:: Friday, October 28, 2005 ::
Slippery and yummy
:: Thursday, October 27, 2005 ::
Today (Thursday) was Mary's birthday. To celebrate, we went at dinner in the Oyster Bar at Shaw's Crab House, which has become our favorite place for an occasional treat. We like the casual atmosphere, the great service, and the amazingly fresh oysters, usually a dozen or so varieties to choose from. I am glad I married a woman who likes raw oysters. To her credit, when she met me she didn't have much experience with them, but I have since indoctrinated her and she has taken quite a liking to them.
Shaw's was hopping tonight. We had to wait over half an hour for a table. There was good reason -- they were hosting an event they call Oyster Fest. We didn't see or participate in any of the "fest" events, but the upside for us was that they were serving oysters for half the usual price. So we ordered twice as many as we usually do: two dozen. I've never eaten a dozen oysters in one sitting before. They were yummy, but my stomach is still deciding what to do with them. I'm not sick or anything, just very full. It's a full I can live with. I think I prefer half-price oysters to half-price martinis.
:: Ray 12:06 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 ::
I worked late tonight, and a couple of my coworkers were keeping track of the score. It was game 4 of the World Series, after all, with our very own Chicago White Sox up three games to nothing and poised to make the sweep. We all finished right around 10:30 or so, then headed down to the original Billy Goat Tavern underneath Michigan Avenue to have a beer and chips (no fries) and watch the end of the game. It's the only half hour of baseball that I watched all year, and it was fun. Even moreso when we won.
It wasn't quite as amusing as the night before however. I wrote about attending the drag show, but what I forgot to mention was that game 3 of the series was the same night. In a nod to such a major event, the emcee (who was in fabulous drag, changing costumes every time (s)he appeared) periodically brought two "Sox Boys" on stage to get an update. It was impossible not to grin at the idea of hearing the score from two buffed and tanned studs who were naked except for black jock straps and Sox caps. Overlapping parts of the crowd appreciated the visuals and the news, respectively, so just about everybody was entertained, not the least of which was Mary. Was I jealous? Heck, no. Apart from the fact that the studs don't go for chicks, we are talking about a woman who enthusiastically attends burlesque shows with me. I'd have to be crazy to begrudge her enjoying the sight of some scantily clad guys. Bring 'em on!
:: Ray 1:54 AM [+] ::
A night in Boys Town
:: Tuesday, October 25, 2005 ::
Tonight (Tuesday night) Mary and I spent a night on the town. First was dinner at Erwin. I had read a post from Heather (who is newly engaged -- congratulations to her and her gentleman fiance) some time ago about how good their hamburgers were, and I wanted to try one. It turns out that Tuesday night, Erwin features half price martinis. I haven't had one in ages, so I ordered a Bombay Sapphire with olives, and started drinking it on an empty stomach. I was tipsy before the salad arrived, and by the time my burger made it to the table I was downright waxed. Everything was pretty good, but I can't say exactly how good because I was too drunk to judge very well. I look forward to going back and trying some other items on the menu, sans iced gin and olives.
Afterward, we headed up Halsted to Sidetrack for the 13th annual Night of 100 Drag Queens, a benefit for Equality Illinois, where we were treated to some outrageous acts. I landed from my Bombay Sapphire flight about halfway through the first set, and was smart enough not to repeat it. The queens were sexy and funny enough without courting a hangover. Thankfully, the venue was split between a smoking side and a nonsmoking side, so we got to come home without our clothes stinking of smoke. Each side had its own stage for the show, with closed circuit TV showing us what we couldn't see directly. It was a fun and professional show, and it capped off a great evening.
:: Ray 12:25 AM [+] ::
Party in Indy
:: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 ::
This past weekend, Mary and I took Mabel & Myrna down to our friends' James and Ingrid's place in Indianapolis, to lend them a hand in throwing the Party Paranormal. Mabel was parked out front, and several aliens spent the evening in her doing some twisted things. It turns out that aliens like Budweiser. There's no accounting for taste. Dr Kilovolt put in an appearance, as did Tomas, the comedic magician, and even the Fanta girls! Pix are up. Enjoy!
:: Ray 12:22 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, October 17, 2005 ::
I am sad to note the passing of Leo's, which was once my favorite restaurant in the whole city. As I wrote earlier, it changed hands last year. The food stayed pretty good, but without the old staff there, the place didn't have the energy it once had. A few weeks ago I went there for lunch one day and it was closed, with no sign explaining why. A week or two later, the windows were papered over. We'll miss you, Leo's.
One food that has dramatically improved with newer processing technology in my lifetime is instant mashed potatoes. As I child I remember them having the consistency of and tasting similar to powdered soap. Have you tried them lately? They are light and fluffy and they taste like potatoes! Well, a bit of sour cream helps immensely with the flavor, but even without, they are not vile! It's not a huge task to make real mashed potatoes, but it does take some time and effort. With instant, you can have them ready in less than five minutes, with little effort, leaving you free to concentrate on other dishes in the meal. I wouldn't serve them for a holiday meal or anything, but on a weeknight when I am hungry and in a hurry to get dinner on the table, I no longer hesitate to get the box out of the cupboard. In a pathetic gasp of anticorporatism, however, I usually buy the "natural" brand that doesn't recognizably have any of the mega-agri-giant names on it.
I haven't cooked much fish in my life. Growing up, fish usually meant frozen breaded white fish sticks, overcooked on the outside and soggy on the inside. Ack. Recently, however, I have read several times about broiling fish. It sounded pretty darned easy, so I decided to try it. I bought a half a pound of "wild caught" coho salmon fillet on sale, brushed some curry paste on it (according to the fishmonger, you can use any spices you like mixed with a bit of olive oil), and put it under the broiler. The result was tasty, but I undercooked it slightly. The following week, I happened to be near the same store, so I bought some more and tried again. This time, I cut the individual servings apart before I broiled them, and coated them with finely chopped pecans after brushing on the curry paste. I also cooked them a bit longer, about 15 minutes. Yum! This was a winner. On the same roasting tray, I put some portabello mushrooms sliced about half an inch thick, drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with minced garlic. The cooking time was about the same, so I got a 2 for 1 out of the roaster. Together with the aforementioned instant mashed potatoes and some steamed asparagus, I had a yummy and healthy Sunday dinner together for Mary and me in less than 45 minutes, including the prep time. Can't beat that!
:: Ray 12:36 AM [+] ::
Kilovolt strikes again!
:: Thursday, October 13, 2005 ::
On Saturday night, October 17, Dr Kilovolt did his thing in Tomas' Son of Superfantabulous variety show at the Lakeshore Theater. Watch it! (Quicktime movie, 4.4MB) Thanks to Mary for handling the camera.
Along those lines, on April 25, Dr Kilovolt revealed his special surprise live on WGN TV's morning show. Tivo made it easy to get a decent recording of it. Enjoy! (Quicktime movie, 1.5MB)
I tried some different encoding features with these movies. Please let me know if you have any trouble with them.
:: Ray 3:45 PM [+] ::
A few more uplifting words, this time about natural gas
:: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 ::
More pleasant reading from AlterNet.
:: Ray 12:02 AM [+] ::
Bier Bier Bier
:: Thursday, October 06, 2005 ::
Saturday night, Mary and I ended up at a suburban chain restaurant that serves lots of fried food and beer. How we got there is a long story not worth going into, but suffice it to say we had some time to kill. This particular restaurant is not the one with the waitresses in orange shorts and pantyhose, but rather the one with a big La-Z-Boy chair in the middle of the bar area, with a zillion giant TV screens each blaring sound, with the net result that you can't hear any of them. When I saw that the menu had both "regular" and boneless "wings" for the same price, I wasn't sure whether to be impressed (Boneless wings -- what a feat of genetic engineering!), or saddened (Boneless wings -- those poor chickens!).
The place had a fairly impressive selection of major label microbrews. After considering a Hocker-Pschorr and a Blue Moon, I decided on a Leinie's Honey Weiss. My pessimistic view of suburban America was not improved, however, when I saw that the vast majority of glasses being filled were from the Coors Light tap. With half a dozen decent beers to choose from, the suburbanites go for the Silver Bullet? There's no accounting for taste.
As with my car (VW Golf), and my computer (Apple), I can be a bit of a beer snob. I like the little guy and the mid-range import, and I loathe the mainstream swill. For refreshment on a hot summer day, I'll take a Rolling Rock, Stella Artois, or Pacifico. When there is a mediocre beer selection, I'll have the Amstel Light, or maybe Heinie. I don't really go for the darker beers, but for something a bit heavier, Blue Moon is nice, as is pretty much any weiss beer. If the label says Bud, Miller, or Coors on it, though, I'll have a rum and coke. Seriously, I can't believe that a whole movie, albeit not a masterpiece (Smokey and the Bandit) was made about smuggle crappy beer (Coors) across country. Admittedly, at the time, the alternatives were mostly worse: Hamms or Schlitz, anyone?
I do have a weak spot for a couple of cheap beers, notably PBR and Huber. They used to sell Huber at a crunchy bar that I went to every once in a while with the slogan, "taste the cheapness," written next to the name on the chalkboard, and PBR seems to have become the honorary beer of Burning Man. In both cases, the appeal is in the amusement and the nostalgia, not the flavor.
:: Ray 11:46 AM [+] ::
A few words about bacteria to brighten your day
:: Tuesday, October 04, 2005 ::
Some pleasant reading from Bruce Sterling, science fiction and science writer. Via Metafilter.
:: Ray 6:04 PM [+] ::
Fluffgirl Burlesque, Abbey Pub, October 4, 2005
Tonight I attended the Fluffgirl Burlesque, a show based in Toronto, currently touring the States. When I review a show that I have no first or secondhand knowledge about, I try to be as open-minded as possible. Unfortunately, this show had some things working against it before it even started.
Due to factors such as lack of publicity and a rough night (Monday) to draw people out, there were only about 4 dozen people in the room. In a small venue such as the Playground, this would make for an intimate show, but in a space as big as the Abbey it looked painfully empty and, more importantly, there was no energy in the room. If I had been running things, on seeing this I would have had the performers come out right before the show, greet the audience personally to get them invested, and encourage them to move the tables right up close to the stage. Nothing like this happened, and the show went ahead with the Abbey's usual setup of open floorspace for standing in front of the stage, which remained empty for the duration of the evening. I felt bad for the performers before I even saw them.
Fluffgirl was billed as doors at 8, show at 9. At 9:30, there was still no indication of when it would start. I don't expect every show out there to start right on time, but it is a bit annoying to wait over half an hour with no apologies or explanations. A few words about technical difficulties and an ETA would have been nice. The lights came up a few minutes after 9:30.
The show was emceed by sword swallower Tyler Fyre, who also performs with the Lucky Devil Circus Sideshow. Tyler has all the manner and charm of a professional wrestling announcer. He introduced each act as if it was an even bigger vehicle at a monster truck show. As a sword swallower and blockhead he was entertaining, but his style of emceeing did not complement a burlesque show, in my opinion.
The striptease part of the show consisted of three sets in which each of four women with very different styles performed a number. Cecilia Bravo, founding member of the Fluffgirl troupe, has a fifties feel to her acts -- I can easily picture her performing for inebriated businessmen in a smoky lounge back in the day. The Indra is a cabaret style performer out of San Francisco who classed the place up, singing in French. Angela Ryan is a web model whose acts were very Suicide Girls in nature. Finally, Chica Boom, who also performs with BurlyQ, is a stunning lesbian Latina with an energy that brings Charo to mind. There is an intellect that lesbians seem to bring to burlesque that can make it thought provoking while no less enjoyable. I was dissappointed that a balky CD player prematurely ended a number in which Chica Boom was making tamales by wrapping thongs in table napkins. I would have liked to see where she was going with it.
There are more random observations I could make about the show than I have the energy to record here, so let me end with this cliched (with an accent over the e) conclusion: the whole of Fluffgirl was less than the sum of it parts. Each of the performers individually was interesting and entertaining, and the show had a few high points, but overall the entire undertaking fell a bit flat. One final thought about the format: a few numbers with two or more of the girls might have spiced it up considerably. There was never more than one girl on stage at a time until the final bow, and it really limited what each of them was able to accomplish. I recognize that nature of the Fluffgirl format is that they are all separate performers who happen to be touring together, but taking time to collaborate on just one or two numbers could only have improved the show.
Fluffgirl was better by far than Suicide Girls, but I would choose any of the currently running homegrown Chicago shows over it in a heartbeat.
:: Ray 12:24 AM [+] ::