Entries from January 2005 ↓

Marching On

Iím in this strange place right now. New doors are opening. Old doors may be closing. Other doors seem nailed shut. And Iím trying to make sense of it all.

School is actually past the halfway point. We end the cooking program in April, with 210 hours of an externship to follow. In June the management program ends. But now there is this creeping uncertainty about what to do next. Being a student is fun and safe. You get to play at the work in a safe space and never really test your skills in real world situations. Graduating brings a new set of challenges.

A culinary education is a foundation, but in reality you know nothing at the time of graduation. The learning begins when you work in the field. In case you didnít know, however, food service work is long and hard and doesnít pay shit, front or back of the house (restaurant lingo for host/wait staff vs. kitchen staff). The first few years, I could see my current income cut in half, and a total loss of benefits. (The industry isnít known for offering benefits either.) You make decent money when you move up the ladder to supervisor or manager level, but that takes years of grinding it out in 6 day weeks and 14 hour days spent on your feet the entire time.

I knew all of this going in, so I wasnít blindsided by the news. Iím just coming to grips with the fact that an actual career change is soon at hand, and I donít know if Iím ready to leave my comfort zone. Iíve plotted out scenarios where I stay in my current job and just work part-time on weekends somewhere. But staying isnít a certainty either, what with our constant funding problems, and that would only delay my real world culinary education. Or Iíve contemplated some cushy job in corporate dining. You will never make great cuisine but you do get 9-5 hours, better pay and benies.

I think the long-range goal is to be a caterer, but even that has changed. School has opened my eyes to other possibilities, and ways to perhaps wed my existing skills, interests and experiences with these new ones. I could wind up some sort of hybrid chef/food writer/teacher/caterer. I just know Iíll keep moving forward towards some goal, however unclear at the moment, because standing still isnít really an option.

Neither is waiting around for someone to walk through life with. I always get squeamish posting stuff about my abysmal love life, lest it sound like self-pitification. (Yeah, I made that word up, you got a problem?)

It hasnít escaped my attention that we are nearing the last of the high holy days (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Yearís Eve and St. Valentineís Day) when societally-imposed happiness breaks out across the land, and we are all suppose to revel in each otherís company. (I also had a birthday two weeks ago, which is always a time of reflection.) Especially on the last two, single folks are expected to couple up and engage in wanton displays of lovemaking and joy. Ok, right.

This February 14 will find me in the same state as the last one, and the year before that, and the year before that And I donít mean New York. About as close to forming a personal partnership as I am to creating a business one. Try as I might to either change the situation or wallow in self-pity, I am powerless to do it alone in the former, and see no value to the latter. I just have to keep moving forward towards the goals Iíve set for myself. Maybe my accomplishments will garner the attention of someone worthy, maybe they wonít. Maybe that aspect of my life was never meant to blossom. At this point I have allowed myself to entertain such thoughts. But at the end of this journey I need to know most importantly that Iíve realized my own dreams. So I march on.

One Hot Mess

Jay Smooth has been covering the ďHot 97Ē fiasco on his site. Check entries from January 28 where he talks to Todd Lynn, WQHT-FM morning ďpersonalityĒ and so-called comedian who created the ďTsunami SongĒ.

See also January 27 regarding communication with station owners and advertisers.

And todayís New York Daily News has the latest on the fate of the idiot deejays.

Blogging in Spots

This is one of those moments when I have a lot of little thoughts in my head but not enough of any one to make a good blog entry.

I am still pissed off over news I heard yesterday about a cruel, tasteless and insensitive stunt pulled off by a local radio station here in NYC. One of the primary reasons I have stopped listening to commercial radio is because of the extreme assholes that now work there and the indefensible idiocy they do on the radio that just offends and annoys me.

For at least four days last week, the morning radio, so-called personality Miss Jones, on ďHot 97Ē (WQHT-FM) played the ďTsunami Song,Ē mocking the tragic disaster that struck Southeast Asia and the east coast of Africa, killing 150,000 people. Set to the tune of ďWe Are the WorldĒ it made fun of people drowning, children becoming orphaned and used derogatory comments to describe Asians and Africans. Members of the New York City Council are already calling for the station to be fined by the FCC (I filed a complaint last night) and although the station has issued an apology, that simply isnít enough. The deejay, the program director and the station manager should all be fired. You canít play something four days in a row and not be held accountable for your actions all the way up the line. And this isnít the first time this station has engaged in tasteless acts.

But now talk about your misplaced anger; the conservative, homophobic nut jobs that got all up in arms over SpongeBob SquarePants got their facts all wrong while also nitpicking over nothing at all.

ďGem of the OceanĒ the brilliant play by August Wilson, starring Phylicia Rashad, is scheduled to close on Feb. 6. If you havenít seen it, run over to the Walter Kerr Theater and do so. Iím eager to see Billy Porterís upcoming one man show ďGhetto SuperstarĒ opening Feb. 10. Anybody want to go with me? Also on my list is ďMcReele,Ē the world premiere of Stephen Belber’s play about an exonerated ex-prisoner who runs in a local senate election. Anthony Mackie stars in this Roundabout Theatre production.

Last week I finally got around to seeing ďThe ProducersĒ on Broadway. Yeah, I know, itís only been running since 2001, and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are long gone (twice no less), but itís still a funny show. I was a big fan of the original movie and already have the cast album, and the video of the making of the cast album (can you tell Iím a theatre queen), but I really wanted to see what Richard Kind and Alan Ruck (both formerly of Spin City) could do in the lead roles. They donít disappoint.

For similar reasons, I am tempted to go see Harvey Fierstein as Tevye in ďFiddler on the Roof.Ē Multiple Tony Award winner Fierstein, has been known for playing clearly gay roles, but in this one he taps the other part of his identity, his Jewishness. Heís getting decent reviews and to some, is better in the lead than British actor Alfred Molina, who opened the revival last year.

I was saddened at the news of Johnny Carsonís passing, but thought Monday nightís tribute by Jay Leno was touching. All those old clips brought back childhood memories. In this world of 500 cable channels, people nowadays canít even imagine what life was like with just CBS, NBC and ABC. Johnny ruled late night television from 1962-1992ó30 years (!)ósomething unheard of and never again to be duplicated. As a little kid, if I saw his show come on, that usually meant I was up waaay past my bedtime, which might have gotten me a beating. But I did anyway. Grown-ups sitting around telling witty anecdotes about their oh-so interesting celebrity lives. And smoking cigarettes right on the air too! It was all so adult.

Todayís New York Times has an interesting piece about his impact on New York City. The show was originally broadcast from here until he up and moved it to Burbank, California. I remember how that symbolized a downward shift in the importance of New York as a center of television production back then. It would be decades before this city really recovered.

Enough pop culture. Work is real slow right now. Our funders have us confused about the direction of my program because they themselves are confused. So we sit and wait.

School is going well. Still maintaining good grades in the cooking part, with a quiz this weekend. In management, we had a champagne tasting last Thursday and a beer tasting this coming Thursday. I practice harm reduction, not abstinence.

February 14, Valentineís Day is coming. Yawn.

Whose side are you on?

Charles Stephens posed a thought-provoking question that has a lot of people talking.

How the west followed Bin Laden’s script

As President Bush gets sworn in for a second term and war continues to rage in Iraq, this article from the British news publication New Statesman takes a critical look at the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US and the impact on the West.

The world, it was said, had changed forever after 11 September 2001. Since 1945, international conflicts had had only a limited effect on western homelands, particularly the American homeland. Now London, New York and Paris could no longer feel safe; ruthless terrorists threatened the deaths of millions; the west faced a new kind of enemy with whom it was impossible to treat; the gloves would have to come off; there could, in George W Bush’s words, be no hiding place. We now know that the world has indeed changed, but not in quite the sense that politicians and commentators envisaged three years ago.

They looked forward to a new crusade, in which the west went forth to vanquish evil, all the stronger because it was confident of its own rightness. Instead, the west – or at least those parts of it most closely associated with the “war on terror”: mainly Britain and America – is losing its moral legitimacy. What matters here is not so much the loss of support and sympathy among the Arab masses – who have long had ample reason to be sceptical of western pretensions – but the corroded self-belief of the west itself.

This is not something that becomes immediately evident. No government will fall as a result of the pictures, now emerging at a court martial, of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. In the same way, no government fell as a result of the Abu Ghraib pictures showing torture by US soldiers – on the contrary, the US president on whose watch these outrages occurred (and who had propagated the view that any resistance must come from murderous supporters of Saddam, or fanatical foreign terrorists who hardly deserved humane treatment) was re-elected. The final admission this month, from the official US survey group, that Saddam held no WMDs, had no workable plans to acquire or produce them, and had rid himself of what he possessed in the early 1990s caused scarcely a political ripple. Nor do the incarceration without trial of terrorist suspects and the appointment of a US attorney general who regards torture as sometimes acceptable and the Geneva Conventions as quaint excite many outside the legal profession and civil liberties groups. The US destruction of Fallujah, which has been compared to the fascist destruction of Guernica in the Spanish civil war, is now yesterday’s story. As for the general carnage and anarchy in Iraq – which was largely stable if brutally repressive until the invasion – we just shrug our shoulders.

It will be argued that a society where these matters can be openly acknowledged and debated is infinitely preferable to one where they are systematically hidden from public view. So it is. At least those Britons and Americans alleged to be responsible for prisoner abuse are put on trial. And there are still plenty of regimes in the world that never have their lies exposed. But comforting myths about what western political leaders call “our way of life” are being stripped away. We are not so committed to democratic accountability, the rule of law and the humane treatment of enemies as we thought we were. It is all very well to argue that these subjects preoccupy wet middle-class liberals and unworldly intellectuals, and that the masses take a more robust view, but a society derives its self-image from its natural leaders and opinion-formers.

Once they can no longer articulate its ideals with confidence – when, so to speak, they cannot keep straight faces any more – the ruling order collapses. That was what happened in the Soviet Union: the people who mattered ceased to believe in it, because the disjunction between the ideals of a workers’ paradise and the awful reality became unsustainable. Likewise, the British empire – which depended on the myth that it was a civilising influence, bringing justice and prosperity to backward lands – lost its lustre once, as in Kenya and other parts of Africa, it fell back on repression and brutality, including, as we now know, torture, rape and mass executions. The public didn’t then know the half of it, but the imperial ruling class did and it found it impossible to sustain a project that led to atrocities so at variance with its self-image.

Events since 2001 have greatly weakened the west, as Osama Bin Laden no doubt hoped, but without his lifting much more than a finger. Paranoia nearly always leads to repression and aggression, and he has succeeded in stoking it to an extent that even the Soviets rarely achieved. He offers no vision of an alternative society that westerners, or for that matter the great mass of Muslims, can find remotely attractive. Yet he has persuaded the west to behave precisely in accordance with his own image of it: decadent, cruel, sexually perverted, untruthful, imperialist, amoral.