May 8th, 2005

lung

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers (and impending mothers) who read this. (There are actually a few, surprisingly, considering it's LJ. But hey!)

So, for those of you who actually read LJ today (or read this post later, sure), what're your plans for Mother's Day, either as a mother yourself, as someone who has a mother, or whatever the situation? Got any? Got any good Mother's Day Past stories to tell?

(Yes, I'm bored, and tired, and don't feel like trying to do anything worthwhile today until my own MD plans hit, which gives me a few hours to kill.)
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Reading List

Here's what I've been reading recently:

Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite - 4/5

As I mentioned earlier, an interesting departure from her usual vampire/ghost/gay sex/drug/orgy/drunken stupor novels. There's basically almost none of any of that in this, except some drinking. The book is about two New Orleans chefs/ friends/ lovers, and the only real porn it includes is food porn - but it's got a lot of that. The book is a little pulpy at times in terms of plot and intrigue, but is a fun, gripping read and worth the time.

Prime by Poppy Z. Brite - 4/5

The continuing story of the same two chefs. The plot continues to be occasionally a bit over the top, but the book makes for some great reading, and of course, the food porn is again a major highlight. I'm eagerly awaiting the next in the series (currently still being written, so it'll be a while).

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore - 4/5

When I first started reading it, I have to admit, it didn't grab me. It was amusing, and interesting, but seemed not quite funny enough to be a humor novel and not quite serious enough to be considered anything more thoughtful. But then it grew on me, and somehow, he began not only making me laugh but actually care about the characters. I can't say the book was fantastic, but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it. I won't spoil the plot, but in it, Biff and Joshua (aka Jesus Christ) go on a series of journeys and through a series of experiences that teach Joshua how to be the Messiah without messing it up royally. It's not quite as funny as you might expect, but it has some real pathos in it - like I said, by the end I genuinely was caring about the characters, which was something I hadn't been expecting.

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon - 4.5/5

This is a short book, and done in an interesting style - it's basically written from the point of view of an autistic child. The author apparently worked with autistic children for a while, and it shows. The book does a remarkable job of expressing the thoughts and feelings of the hero, Christopher, without feeling like it's either glorifying him or showing any disdain towards him. I don't know enough about autism to know how accurate it actually is, but it certainly reads in a believable way. It's full of quirky little details, showing the maps the boy makes, numbering the chapters with prime numbers instead of the standard ordinals 1, 2, 3... it's fascinating and fun, regardless, and my only complaint is that it doesn't last any longer.

Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror: Observations and Denunciations by a Founding Member of Monty Python by Terry Jones - 2.5/5

This book is actually a collection of essays by Terry Jones, written for various magazines and newspapers, mostly from 2003, some from 2004. I wanted to like this more than I did - and it started off very, very strong. But the entire middle 1/2 of the book was just repeating the same series of points (some of which don't carry a lot of weight nowadays, regardless of what they might have meant a couple of years ago, which is when most of them were written). It picked up a little towards the end, but honestly, it felt pretty tired and pointless by that point already. Borrow this one, read the first couple of essays, laugh hysterically, and then return it. You'll get more out of it that way.

The Jerusalem Syndrome by Marc Maron - 4/5

Surprisingly well done, actually. I wasn't sure what to expect - he's a comedian, after all, not a writer, and being able to express yourself on stage doesn't necessarily translate onto the written page. He manages to pull it off, though, and nicely. The book is the story of his life, essentially, how he got where he is now (or was at the time of the writing). The Jerusalem Syndrome refers to an apparently common reaction to traveling to Israel - feeling like you are the "direct vessel(s) for the voice of God". Of course, in his case, the Jerusalem Syndrome starts as a child and doesn't end until he gets to Israel (after climaxing in Israel, he realizes by the end of the trip that he's not actually the Messiah). He's got a wonderful way of describing things, though - listen to this quote, pulled essentially at random from the book, about Sam Kinison:

"Sam fancied himself a combination of Jesus, Elvis, and Satan. They were his heroes. He was a lapsed Baptist preacher with a bone to pick with God. He thought of himself as the Beast. You really had to see him live to get the full effect. He had the charisma and momentum of a human meteor. He was the comedic equivalent of pure rock 'n' roll. He elevated the frustrated suffering of the brokenhearted mortal man to anarchic hilarity. He could push an audience over the edge of their own moral parameters, throw them a line, pull them back, then push them farther off the second time. This was the technique that most interested me. It was the reason I became an aspiring adept in the Sam school. I wanted to hone the antisocial part of my personality into a craft that could earn me a living."

It's not the best one by far, but I literally just opened to a random page and chose the paragraph from that page. You get the idea.

And currently, I'm reading:
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

I'm not far enough in to judge this one yet.

Also, on the side, I started (but put aside temporarily):
Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out is interesting so far, but it's a Japanese murder mystery/ suspense/ etc. book, and as such looks like it's got the potential to get quite twisted. It's already starting down that road, and right now, I don't really feel like dealing with twisted and deranged, so I'm putting it aside until I'm more in the mood for it.


Of course, this in addition to my usual diet of New York Magazine, Time Out New York, US News & World Report, National Geographic Adventure, Saveur, and the occasional New York Review of Books. Yes, I've been reading up a storm - this in addition to everything else on my plate recently. I suppose it's a good thing in some ways, but honestly, I'd trade the "productivity" I get from insomnia for the feeling of actually getting a full night of sleep once in a while. I'm tired of being tired. But anyways...

(Muchas gracias to irnbruise for several of the books on that list!)
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Why I love Amazon so much

This morning I sent two polite but mildly annoyed emails to Amazon customer service about the two cd's I've mentioned not working for me (Touch and Songs for Silverman).

I got this back sometime between then and now:

Thanks for contacting us at Amazon.com.

I am sorry to hear about the problem you experienced with your orders.

If the items is of no use to you, please return it and we will refund
you in full for the item, including associated shipping costs. Also,
as this return is a result of our error, we will pay the return
shipping charges.


If you haven't done so already, please note that you can print a
postage-paid return mailing label from this URL:

http://www.amazon.com/returns

We will notify you via e-mail of your refund once we have received
and processed the returned items. You can expect a refund in the
same form of payment originally used for purchase within 3 to 5
business days of our receiving your return.


(Snipped the rest as it's not necessary.)

Easy as that. They'll fully refund everything including shipping (not that I pay shipping as a Prime member) and they'll even give me a paid shipping form to send them back for free. And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons why places like Amazon will keep me as a loyal customer and other places can kiss my ass.
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Mother's Day

So my mother came over around 4:30, while we (my kids, my dad, myself) were watching an episode of The Greatest American Hero. My brother also showed up.

I had originally only intended to bring my mother to dinner, but since my brother was there as well, I asked him if he wanted to come along and he said sure, so I hopped on opentable.com and upped our res to 3 people and confirmed it. Huzzah.

Fire on 9th StreetWe left around 5 pm and got to the restaurant - Battery Gardens - just a few minutes before 6. On the way to the subway (the R train into Manhattan) we passed a small fire; several fire trucks were parked outside, but no water seemed to be flying. A few overweight firemen were talking with some overweight policemen, and the shortest, fattest fireman grabbed a ladder and headed towards the building. One was also on the roof. I'm not quite sure why so many firemen are out of shape, considering their job is such a physical one, but such is life. Maybe they had a lot of muscle under their layers of fat. I just hope if I'm ever stuck in a roaring blaze that the fireman who bursts in is actually in good enough shape to rescue me, because there's no way I'm carrying him down. I have a lot of respect for the profession, but seeing that bunch out there didn't inspire confidence. Anyways, we got to the subway without further incident and soon were on our way to Whitehall Street.

Battery Gardens exteriorThe restaurant has a unique location; it's actually situated right inside Battery Park, overlooking the water. From where we were seated, we could see the Statue of Liberty, among other things. The view could've been better, though - the dining room was low enough that it was hard to actually see anything. The 2nd floor dining room didn't seem to be open, which was too bad, as the views must be magnificent up there.

The restaurant had a prix-fix menu tonight, which was fine. I had the crab cake to start off with, followed by a trout main course and a sort of triple-layered chocolate cake for dessert. My mother and brother both had the lamb shank main course, which was huge. My brother started with a salad and finished with the cheesecake, and my mother started with the gazpacho and finished with the same chocolate dessert I had.

TroutThe crab cake was pretty good. It was light, and came with a spicy peanut sauce drizzled on the plate. The trout was interesting - it had bits of citrus fruit on top, and was on top of a bed of couscous with golden raisins (the proper name escapes me) and some other small bits of fruit - nectarine, maybe. It was pretty good, and came with pieces of mini squashes on the side. My brother reported his salad was good, and my mom's gazpacho was pretty good, with a strong basil flavor which was nice. The lamb shank was served with a port wine reduction/glaze and was huge. It was good, but not as good (in my opinion) as it could've been. It was served with mashed potatoes and carrots, neither of which I sampled. The cheesecake was good, with blueberries on top. The chocolate cake had three layers of chocolate on top, the top-most one of which seemed to actually be gelatin based, like a cross between a chocolate glaze and chocolate jello. The three top layers were excellent; the bottom half of the cake was just a boring, somewhat dry chocolate cake. There was a banana sauce drizzled over it, which was a nice touch, and a square of baked, sweetened phyllo sticking in the cake, also nice.

Mom and BroAll in all, the dinner was good, and the dining atmosphere was very pleasant. The room was large and airy with a clean-white decor, and the windows on every side facing the water were a welcome touch. The tables appeared to be laid out to take advantage of the view. The waiters were friendly and joked around slightly, but not in a disrespectful way, and the food came out quickly and our water was refilled quickly. I had a good time, and it was probably the first time... ever... that my brother, my mother, and I had shared a nice meal together without the kids or my father being there, which was also a nice experience. (Of course, I love those guys, but sometimes it's nice to be able to have a quieter, more intimate dinner with just my mom and brother. I don't get a lot of time alone with them.)

Sunset from Battery Park 3After dinner, we walked down to the water for a little while, watched the sun set, and then went home.

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The rest of the pics are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ntang/sets/317039/

Some quick thumbs for your previewing pleasure:
Food:
Lamb shanks - Cheesecake - Chocolate cake

Scenery:
Sunset from Battery Park 2 - Wooden Pilings - Mother of pearl

The rest, again, are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ntang/sets/317039/