Sunday, August 05, 2007

4 stars, Fish and coffee, maple's syrupy, and hippie jam

It seldom gets better than these recent NY Times articles:

Frank Bruni on abysmal behavior at astronomically expensive restaurants:

“During the course of the night he drinks maybe five or six bottles,” Mr. [Eric] Ripert said, explaining that the man nonetheless manages to remain vertical because he is “probably 6-foot-5, and he’s probably 400 pounds. I mean, he’s a monster. He’s huge.”

And on his most recent birthday, after many of those bottles had been drained, he teetered downstairs in his chef’s whites, commenced a showy promenade through the main dining room and accepted compliments from the people there, who understandably took him for one of the kitchen staff.

This much he’d done before, but he broke new ground with his next trick, which was to instruct servers to bring caviar over to this table, Champagne over to that one. And Mr. Ripert said that Le Bernardin ate the cost of these haute freebies, because the tanked titan is such a good customer, and his heart is as big as the rest of him.

...

That’s not to say Philadelphia can’t compete. According to news reports, it was there, at Le Bec-Fin, that a well-lubricated, pot-bellied patron traded taunts with foie gras protesters on the sidewalk outside by leaping up and down, which presumably caused considerable jiggling, and bellowing, “This is what foie gras did to me!”

Holland Cotter, on Bread & Puppet Theater:
Bread and Puppet gave me the single most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen in a theater.
...
As the fire burned, a half-dozen great white gulls or cranes — muslin kites carried on sticks by runners — soared up from the horizon and started flying in our direction. They came right to the flames and soared over them as if looking for signs of life. Then they circled back across the field, melting into darkness. It was fantastic. Only when they were out of sight did I see that night had fallen and stars were out. It felt like an impossible trick of stagecraft, a miracle. I had been simultaneously transported and pulled back to earth.
And Canadian poli sci prof-turned-MP Michael Ignatieff, who I guess is the politician I admire most, writes in today's Times Magazine of his mistake in supporting the Iraq war:

We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq’s fissured sectarian history. What they didn’t do was take wishes for reality. They didn’t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn’t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn’t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn’t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.

I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror?
Finally, today's Times also ran one of the worst columns I've ever read, a Stanley Fish rant against the Starbucks age that repeats the stale complaints that have been columnist fodder for 15 years. Look past the Times Style Guide-mandated list of Starbucks adjectives and you'll see a set of complaints straight out of the DSM entry on social disorders:
It turns out to be hard. First you have to get in line, and you may have one or two people in front of you who are ordering a drink with more parts than an internal combustion engine, something about “double shot,” “skinny,” “breve,” “grande,” “au lait” and a lot of other words that never pass my lips. If you are patient and stay in line (no bathroom breaks), you get to put in your order, but then you have to find a place to stand while you wait for it. There is no such place. So you shift your body, first here and then there, trying not to get in the way of those you can’t help get in the way of.

Finally, the coffee arrives.

But then your real problems begin when you turn, holding your prize, and make your way to where the accessories — things you put in, on and around your coffee — are to be found. There is a staggering array of them, and the order of their placement seems random in relation to the order of your needs. There is no “right” place to start, so you lunge after one thing and then after another with awkward reaches.

Unfortunately, two or three other people are doing the same thing, and each is doing it in a different sequence. So there is an endless round of “excuse me,” “no, excuse me,” as if you were in an old Steve Martin routine.

But no amount of politeness and care is enough.
This from a man who is both a University Professor and a law professor and who has written ten books. This should convince Charles Murray and the IQ-supremacists once and for all that there really are different types of intelligence.

Seriously, you'd think the guy's never heard of Denny's. My grandfather is 96 and thinks Nancy Pelosi and Theresa Heinz are his girlfriends, but he manages to order coffee and pie using two words and without ever having to negotiate social contact with another human being.