Sunday, November 09, 2014

GF - The New Normal

This is the first post in a long time and may be the last post in a is hard to say but I feel like writing tonight about something I've been encouraged to write about. A year ago I was told that I have celiac disease and as a result had to go gluten-free. It was a huge change for me as I was the person who rewarded myself with cakes, alleviated stress with bagels and made friends and allies of my gluten-filled treats. They were of course my enemy for a long time as any stress-eater knows but I didn't know they were actually causing real harm.

The change was instant for me. I didn't want to eat things with gluten any more. I craved them sometimes, sure, but the temptation to just take one bite or to just eat an entire cupcake and suffer the consequences hasn't appealed to me. I was told that in the long-term, continuing to allow damage to my small intestine could lead to cancer and short-term it would result in the problems I had been facing that lead me to get testing in the first place. That was enough for me.

I have complained about it; don't get me wrong, I find looking for "GF" on labels or asking a waitress for a gluten-free menu to be almost painful sometimes if not minimally inconvenient. But, I really haven't cheated consciously. One time, we had food at the office and I was embarrassed so I ate what I thought was safe. I regretted it when I noticed some celiac symptoms return. That was the last time I let my self-consciousness get in the way of me health (well, from this perspective anyway...).

There is one thing that really bothers me about having to go GF. It is dealing with wait staff at restaurants who feel inconvenienced by questions or requests to have food prepared a certain way. For the most part I have had EXCELLENT service at restaurants, especially those that have GF as a label on their normal menu. I am always delighted and grateful. Nizza and Friedman's Lunch in NYC are examples of restaurants who have made a fantastic effort to serve people who can't tolerate or are even allergic to gluten. There are many others too. Chipotle, (thank goodness!!!) has a primarily gluten-free menu and the counter staff will even change their gloves if you ask (I don't ask but they will do it). Even bars I go to like House of Brews, Bar Bacon and Landsdowne Road are always accommodating. HOB even carries Omission beer now which in my opinion is the most awesome of all GF beers.

Back to those who make me feel badly...they are the wait staff who don't want to deal with it or perhaps harbor some bitterness against anyone who makes any special request like dressing on the side or no onions. I had one waitress ask me, "is this a preference?" when I asked if the chicken was prepared with any flour because I had to have GF food. I said "No, it is a requirement. I'm allergic." Her answer, "I'm not sure." Then followed a brief staring contest which I lost. I had to ask her to find out from the kitchen and she rolled her eyes as she walked away. I was with a friend who was shocked. Had I been alone I would have thought I did something wrong. But no, she was just rude and there are a few like her.

I'm sure diet fads (and gluten-free diets are a fad for some and a necessity for others) are annoying to wait staff but whether it was a preference or not, rude treatment isn't warranted. Further, it is awkward to have to expose a medical condition, a disease, to pretty much everyone you know and the last thing you want is someone to question it.

If anyone besides me happens to read thing, take note that food allergies are no joke. They can be very serious or deadly even. Try not to begrudge someone when they ask you a question about what is in the food they are eating. Whether they could get sick or not, it is within anyone's right to want to know what they are putting in their own body.

As for being GF now - I have to admit that sometimes I do want an Oreo but I'll settle for a macaroon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bridges and Lebowski in NYC

It is a major week for Jeff Bridges fans and Jeff Lebowski fans alike. The former just released his self-titled debut album. The latter is a fictional character of course, brought to life in the Coen Brothers’ film “The Big Lebowski” which is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a Blu-ray DVD release.
Lebowski Fest, which originated in Kentucky, is also taking place in NYC this week where fans come dressed as their favorite characters,  or, the characters they most aptly resemble. There was no shortage of Walters, Dudes, Maudes and Jesuses at Chelsea Piers last night where the first night of Lebowski Fest kicked off with a bowling party. Go to the Lebowski Fest website to find out when the fest is happening in your town.
Walking into a bowling alley filled with multiple versions of the film’s characters probably elicits the same brain activity that is found in a child entering the Harry Potter exhibit. It’s magical. In a more fortunate magic place, a White Russian wouldn’t cost $9 but, still, with unlimited bowling, a costume contest and trivia at a reasonable price, I was able to abide and purchase a few.
Unlike most places in NYC, the LF crowd isn’t clicquish. Arriving late with only one other friend in tow, I had to find a lane so I could roll. I ended up with the cable repair man and a couple of other guys. The crowd was diverse despite their likemindedness and from all parts of the US (Iowa, California, Oregon to name a few). The real Liam was there too.
Tonight marks night two of Lebowski Fest and it is going to be as epic as the film has become. Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and John Turturro will participate in a Q&A before the screening of the film. This reunion is an historic one, man.
And, let’s not forget about Jeff Bridges’ album featuring original songs and covers. The stand out for this listener is “Maybe I Missed the Point” written by John Goodwin. Rosanne Cash and Ryan Bingham appear on the album. Bingham, you might remember, wrote (with T-Bone Burnett) and performed “The Weary Kind”, Crazy Heart’s burdensome theme. Burnett produced this effort and out of 4-stars, I give it a solid 3 as a critic but 4 as a fan of an artist of whom I could not be a greater admirer. “Falling Short”, written by Bridges is another track to pay attention to, especially since he penned it himself.
This is a great week to be in NYC, to be a fan of Bridges and Lebowski, man.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help

If I recommend "The Help", I have to recommend both the film and the book (by Kathryn Stockett). I think the film is more entertaining if the book is read first if only for the experience of knowing ahead of time about the "terrible-awful" housekeeper Minny (Octavia Spencer) committed. When I first read the book, I thought about how that particular scene would be executed in a film and  it was done even better than I imagined.
I'm not saying with the scene entails because I do not want to spoil a delicious (maybe that is a poor word choice?) scene for any one who has not read the book. Anyone who has will know exactly what I mean.
The book and film look at the stories of black domestic workers in Jackson, Mississippi before the Civil Rights Movement disallowed segregation. Jim Crow, "separate but equal" ideas and prejudiced behavior were rampant. Skeeter (Emma Stone), a recent college graduate returns home to Jackson to find that the woman who raised her (not her mother but her black nanny) was no longer working for the family, the friends she grew up with have gotten married and essentially become their own mothers and that she has aspirations for greatness. She is too humble to be searching for fame but she wants to be a writer in New York City. In a rejection letter from Harper Row, she ignores the part that says she does not have the job and instead embraces the part that says she has potential and needs experience. She looks for the experience at the local newspaper where she begins writing the housekeeping advice column. On the encouragement of the editor at Harper Row, Skeeter decides to write about Jackson from the perspective of the nannies and what they think and feel in raising white children. What comes, through struggle, are striking stories that though fiction somehow ring remarkably true.
The Help is unique in talking about the South and America during what is still a very difficult and disconcerting period of our history, from the perspective of the people who were marginalized. Granted, many African-Americans have been critical of this story because ultimately there was still a white character at the center of it but I think they are missing the point. The result is one of the only black-centric films of the year and a story that brings new faces to a new generation. I wish The Help was part of the curriculum when I was in school and I wish that for more than one reason.
Skeeter no doubt got her persistence from Constantine, her nanny, who truly gave her value when her mother only and it seems unknowingly worked to strip that value away. In fact, this is the second theme in the book, after the obvious one regarding race.
Abeline (Viola Davis), the first nanny to speak to Skeeter and the narrator of the film, provides what to me are the most important words of dialogue in the film or the book, when she speaks to Mae Mobley the chubby little girl she takes care of as her mother touches her maybe once a day and it otherwise too busy to be bothered.
Every day, Abey tells little Mae Mobley, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." She instills value in the girl. This is value beyond the way she looks. This is the same thing Constantine did for Skeeter. The most poignant and tear-engaging parts of the film were those where a young girl was given self-worth. They are those moments where some people in the audience may be realizing their own self-worth.
I think this story, if allowed, can change people. It can change people's relationships with children, change the way children are raised and change again the way people see color. For me, this story was ultimately about valuing each other as human beings and moving past the visible surface. It is still hard to believe there was a time when the color of one's skin was more important than the content of their character. It is hard to believe even now but only a two weeks ago a racial comment was made by a Congressman against our President.
The Help is a work of fiction, yes. The Help is also thought provoking, tear-jerking and beautifully cast.
Viola Davis stops the air in the room at times. She is perfect. Remember her brief but impacting role in Doubt? Be thankful that she is on the screen so much more of the time in The Help. The entire cast deserves mention and all I can do it implore you to see it. Oh, and when you do, don't skimp on the tissues!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan Is 70

Dylan Portrait in Apartment
An unexpected highlight of my recent trip to London occurred when I noticed a sign outside an art gallery in Bath. Bob Dylan's art was in that gallery and being from the United States where Mr. Dylan does not show or sell his art, I had never seen one of his works in person.
Even now, I wonder if I should have just broken the bank and purchased a picture that was there on that wall but I did not and given my current status of employ that was the best decision. I did however stand before the wall that displayed his work and stare. I was awestuck. I was choked up and welled up. And, I knew that for a moment I was very lucky. How did I happen by this place? I got lost looking for a Jane Austen store and to get lost in such a small city, one must either be filled with the wanderlust that only being in a fantastic location with a camera to the eye most of the time or from being a bit capricious in navigating the town via road sign rather than map. I assure any reader that either may have been true that day. Regardless, I felt incredibly lucky because there were so many circumstances that led to me arriving there at that specific time.
The person at the gallery (owner) and I spoke about Dylan for nearly 20 minutes and it was one of the liveliest conversations I had on the trip. 
As mentioned, I did not buy a Dylan work that day. I did however buy his entire collection! I bought a book. Though it weighs less pounds than it cost, it could not travel in my luggage as it pushed me past the 23kg limit but I was happy to carry it with me from Bath to New York. I can look at these drawings and paintings any time now. Though a trip to London should have satisfied me, and a magnet or shot glass is the typical souvenir from a trip abroad, my bookshelf now holds evidence of a wonderful holiday and my Dylan collection as robust in sight as it is in sound. One day, maybe a Dylan will hang on my wall (not just a portrait of the man himself). To see some, go to the website.

Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday. He will be celebrating with concerts later this week in NYC, one of which I will attend. His recent album, Together Through Life, is one of the best I purchased in 2009 and one song, "Feel a Change Comin' On" has been vital to me. It is right now. Having released his first album in 1962, it would seem reasonable that Dylan would have stopped producing relevant, influential music and lyrics long ago but he has not. I want to hear what is next and to continue to discover so much I have not already heard.

This is a simple post to thank Bob Dylan on his 70th birthday, for his art, his music and his words. And, maybe one of a few more about my trip to London.

Bath, for those interested is a fantastic and easy day trip to make out of London and I highly recommend touring the Roman Baths. If you do, take the time to go on the free guided tour that is conducted hourly near the main bath. And, stop by Castle Gallery too. It will be worth the time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

SNL - A Satisfying 3-Way

Saturday Night Live has not always been hilarious. Sometimes, it hasn't even been funny. But, there are some hosts that a viewer knows will guarantee at least one or two fantastic sketches (Baldwin and Martin come to mind) and at least one or two cast members that will do say something that will garner shameful reenactments later (Wiig as Gilly or the Target Lady; Rudolph as Donatella). So, we keep watching.

This week, was one for the books. When I think back to the last time I laughed for an entire episode, I only need to go back a day and it has been a while. Highlights this season are actually many more than in the past few; Tina Fey, Elton John and now Justin Timberlake. I was thinking back on when I first saw Justin and quite a few things have changed; I did not find the scrawny boy with tightly curled bleached hair anything more than cute for a little boy, I did not imagine that he could act, and I only laughed because let's face it, some N'Sync lyrics were kind of lame. Over time though, N'Sync got more popular and even I bought every CD, Justin Timberlake became a viable and unembarrasing solo-artist and go-to collaborator, and Justin Timberlake the actor emerged.

That brings me to this week's season finale of SNL. Justin was the host, Gaga was the musical guest and Andy Samburg was due for one last SNL Digital Short. Amongst the highlights of this week was the video for "3-Way The Golden Rule" which you can see by clicking the link. The trio was magic and let's not forget Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson both playing Mom. Sure, it isn't "D!@# in a Box" and it is not "Mother Lover" (which also wasn't ---Box) but it was great fun and for this viewer launched Summer.

In general though, last night's episode made me excited about next season. SNL felt like it was back and also like there could be some good repeatable skits that come out of the writers again. "Beerville" was well done and I could not help but see the clear stab at the Tea Party. If the use of "tea bag" over and over again was not a veiled stab at them, it is now. It was fantastic. And, of course there was the Herb Welch skit where Bill Hader's reporter character is ridiculously and uncomfortably hilarious. Who will Kristin Wiig become next year? Will Seth Meyer's "What!?!" kill again? What the hell is Andy Samburg going to sing about next and oooh-oooh-weee what's up with that? We'll see.

SNL is alive and well and last night was worth writing about. It made me laugh when I needed to laugh and (admittedly I DVR'd it) I did not have to use the FF button on my controller except during the real ads. Well done.

On a side note, Lady Gaga's new album drops this week and I don't know about everyone else but I pretty much dig "On the Edge of Glory. Buy it now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adele at the Beacon Theatre

Adele only surprised some people when her new album went to number one and probably when it made them cry at even the 8th listen in a row. She did not surprise me. I will never forget the first time I saw the video for Chasing Pavements and how I had to hear more and had to have her first album. I remember vividly the joy of seeing her a couple of years ago at the Hollywood Bowl. And now, I am overjoyed that I had the opportunity to see her again, this time in NYC at the Beacon Theatre.

Adele is a powerhouse. Even when she says her voice is hoarse, she takes it to church and takes the entire audience with her. Boyfriends - this is one concert that you won't regret having to take your girlfriend to even with Adele's sardonic references to her song-inspiring ex and the fact that your girlfriend will be a boy-hater for the next 4 minutes and 36 seconds, you will still be happy that you are there to hear it.

I recommend this even to a friend or anyone I don't know that can appreciate such a talent. I might take a moment to review her album shortly as I adore it but also have feelings about each song. If you haven't listened to 21 yet, I recommend you buy it and do so as soon as you can!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Worthwhile Video: #tigerbloodintern Application

Check out my friend and colleague's video application for Charlie Sheen's Tigerblood Internship. Like it if you like it. :)