Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guest post

Every once-in-a-while, FSTS will get a guest post from somebody. (Well, I think it's happened once before.) In any event, this was written for FSTS:

I am a journalist.
         That’s all I can tell you. We have a very strict code about such things. We’re not allowed to reveal anything that might cause gratuitous pain, or embarrassment, or a nasty lawsuit.
         And so I must remain an unnamed source.
         The code, as handed down by Hammurabi through H.L. Mencken and Liz Smith, dictates very careful boundaries in which we are not permitted to humiliate, debase, shame, mock, deride or otherwise expose our subjects to the slings and arrows of Page Six. Unless, of course, we use a tissue-thin disguise, like, say, withholding the actual name, although-we-all-know-what-famous-movie-star-is-stepping-out-on-his-very-pregnant-wife-who-only-eats-turnip-pie-and-bathes-in-diet-Coke-and-has-a-tattoo-of-Andy-Garcia-on-her-forehead.  You see my point.
         But beyond identifying marks we will not go! It’s the code. And, another thing about this code: we journalists never, never, never turn on each other. If, let’s say (just some wild example that may or may not be true) I saw a gossipister, late of the New York Times, smooching with big time developer in the back of his limousine (which I probably did not), I would never write about it. Not with her name. Or anything close to her name. Maybe some identifying markers, like what-65-year-old senior sex-writer-for-the-New-York-Times-who-recently-took-a-buyout-and-lunches-at-the-Knickerbocker-Bar-and-Grill-with some-overage-has-beens-has-been-leaving-DNA-samples-on-what-real-estate-mogul’s-tongue? … But not her name. That’s just the way we roll. That, my friend, (if you are, indeed, my friend, is the code.
         And so I was not shocked when my name did not come up in a recent column by a “former friend” in the style section of the Times. I mean, she did unleash all the bitterness at some supposed slight, which is essential for a good column (see this column for guidelines), she kept the haughty tone of spite and rage at her brave forbearance for the mysterious insult, and she kept the implied revulsion of the wounded populist throughout, but she didn’t name names.
Apparently the essence of her pique is clearly my fault, whoever I am. Our so-called friendship had ended a few years ago (for reasons I will not specify because it makes me look good, and I’m better than that), and she was surprised – SURPRISED! – that she wasn’t invited to the wedding of my son. It was as if she found out that gambling was going on in the back room. In any case, the aforesaid wedding, admittedly an event of some lofty and elite majesty, had taken place without her. Well, she was not invited. And it wasn’t an oversight. There’s the nexus.
 But she got some satisfaction when she saw the wedding pictures on Facebook, noting in her column with an almost perfect arrow of schadenfreude that I gotten old.
She even tried to put some space between my son and his new in-laws by suggesting that I would never visit their summer home on the grounds (sic) that the grounds (very sic) were too grand. Good to see the old girl hasn’t lost her touch.
As the English say, she got some of her own back.
You have to admire a writer who skates so recklessly on such thin ice. After all, there was always the chance that her superiors (not that there are any) would chastise her for using their publication to settle a private score, attacking a fellow journalist, identifiable, albeit unnamed, in what was supposed to be an immaculate publication like the New York Times. (I shouldn’t have said that! Sorry, I meant the-newspaper-of-record.)
The point is, she stayed within the rules of the game, that is, she did not mention my name (nor will I,) however, I will say that I am a little surprised that she didn’t crash the splendid wedding. After all, we purposely had all her favorite foods (she loves to eat) and the champagne flowed like a river (she loves to drink champagne flowing like a river), we employed her favorite musical artists, (she loves to pretend to like her favorite music,) and we invited people she hates (she loves to hate people she hates,) and there were even some guests who were public figures, people she could actually name without being sued.
But enough about me. Like the Dude, the code endures.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four more years

Wow. It's been months (literally) since I touched this blog.

The main reason might be because my schlub persona has taken a huge hit recently. In September, I talked a beautiful, intelligent, funny girl to be my wife. I have officially gone from schlub to hub.

But I still like keeping an eye on the old blog. It's still a good place to sound off. It's still a good place to post my articles. (Like, say, this one today about Mrs. Gross and my trip to New Orleans. Or this other one about election night party venues.) And while I have tried to restrain myself from venting my various political frustrations (like everyone else on the interwebs) I feel that today, November 6, might be time for an exception.

This morning, I cast my vote for Barack Obama.

I think he has had the most successful presidency of any man to hold the office in my lifetime.

Recently, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait penned an ode to President Obama's largely underrated tenure, which I would encourage all my readers to take a look at.

But I think an even better argument for Obama's reelection would simply be to read Michael Grunwald's new book, The New New Deal. It is far and away the best argument for why Obama's greatest achievement (alongside health care, in my opinion) is the stimulus, which was a roaring success. The good it did economically, the good it continues to do in areas like green energy and education, and how the GOP worked tirelessly to sabotage it before the thing had even been signed into law are reason enough to reelect him.

Of course, given the fact that President Obama is decidedly less hip (and less of a sure thing) than he was four years ago, I thought it would be worth looking at my own hopes and expectations back then when I wrote this endorsement. Some of my support for Obama had to do with the issues. Some of it had to do with my disappointment with John McCain and hatred of Sarah Palin.

But I think I got one thing very right that I put at the tail end of the post:

"There's one more thing to add to this: I think that the mess that has been created in the last eight years will in all likelihood outlive an Obama administration. It will take America a long time to emerge from the mire we've been cast in. And I think that Obama -- despite all his gifts -- will have to donate much of his first term to putting out the fires of George Bush and Dick Cheney. As promising a man as Obama is, he will inevitably disappoint. (No one could live up to the hopes of his supporters.) The road will not be straight or smooth. What we will not get is a messiah."

Unfortunately, I think the damage of George W. Bush was worse than even I feared as of the writing of that. And, yes, Obama disappointed those who were expecting magic. But in 2008 I merely wanted to get power away from the GOP, which I felt had become so reckless that they could not be trusted. I was not expecting President Obama to be nearly as productive as he turned out to be. Truth be told I believe his accomplishments were so much grander than I felt I had any right to expect.

The four most important planks of his presidency have been:

1) The stimulus. Seriously, read the Grunwald book. The stimulus was the most ambitious piece of legislation since the new deal. It averted a depression. It changed our energy sector forever. If Barack Obama did nothing else with his presidency, he did that. I'm grateful to him for it.

2) TARP. It was a politically poisonous thing for President Obama to support. Yet it was the other thing (aside from the stimulus) that saved our economy. It also enabled Detroit to stay alive, via the auto bailouts. This saved a million jobs or more. I really hope the people of Ohio remember this today.

3) The affordable care act. He slayed one of the Democratic Party's white whales. Health care reform had been a dream that we have always wanted. And in January 2009, I thought the economic collapse took the possibility of reform down with it. I am glad that President Obama proved me wrong. (And for those who say that President Obama does not know how to deal with congress, I'd say: Who else has passed a behemoth like the ACA? No one since LBJ.)

4) Foreign policy. Iraq is behind us. Osama bin Laden is dead. (I never thought that was going to happen.) Libya was freed from a dictator, without getting involved in a quagmire. Thank god.

And this is not even mentioning the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Race To The Top (actually part of the stimulus), the Dodd Frank financial reform, his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court -- and on and on. President Obama's failures (and there have been several - on environmental and immigration legislation, the high unemployment rate and his failure to restructure the housing and mortgage markets) seem paltry (or at least forgivable) standing next to this long record of success. Given the fact that all this was done in the midst of unprecedented GOP obstructionism is yet another point in the President's favor.

I'm prouder today of my support of President Obama than I was in 2008. Four more years.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Trench press

My round up on everything growing up along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (a k a, "The Trench") is in today's NY Post.

The Real Deal was nice enough to link to it. (As was Brownstoner -- although they were slightly cheeky. But, hey, it's a free country.)

I'm really looking forward to that Pok Pok!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bucking, a trend

Percy's is the best dollar slice in NYC.

There -- I said it.

I actually said it more than a week ago in the Post (but for some reason didn't blog about it until now.)

Of course, just because Percy's is the best, doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of pretty good single dollar options.

Two Bros., which has been popping up all around the city is pretty excellent, when you consider that it's only a dollar. (My main criticism of 2 Bros. is that it's a little doughy, for me.)

Likewise, 99 Cent Fresh Pizza isn't bad -- which also has multiple locations. (That slice is a touch greasy, but also not bad.)

The owner of Percy's (Jim McGown) said something interesting though:

He thinks that all pizza is either going to become $1 slices, or $4 slices, within the next couple of years.

The market can't really sustain the middle-range slice. If $1 slices are decent, that's what people will eat. If they want something truly spectacular, they'll shell out $3 or $4. (Particularly in NYC where people will pay for the cachet of getting a great slice.) But where is the market for the $2 or $2.50 slice?

It might be lights out for them.

In the meantime, check out Percy's.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

If the GOP field were a Top Chef, they would be Hosea

So now it's Santorum?

Clearly the GOP has gotten on the fast train to crazy town.

Not that I care much what Republicans do, but this guy is unelectable, and somebody should think about mentioning it to the GOP voters.

(While old Santorum has stayed away from the jaw-droppingly dumb things he's said in the past, the New Republic has compiled a list of Santorum's greatest hits. If you ever feel that Dan Savage has been too hard on Rick, read it.)

Maybe it's because Top Chef was on last night, but I couldn't help but think about which candidate would be which Top Chef -- until I had a realization:

They're all Hosea Rosenberg.

If you don't remember Hosea, he was the Top Chef that nobody liked much. He wasn't particularly talented or memorable -- except that he cheated on his girlfriend on the show with Leah (who was not only taken, but living with her boyfriend at the time.)

It seemed impossible that Hosea would ever become Top Chef -- until he did.

He mastered the TC phenomenon of never quite doing a bad enough job to get kicked off -- but never doing a good job, either. The guy who should have won (Stefan) did slightly worse in the finale, and Hosea got the top prize pretty much by default. (It felt mind bogglingly frustrating at the time.)

And that pretty much sums up the GOP presidential contenders. They all share at least two of Hosea's three bad qualities. It's just a question of who will out-worse the others.

(1) His loose morals.

Newt Gingrich seems to have that one down pretty pat. But I would also argue that Mitt Romney's willingness to say anything -- anything! -- depending on who's listening to him suggests a certain liberal relationship with the truth.

(2) Nobody likes him.

Willard Mitt Romney -- desperate to be liked. As a result (and for other reasons) despised.

Newton Leroy Gingrich. The most despicable serious candidate in modern times. Every member of Congress who has any memory beyond 2000 knows just how dangerous a guy this is -- as well as nasty, vindictive and unappealing. A small number of tea party supporters think he'll destroy President Obama in a debate (they are mistaken), but that is the extent of his support.

Rick Santorum. So openly homophobic and anti-choice that nominating this guy would be the equivalent of just giving up on any Independent votes.

(3) He's always second worst.

This describes Romney, Santorum and Gingrich. All three of them are a joke. They only become credible when you look at all three of them together. (Ron Paul is a different discussion.) A real statesman -- someone with experience, decent looks, a conservative voting record and the ability to form a complete sentence -- would blow these guys out of the water.

And yet it hasn't happened.

One of these guys will be the GOP nominee (provided we don't get a brokered convention) -- and 2/3rds of the GOP will feel it is the equivalent of giving the prize to Hosea.

They'd be right. All three are Hosea.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let's go Metro!

This is my roundup of everything that's happening in Downtown Brooklyn's MetroTech area.

The stuff about the snake is gleaned from my own personal experience -- I remember coming out of the Fulton Mall's A&S and walking past the defunct movie theater (the same movie theater where I saw such '80s classics as "The Karate Kid" and "Back to the Future" when they first came out) and saw a snake charmer with what looked like a 9 foot long snake!

I nearly ran! (I managed to just walk quickly away.)

The area still has a ways to go, but, yes, it has made some remarkable progress.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy new year!

Here's wishing you a (slightly late) Happy Year of the Dragon!

I actually wrote an account of a food crawl I took in Chinatown a couple of weekends ago here.

Of the places I went to, Peking Duck House was my favorite.

...But as a Chinese-American friend of mine said when she heard the list of places I had visited: "Ah... you had Chinese food for white people."

It's sort of true. To get a really good Chinese meal, I almost think Manhattan Chinatown is over. You have to go to Flushing. (There are, of course, great and authentic Chinese restaurants in Manhattan -- but very few of them are in Chinatown.) But if you're looking for a place to celebrate, check out Legend for some seriously good Sichuan food.