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diatribesrecipes & food

The Impending Sushi Apocalypse

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I found myself in a mini-mall in Des Moines, Iowa earlier today and happened to notice the following hand-lettered sign in the window of a Thai restaurant:

 We Now Offer Sushi!  Delivery Too!

As someone whose definition of happiness is sharing a large platter of sushi and a couple of Sapporos with one or more good friends, this sign bothered me for any number of reasons.

First, people, it was a Thai restaurant.  Would you eat sushi at a German restaurant? Then what is it that makes a Thai restaurant any more plausible as a vendor of raw fish, seaweed, and rice, other than the fact that Japan and Thailand are both in Asia, albeit many thousands of miles and radically different cultural and culinary traditions apart?

Second, the sign was scrawled in black magic marker.  At restaurants that specialize in sushi, the chefs train for years.  For some reason, the unwilligness of this restaurant to invest 29 bucks in a professionally printed sign suggested to me a rather shorter training period, and a decidedly less rigorous dedication to quality.  [Read more →]

conversations with Paula and Robertmoney

The incomprehensible bailout and the problem of experts

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Paula: One thing I appreciated about George Bush’s speech last week about the government bailout was the effort to explain the crisis in simple terms. Part of what bothers me so much about the financial crisis is that I don’t understand it, something that I feel particularly insecure about. I don’t even know how to ask the questions required in understanding it.


  Robert: As a former newspaper reporter, I can say that reporters live for the challenge of making anything more understandable. I think the science writers sometimes have the hardest time. But this subprime mess has reporters utterly struggling to make sense of it for a general audience. I listen to “market place,” an excellent NPR business show, and they talk about struggling to understand the crisis, not just to explain it. [Read more →]

diatribesrecipes & food

National HUH? day

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So, we’re on our way to get a couple of Cuban sandwiches yesterday, and suddenly hear on the radio that it’s National Family Health & Fitness Day. We didn’t do anything healthy or fit yesterday. Did I mention, we were going to get Cuban sandwiches? Later, we see on TV that the upcoming week is ABC’s National Stay-at-Home Week. We’re not planning to stay at home, because even though we watch some ABC shows, we have a DVR, so we can come and go as we please. Who makes up these national and international days and what’s the point unless there are some teeth behind the idea, to enforce it? Don’t declare national and international days of anything unless you have the power to make it so. Either we do things as a mob, or we just do them when fancy strikes, as individuals. Like the International Talk Like a Pirate Day that we apparently just missed. Well, we didn’t talk like pirates that day, so it’s not international, is it, because we weren’t part of it, and we are an integral part of the world population. If you’re going to nationalize and internationalize, do it properly, with some muscle, to make sure everybody participates.

My husband says that anyone can declare any day a national or international day of anything, and that I could declare an International Cuban Sandwich Day, if I wanted to. Well, maybe I would, if I had an international army big enough to help me force a Cuban sandwich down the throats of everybody in the world, including vegans and carbophobes. He also said something about instituting an International Gimme a Dollar Day, but I think there are too many people in the world who don’t have a dollar, so that’s just unrealistic.

Since I don’t have an international army to back me up, anyone is welcome to make their own Cuban sandwich, the way they make it at the Cuba Bakery in Union City:

Cuban bread, fluffy and crusty
slices of Genoa salami (apparently, that makes the sandwich Miami-style, but we don’t mind)
slices of roast pork loin

Cut the bread lengthwise, spread enough mayonnaise on the halves just to moisten, lay the salami on the bottom half, then the pork, cover with the top half, heat through (like an Italian panino) in a sandwich press. Cut in halves crosswise, on a slant. Never mind the health and fitness — Cuban sandwiches aren’t slimming.

family & parentingon the law

Teen acting up? Move to Nebraska!

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An article in the Chicago Tribune has me chuckling this morning. It seems that law makers in Nebraska got more than they bargained for when passing recent ‘Safe Harbor’ legislation designed to protect unwanted newborns.

Parents are abandoning teenagers at Nebraska hospitals, in a case of a well intentioned law inspiring unintended results.

Over the last two weeks, moms or dads have dropped off seven teens at hospitals in the Cornhusker state, indicating they didn’t want to care for them any more.

While this latest snafu by law-makers shouldn’t really shock anyone, I am sure it is raising a few eyebrows. Those on the right will be grinding their teeth and muttering about Family Values and the destruction of the traditional family unit while secretly wondering if they can talk their mistresses in to relocating, while those on the left will surely be cheering the ‘alternative parenting model that frees parents to reach new heights of self-actualization’ or some such tripe.

I think this whole situation is hilarious. Parents who would give up the kids probably shouldn’t have had them in the first place and the kids will be better off out of a home where they are not wanted. Plus it is sure to give the elected officials many sleepless nights, and that is never a bad thing for politicians.

Meanwhile, parents across the nation who are feeling overwhelmed when dealing with recalcitrant teens can be heard yelling, “One more outburst like that and we are moving to Nebraska!”

art & entertainmentcreative writing

The Worst Actor of Our Time, Part II

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Part Two:  The Dead Return 

A week ago, when I posted the first half of this reminiscence of my very brief career in my twenties as a performer, I had intended the follow-up to be a light-hearted account centering on one of my two objectives back then in pursuing acting: meeting girls. 

But every time I tried to write that story, the face of one actress in particular, and her unimaginably horrific story, kept materializing like an admonishing wraith, and I realized that this instead was the story I needed to tell.

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adviceall work

With the right advice, art whore won’t blow job

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Dear Ruby,
I have a job people often envy.  I am a writer in advertising.  My friends think I’m cool.  However, my boss re-writes everything I turn in.  Today, after weeks of research on a new client, I turned in a great bunch of headlines for a magazine ad.  She re-wrote them, but obviously had not done the research.  Do I give her notes on why her version sucks?  The guy next to me says to face the fact that I’m an art whore.  I never was a very good whore, so I’m not super comfy with that.  What to do?


Peach, honey,
I think maybe someone doesn’t want to be a very good whore.

Bosses, teachers, editors, pimps — they’re always telling you to do stuff you don’t want to do and then sometimes they’re not even very nice about it. And sometimes they’re dumbasses. If your boss is really a dumbass who’s rewriting your great stuff and turning in her own crappy stuff (and hopefully not passing it off as yours), the market/management/clients will eventually correct her.

My advice: keep lovely laser copies of all your own great stuff, build yourself a bitchin’ portfolio and get ready to move up when she gets canned or maybe start dreaming about your own piece of street corner.  But, remember this, even if you’re really good, even if you have the greatest stage name ever — even if the john is Richard Gere — Peach, you are a filthy whore, like everyone else. We all sell stuff to buy other stuff and we all have to deal with the difficult people on top from time to time.

Be a better whore. Work on your technique. Take it with a smile. Keep good records. And let old Ruby know how it works out.

Does Ruby know what’s best for you? Just ask.


Interactive dreams and advice

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Um, readers, just so you know, When Falls the Coliseum is, like, totally interactive. So how ’bout interacting with it?

Fred Siegel has been posting hilarious descriptions of his actual dreams. He invites you to write in with your interpretations. Feel free to comment on any of them — all of Fred’s Dreams are here. Let’s help this fine young man make sense of the chaos.

Ruby Mac is ready to give you some good advice about getting cheap thrills and getting by, especially welcome in these troubled times. You can ask her for advice here and she may reply in her column, just like Ann Landers, only funnier. And less dead. You can read all of Ruby’s “Advice for the Rest of Us” here.

All of our posts in all of our categories are open to your comments. So join the conversation.

Fred's dreams


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July 18, 2008
I dream I work in a fancy mall/office in northern New Jersey where many duplicate pieces of magic apparatus are used for clerical purposes. A ne’er-do-well dressed as a lawyer follows me to my home office through the mall/town, and I can’t shake him. He follows me inside and tries to look at all my papers and sit at my desk. I insist that he show me his lawyer ID, and he reaches into his crotch and pulls out a pair of socks.

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conversations with Paula and Roberteducation

Can professors really keep politics out of their classes?

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Paula: Having read the discussion of how teaching evaluations affect tenure in universities in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, I was struck by the implicit assumption on the part of the aggrieved teachers and of the reporter that it is fine to air personal political views in class — that this is part of the initiation of students into various viewpoints.

But it has always been my assumption that the role of the teacher is to hold back — at least to some degree — on personal views so as to give the students a chance to explore more objectively. I suppose this is the conventional, traditional view, though as some profs point out, the seemingly “objective” view can also be implicitly politicized.

Still, I see objectivity — or nonalignment (perhaps a better way of putting it) — as the ideal. I do think that so-called “enthusiasm” is sometimes a euphemism for zealotry. When enthusiasm is linked to a particular political position it is not a positive value in a teacher and can instead be a form of bullying and coercion — and students can rightfully resent it.

  Robert: I want to challenge the premise of your statement above. [Read more →]

art & entertainmentcreative writing

The Worst Actor of Our Time

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Part One: Bury The Dead

My recent post on this site entitled “Robert De Niro’s Ugly Mug: A Roundabout Review of Righteous Kill by Way of a Long-Forgotten Horror Flick CalledThe Flesh Eaters,” prompted a number of complaints (the number, to be precise, was one) that I had no right to mock a once-great actor like De Niro — an Oscar-winner, no less — when I myself had never personally experienced the challenges of creating a character, the terrors of facing a live audience, or the trauma of encountering witheringly negative reviews.

All of this is utterly untrue.  I have known terror.  I have felt trauma.  And not only have I experienced the challenges of embodying an onstage character, I have failed in every conceivable respect to meet those challenges. 

In short, I do indeed have a background in acting, and one that is not without an interesting parallel to De Niro himself.  Just as De Niro, in the years between Mean Streets and Meet the Parents, once was widely considered to be the Greatest Actor of His Generation, I once was regarded in certain very narrow circles as the Worst Actor of His Time. [Read more →]


Robert De Niro’s ugly mug: a roundabout review of Righteous Kill by way of a long-forgotten horror flick called The Flesh Eaters

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One of my earliest movie-going memories is of being dropped off at Chicago’s Nortown Theatre with my friend Saul when we were nine or ten years old to see an ultra-low-budget horror movie about microscopic monsters called The Flesh Eaters.  Some promotional genius at the studio had come up with the idea of offering all attendees one free packet of blood per ticket.  

The packets, which were handed to moviegoers along with your ticket stub, were similar to the ones used for soy sauce in carry-out Chinese, and contained some sort of viscous red liquid that must have been edible.  As idiotic, tasteless, and utterly inappropriate promotional gimmicks go, this one was bloody brilliant — at least in the sense that, to this day, I can still remember it vividly.

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health & medicalrecipes & food

And a twelve-legged chicken in every pot

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That the FDA will consider proposals to sell the public genetically engineered meat doesn’t surprise me. It was only a matter of time. It’s probably a foregone conclusion that the FDA will also find it safe for human consumption — what’s another “oops”? Besides, maybe it is safe. What piques my interest is the controversy over labeling such foods: the producers demand — and the FDA appears to be inclined to humor them — that such food not be labeled because of the ignorant consumer’s fear of the unknown. Since the gross-out factor is pretty high, they argue, it’s best we don’t even know that all the thighs in the family pack came from the same chicken.

I already buy only chicken labeled “no antibiotics” (because “no hormones” label on a chicken is laughable: chickens aren’t raised with hormones; that’s for meat). Do you think the old-fashioned producers will be allowed to label their product “no DNA messing”? Does anyone know of an organized active resistance to this what-you-don’t-know-won’t-creep-you-out school of thought? I want to join.


Community Ed, Fred

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Cheap Thrill #1
There it is. Forty bucks. Art history. Cooking sushi. Walking tours of the veteran’s cemetery. What-ever. Throw a pot. Build an Adirondack. Channel your chi with chai.

Throw away your J. Jills, your Lillian Vernons, your SkyMalls, and open just one catalog this season, the Community Education catalog. Then pick anything you want — anything.

It feels like a splurge, but there’s no shop in town that will give you as much bang for your buck. What good is another cheap Old Navy turtleneck, when what you really want — deep down — is to make perfect buttercream rosettes? Some nutcase out there wants to show you how, for next to nothing.

Community ed. Not only do you get a cheap night out, new friends, and possibly a clay ashtray or wobbly pine stepstool that you can give as a holiday gift to some long-suffering relative, but you can write the whole thing off as self-improvement. Maybe the next love of your life is out there right now, writing a check for six weeks of Beginning Fencing. Haven’t you always wanted to fence? What are you waiting for?

Ask Ruby for advice


“Advice for the Rest of Us” coming soon

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Coming soon: Advice for the Rest of Us, a weekly column by Ruby Mac. Read all about it here and submit your questions to Ruby. Kind of like Ann Landers, only still alive. And funny. Not at all like Ann Landers, now that we think about it

his & hersmoney

Come back to my place…mom won’t mind!

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Is it right for a woman to hate on a guy just because he lives at home?

According to a recent survey conducted by the New York Post, 52 percent of women said that they would not date a man who was living at home. I’m not defending those kinds of guys because I was one of them as recently as early May of 2007, but rather because it’s simply not fair.

Look at the economic climate that this country is dealing with. In many situations, people of both genders are being forced to stay home for financial reasons — anyone who chooses to live there and avoid paying rent or mortgages is making the smart call. Some men might have family issues to deal with that are easier to manage when they live at home. There are plenty of well-educated, well-adjusted, bright men with great futures who simply do not have the resources to get off the ground at present time. Women can’t use the privacy as a crutch to stand on either… if sexual urges hit, why can’t they simply go back to her place?

For the record, paying rent really is a bear when you’re 26…unless you work for Bear Stearns or something, and judging by the Dow’s recent performance, more than a few comfortable folks should be tightening their belts right about now.

Fred's dreams


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July 9, 2008
I dream I am in bed in my parent’s house, and sitting on the bed, in a blue shirt, is a boy who looks like me. The boy doesn’t want to be there; he is being compelled somehow and he wants to leave to do something else with his brother. I believe that the boy is a younger version of me and I want him to stay. After a few moments, when he feels he has discharged his duty, he gets up and runs away. I try to protest, but I can make no sound.

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ends & oddlanguage & grammar

Let’s Take a Flying Leap Into the Freedom New World

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I was at an enormous Asian supermarket called Super H today and I saw, among all the shelves of miso, tofu, and kim chee, a new kind of iced coffee from Japan called “Let’s Be Bitter.”  (There’s a companion brand called “Let’s Be Mild.”)  Although I resisted the impulse to buy either variety, I was inspired by the names to dig up some old files of strange and astonishing “Janglish” I collected the last time I was in Japan.   All of the following are real, as hard as some of them may be to believe:  [Read more →]

on the lawpolitics & government

The abortion non-issue

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This article in the Economist got me thinking…

The Palin appointment is yet more proof of the way that abortion still distorts American politics. This is as true on the left as on the right. But the Republicans seem to have gone furthest in subordinating considerations of competence and merit to pro-life purity. One of the biggest problems with the Bush administration is that it appointed so many incompetents because they were sound on Roe v Wade. Mrs Palin’s elevation suggests that, far from breaking with Mr Bush, Mr McCain is repeating his mistakes.

Well, it is true that abortion is a very dangerous topic in American politics. Neither major party likes to tolerate dissent on the issue—at least, from spotlight personalities like the presidential nominee. We won’t see a pro-choice Republican ticket any more than we will see a pro-life Democratic ticket.

But what I currently find alarming is the perception on the Left that we are on the brink of overturning Roe v Wade and sending young women to bleed to death in back alleys across America. That’s simply not the case, and the dire anti-abortion warnings about the McCain-Palin ticket are either misplaced or disingenuous. [Read more →]

damned liestrusted media & news

The Last Political Post

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The pop-culture columnist Richard Roeper once said something to the effect that wearing a baseball cap backwards lowers the wearer’s apparent I.Q. by 15 points. 

I think the same principle applies to using e-mail to forward unfounded, out-of-context, or patently absurd political rumors to your friends in order to terrify them into voting for, or against, a political candidate. 

I’ve sworn off reading these e-mails — I don’t think I’ve seen a single one so far that I felt added to, rather than detracted from, the human condition.  [Read more →]

black helicopter watch

Supreme Court Hears Xenu petition

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Washington DC September 15, 2020 — Citing the acceptance of the Sharia Courts by the Former Great Britain’s High Court as a separate but parallel legal system, The Church of Scientology filed a case in Superior Court for a ruling on the creation of a “Xenu the All Powerful Court of the Spiritually Rehabilitated.”

According to an unnamed Scientology spokesman at this morning’s press conference, the creation of this court would “allow the enlightened to face an enlightened court that would understand the challenges of the spiritually rehabilitated at various levels and fees.”

Opponents of this bill cite the widespread abuse initially reported under the Sharia Courts in the former Great Britain. Prior to the abdication of King Charles, shortly after he ascended the throne, the entire government resigned en-masse in protest when the House of Lords was closed in favor of the Council of Muslim Clerics. The newly elected Religious Leader and head Cleric of Great Britain, Mohammad Aliq Sharif, made his first act a change of the name of the nation to New Islaamabad. His acceptance speech called for an end to the “heretical so-called ‘Free Press’ and the creation of a Ministry for Public Information.” [Read more →]

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