Joan and I started watching Netflix's "House Of Cards" this week. It's a political drama, sort of a dark "West Wing" where cleverness becomes conniving, where righteousness is dissolved by the acid of a means to an end.
In the first five minutes of the show I was reminded of Saving The Cat, a book about how to write screenplays. "Saving the cat" is a device used near the beginning of a movie which gives the audience a reason to connect with the protagonist, an obvious example being the hero saves someone's cat from a tree. Or some other act of kindness or bravery.
I was reminded of this because in the opening scene of "House Of Cards" Kevin Spacey comes upon a neighbor's dog who'd been hit by a car. Spacey's character is forever breaking down the fourth wall, telling the audience what is going through his mind. As other characters are running around in the background Spacey kneels over the injured animal and explains to the audience that there are two kinds of pain: one kind instructs, the other is just useless pain.
Johnny Sack of the New York family in "The Sopranos" appeared as a judge in "The Good Wife". Uncle Junior appeared as a judge, and I believe it was in the same show. Anyway, I keep my eye open for these sightings.
Well, it's been a strange couple of days, what with all the news coming in from back east. My home town of Keyport apparently got whacked pretty badly. Ye Cottage Inn, where I was a busboy in high school back in the 60s, was demolished, as was Mike's Submarines, home of the greatest sub sandwiches in the world.
While this was going on far away, here in Portland Joan has been assisting in the birth of a baby. I really don't have any details, she landed in bed around two, two-thirty this morning. It started a day earlier, so Joan right now is upstairs, making up for a lot of lost sleep.
Which reminds me of the BBC's Call the Midwife, a great little series about being a young midwife in the grimier areas of London in the 1950s. And one of the best characters on TV now is Chummy, a rather large, awkward woman who is just the sweetest person. She's the kind of character you wish was in your life.
I think the season's final episode is this weekend. If you haven't seen it, try to find it out there in the video world.
I have a confession to make. The first few episodes drove me to tears. So much human emotion, much around babies being born. Luckily, Joan likes the sentimental sod that I can be. Otherwise, being reduced to tears on a regular basis in front of my lady might be seen as a sign of weakness.
Good show. Watch it. It's nice to know that in the midst of death and destruction that new cast members for humanity are regularly making their appearance onstage.
Last night we were flipping around on the TV, between the final Presidential debate, the Monday Night Football game and the game seven playoff between the S.F. Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The ballgame started at five p.m. West Coast time, the debate at six, and the football game sometime in between. By the time the debate started the Giants were well on their way to creaming the Cards 9-0. There wasn't much to the debate except to discover that Romney's knowledge of geography is on par with Gerald Ford's. Mitt's foreign policy is apparently the same, only louder. The football game didn't get much traction in my brain. Joan and I had salads with our drinks, but there really wasn't all that much tension to require self-lubrication. It was fun to watch the crowds at AT&T, the people wearing panda hats, panda heads and all the other paraphrenalia that the fans there display.
In the top of the ninth there was an epic downpour, this is the start of the rainy season on the West Coast, and if this were any other game it would have been called for rain. But with one out to go, the infield an indefinite rectangle of brown mud, Romo, another one of those bearded Giant relief pitchers, got the last Card to pop up to Marco Scutaro, an old vet the Giants picked up in the Summer as insurance, and that sealed the deal. Scutaro won the MVP for the series. He deserved it.
Wednesday is the mayoral debate here in Portland. It plays opposite the first game of the World Series. I'm presuming similar television dynamics.
Everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, the new Times Square flagship restaurant engineered by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, signifies its Guy-ness. The words WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN are stenciled, graffiti-style on the dark brick near the entrance, flanking a wall of licensed Guy Fieri merchandise. Above one of three bars, there’s a huge wall-mounted Cadillac logo. The plank wood flooring and fire-engine red plush booths make it feel like a bowling alley, and the white tablecloths are barely concealed by brown butcher paper, which, in a way, might be all you need to know. Most of the food and drinks on offer are embarrassing to order. Imagine saying the words, “I’ll have the Buffalo Bleu-Sabi wings followed by the Motley Que Ribs and a Big Ol’ Funkin’ Pumpkin Ale.” Hold on to that prickly blaze of shame roiling in your gut, and you’re close to knowing the dull pain of every waking second spent inside this restaurant.
Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar isn’t Fieri’s first restaurant. In 1996, he and business partner Steve Gruber opened Johnny Garlic’s California Pasta Grill in Santa Rosa, California. It’s since expanded to five locations. Also located far, far away on the West Coast are two locations of the Fieri and Gruber–owned Tex Wasabi’s Rock n’ Roll Sushi BBQ, a name that sounds, first of all, like nothing but a string of words and, second of all, actually insane, as if the restaurant itself suffers from some schizophrenic identity crisis. Even worse, there’s Guy’s Burger Joint (est. 1968), a united venture between Fieri and Carnival cruise lines. “I know this great little hole-in the-wall burger joint. What? Oh, it’s on a Carnival cruise ship,” you might say to someone … never.
But Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar feels like the locus of Fieri’s outsize personality; it’s not so much a Guy Fieri restaurant as a Guy Fieri–themed restaurant. It’s also, barring the docking of a burger-joint-fitted Carnival cruise ship, his first expedition into New York, America’s hub of celebrity chef–owned eateries working to convey the personality of their namesake cooks, whether or not they’re actually on the line slinging sashimi tacos. Like Fieri, his new Times Square tourist destination feels thoroughly counterfeit and cartoonishly manly, completely bogus down to the last detail. And so it, of course, provides a natural extension of Fieri’s own overcooked, hypermasculine persona.