Behind the Scene


[after seeing the movie "Naked Lunch"]
Nelson: I can think of two things wrong with that title.

The Simpsons, “Bart on the Road” (3/31/96)

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So I’m sure most of you have seen this video, which is one of your more recent bits of viral activity on the Internets:

It turns out that there’s a little bit of a story behind this guy who kind of reminds me of the “This Is Bob” commercials for the male enhancement product that you’d see all the time on Nick at Nite.

Most of you know this guy as “Edward Hill”, which is kind of peculiar for a guy in Russia, but don’t be dopey: of course that’s just the Anglicization of his Russian name. The song he’s singing—and he is singing; I’ll get back to that in a moment—is called “I Am So Happy To Be Back Home”.

It turns out that Edward is singing in a specific style, called vocaliz. Vocaliz is singing without the use of words. It’s essentially the musical version of pantomime. He’s supposed to be carrying across an attitude, or an emotion, without actually saying anything. It’s kind of like singing Scat-style in jazz, except Scat is meant for the human voice to approximate different musical instruments.

I have to presume that there is room for improvisation in the vocaliz style, otherwise Ed wouldn’t be having such a hard time lip-synching. I showed the video to Wee One yesterday and she couldn’t understand the point of the lip-synching in the first place, after awhile I had to tell her to just accept it that this is how a lot of TV shows were done, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

I think that one of the reasons that most people are so “WTF?” about it is the combination of Ed’s looks, plus the TV performance, plus his rather resonant voice which is probably better suited to opera than a TV performance and really, who listens to opera anymore these days? But the other end of it is that there’s a certain “otherness” to it; that while it’s got some American-esque elements to it (e.g. the set and the color temperatures), it’s still a very Russian thing going on. If this guy had appeared on our television sets at the time he was a hot item (and apparently the song was quite popular in its day), we’d still wonder what the hell had gone wrong.

But that’s more of a xenophobia thing. We’re comfortable with Scat but not with vocaliz. Let’s move a little bit farther afield:

While it sounds like a couple of guys covering an old Bonnie Tyler song, it’s a technique called Siberian Throat Singing, which is meant to convey the song along with a sense of power (both symbolic and physical). It’s got a cousin called Tuvan Throat Singing (Tuvan being part of Siberia), which concentrates on pronouncing the melody as correctly as possible. This clip above may actually be a little closer to the Tuvan style, especially inasmuch as they’re harmonizing in places.

Weird? Yeah, kind of. But nonetheless also kind of cool, especially when you learn the back story.

Finally Caving In

Dr Meredith Grey: I want facts, and until I get them, my pants are staying on.
Dr. Derek Shepherd: Or you could just roll with it, be flexible. See what happens.
Dr. Meredith Grey: I'm not flexible.
Dr. Derek Shepherd: Now there, I disagree. 

–Grey's Anatomy, "Save Me" (5/15/05)

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I've seen this one a skillion times but never bothered to participate. That's how bored I am just now, that I'm actually playing along. This came from Dragonlady over at Boyfriend, Please!, who wasted it by putting it on Facebook instead of in her blog. 

Official Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

My Version of the Rules: Here's a list of random crap about me. Feel free to do the same. 

  1. Scar ani
    I have several small scars that you have to look carefully to see: Forehead, pinky, right foot. Ask me real pretty and I'll tell you where they came from.  
  2. There are a couple of dozen things on the walls in this house. I think I like about three of them.   
  3. I was born at 5:20 PM. My birthday will be on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012. That game will be played in Indianapolis, where I've never been.
  4. It's fun being both smart AND funny. And, uh, modest.   
  5. I haven't been out of the country since I was fifteen. That year I managed to do it twice.  
  6. I'm a horrific snob when it comes to pizza and bagels. I'm also kind of fussy about french fries.  
  7. People invariably have something to say when they see my signature. The best part is watching them try to dope out my last name, which doesn't appear.  

7a. The story behind my signature: I used to have a rather nice signature until I worked at Record World. Everything that you sent to the main office had to have your signature on it. Naturally, I'd wait until the end of the day to take care of this, so I'd have to sign about twenty-five different items. It got so I'd just dash off my name in about one second just to get it over with, and I never got out of the habit. My signature, by the way, is just my first name. 

  1. I used to be a trusting person but I've been burned once too many times. 
  2. Concerts I've attended include Foreigner, Allman Brothers (twice), Lucinda Williams, Billy Joel, Radiohead and Tool. This isn't a comprehensive list but it's pretty eclectic, isn't it?   
  3. I wasn't in the mosh pit at Tool but I was close enough to get knocked about a few times.   
  4. I rarely untie my shoes when I take them off.  
  5. I like a lot of foods and drinks that GF doesn't. Sometimes this puts a crimp in my own eating and drinking habits. For instance, I don't drink nearly as much wine as I'd like. 
  6. I'm a closet karaoke junkie. I don't get to do this nearly as often as I'd like, either. Some people think I sound a little like Tom Petty. I can't tell whether they're complimenting me or not.   
  7. I still enjoy listening to Bob Shannon on WCBS-FM, thanks to the Internet.  
  8. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of being dead. Nonexistence sucks. 
  9. Sneeze!
    Dragonlady wasn't bullshitting about sneezing when she's full. I've seen her do it. Wait, not everyone's seen that post. Let me give you another: I sneeze a lot more since I got my sinuses fixed. 
  10. I'm definitely a night owl. Naturally, this crashes into the fact that I'm supposed to be at work at 8:00.   

17a. I'm rarely at work by 8:00.   

  1. My blood type is A Positive. I usually donate at least twice a year but this has been a very sick year for me. With any luck I'll be more active in that arena this year.
  2. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that I was a little bit of a jerk in high school. Any former classmates, feel free to confirm or deny.  
  3. Lundell Group of women
    I have never dated the same name twice. That is, of all the women I've dated, no two share the same first name.  (Picture came from here, by the way.)
     
  4. I really want to see the world but I don't want to do it in one-week bites.  
  5. I love road trips. It's the journey at least as much as the destination.  

How many of these am I supposed to do? 25? How do the other folks make it to 99? :::sigh::: Okay. 

  1. I am the absolute worst at remembering people's names. Worse, because I'm a visible type at work, everyone knows my name so they assume I know theirs. (Hint: don't bet on it.)
  2. If the technology comes along in my lifetime that makes it possible to access the Internet in your head, I'd probably be close to the front of the line. I LOVE having access to information.  
  3. I was the school spelling champion when I was in sixth grade. I still have the clipping from the Daily News. (I lost at the county level. Oh, well.)

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Do any of these surprise you? Confuse you? Answer some of your questions? Feel free to comment. I've bared my soul, here. Or something. 
  

Go Figure

Alan: He says you're a boring, self-centered, insensitive old fool who wouldn't know love if it wore wings, diaper, and shot heart-shaped arrows at your butt.

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

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Can you believe that ANYONE who writes a blog would get this result?

Your result for The Greek Mythology Personality Test…

Narcissus

0% Extroversion, 47% Intuition, 44% Emotiveness, 81% Perceptiveness

You are viewed by others as tasteless, thick-skinned, inflexible, self-absorbed, arrogant and oblivious. You are Narcissus. You seek out high risk jobs, and jobs that allow you to assert yourself over other people. You also really need your space. You have a strong conformist streak, but you also like to be spontaneous. You also love you. I mean, you REALLY love yourself. You think you're awesome incarnate. But, your flyboy arrogance aside, your bravado lets you accomplish things that others might not be able to.

Famous People like you: Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepard
Stay clear of: Atlas, Prometheus, Daedalus, The Oracle
Seek out: Icarus, Apollo, Hermes

Take The Greek Mythology Personality Test at HelloQuizzy

Just Another Meme

If you'd like to play along, go here.

Fill in your favorite for each of the following:

1. Political show: Right now it's a race between Countdown and Rachel Maddow. Even when they're wrong, they're amusing anyway.

2. Picnic food: Fried chicken, unless there's a barbecue around.

3. Mixed drink: Vodka and ice cubes. Oh, wait. That may not be in the spirit of the question. Let's instead go with a vodka collins, with a splash of 7-Up.

4. U.S. President: Harry Truman.

5. Kind of student to teach: The preschoolers are the most fun, the mildly retarded ones are the most rewarding.

6. Hobby you do or wish you still did: I wish I spent more time working on my art. I'm glad that blogging exercises my writing muscles, though.

7. Sports commentator: Ever–Jim McKay (RIP). Current–Jim Nantz, if only for the way he sells the other shows on CBS.

8. Sport to watch on TV: Football. Golf used to be more fun to watch when the announcers were actually on the scene and had to speak very quietly.

9. Animal to have as a pet: Toss-up between my fish and my dog.

10. Halloween costume you have worn: This year I was Michael Phelps in 2028. I nearly froze my ass off.

11. Kind of dessert: Pie.

12. Comic strip: Wow, so many: BizarroBrewster Rockit: Space Guy!, Cow & Boy, Dilbert, Doonesbury, The Dinette Set (definitely an acquired taste but very funny once you get the conceit), Medium LargePearls Before Swine. That's a partial, and alphabetical list.

13. Ice cream flavor: Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk. I'm also partial to Phish Food. According to their website, these are #7 and #6, respectively, in terms of popularity.

14. News source: MSNBC.com

15. Vacation spot: I don't care; I just like getting away from it all.

16. Wine: Chardonnay.

17. Way to waste time instead of working: You're reading it.

18. Reality show: The Amazing Race, with Survivor a close second. I wish TAR did a post-race reunion show, the way Survivor does.

19. Childrens movie: Full Metal Jacket.

20. Celebrity you wish would retire: There are a few on this list but the first that came to mind is Vince Vaughn.

Just Checking In

I've been preoccupied with this surgery thing, so I've been narrowing my focus to just a few things. I'm reading the news online, but not reading other blogs. I've been cooking more but not necessarily eating more. TV's not holding my interest and I'm back to devouring reading material. Despite all the reading I'm not necessarily synthesizing any new thoughts, hence the dearth of material here. So yes, I'm still alive and to prove it, I share with you a meme I found on MySpace awhile back. It's one of those bazillion-questions jobbies which was clearly originally written by a teenager, and it kept me occupied for 20 minutes, so I share it with you:

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1. The phone rings. Who do you want it to be?

A wrong number, so I’m not bothered any more than necessary.

 

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?

Yeah, usually. Of course, BJs ensures that I do, the quarter-stealing bastards.

 

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?

I’m usually a listener unless someone’s asking.

 

4. Do you take compliments well?

Sometimes but not usually

 

5. Do you play Sudoku?

No

 

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?

Sure. I mean, I might eat poison sumac the first couple of days but I do learn from my mistakes.

 

7. Have you ever been in love?

Yes

 

8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?

Once, as a cub scout

 

9. What was your favorite sport as a kid?

Baseball

 

10. Who is your favorite band/ singer?

Lucinda Williams, this week.

 

11. What is your favorite song?

I’m really fixated on “

Red

Hill

Mining

Town

” lately.

 

12. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?

Yes indeed

 

14. Use three words to describe yourself?

Don't. Underestimate. Me.

 

15. Do any songs make you cry?

No, but I’ve been known to react emotionally to songs.

 

16. Are you continuing your education?

Yes, as we speak!

 

17. Do you know how to shoot a gun?

I don’t know; I’ve never tried

 

18. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you'd grab?

Nothing—it’s all STUFF

 

19. How often do you read books?

All the time

 

20. Do you think more about the past, present or future?

I’m definitely backward-looking

 

21. What is your favorite children's book?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

 

22 .What color are your eyes?

Hazel…my optometrist said once that they’re a very dark blue

 

23. How tall are you?

6’ 1”

 

24. Where is your dream house located?

In my dreams, duh

 

27. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?

A million years ago

 

28. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?

Last year, school fundraiser

 

30. Where was the furthest place you traveled today?

Roha Farms

 

32. Do you like mustard?

It’s an ingredient for me, not a condiment

 

33. Do you prefer to sleep or eat?

Eat, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

 

34. Do you look like your mom or dad?

Depends on the light. People used to say mom and now they say dad.

 

35. How long does it take you in the shower?

At least 15 minutes

 

36. Can you do splits?

No way

 

37. What movie do you want to see right now?

I’m not especially interested in anything in the theaters this week

 

39. What did you do for New Year's?

I don’t even remember, which is weird considering I wasn’t in

Florida

for a change

 

40. Do you think The Grudge was scary?

Nah

 

42. Do you own a camera phone?

Do they come without cameras nowadays?

 

44. Was your mom a cheerleader?

No

 

45. What's the last letter of your name?

e. Or did you mean l?

 

47. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

No more than six during the week, probably closer to four

 

48. Do you like care bears?

No

 

49. What do you buy at the movies?

Large popcorn with extra butter-flavored grease & a big honkin’ soda—this is the point of going, yes?

 

50. Do you know how to play poker?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at it

 

51.Do you wear your seatbelt?

Almost always

 

52. What do you wear to sleep?

Usually underwear

 

53. Anything big ever happen in your hometown?

When the gas station exploded we heard it four miles away

 

54. How many meals do you eat a day?

At least two

 

56. Do you always read MySpace bulletins?

No, not always. I usually have to play catch-up

 

58. Do you like funny or serious people better?

Serious people are usually unintentionally funny

 

59. Ever been to

L.A.

?

No, but I’ve been to S. F.

 

60. Did you eat a cookie today?

Yes—baked it myself

 

61. Do you use cuss words in other languages?

Often

 

62. Do you steal or pay for your music downloads?

I pay

 

64. What do you and your parents fight about the most?

You don’t call, you don’t write…

 

65. Are you a gullible person?

No

 

There is no number 66.

 

67. If you could have any job (assuming you have the skills) what would it be?

It would involve a lot of writing and then interacting with the responses.

 

68. Are you easy to get along with?

Usually, long as it’s all done my way

 

69. What is your favorite time of day?

Night time

No Wonder I’m a Divergent Thinker

Capt. Picard: [citing] "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." Those words were uttered by Judge Aareon Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Drumhead" (4/27/91)
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According to the Interesting News That Everyone Reads, Naturally Everything's True (do your own math), Sarah Palin was, depending on whom you ask, somehow responsible for the ultimate departure of the librarian in Wasilla, Alaska. Numerous sources that state that there was no specific list of books have proven to be useless, as a list materialized nonetheless. However, the list turned out to be the usual list of books that have been banned anywhere, any time. 

Yellojkt took the time to turn it into a meme. Boldface the ones you've read, italicize the ones that you're interested in reading. Feel free to report a total when you're done. 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (nerd that I am, I read this on my own in HS)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King (the first time I suspected that King was publishing script treatments)
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding 
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (tried it a couple of times)
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Collective (I read this before I gave it to Daughter a couple of years ago)
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (really? This is banned but not God Bless You Mr. Rosewater? Not Slapstick?)
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (don't tell anyone but this is on the list twice.) 
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes (didn't much enjoy this one, so I never bothered with the rest of the series)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (one of my favorite books assigned in HS)
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King (this book scared me far more than the movie)
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (on my to-do shelf)
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

Twenty-six books read, only six on the "want to read" list. Most of the ones left over I have very little knowledge of.
 
Having the dictionary on the banned books list is interesting; sure it's got (let's say it softly) words in it, but wouldn't they be unattached to a context? Isn't that usually the problem?
 
A couple of these books have titles which are intriguing enough to at least look into; others I may read just to see what the fuss is about. Which, I guess, is the downside to maintaining a "banned" list; people like me can turn it into a kind of literary Bucket List. 

Comma Comma Comma Comma Comma Chameleon

Paul Barringer: Ever tried "punctuation sex", Henrietta? Hyphens are kisses, commas are maybes, and a period is a definite no. And then of course, there’s the… limitless realms of semicolons and apostrophes. I shudder to think what an exclamation point might mean.

Up the Down Staircase (1967)

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Borrowed from  Your Neighborhood Librarian (heh):

You Are a Comma
You are open minded and extremely optimistic.
You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.
You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.
(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

It’s Like They’re Looking Into My Soul! or something.

Dan Rydell: They say it’s always calmest before the storm. That’s not true. I’m a serious sailor. It isn’t calm before the storm. Stuff happens.

Sports Night, "Eli’s Coming" (3/30/99)

———————————-

From another SN episode: "What’s wrong with ‘The storm clouds are gathering’?" Bonus points if you know who said it and in what context.

You Are Lightning
Beautiful yet dangerous
People will stop and watch you when you appear
Even though you’re capable of random violence

You are best known for: your power

Your dominant state: performing

Shocking!

Sorry.

Lightning In A Bottle!

Murray: When you’re in a band, you don’t get with your bandmate’s girlfriend – past or present.
Jemaine: Yes, well thanks for that.
Murray: You get a love triangle – you know? Fleetwood Mac situation.
[beat]
Murray: Well there, there was four of them, so…more of a love square. But you know, no one gets on.
Jemaine: Okay, I see.
Murray: Mind you, they did make some of their best music back then.
Bret: Rumours.
Murray: No, that’s all true.

The Flight of the Conchords, "Sally" (6/17/07)

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A meme I got from Yellojkt for creating your very own rock and roll album. I thought it would yield rather boring results but I was pleasantly surprised, so I’m sharing it:

First, you get your band name by visiting a random page on Wikipedia. When I clicked on the link, it took me to the page for the Council of Notables. Is that just THE best name ever for a rock band? You bet it is.

Next, you have to come up with a title for your album. This is done by going to this random quotation page. Go to the last quotation on that page and grab the last four words of the quotation. In my case, the full quotation was:

Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures. (Han Suyin)

So my album title is:  Hurt, But it Cures, which is just enigmatic enough to be a cool album title coming from a band. It’s more Radiohead than The Beatles, if you get what I mean. Anyway, I like it.

Finally, what good album doesn’t have cover art on it? To get the artwork, you go to a random Flickr page and choose the THIRD picture. My photo came from a guy named Octave Z. The Flickr title is "Day 24/365" but the file name is "spaceball." I think it was part of a photo-a-day experiment. I love the shallow focus field in my image and again I think it’s tough to beat, given the trend laid down by the other two elements of my album. Anyway, I had to crop it a little to make it fit a square image, which is a shame, but I think it still works. Add some text elements using a program called GIMP, and away we go:

Rock_album

GIMP, by the way, is a freebie, open-source program that you can use to manipulate images. From a user-friendly standpoint, it’s no worse than Photoshop, which means it takes a little getting used to some of the elements but it’s not as tough to get the hang of it, in my opinion. You can get it here.

So this was a fun little project, which of course has GF rolling her eyes so hard that our neighbors could hear them rattling about in her head, but it may inspire me to jerk around with other pictures just for the fun of it.

On Pizza

Charles Lamb: This is not a city! A city is like London or New York where one can just walk outside and hail a taxi!

L. A. Law, "Do The Spike Thing" (10/31/91)

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You Are 84% NYC
Congratulations, you are truly a New Yorker. You’ve seen it all, and you’re more than a little cynical.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with this one.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a side comment about the state of pizza in Baltimore. It was really part of a larger post about something different, but Dena decided to seize upon it in the comments:

I’ve never met a New Yorker who considered pizza from anywhere else to be a real pie. Someone once told me that it’s the water used in making the dough that makes it taste so different.

She may be right about this; I don’t know. After all, it’s a bagel thing too. Bagels around here are roughly analagous to Wonder Bread in my eyes. Bread in general is pretty disappointing, except for two places: DiPasquale’s on Gough Street (WARNING: noisy and irritating music at that link), and Mastellone’s on Harford Road, practically around the corner from my home. Mastellone’s does not appear to have a website, even though both places are owned by the same guy. Go figure. These are the kinds of places where you can say something like "Gabagool" and they know what you want AND they ask you if you want it hot or sweet. Ask me if you’re curious enough. I totally heart these guys. I hate the music on the website. Can it, guys, please.

Back to pizza. It could be a water thing, but there’s also a philosophy behind pizza that so few places outside the New York Metro Area seem to have.

I won’t debate Chicago-style; I don’t have enough practical experience. I have no quarrel with Uno’s but Second City dwellers may. Feel free to enlighten me. However:

New York-style pizza has a nice thin crust that’s built up at the edges and both kneaded and shaped by hand. A 16-inch pizza has 4-6 ounces of sauce spread thinly over it and a generous double handful of mozzarella cheese. Real mozzarella is essential. A lot of lesser places will use a mix of mozzarella and something else; some places actually use a white version of cheddar. (A lot of frozen pizza uses this stuff too; go look at the side of the box.) Some places will dust the top with a little dried oregano and/or basil. Those are nice, but not necessary.

Pizza needs to be cooked in a very hot, gas-fired oven with stone on its floor. The pizza needs to go directly onto the stone, and this is where so many places go wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ve seen a bunch of places shape the dough into a pan (some of them do this mechanically) and then put the pan into the oven. How are you going to get a crispy crust if you do that? Answer: you won’t.

Worse yet are the places that do this and then put the pan on a kind of chain/conveyor belt which carries this deal through a cave of electric heating elements. Let me make this clear: you can’t bake a pizza in a fucking Easy-Bake Oven. And you certainly can’t do it in this contraption, which is maybe one step higher. The cheese tends to overcook and the crust is…it’s just sad.

If this is done right, and the oven is hot enough, the edge of the crust may actually start to form bubbles at the point where the sauce ends and the crust begins. Some places like to check the pie at about the halfway mark and pop the bubbles before they turn the pie around; other places let it go. I kind of like bubbles, but I couldn’t tell you why. Turning the pie around is probably superstitious, but then again the back of the oven is likely hotter than the front because of the door getting opened and closed all the time.

How tough is it to do this well? Apparently, very tough.

Pizza for one: In New York you buy a slice of pizza. A lot of places, especially in downtown Brooklyn, will still give you this for a dollar or less. I don’t get the "personal" pizza, the 12-inch jobbie. Get a slice and walk away from the window, munching away.

When I was 15 years old, I went to visit my dad’s parents in Las Cruces, New Mexico. There was a Pizza Hut on the corner by their place. I’d never been to Pizza Hut before. I went in and asked for a slice to go. The guy was dumbfounded: "You want a what?"

Now it was my turn to be confused. "A slice. Of pizza. This is a pizza place, I’d like a slice of pizza to go."

"Oh…we don’t sell pizza by the slice."

"You don’t…sell…pizza…by the…?"

"As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone around here does."

And that was my first exposure to the idea that Things Are Not The Same Elsewhere. Perhaps in a future post we can discuss why mustard on the burgers is also a wrongness.

Now I’m going to put on my shoes and walk up Harford Road so I can have some gabagool. On some decent bread.