with an IED in the desert?

And while we're at it, perhaps someone can explain to me how our overstretched military, bogged down in a sectarian boondoggle in Mesopotamia, is going to deal with the North Koreans, who are getting ready to test-fly a nuclear missile.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bloated death-face of Zarqawi drives down Bush's poll numbers

According to a CBS News poll, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death is actually worsening Bush's job performance numbers. The President is down from 35% approval in May to 33% as of this writing, several days after the al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia leader inhaled the shockwaves of two 500-lbs bombs. Americans, suffering from a rare attack of common sense, have apparently realized that someone else is simply going to replace Zarqawi, who, it seems, just didn't cut the mustard as BushCo's Iraq version of "Goldstein", the eternal, elusive political villain of the Party in Orwell's 1984.

Quit buying oil from the Middle East, guys, and the murderous Zarqawis of the world really become quite irrelevant. (To us, at least.) But, of course, that's exactly what our leaders don't want. We want Iraq to be a successful democracy . . . because we want . . . their oil! Yay! (Did you think it was because we cared? For that matter, go ahead and ask yourself if you care.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth"

Saw "An Inconvenient Truth" today at one of San Diego's few indie multiplexes: they were showing the film on three of their five screens at staggered half-hour intervals. The website for the film (more or less -- http://www.climatecrisis.net/) promises an "intellectually exhilarating" experience. It is not. What it does do is provide some cold hard numbers, supplemented with depressing pictures via the most badass Proxima presentation, like, ever, that support what most thinking people already know. Sadly, the people who need to see it most -- e.g., the Bush Administration -- won't go within a 5-mile radius of a theater-screen on which the film is being shown. Even more sadly, Bush's supporters amongst the hoi polloi won't see it either, on the assumption that it's a political screed.

Occasionally, it does sink to this level. One wishes that Gore and his putative director, Davis Guggenheim, had avoided the cheap appeals for the sympathy of the liberal members of the audience (which is to say, the entire audience). At one point, Guggeneheim utilizes quick-cuts of stock news footage that bring back the heartbreaking and infuriating outcome of the 2000 presidential election. After which, Gore in voice-over whispers sadly, "It was a big blow."

Yah. Problem is, the ones who need to be convinced of Gore's thesis will promptly tune out if they hadn't already. His global-warming road-show already comes across as quixotic enough, not to mention ever-so-slightly self-serving, without the addition of sour grapes. I realize it's probably useless to ask a former Vice President to leave politics out entirely, especially given the circumstances of the 2000 election, but it's critical that the denizens of the fly-over states get Gore's message about global warming without finding that message easy to dismiss as the ravings of a political loser. The evidence appears to be irrefutable, presented in charts lovely enough to warrant praise, I daresay, from Edward Tufte. (At one point, Gore ascends what appears to be a hydraulic platform and raises himself up about 15 or 20 feet, jabbing at a bright yellow dot indicating the world's population by 2050.) Satellite images of the melting away of Arctic and Antarctic ice-pack, along with a rushing river of melting ice in the middle of Greenland's tundra, demolish the arguments against the presence of global warming. Gore draws a compelling and personal comparison of the global warming "debate" (a debate mostly manufactured by reactionary oil interests and their lackeys in government) with the ill effects of cigarette smoking: his father, Senator Albert Gore, Sr., owned a tobacco farm, and his sister, a life-long smoker, died young from lung cancer. After which, Gore, Sr. quit farming tobacco. Gore, Jr.'s point is that the obvious needs to be driven home, usually in agonizing spades, before people change their habits and minds. What he hopes is that Florida isn't half-submerged by a rising sea before people realize that global warming isn't just liberal propaganda designed to checkmate the retirement bonuses of our admirable oil company executives.

Gore is asking us to make global warming a moral issue, to which I say: Hallelujah. My advice? Get your Gore on and see "An Inconvenient Truth", even if you're so well-versed in the topic that it would seem to be remedial education. And drag someone along who is ambivalent or even hostile to the notion of global warming.

A final thought: Gore seems quite fat and happy in this film. I hope the success he's generated with this project doesn't encourage him to run for President in '08 . . . unless he's clearly polling higher than Hillary by the end of '07, of course. In any event, he looks like a man at peace with himself. Stay happy, Al: don't run. Unless you have to. (And I'll suspect you'll have to.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hello, idiots!

I was going to see Al Gore's slideshow about how we're all going to die (good!), but I had homemade pizza & wine instead.