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No Reservations: El Bulli — A Food Awakening

November 30, 2014

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think I’ve ever blogged it:

The “El Bulli” episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is one of the single most important one hour programs to ever air on television. It’s certainly the best food documentary program I’ve ever seen, but this particular episode is so much more.

No Reservations-El Bulli, is the perfect example of how food can transcend beyond things like mere sustenance, flavor, and even joy. The experience that Bourdain shares here is a religious one. It is not just about food. It is about food and cooking as an art form, and the passion the artist exemplifies while creating dishes that will leave you with more than just a full stomach.

The artist in this case–Ferran Adria, chef at the renowned restaurant the episode is named after–is creating a once in a lifetime experience, a plethora of mind-blowing flavors, presentation, and textures, and above all else, course upon course of memories that will last a lifetime. I never even got a chance to be there, and I still will never forget.

Think of the acts that make up this episode as a three course meal, displaying some of the most important aspects of cooking, eating, and life: Friendship, love, and comfort are dishes none of us will never tire of, and they come in huge portions here. Anthony’s culinary experience is a heavenly one, but what really makes the episode so moving, are his interactions with Adria, and fellow chef Jose Andres. As he points out, the final meal he had at the then soon-to-be-closing mecca, was made even more fulfilling by the noises the mastermind himself made, as he enjoyed the same meal next to Tony and across from Jose. Anthony becomes elated in an almost childlike way, as we all do when we know we are truly home.

But what makes this episode different than any other episode of No Reservations, or any other show about fancy food for that matter? Well, as Andres points out beautifully, in a straight from the heart monologue near the end of the show, it’s very simple: Ferran’s true specialty, art, gift, etc., is that he is passionate and joyful about what he creates, and he is also very honest, vulnerable, and selfless with what he prepares. Whereas some chefs are notorious for trying to outdo other chefs, or use the latest trends to merely showoff, Adria is more concerned with sharing his creations with people who will appreciate, love, and savor the entire experience as much as he does. This is refreshing for me, as someone who enjoys the culinary arts, but is often turned off by the behavior of arrogant, eccentric chefs who seem to be more concerned with putting on a show, than giving their patrons something to cherish.

And that’s honestly what No Reservations-El Bulli has given me. Something to cherish for a long time. I’ve seen it 2-3 times now, and it always warms my heart, and leaves me dumbfounded in the best possible ways. There are a handful of moments that will stop you in your tracks, and remind you of the things that you are passionate about, and why they are so important to you. If you have yet to make yourself a plate of this dish, do yourself a favor and make it one of your brain’s next meals. And don’t be surprised if you come back for seconds. And thirds. And…

Eat, Think and Breathe Merrily

August 10, 2014

If I had one piece of advice about life, to share with anyone who might be looking for some, I would tell them to simply have perspective, always, or whenever possible.

For some, it takes big change, or catastrophe to lead them down that path, and that’s fine, but it’s important to think about things, and have perspective on a regular basis.

I think people should live their own lives and make their own mistakes, but I know how hard that can be when everybody seems to have an opinion on how life works, how to be successful, how to attain perpetual bliss, and how to do everything the way they do everything, because the way they do everything is the perfect way and everyone else is stupid. But sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, step back and think about what is important.

Example: Some people think that hard work is important, and I agree. Hard work IS important, but it is far from the most important thing in the world, and for too many people, I feel like it is.

Personally, I love working hard, but I don’t love working hard all the time. I’ve seen hard work consume people. Too much of it all at once can lead to stress, and stress is a killer. Taking time to relax, breathe, rest, and appreciate all the things that make you happy, and embracing all that is going well in your life, are as important as hard work, if not way more so, in some cases.

Perspective. Balance. Living. Awareness. These are important things.

Nothing feels as good as working hard and doing a great job. You know those days when you leave work covered in sweat, and you know you left it all on the table/floor/court/field/stage/murder scene, etc.? Nothing feels better than that. …Except for taking some time to unwind when you’re done kicking ass. Reflect when you’ve done something exceptionally well, and reward yourself with some time to breathe and enjoy life. And don’t forget to pat yourself on the bat for not phoning it in, when often, that is the easiest option.

I like and value hard work, but I personally am more concerned with how I treat other people.

I see the way people treat each other when they get caught up in what everyone else is up to, instead of focusing on themselves and trying to live a better, happier life.  

Selfish, narrow-minded, singular thinking, overbearing behavior pushes people away. (Ironically, so does the opposite, sometimes. But I’d rather push someone away because I liked them a lot, then push them away by being an asshole.)

I guess that’s why I put so much hard work into my relationships. I like to give give give to people who I feel are giving me something of themselves. That’s why breakups are often so hard on me. I know if I like someone, it’s a deep genuine love, and chances are, I trusted them enough to give them that love, because I thought that they were giving something equal, or close to it in return.

I don’t use words or actions lightly. I do and say what comes naturally as a direct response to how their words and actions make me feel. It doesn’t always end well, but that doesn’t mean I should stop putting my all into someone (or something) I believe in.

So I suppose another piece of unplanned advice is: find that something or someone that means the most to you, and work hard on THAT. I don’t find it unhealthy to have one person or thing you try hardest with. I personally would rather put my all into someone I love, than put it into a job that I don’t feel equally passionate about. I do, more often than not, put a lot of myself into work, but there are days when I choose not to, and I don’t think that makes me a bad person. We are all different, and for me, it’s integral to my survival to have days where I don’t spread myself thin and stress myself out. Relaxing and breathing are things I personally need to do, or I will be even more unbearable to be around. I often tell co-workers to walk away and decompress when things are getting heavy at work. Forcing someone to stay in the line of fire, against their will, is not conducive to an awesome workplace. 

As it pertains to relationships, I think it’s important to mention that communication is also ridiculously essential. This may sound like an obvious point, but so many times, this goes completely ignored. If you feel things starting to fall apart, or you feel like you can no longer give your all, say something. Talk about it. Have a conversation. An open dialogue. Be honest honest honest. Anything you say will be better than just pulling the rug out from under someone who thinks everything is fine, or is trying hard to make things work, even if things may not be perfect. It’s the right thing to do. Tell someone how you feel and there will be no awful surprises. Even if you may be hurting them, bite the bullet. Doing it sooner than later will hurt them infinitely less in the long run.

At the end of each day, we really only have one person to answer to, and that is ourselves.

It’s rewarding to do things for others, and to take people’s feelings into consideration, but it’s ultimately imperative to make sure you can look at yourself at the end of most days (We all have bad days) and smile. Take comfort in the fact that you lived the day the way you wanted to, and you did your best to survive. If you can reflect on the way you’ve been living, and more often than not, you feel like you’ve been doing everything you can to succeed the way you want to succeed, you’re surrounded by people who know you’re doing your best, and you are happy, on your way to being happy, or trying hard to be happy, or you’re simply being yourself and doing what you feel like doing, and you’re not hurting anybody, then that’s pretty much all you need, and you really don’t need to answer to anyone else. And anyone else who thinks you need to answer to them? Well, fuck them. It’s your life, not theirs.

You already know what matters to you. My advice is to get out there and continue to make it matter. Don’t be afraid to dream, and cut out all the nonsense that is working against you reaching your goals. Anyone who has a problem with that probably doesn’t matter.

Cruelty & Conscience

May 27, 2014

 

Image

 

Love may be the higher law, but there are issues of attraction
You’re too young to be sexy, too ignorant to know satisfaction 
She spoke thoughtfully, with words I’ll not soon forget 
“I have a thing for people who are cruel and then regret it” 

A moment of unbridled truth, she thought she could just slip in
But it pulsated throughout my layers, and peeled me from within 
Less Earth shattering proclamation, more flawlessly timed paragon
It’s not kind to be cruel, unless you’re ready to wear it on

I’ve heard of being cruel to be kind, but hadn’t thought of it that way
We all have to atone for our flaws, for those we want in a bad way
It’s sexy to own up, so open up your irresistible honesty
Nothing moves me like sweetness, but I despise false modesty 

If we have nothing in common, I might never get through to you
Embrace your mistakes, so I can live love like I used to
You’re too young to arouse me, too perfect to move me 
Don’t try to be, if you lie to me, you might as well abuse me

Professor Sparkles’ Top 50 Films of 2013

March 3, 2014

I meant to make this a proper post, but didn’t end up having the time, so without further ado, I present my 50 favorite films of 2013, without further comment.

50. The Last Stand
49. Stand Up Guys
48. The Place Beyond the Pines
47. Fast & Furious 6
46. The Hangover Part III
45. You’re Next
44. The Heat
43. The Great Gatsby
42. World War Z
41. Spring Breakers
40. The Conjuring
39. Star Trek: Into Darkness
38. The To Do List
37. It’s a Disaster
36. Drinking Buddies
35. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
34. Elysium
33. The Butler
32. 42
31. Iron Man 3
30. The Iceman
29. Scenic Route
28. Side Effects
27. Don Jon
26. Prisoners
25. Stuck In Love
24. Upstream Color
23. Pacific Rim
22. A Band Called Death
21. Frances Ha
20. Mud
19. Philomena
18. American Hustle
17. Dallas Buyers Club
16. Gravity
15. The Spectacular Now
14. Inside Llewyn Davis
13. Thanks For Sharing
12. Fruitvale Station
11. Enough Said
10. Nebraska
9. About Time
8. Captain Phillips
7. Metallica: Through the Never
6. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
5. 12 Years A Slave
4. Her
3. The World’s End
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
1. This Is the End

Purple Reign: Revisiting Prince’s Paisley Heyday

October 9, 2013

When Prince sings, “I am something you will never comprehend” in “I Would Die 4 U”, it’s one of the most fantastic, telling, perfect, apropos, brilliant and mind-blowing lyrics in the history of music. Even more so when you see him belt out the lyrics within the walls of his classic 1984 film, Purple Rain.

In Chuck Klosterman’s new book, the near-masterpiece, I Wear the Black Hat, he has a great section in there about the film. My favorite quote from it is probably this one: “One reason Purple Rain is unforgettable is that it evokes a discomfiting nostalgia for an era when Prince seemed way weirder than Michael Jackson.” Anyone who followed both artists in the mid-80’s knows exactly what this means.

There is no active artist today who could pull off what Prince did in Purple Rain and I don’t just mean breakdancing that climaxes with a twerk, or what we referred to back then as “making it clap”.

There is no music superstar circa: now, who is the perfect mix of pop star, rock star, crazy person, sex god, sensitive artist, like Prince was ca: 1984. Nobody. Justin Timberlake is a pretty stellar artist ca: 2013, but it’s rather easy to reign supreme in today’s watered down market, made up primarily of shit.

This is no slight on JT, really. I sincerely believe that if Timberlake had been in his prime in 1984, he’d still be a relevant artist, but the fact of the matter is, if ’84 was indeed his heyday, he’d still be an afterthought to Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna and maybe even a couple others (Lionel Richie, perhaps?), even though he’d still be a highly respected artist.

1984 was just a different time. There was a lot of shit out there, but there was a lot less shit than there is now and also scores of relevant artists more than the Top 40 could ever dream of boasting these days, sadly.

Prince was so awesomely untouchable in his prime, that even when he wrote song titles that sounded like they were penned by teenage girls, (“I Would Die 4 U“, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, etc.) we didn’t just tolerate them. We adored them.

Prince was never one of my top 5 artists, but that makes my point even more bulletproof. He still meant so much to me at the time and I didn’t even count him as a personal favorite.

Man, I miss 1984. And not just because I was 9 and had no responsibilities. Okay. That probably had a lot to do with it, actually. There was a lot of political turmoil going on then, too, but at least the radio was still fun. And great, too, for the most part.

I also miss the 1984 version of Prince. I mean the guy is still pretty nuts, but back then we looked past it and crowned him…well, we crowned him Prince. Michael Jackson was still the indisputable King back then.

But wait. Didn’t Michael name one of his kids “Prince”…?

Wow. Hold on. Is it wrong that now I’m hoping Prince Michael is taking vocal lessons and planning a worldwide takeover? The music world could use some royalty atop the charts right now. And maybe a little more crazy, too.

No, not you, Laddie Caca. I want some REAL crazy up in there, up in there.

You’ll know you’re really crazy when Charlie Murphy starts telling stories about you. Game. Blouses.

the Losers Win It All Someday

September 26, 2013

There’s really no such thing as normal. I just thought of a great example.

Have you ever had a nervous breakdown? I’ve never had one. Not officially, anyway. But I think we all have had one in a way.

I was just reading something a friend of mine wrote and I realized how similar we are to each other, even with all of our differences.

My friend Ben was once married and after he got married, he became an alcoholic and then went a little crazy and moved back in with his parents.

I was once almost married and after I almost got married, I became a foodaholic and went a little crazy and moved in with my parents. The only difference really is that mine was more subtle and undiagnosed.

I should not get any special credit for being better at hiding things, or because nobody gave me pills. I actually would have liked some pills. But I couldn’t really afford them and I was to afraid to tell my mom how hard this hit me, let alone a doctor.

I’m actually a little jealous of my friend. And also a bit mad at myself for not being as brave and open as him. Maybe if I was more honest with the people who wanted to take care of me, I would be easier to take care of.

Being crazy is pretty easy. I pretend to be crazy all the time, trying not to let on how possibly real life crazy I might actually be. But whenever I’m pretending to be crazier than I am, I find it kind of freeing, loose and fun.

It’s the responsibility of being “normal” (Seriously, whatever the fuck that means, right?) that’s the real difficult part of life, which is why I probably prefer acting crazy whenever I get the chance. I’m only good at acting like I’m not crazy. I shouldn’t get any special credit for that, but maybe I’ll get a Golden Globe for it someday, or something.

My buddy had many fits of depression over the years. I’ve also seen plenty of depression. Mine is probably just a lower grade, or again, maybe I just hide it better. This is one reason why I will always kind of respect people who commit suicide. It’s easy to call it an easy way out, or cowardly, but I’ll tell you right now, if I wasn’t such an actual pussy, I might have committed suicide on some of my darker days. If I know something was impossible because of my own cowardice, it’s hard for me to think of someone who actually succeeded in this act as cowardly themselves, even though I do consider suicide a selfish act in many ways, as well.

Anyway, our mutual, general lack of direction as adults, led us to have to move back home as grown ass men, but I still say that it was not completely our fault. We both had devils on our shoulders who wouldn’t stop talking shit. His were probably more monstrous, but mine were definitely existent. Nonetheless, I feel like we both take full responsibility with where we are in life and I’m happy to say that I feel like we’re also making big strides toward turning things around.

I started doing stand up comedy about three years ago and things have gone amazingly well. Ben started doing comedy in the last year and I am planning on taking him on the road with me soon. Even if I have to do it against his will.

If there is a point in this entry and I really don’t feel like there has to be one, but if there is one, I’d say that it’s to illustrate that we’re really all just humans trying to do our best and maybe we should all be more sensitive to this fact. We all have our crosses to bear and our hurdles to jump over.

I think another point could be that none of that bullshit has to be a death sentence. It’s who we are at times, but it doesn’t have to define us. There is a light at the end of the tunnel if you wait long enough and you want it bad enough. And if you’re still in the midst of it, you don’t have to feel alone, afraid, or angry.

When I met Ben, he was in the midst of his Vietnam. His messenger screen name at the time was Divorced Alcoholic Loser, but from the beginning, Ben was always very nice to me and supportive of me. And he never struck me as a loser, in the least. I always liked Ben and felt connected to him in many ways, but I feel like a proud father these days. He’s always been kind and smart, but I feel like he’s so much more mature, focused and confident now. He’s a great example of how one can dig one’s self out of the deepest of holes and live to tell–and hopefully laugh–about it.

As up and coming comedians, we are both basically trying to make a career of that now. I’m proud to be a colleague of his, but I’m happier to say that we’re still friends. We’ve been through all kinds of unimaginable things since we’ve met, but we’ve always kind of taken care of each other and stayed positive to each other, even when we may have been beating up ourselves.

If you’re reading this as you’re hurting, most of all I want to tell you to hang in there and look for that light at the end of the tunnel. It never goes out. It’s just hard to see sometimes. I hope you find your hope, your love and your stage. And I hope you have a friend like Ben there as a first mate on your voyage back to happiness.

GOD HATES FATS (and other musings on amusing encounters with the opposite sex)

September 24, 2013

GOD HATES FATS

I can’t wait to see that sign if there is ever a civil rights movement for overweight people. I feel like a minority some days. (intended hyperbole)

I see the looks. I hear the judgment. I see the girl I just messaged on a dating site who replied with “I don’t think we’d be a good match” even though we had a high match pctg. and she never actually had a conversation with me.

I guess that’s slightly better than the handful of women who have told me how awesome I was only to run for the hills when they meet me in person.

This is a slight whine, but really only a mild complaint. The problem is a combination of societal perception and my ego. If I hadn’t had beautiful women tell me that they think I’m beautiful, maybe I could take the rejection better.

And I guess it’s that knowledge that makes me wish that more women would take a chance on me. But then I’m reminded that not everyone is for everybody. We’re only human. We like what I like. I think people should try harder in general, but when it comes down to it, we need to feel something when we meet someone, or it just isn’t going to happen.

But I do suspect that if more women tried to like me, some most definitely would. I know when I’ve given someone a chance that I wasn’t completely sold on, I ended up with quite possibly the best connection I’ve ever experienced.

The absolute truth is probably something closer to “there is no right answer, really” and I guess I’m okay with that, if that’s just the way things are. Trying to change things out of your control, or worry about them is an exercise in futility. And I hate exercise! (Hey-o)

I enjoy talking about it, though. Discussing. Getting things off my chest. And I like studying women, as creepy as that sounds. And I like knowing that someday, someone else is going to come along when I least expect it and knock my socks off.

Until then, I will continue to think, to ponder, to speculate, to explore. It’s fun. And talking makes me feel better. And now I do. Don’t you?

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