Blog Archives

Surreal Sunday: Tom Jones duets with Janis Joplin

Oh yes they did.

Video evidence of the most bizarre duet ever (other than when Bing Crosby and David Bowie got their groove on for Christmas). I can’t even begin to comment, mostly because my thumb’s in my mouth and it feels much safer over here in the corner.

Hold on to your pancakes, folks.

Girls’ Night with Martha

Oh that sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Singapore Sling anyone? Courtesy The Jane Dough.

Because, I suppose, I am a glutton for punishment, I recently signed up for regular updates from the Martha Stewart death star. These come in the form of emails flogging this or that new moneymaking scheme product or the latest edition of her magazine. Obviously I don’t subscribe, but I have been known to pick up an issue of MS Living occasionally, say in the dentist’s office while cooling my heels until the Novocaine and gas take effect. I would flip through it in the checkout line at the grocery store, but Fairway doesn’t sell magazines — reason number 217 to love hate them.

The latest missive touts an app for making cocktails especially for girls’ night. Wow, I’ll bet Martha frequently invites a bunch of her besties over on a Friday night and really lets her freak flag fly. Can you imagine? Bong hits, Aretha records, Courtney Love impersonations, midnight tattooing excursions and of course, crazy new cocktails like the Roget Colada (a pina colada with a generous bump of cheap champagne — thanks, Karen!) or the Dublin Goes South version of Fat Ass in a Glass (Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and tequila — the loser of the chugging contest eats the worm!).

Oh right, sorry, that was MY girls’ night.

At Martha’s they probably get all crazy and crochet with gloves on (to make it extra challenging) or add racy captions to their scrapbooking projects (“Is that Bill the beach bum or Bill’s beach bum?!?!? Haha!”) or sit around in their flannel nighties without their Spanx, all the while sipping perfectly blended Cosmopolitans (two if that crazy moon is full) from tasteful vintage stemware while nibbling chocolate covered wasabi soya nuts (Golly that’s spicy!). Pure Martha madness I am sure.

Easy as Pie! Courtesy

I see that the app also includes a special bonus, recipes for “perfectly paired bar snacks,” for the hostess with the mostess. Wow, how much fun would it be to slave away in the kitchen creating beautiful trays of savory snacks so that your drunken gal pals could snarf them up while boozing it up WITHOUT YOU because you’re busy dipping strawberries, baking goat cheese and carmelized onion mini tarts, and filling deviled eggs from a fucking pastry bag? I’ll tell you how much fun it would be: NONE, less than none. It would be a fun black hole, that’s what. In fact, it would suck all the fun out of you and every member of your family for the rest of your natural lives.

Now, it’s not that I don’t love collapsing in an exhausted, sobbing heap on my kitchen floor, stone cold sober, while my buddies dance the night away, fueled by the constant stream of snacks that made it possible to rave until the wee hours, but I do on occasion tire of enjoying myself so very much.

So, listen up, Martha! The whole point of girls’ night is to get a load on and eat greasy takeout food followed by a whole cake, which you then attempt to dance off while playing “Baby Got Back” on an endless loop. There SHOULD be vomiting, and if there isn’t, you’re not trying hard enough.

And finally people, if you need an app to make a cocktail, you should seriously re-assess your life. So anyways…

Happy St. Paddy’s Day from me and my dream pub buddy,
the great Peter O’Toole!



The Fast and the Furious: New Jersey Drift


What the hell is wrong with drivers lately? Are licenses being handed out at Walmart on a “special needs” basis? Has someone dropped a truckload of bath salts in the water supply? Or is it just that we have collectively crossed some kind of invisible behavior line from barely civil to overtly feral? I ask because every time I emerge from a highway on-ramp it seems I am immediately surrounded by the Toads of Toad Hall – their weak brains intoxicated by the rush of speed as they execute a frenzied series of high speed, signal-less maneuvers while talking on the phone, checking their email or plucking their eyebrows. This final activity is not confined to the ladies, either – I frequently have to drive in New Jersey.

It never fails; no sooner do I take to the highway than I am on the receiving end of a constant, escalating series of vehicular assaults that make a NASCAR race look like a geriatric Prius rally on National Put Granny Behind the Wheel Day. The local streets are equally treacherous.

Just so you know, I have driven in some scary ass places, on either side of the road and in panic-inducing conditions including but not limited to blizzards, monsoon rains, black ice and one unforgettable airport run with my in-laws providing a steady stream of helpful safety tips. Even so nothing, but nothing, can equal a few miles on today’s urban highway for sheer, trouser-fouling, mind-bending terror at the hands of gratuitously aggressive psychopaths on a manic UP and lacking any regard for life, be it human (yours) or sub-grade (theirs).

I’ve noticed that there are two recognizable types who are particularly dangerous (I’m talking about drivers who can personally skew the actuarial tables of entire regions): the overextended housewife in the massive SUV and the overcompensating middle-aged man behind the wheel of a minivan. If you routinely attempt highway driving, you will recognize the types. Consider yourselves warned.

Mrs. Apocalypse

To the unknown housewife who cut me off this morning after I obligingly pulled into the granny lane at 75 miles per hour to let her pass, I have a message.

Hey Blondie, put your bedazzled fucking iPhone down and listen up! That massive, white glacier of an SUV you pilot certainly is bangin’ and I’m sure you are, too. But as much as I enjoyed the thrill ride of having your fifty-ton Chevy Apocalypse half way up the tailpipe of my Jetta for the better part of thirty miles, I really must ask that you tighten up your driving skills, especially when you have at least twelve screaming ‘tweens in the vehicle, as you did earlier today.

Mrs. Apocalypse’s Death Star

Listen up Mrs. A, I have now officially had enough of you and your bling mobile, and next time we meet I cannot guarantee that I will show the kind of restraint I did earlier today when I merely love tapped your rear bumper. Though you may not have noticed it from up there in the wheelhouse, you very nearly turned my ride into a belly tank when you abruptly, and with no signal, swerved into my lane in an apparent effort to avoid missing the exit for whichever mall your ass was on fire to patronize.

My little bump was merely an effort to draw your attention away from the phone in your claw and the riot in your backseats and back to the job at hand, namely keeping that tarted-up cruise ship moving without actually killing me or anyone else. It is clear to me that the distractions in your Apocalypse, combined with your complete and utter inability to handle a vehicle that should require a class two license, had long since shorted out your small, bleach-addled brain, overtaken your limited cognitive powers and obliterated what remained of your hand-eye coordination when we encountered one another earlier today. You, Mrs. Apocalypse, have elevated inattention to an art form.

A word of advice: Next time you decide to start your day with that morning cocktail of Valium, Dexatrim and a vodka smoothie, get someone to drive you to your pole dancing class and stay the hell off the road, because you are a goddamned chaos machine.  If ever we meet again you’d best hope it’s not in my neck of the woods, bitch; the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will eat you alive, and I will be first in line at the buffet.

Mr. Minivan

Yo, Senor Caravan, just a quick question: What the hell is up your ass? I can only guess that having to cruise around in that powder-blue teeny bopper transport mobile is so demoralizing, so demeaning, so utterly emasculating that you feel you have no choice but to whip out your unit (yes, I’m sure it’s gi-fucking-normous and it’s a miracle you can even walk) and show the world who’s the man when you’re behind the wheel. How else to explain your excessive speed, hyper-aggression and crazed recklessness?

At rest a benign family car, but in the hands of Sr. Caravan it’s the great white of the turnpike.

Come to think of it, I have never, and I mean NEVER, seen you with both hands on the wheel. Now, maybe you’re busy twiddling the radio dial or touch-texting on the down low, but I have my doubts. In any case, I don’t really care what’s going on below my sightline; in truth, I’d rather not even think about it. The fact remains, however, that since you treat every little run to the soccer field like the final lap at Talladega, you always seem to get up in my grill.

Does it bother me when you refuse to pull over and let me onto an otherwise empty highway? Am I bugged when you swerve out into my lane on a local street, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, to get around the double-parked Fed Ex truck on your side of the street? Does it fry my ass when you lay on your horn every time I fail to peel out within a nanosecond of the light turning green? Hell yes, you bet your sorry, middle-aged, Dockers-wearing ass it does.

So in the interest of road safety, I’d like to offer up the following: Mr. Caravan, please know that I realize your other car’s a Lamborghini, and I assume you’re just borrowing the little woman’s wheels while your chick-mobile is in the shop. In fact, I admire you for having enough confidence in your masculinity to get behind the wheel of a vehicle sporting bumper stickers that say This broomstick is PMS Powered! and Does this car make my ass look fat? Really I do.

I gave up on the paint job a LONG time ago.

Now would you kindly get the fuck off my rear bumper before I give you a brake job? Because I’ve got nothing left to lose here, pal. My car is fifteen years old and the odometer gave up the ghost at least 80,000 miles ago. Scratches and dents are just the cost of doing business in my world, but I’ll bet your wife doesn’t feel the same way.  You will not enjoy explaining the long ugly scrape or the bashed-in fender to Mrs. Caravan; I know because I’ve seen her screaming at you from the passenger seat.  So put it back in your pants and slow the fuck down, asshole. You have been warned.

The jig is up – or is it?

“Multiple planes of resistance” workout revealed to have been created as a joke.

Just a joke or multi million dollar industry?

New York, NY – In the weight room of the New York Sports Club on upper Broadway, 25 year-old Ashley “Ace” Judson stands before the mirror holding a kettlebell straight out in front of him. Feet apart, he drops to the floor in a squat while swinging the weight down between his knees, then abruptly snaps back to a standing position, swinging the weight up and over his head. Twisting left at the last minute, he then drops the weight down and pushes it out in front of his chest. Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds.

Medicine ball lunge and toe touch

As he flings the weight, Mr. Judson narrowly avoids cold cocking Morgan Levy-Almond  as she passes by on her second lap of the weight room. Rather than walking, she marches in long lunging goose steps while also swinging a heavy medicine ball up and down and from side to side in a pattern so complex you’d need a smart board and John Madden to break it down. Both fitness fanatics are jacked into their iPods, effectively deaf to shouted hazard warnings about the heavy objects being flailed dangerously close to their heads and bodies.

Across the weight room, personal trainer Carlos Mandrake takes in the scene and shakes his head in regretful disbelief. Seven years ago, he now admits, in the final boozy hours of an Atlantic City bachelor party, he and two other personal trainers were joking about teaching their clients to work out incorrectly. He says, “One of the guys dug out this old Steve Martin routine about teaching kids to speak English wrong, you know that bit, May I mambo dogface on the banana patch? That’s how it started.”

The inspiration

They ended up betting on who could get a client to do the most ridiculous thing in the name of fitness. He shakes his head again. “It was getting boring just telling people to do set after set, so we thought we’d have a little fun. I mean it was just a joke. Before we knew it, people were asking for it, then there was an article in the Times about it…We never dreamed it would go viral, ya’ know?”

Viral is right. The workout, which has come to be called Multiple Planes of Resistance (or MPR), is so popular that weight rooms throughout the country have become virtual hazard areas. Interestingly, this has paid unforeseen dividends across the industry, particularly in the field of sports-related physical therapy.

Bruise courtesy Retrospects and a flying kettlebell

According to Ellis Haight at Joint Relief Physical Therapy in New York City’s Financial District, “We treat maybe five or six people a day for MPR injuries – self-inflicted and due to contact with high speed objects wielded by others.” Mostly, he says, they see lower back injuries, contusions and neck strain, but Mr. Haight also treats people who are trying to come back from broken bones and even a few who just can’t overcome TFSD, traumatic-flail stress disorder. Of these clients, he says, “Even after they’ve healed physically, the emotional scars and fear remain. I have one patient who had all his teeth knocked out by a flying kettle bell a year ago. The oral surgery and implants took six months, but now, six months after that, he’s still having flashbacks and can’t even walk through the weight room door.”

It’s not just the “Empers” (as MPR devotees are called) who are feeling the impact of swinging weights and flying objects. Notes Bruno Mancini, an old school iron pumper, “Used to be people just come to the weight room and laid on a bench or stood in one spot. It was all about control and form, but now it’s like frickin’ Cirque de Soleil in here. You need an air traffic controller just to cross the room. It ain’t safe no more. Last month I got my nose busted by some chick who was trying to juggle a couple of five pound plates while she was laying on one of them balls over there. It’s crazy, man.”

With the enormous injury risk, then, how is it the approach has become so popular? Trainer Carlos Mandrake says it’s the speed. “People come in now and expect you to give them one exercise that works every muscle in their body at the same time. They figure they work out for ten minutes and they’re done. If I tell ‘em, hey pal, it takes time to get ripped, they’re not buying it. I suggest starting with some bench presses, but they get down on the bench and they want to do crunches at the same time. That’s the expectation.”

“Lunge to Core Rotation” courtesy

Does MPR work? I ask. He shrugs. “Look at these people. You tell me.”

I look around. Ms. Levy-Almond has gone across the hall to the mat room and is lying on her back. At first she appears to be stretching out, but a closer look reveals that she is having minor convulsions. When asked about her condition, she explains that she’s having back spasms, but claims they always pass eventually and says she’d never go back to her hour-long circuit training regimen. “No pain, no gain,” she chokes between sobs.

Downstairs, Ace Judson is now working out on an old-fashioned escalator-style stairmaster under the watchful eye of his personal trainer, who prefers not to give his name. Mr. Judson is walking sideways up the moving staircase, which his trainer calls stair-crabbing. I ask the trainer what the benefits of this are. Lowering his voice, he says, “Nothing, it’s stupid. People don’t want to pay me to tell them to use the equipment the right way. They could do that by themselves. So I tell ‘em to do it sideways for half as much time as they need to.”

Business, he says, has never been better.

Keith Floyd: Mussel Man Extraordinaire

Recipe: Mussels in Garlic and Wine

Photo: UPPPA/Photoshot

So as you’ve probably guessed, I spend a fair amount of time sucking tube in the form of cooking programs. In truth, I’m something of a whore for TV cooks and will watch almost anything, so long as it involves chopping and stirring, and generally the more outrageous, out-of-control and outré the chef the better. Witness my love for Paula Deen. So out there, so over the top, so Southern — I just cannot get enough, y’all. Similarly, I’ll jack into YouTube and watch Mrs. Child, the Two Fat Ladies or Graham Kerr for hours on end. It’s like crack for me.

Imagine my excitement then, when my pal Joe Hoover over at Londonsurvival introduced me to the manic, magical, utterly soused world of Keith Floyd. Though no longer with us, the great Floyd virtually created the cooking show genre in the UK, or so I gather. Now, if you search on YouTube, you’ll find dozens of fabulous episodes all guaranteed to please. My personal favorite involves our hero preparing ostrich meat and eggs on a brazier in the Outback, surrounded by a gaggle of free-range ostriches, who are apparently oblivious to the cannibalism going on right under their beaks. It’s pure kitchen magic, folks.

But here’s the thing. The guy could actually cook, and most of the time he made it look effortless — and even if it wasn’t effortless, it still looked really fun. So here he is with a lesson in the preparation of mussels. It’s not one of his more outrageous episodes, but it is one of the more instructive. If you have questions about how to choose mussels, or any other seafood, there’s a vintage Slattern post that covers the subject pretty completely.

Hot tip: If you buy farm-raised mussels, they’re much less apt to be sandy and thus are less fiddly to prepare.

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