The Great Plotnik

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Moon, Two Planets and Two Openings

This extraordinary shot was photographed by Jim Herd last night, from Golden Gate Park. You see Jupiter on top, Venus in the middle and the glorious crescent moon below. Plotnik hopes you saw it because this particular convergence won't happen again until 2052.

Plot and Duck didn't see Jupiter, but they did see Venus and the moon hanging over their car as they ran out last night to hurry over to the Aurora in Berkeley for the West Coast premiere of George Packer's "Betrayed." Tonight there is a John Guare opening at SF Playhouse, and then tomorrow there's the Super Bowl as an excuse to go to two Super Bowl Parties, the first one in a new and local brewery around the corner that has definitely piqued Plotnik's interest. Supposedly the brewer is brewing up 3 gallons of home brew for the party, as the home brew and home-wine vintner revolution appears to be alive and flourishing in Snowy Valley.

"Betrayed" is about Iraqi translators working with American forces in Iraq, and how they have gotten screwed by absolutely everybody. When Plot and Duck got home from the play they turned on the news and listened to endless discourses on our economic meltdown. But face it: to us, this all still feels temporary, even though our common sense tells us really hard times are on the way. But we've got to keep things in perspective -- what we call an economic slowdown, these Iraqis would call Paradise.

You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of "Betrayed" here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Putting Faces to Nik Names

TIAPOS 1-29-09. From left: Mississippi Motorhead, The Great Mushnik, The Great Large Pants, Chef Pickle.

From left: Chef Pickle, The Great Domin-Nik, Blonde Bombshell

The Great Plotnik is just out of sight at the bottom of the table in Domin-Nik's dining room, with his guitar in his lap.

Everybody doesn't come to TIAPOS every meeting, but when we all do it's the best night of the week. The secret ingredient in Domin-Nik's brownies is...teriyaki pumpkin seeds? Yes! And they were delicious!

Here's a paragraph from what Brother Large Pants read last night, about driving through dreary Nebraska last summer, listening to the Stones' 'Exile on Main Street.'
"Well, all right Mr. Mick. The afternoon sun is in fact shining on us, and the randomly decorated hay fields of central Nebraska are surrounding us with largely empty space to fill with this pounding rock 'n' roll from the Twentieth Century, eons before, say, Britney Spears or the proliferation of so much bad music by upstart unknowns that I've completely lost track of whole generations of techno-this-that-and-the-other. In some odd little way, induced by an outdated CD player in a somewhat antiquated automobile on a badly kept up highway in the middle of the largely empty fields of central Nebraska, we're just having more fun than you can shake a stick at. Long live rock 'n' roll. And may the Stones survive to rock the assembly hall in their Old Folks' Home of choice."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Gratuitous Travel Chunks

You look at this picture quickly and you think you're in Italy, but you're not. It's Guanajuato, Mexico.

Aeromexico has inaugurated non stop flights from SPIA (Saint Plotniko International Aerodrome) to Mexico City. If you book before Feb. 5, flights are only $295 roundtrip including taxes, and you can continue on to a dozen Mexican cities for free if you like, including all the big ones, except the two Plot and Duck would like to return to, Oaxaca and Puebla.

But Puebla is only an hour and a half by bus from Mexico City. Oaxaca -- the Plotniks took that bus the last time they were there and Plotnik isn't going to do that again for awhile. Too many mountains in the way.

And one of the included free cities is Leon, which is in West-Central Mexico and is near Guanajuato, one of Mexico's magic and most romantic cities, that Plottie hasn't seen for more than forty years. He doesn't remember it nearly as built up as in the above photo, but that was also true for Oaxaca and it was still memorable, if larger, when they went in 2007. Plane fare in 2007 was double what it is during this sale.

This all sounds terrific, except for the little problem of recession, economic stagnation, tight money and adios bye bye to chunks of savings. Plot has not looked very deeply into the holes where those chunks used to be but he is pretty sure those particular chunks may have been the Gratuitous Travel chunks.

Also, Plottie won't permit himself to plan one vacation until he's on the way home from the next, so this is all just idle talk. Still, how about Mexico City, Leon and/or Guanajuato for Plottie's birthday? Queretaro, Guadalajara, how about Tula?

All this after the World Series in Stiletto City?

As Kurt Vonnegut said: "See the cat? See the cradle?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Night of Roquefort Cheese

Roquefort cheese it is. Forget peanut butter, forget special nuts treated with sticky jam, forget everything you've ever heard before. Use roquefort cheese. Smear it on. It'll work.

We could prove it to you, if The Great Ducknik would allow The Great Plotnik to publish the picture he took last night, but she has already said if he does that Ducknik will tell Isabella. We can't let that happen, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

This might be of some service: By day, World Headquarters is a haven of peace, where intellectual enterprises are pursued by students seeking a heightened, enlightened spirituality. By night, however, we are a seething, churning, snapping, snarling cauldron of Death.

Here's another way to put it. By day we are about ginger, garlic, herbal blends and natural, wholesome ingredients. By night it's all roquefort cheese, preferably from Safeway.

Does that help? Boy, could we tell you a tail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Cold in Brooklyn

It's cold in Brooklyn. When The Great PD sent the above photo, Plot wondered whether or not they remember these?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Three Pairs of Shoes but Only Two Can Make the Playoffs

It's time to start thinking about shoes. Like, how many pairs of shoes do you take on a trip that features one night in Atlanta, one night in New York, fourteen nights on a sailboat, two nights in a guest house on Trinidad and two nights in a nature reserve?

Susan Fornoff is thinking about it too. She is the new Travel Editor at the Morning Birdwrap and she's a she. She replaced John Flinn, a he. Flinn subscribed to the Rick Steves (also a he) school, which says take one pair of shoes that can serve every purpose, and that's it. Travel light on your feet and take extra socks.

(Of course, where does Rick Steves ever go? Paris. A cafe in Slovenia. Spain. And he's got a film crew and production staff.)

Anyway, Susan Fornoff isn't buying the theory. She feels a woman needs options. She ran a column recently asking people to report in on how many shoes they take when they travel, and what the best shoes are, and how many pairs you really need. The answers were interesting.

It was not as you might think -- women weren't any more or less shoe-profligate than men. But they did seem to think about it a lot more. Men said things like "Take the Merrell's with the rubber bottoms and a pair of sandals," while women were more like "You'll need a pair of low black flats that are comfortable to tour a museum in, and one pair of low heels in case you get invited to a restaurant where they are necessary, and perhaps tennis shoes, but in a neutral color, and then you have to deal with cobblestones."

It will surprise no one to know The Great Plotnik is leaning towards the first approach. He knows he's taking his Tevas for the boat, though the Finch says most of the time you're barefoot on the boat, and she ought to know, since it's her boat.

But you can't wear Tevas in New York City in March, nor in Saint Plotniko when your plane departs at 6AM. So he's thinking about his old red basketball shoes, but he is pretty sure the Duck will NOT go for that. The fallback will probably be his old brown Eccos, that he THINKS -- he doesn't remember exactly -- worked fine for trekking to Macchu Picchu. There's no Macchu Picchu in the Windward Caribbean Islands, though there are mountains and lots of hiking trails.

Plot will bring his snorkel and mask. How long has it been since he's even seen that snorkel and mask? He remembers he bought them not long after his snorkel journey to the Great Barrier Reef, where the sea water was twice as salty as normal sea water and his rented mask leaked and made him gag so badly he had to spend most of his time on the surface instead of diving. Oh, and the buffet.

Did Plotnik ever mention the buffet on the great catamaran out of Cairns, Australia, where every single snorkler was so seasick they were puking their guts out and then they brought out the trays of shrimp?

"Roight, no worries, mate, jus' put your 'ead over the railin' there and let it spew...that's roight. Now, then, 'ow 'bout a good plate o' shrimp and a nice pint?"

But Plottie had a mustache then, and the mustache made any mask leak. And there were all those jellyfish.

Weren't we talking about shoes?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Renaming the Housing Crisis

OK, let's just say Plot and Duck are working on another, uh, home repair. Sorry friends but Plot has to remain in the closet on this one, which is not altogether non-germaine to the problem. This is all he will say, except to say that Plot had a pet once he really did love.

Last night, before watching the amazing conclusion to Back to the Future III, where Doc and Clint, that is Marty, manage to blast themselves into 1985 aboard a DeLorean, being pushed by an ancient locomotive, that has to cross a deep ravine 50 years before the bridge it is crossing has been built, oh and what about Mary Steenburgen in those purple skirts hanging upside down on the train...before that, Plot had to go into the shop to investigate a noise.

He had to stand on a little box to see up into the place where the noise came from.

He stretched out. The box broke.

So this morning he's got a purple abrasion under his big toe that makes walking a bit problematic. It's not painful or throbbing, as long as he doesn't land on it, but IT'S SUNNY and SUNDAY and that means there is a PLOTZKETBALL game and how do you play Plotzketball, even at Plotnik's reduced speed, without landing on your big toe?

NOW it's starting to throb.

Ah yes, you are saying "But...our leader, our moral compass, the Chief Plotzer of our flock, whom we all know must surely have been asked to give a small benediction at President Obama-Nik's inauguration, but chose instead to remain in Saint Plotniko, where he could devote each working hour to designing solutions to the multiple ailments of the great land in which we doth reside, surely he does not deserve to have a sore big toe!

Wait, wait, here's the kicker. This tale has an excellent conclusion. This morning, while not playing Plotzketball, The Great Plotnik came up with a great idea for solving The Housing Crisis: change its name to The Mousing Crisis. Mouses are smaller than houses. The entire problem becomes exponentially tinier and everybody knows small problems are more easily treated than large problems.

Take Iraq. Wait. That was a small problem we turned into a large problem. See?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Buddhists and Kathy Bates

Sure looks like a church, doesn't it? The writing makes Plotnik think this is now a Buddhist temple, and probably a pretty important one too.

Plottie passed this house of worship on his Plotkicycle yesterday while enjoying a rare window of fairly dry streets. Riding on wet streets, especially busy ones that tend to have oil under the rain water, can lead to quick crashes. If you're lucky you fall on your butt or your helmet. Plotnik has done both. He likes dry streets better now.

Speaking of churches, last night Plot and Duck watched an obscure movie on the IFC Network called "Bruno." Shirley MacClaine was in it, and Kathy Bates, and Gary Sinise, and this sharp little boy named Alex D. Linz, and an even sharper little girl named Kiami Davael, and a 450 pound actress whose last name is Halprin. It was surprisingly good -- the story of a little boy who likes wearing dresses and just happens to be a spelling champion. OK, Gary Sinise is really bad, but Kathy Bates as Mother Superior makes up for him. It's even got Lainie Kazan as a nun.

It's the kind of movie you keep wanting to turn off, but can' it. Next thing you know, you're hooked.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Two Early Shows in One Week

Plot blew two 7:30 showtime curtains this week. The first was Tuesday when he and Duck got started late, then realized they were almost out of gas, careened in and out of the Shell, then zipped the Great Plotzwagon CRV (Critical Review Vehicle) at breakneck speed down the 101 to get to Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, found a parking spot on the street, passed on the biscotti but dashed up to the Will Call Window, wondering why there was an empty lobby? The first act of "Twentieth Century" was already 15 minutes old. "Oh, we always start at 7:30 on Tuesdays," said the kind person who had been waiting with his comp tickets, sighing as if she's had to say this before to other blockheads off their meds.

Then Wednesday night the same thing happened with "Geezer." Plot and Duck were meeting Silent B and Mush at The Marsh, and Plot wondered, as he and Duck ambled up Valencia Street, ooh there's a skinhead playing guitar in the rain, ooh there's a quintet of hipsters in black coats and dark glasses, they're either all blind or Goths, ooooh I wonder, since we're 15 minutes early, why Mush isn't in Ritual Coffee Roasters fortifying herself with caffeine before the show?

Because this show ALSO started at 7:30, you numbskull. Fortunately, it was at The Marsh where "curtain time" can be defined the way Comcast does it: "A Theater Technician will arrive at your home tomorrow sometime between 8am and 5:30pm."

Not really, that's just a joke. Still, though Plot and Duck got there 20 minutes late they only missed five minutes of the show and walked in as Geoff Hoyle was pulling the artery out of his leg, TAA-WANNNG.

Why do theaters change show times? What's the point? You've gotten us all used to an 8pm curtain, why not just keep it the same for every evening show? Hah? Your reviewers are all getting older, remember? Hah?

Anyway, about the shows: "Geezer" was fantastic, but it was only a reading and for one night only. You can read the non-review of "Geezer" here.

"Twentieth Century" was, like, you know, cute. You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review here, and you're quite a dame, won'tcha look at those gams.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Oooooh! Wow! Look at that Gown!"

"Shut up," The Duck says.

Plotnik thinks: During the presidential campaign, first Hillary supporters and then Palin supporters screamed bloody murder about sexism, and in particular how it seemed to them that everyone on television was talking about Ms. Clinton or Ms. Palin's clothing, but never seemed to care about the candidates' accomplishments. Hillary was Senator from New York. Palin was Governor of Alaska (and still is). You'd never have known it.

Plotnik listened to these complaints, and had to agree.

So tonight, when he saw the accomplished Barack and Michele Obama parading over every television channel -- they were dancing, they were walking, they were photographed together and apart -- he realized all the women on the tube were talking about nothing but Michele's gowns.

"Ooooh, that white gown is by a 26 year old."
"Ooooh, did you see the blue one?"
"Ooooh, where did she ever get that coat?"
"Ooooh, she is so tall!"
"Ooooh, Jill Biden is so short!" (She's got a doctorate, by the way.)
"Ooooh, what is Sasha wearing?"

Plotnik felt duty bound to point out this discrepancy to Ducknik, a career woman herself, who had also been transfixed all day about what Ms. Obama was wearing.

"Why does anyone give a s___ about what she's wearing?" Plot said. He expected Duck to applaud him for his understanding that women on television get treated unfa...

"Oh, shut up," said Ducknik, right along with Soledad O'Brien on CNN. "Do you see that gorgeous white gown? She is really stunning. I wonder who the designer is? Oh, he's only 26 years old? Oooh. Wow."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why is This Day Different?

It's the morning after the great day and now the next four years begins. The Great PD and family had no traffic at all driving home from DC. How could that be? The Great BZWZ watched up until the poem and then missed Pastor Lowery. A big mistake. PD kept phoning Mummy P. from the Mall with updates. She was in Stiletto around her TV screen too and Plottie suspects most of you were too.

Why is this day different than all other days? It isn't, unless we make it so.

There may be more color in our official world now, but nothing else has changed all that much...until we change it. No need to complain any more about Bush or Cheney, or Bush's war, or that evil Rumsfeld, or that toady Condoleeza or that heinous Gonzalez. We wanted this and now we've got it. What are we going to do about it?

Which of perhaps a dozen or more major, intractable tasks, will Barack Obama choose to tackle? If we want to grant him advance membership in the same club with Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or the biblical prophets, how will we help him? Which issue will The Great Plotnik choose to work for, to help push a solution forward?

Here are Plot's three choices: First off, we've got to stop the financial bleeding, which may not be possible except over time. We got fat and now we will lose some...if not all...of the excess. We need to take care of ourselves, our homes, our kids, our own worlds, and then stick it out. Do what you have to do.

Next: deal with Israel. Refuse to spend a penny for Gaza's rebuilding. Let Israel pay for it. They broke it, they can fix it. When they can't, or won't, we step in with huge strings attached. Refuse to give them one more dollar or plane or bullet unless they are attacked. Tell them we say it is time for peace, or they can go talk to their good friends in...oh, wait, they don't have any other friends. Tell the Palestinians the same thing. The world doesn't like them either. FIX THIS ISSUE. We alone can make them both wake up and smell the felafel.

And last, for Obama: revamp Health Care. Provide coverage for every American. Period. Choose your method. Our current system is destroying our economy and strapping all our other resources. How do you pay for it? Start by taking the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We are wasting our time there, they hate us and will continue to hate us, until we deal with Israel and Palestine. And maybe even after that too. Use our own money to help our own people.

This is what Plotnik thinks. He may have lived too long in Saint Plotniko. What do you think?

Remember that time passes, and no matter how saintly the prophets are, their successors never are. If Barack Obama can speak to both Americas, the America of confidence and the America of despair, he will have to bring the country along with him. Otherwise, after he's gone, the old hatreds will surface and we will be right back where we've been all along, dealing with the problems we might have tackled but chose not to. We'll be Serbs fighting Croats. Protestants fighting Catholics. Blacks fighting whites. Women distrusting men. Jews fighting...everybody.

Why is this day different than all other days? Because we're looking through the desert and today we can see the river. Bring the zinfandel and let's get moving.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here We Go, 44, Here We Go!

Like everyone in America, Plot and Duck are sitting in front of their TV watching the crowds on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The Greats PD, 5H and BB are somewhere in the Silver Standing Area, having scored their space last night in a usual last-minute piece of good fortune. Belly looks like she isn't paying attention, but she is. The Nation's Second Dog has probably stayed behind at Deecie Neecie's house.

Choirs singing. The Supreme Court marching out (except for Justice Alito, who is still angry that Biden and Obama voted against his confirmation, so he won't attend. Is that a perfect metaphor for the last eight years?). There's Hillary. There's Michele in another great dress. There's Stephen Spielberg. There's President Bush, who looks fatherly as he fondly directs Obama as to where to stand. There's Al Gore. There's the White House, built by slaves.

Wolf Blitzer will not shut up.

There's the sun!

There's Walter Mondale. There's Mohammed Ali! There's Dan Quayle.

There's the Capitol. There's the White House. There's the Beast -- the Presidential Vehicle. There goes the Marine Band. The flags. The bunting. There's Barbara Bush and GHW Bush. The elder Bushes look quite regal, though Bush Senior is walking slowly with a cane.

There's Jimmy Carter and Roslyn. They are moving quite quickly. It must be all the peanuts.

There's that fat pastor.

There go Bill and Hillary. The crowd roars!

Elder Bush embraces Bill.

There are Sasha and Malia and their Grandma. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson!

Can you imagine being First Kid? Sasha looks like a star already.

There go Lynn Cheney and Laura Bush.

THERE'S ARETHA! (What DOES she have on her head?)


There's one of GWB's daughters, who looks exactly like him! Amazing.

There is a shot of the crowd. PD is in there somewhere.

There's President Bush! He looks relieved. Wolf Blitzer will NOT shut up! Someone bring the hook! Put them both in the helicopter.

There's Diane Feinstein.

There's Nancy Pelosi.

There's Monty Burns.

THERE'S BARACK. Duck and Plot are clapping wildly. Wow.


Yes we did! Yes we did!

"Welcome to the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America!" says Diane.

Here's the fat pastor again. Oooh, this is a beautiful invocation. Very lovely. Plot takes back the fat comment. That was a perfect message. Pastor Warren didn't even have Mike Fever.

Here is Aretha.

OH Aretha.


We've never heard anything like this before, my country. The Great Plotnik can barely see. Oh, Lord. I believe, Aretha. Thank you.

There's Yo Yo Ma. There's Itzhak Perlman. John Williams wrote this piece. He wrote 'Star Wars' too.

Barack is listening. He's like Han Solo. He's ready.

The First Kids seem restless. I wonder if Michele is saying "Sit down, you two. I'm gonna count to three! One, two..."

They're done. Bring on the Ewoks! No, it's Justice Roberts.

The Oath of Office. "I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear..."


Barack's address is calm, but beautiful. Still, Plot would have liked to hear him preach to us a little more. But there is time.

Here is the poet, Elizabeth Alexander.

"We walk into that which we cannot yet see..." This was a beautiful poem for sure.

Pastor Lowery is wonderful.

"God of our Weary Years...let the red man get ahead, man. Let us say Amen, man. Amen, man. Amen."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin and Barack and Gaza

The Great PD and The Great 5H texted all day yesterday from the Mall in Washington DC. "Stevie's on! The Obamas are dancing on stage!" "Wow! John Mellenkamp. Queen Latifah. Biden just spoke." The Mardi Gras atmosphere sounds like it was a contagion picked up by everybody in town. The above shot was taken from half a mile away, within a mass of hundreds of thousands of people, and Plot and Duck really wish they could have been, really.

Yes, it's true that in 1969, when P and D first met, one of the first things Duck said to Plot on the phone was: "I hear there's supposed to be this music festival upstate, lots of people are going to be there, wanna go?" Plot said "What, all those crowds? And it's supposed to rain. And they're holding it on this guy Yasgur's farm? Fawgeddaboudit."

But that was then and this is now. This is music but a lot more.

Today it's Martin Luther King's Birthday, and for the first time in Plotnik's lifetime, and yours too, we are getting to see black anchor people talking on TV with half a dozen black faces on the screen behind him or her, and there's no need for other talking heads to comment about it.

Their words are irrelevant anyway. What counts is that America gets to see well dressed, intelligent people of color on TV, instead of the usual diet of drug dealers, muggers and Ebonic trash talkers, on one hand, and distraught victims from the projects gathered around their tiny, sad bouquets on the street, as they gather for the wake of another twelve year old gang victim, on the other.

It is so easy to feel the power. Plot heard Sting singing "If you love somebody, set them free" yesterday at the BART station in Oakland, coming home from Stiletto. Don't get this backwards: we are the people who are being set free here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

From Alex to Beyonce

Alex's big day was yesterday and he did great. Everybody enjoyed seeing one another and especially watching Alex be picture perfect in front of the congregation. The cantor had a beautiful voice. The rabbi only had moderate Mike Fever, but he can't help it, it's part of the job description.

The best part was when Alex got done and raised the ceremonial Kiddush cup over his head like he'd just won the Stanley Cup or an Oscar. What a great kid he is, though he's not a kid anymore, by definition.

Last night Mummy P. was tuckered out, so Plot and Duck went out by themselves in Stiletto City for the first time since...Jeez, a long time. They went to El Caserio, one of their favorite spots and the only Italian-Ecuadorian place they know, and ate lomo saltado (Ecuadorian) and fusilli with vodka, shrimp and capers (Italian), and both were as good as good gets. This is a great eating town.

This morning came a long telephone call from PD, 5H and Belly, from the heart of Washington DC which they report feels like Mardi Gras. Even Mischief is there. Right now they're standing in front of the Washington Monument where millions of people apparently are also standing, waiting for Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce and many other performances to begin. Tonight they get to stay at Cousin Deecie Neecie's house. Plotnik hopes President Elect Obama stops to pet Mischief. Who wouldn't?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The World's Largest Naan in the Shmlaurel Shmanyon District of Stiletto. It tasted pretty good too, even though the notice on the menu announced they use no butter or ghee or salt in any of their foods. This is an INDIAN restaurant. It was the first time Plot has ever actually ADDED salt in an Indian restaurant. Amazing, and only in Stiiletto. But, like Plottie told ya, it wasn't too bad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Notes From the Great Criticker

Sometimes, when The Great Plotnik reads other reviewers, he scratches his head and wonders if they have seen the same show he has. But after ten years reviewing first film and now theater, The Great Critiker has discovered several truths about the process:

1) Other reviewers are not all blind, deaf, dumb and without senses of humor.

2) Other reviewers are not all seduced by free tickets and sucks on the production company largess machine.

3) Other film reviewers are not all frustrated film makers and other theater reviewers are not all frustrated playwrights.

4) All reviewers do not revere only depressing stories.

5) All film and theater reviewers are not gay.

5a) Not every film and theater reviewer finds it ideologically impossible to comment on gratuitous gay sex in Acts One, Two, Three, Intermission and in the lobby.

6) Other reviewers don't eat up ALL the biscottis.

On the other hand, we do share one similarity.

We all dream of that great, perfect, quirky show of explosive genius, the one where Act Two pays off Act one, where we're involved with all the characters, where we jump to our feet screaming with joy at the final curtain, where we run out of the theater wanting to call up all our families and friends and bring them back to the theater tomorrow night.

OK, John Guare's "Rich and Famous" was written in 1974. OK, it's not perfection. But it's REALLY funny. In this morning's Bird Wrap review, Robert Hurwitt must have had one too many biscottis with his cup of decaf battery acid.

You can read the San Francisco Theater Blog review of Rich and Famous here, and remember that ACT has a $15 ticket, though you'd better bring oxygen and dramamine. Maybe pay a little more and get ready to howl.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Humming Birt.

How about a Norfolk Island Pine for next Christmas? The one at the Botanic Garden comes with its own star on top.

The Great Dance-Nik, a.k.a. The Giant Burmese Honeysuckle, has her own placard.

What a treasure this place is. It's free, and you walk off the street and you're in another world for as long as you want to stay. Plotnik met a German tourist yesterday, who told him the German word for Hummingbird. It sounded like: "kolipri."

She said "In Chermany ve do not hav very much the humming birt."

Plotnik thought of his and Duck's good friends from Munich, Gerhild and Irmtraut, so he didn't make the offhand comment about humming Germans. What surprised him was that his brain can still come up with these images about that country, even though all the bad stuff happened before he was born, even though he knows wonderful German people, even though to this little blonde tourist at the Botanic Gardens the Nazis probably are as distant as the Spanish American War is to us. Better to think about redwood trees.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow is Not Sun

Artichokes with their spiky fronds on the left, potatoes in two tubs in the middle, the foreground getting thick with kale and arugula sprouts. Here's the thing about us Shmalifornians, animal and vegetable. We not only regard sunshine as our natural birthright, but when it's foggy, or cold, or rainy, or snowy, or not warm enough, or we get too many days in a row without feeling the hot sun on the back of our necks, then we get grumpy.

Plotnik was grumpy over much of Christmas and maybe the weather had something to do with it. Now the January thaw has arrived and the sun is bright and his mood is improving by the hour.

Plotnik says to his children that he hopes you don't get these cold weather grumps too often in your current frigid environments...though he knows you do. Warm weather is in his blood and he knows it's in yours too.

Snow is fun. It's just not sun.

The potatoes, kale, artichokes and arugula seem to love the cold weather though. These two tubs of potatoes, one tub each of small red ones and small purple ones, should be filled with the world's best new potatoes by the time Moses is running for the Red Sea this Spring.

The blue-green Tuscan kale will start getting its new leaves plucked off next month. A little balsamic vinegar, some garlic and raisins...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Come on, Guys, My Nose is Cold."

It's sunny and warm, t-shirt weather in Saint Plotniko, but not so in Brooklyn, where Isabella isn't so sure she likes the cold, Mischief is sure he does, and all the geese in Prospect Park are able to walk out in the middle of the frozen lake.

Meanwhile, The Great Big Fella showed up out of the blue yesterday, visiting his daughter in Orinda, so Plot and Duck and he went to Old Jerusalem on Mission Street for lunch. We may have discovered another Caroussel, only Palestinian instead of Armenian, except the Armenian food at Caroussel in Stiletto City is really Lebanese, and this Palestinian food seemed very Lebanese too. You order one thing and get five, including those red pickled turnips and green olives and delicious hot sauce and parsley/yogurt salad and hot pita breads. Yum-mo!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rock the Jock

This is Rock the Jock, the DJ of the Perfect Pitch. He has only a few lines, but they are important ones: "You're listening to Earth Radio Station XSBS' latest smash: "Body Body Party Party" by Gerry Gallow and the Hole in the Soul Patrol! STILL Number One for a milestone 1500th week in a row! In fact, in one form or another, "Body Party" occupies all fifty of the Top Fifty! People sure seem to LOVE this all time chartbuster!"

Plot has now learned how to load a video onto Blogger, but can't work out yet how to put up a piece of music. If he could solve this technologically simple question, you'd be listening to "Body, Body, Party, Party" right now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lizzie's in Town

Lizzie is here, interviewing schools to see where she'll begin her internship this summer after she graduates from medical school. UCSF is one possibility, so Plot and Duck decided she needed good Mexican food to try and seal the deal. El Toreador on West Portal was the call.

Last night was the brightest full moon of the year, and maybe that didn't hurt either.

Meanwhile, tonight is The Great Dance-nik's premiere, acting in her "The Old In and Out" in NYC. Good luck, Dance-Nik, wish we could be there.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The New, Improved Spice Center

Take a close look at the Spice Center in The Great Plotnik World Headquarters Meatball Kitchen, because you'll never see it this orderly again. Last night, Plotnik decided it was time to be able to open the door again without a bag of jocotes from Peru or jar of sumac from Istanbul falling onto the counter or into his coffee.

So here's how it works. Bottom shelf: most used. On the top of the bottom shelf are seeds, on the bottom in the back ground spices, and in the front small containers of commonly used items like the mountain of Persian saffron Nefnik and Fefnik gave Plottie for Christmas.

On the second shelf are larger, less-commonly used spices, except for the turmeric which Plottie uses all the time, and the sesame seeds, which just happened to fit in that smaller container in the front. In the rear corner on the left are two unopened cans, one of blisteringly hot paprika and one of masala, that the Plots purchased in the great market in Budapest. After all these years those spices will still be pungent as long as they are never opened and never used. See?

On the third shelf are liquids, like lime and lemon essence, and vanilla, also a few bags of mild paprika from Budapest that don't fit anywhere else, and toothpicks.

On the fourth shelf are store-bought spice blends, like Tony Chachere's and Trader Joe's sea salt and salt-free Spike (tastier than regular Spike), and some small bags of useless stuff Plot bought from the genius spice salesman at Oxbow Market in Napa, stuff like Nawaj and Citrus Halwal (Plot KNEW he'd never use them but he couldn't quite NOT buy them). Also on the fourth shelf, but behind the others so you can't see them, are quite a few plastic bags of chiles from around the world, like the smoked chiles from Oaxaca that are the basis of Plotnik's Perfect Oaxaca Green Enchilada Sauce, and the Peruvian jocotes that aren't the basis for anything but Plot can't throw away because they were so much fun to buy, and the tiny, tiny Guatemalan red chiles that Plot keeps around because someday he may just get really mad at someone.

On the top shelf are larger packages of spice mixes Plotnik will never, you know, use, but, like, you never know, plus overflow bags of surplus spices that Plottie buys because, like, they're cheaper in bulk, you know, and, so you gotta put 'em somewhere, and all that Aleppo Pepper, from The Great PD, which Plot loves and is the absolute best in the world.

Hmmmm. Maybe pepper tea? Has anyone ever tried pepper tea?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Cross-Culturalism at its Finest: Roast Pork with Manischewitz and Zaatar

Plotnik is doing his bit for Cultural Diversity. It started with Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock's "Southern Cooking," which is a unique look at a style of cooking which seems simple on its face, but in fact involves techniques that are as Southern French as Southern USA. Edna Lewis was from Central Virgnia and Scott Peacock is from Alabama. Peacock befriended, learned from and eventually moved in with Lewis in Lewis's old age. (He still runs their Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Georgia, which is not only JJ-aka-PP country but the one-time home of Chef Pickle.) JJ-aka-PP gave Plottie the cookbook for Christmas and last night he started out to make "Bay Studded Pork Shoulder with Wild Mushrooms."

But the recipe calls for braising the meat in a bottle of port, or, Peacock says, you can use red wine instead. Plotnik got a GREAT idea! Which wine is both sweet and yet grape-y, and both wine and not-really-wine?

Of course! He's had a leftover half bottle of Manischewitz concord grape hiding in back of the bread crumbs in the fridge since either last April or the April before that. It never spoils. It can't spoil. And what can be more Southern than something sweet, indestructible and also cheap?

OK, so we're talking about a kosher wine and a pork roast here. You don't often hear 'Manischewitz' and 'pork' used in the same sentence. But here's how Plotnik looks at it: as we speak, the Israelis are destroying Palestinian schools and killing as many Arabs as they can, while Gazans are still lobbing missles into Israel and talking about driving the infidel into the sea. How's that attempt at cross-culturalism going?

Plotnik would prefer it if we'd all just leave our old worlds behind, pick up a napkin and sit down together for lunch. He decided to add a teaspoon and a half of Zaatar instead of Lewis's suggested powdered thyme, just to complete the idea. He makes this zaatar himself from a Palestinian recipe, and it is mostly thyme, with allspice and a few other flavorings tossed in.

The finished Roast Pork with Manischewitz and Zaatar was one of the most scrumptious meals that has ever rolled out of The Great Plotnik Meatball Kitchen. The Duck agrees. Thank you Edna and Scott, JJ and Pickle, and L'Chaim to all y'all.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Crew Cut or Baldie?

So, do you trust the older, kinder, balding tradesman who is gentle and soft-spoken, but who probably misdiagnosed the problem, or the younger, brasher, crew-cut f-word-using tradesman who may have found the problem? But maybe not?

If you need a problem solved, you need a problem solved. And yet, it is Plotnik's experience that if you don't like somebody you have to let into your home to fix something, you will find further issues up the road with him that you haven't even imagined yet. You may have the same problems with the other guy, but dealing with him won't give you migraines.

Still, crew-cut is cheaper and maybe more alert than baldie. Hmmmm. Maybe a third estimate.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lots of Money or Not Lots of Money and a Shout Out to John the King

A German multibillionaire named Merckle threw himself in front of a train this morning because his fortunes had declined. Perhaps he was involved in some kind of financial chicanery like Bernard Madoff, who bilked the endowments of universities, bankrupted charities, anyone whose money he could get his hands on that was stupid enough to play along in his swindle. Sadly, Madoff has yet to throw himself under the train.

Look, if Merckle WASN'T swindling somebody, why would he kill himself? If you have a zillion billion and you lose half a zillion billion, is it really worth dying for? Nahhh. The dude has got to be guilty.

So what is it about the letter M? Merckle. Madoff. Milken. Maybe, if your last name comes in the exact middle of the alphabet, you never get to sit in front next to the teacher. Maybe that pisses you off so much that you decide you are going to have grow up and go screw an entire generation out of their retirement funds.

But it's a fine line between greed and ambition. We all pick occupations that have set pay scales built into them and then we work to get to the upper end of that scale. This is called ambition.

If you have the capacity and desire to become a doctor, your pay scale will be higher than if you choose to be a high school teacher. A high school teacher will earn more than a plasterer and a plasterer will earn more than a waiter and a waiter will earn more than a day care worker. That's the way it is. Our jobs define our earning potential. We make those choices out of free will, for the most part.

Unless you're an artist, where the odds are you'll make very little at your job and will supplement your income delivering pizza. Plotnik remembers the figure that 98% of actors in the Screen Actors' Guild haven't worked in three or more years. And these are the people who were busy enough to qualify for the union in the first place. Same with the musicians union -- no one gets rich. Let's just say only a few members of the union know how to play Rachmaninoff, but every damned one of them has played The Girl From Ipanema 500 times.

Then, there are the exceptions, the Superstars, the lucky ones who are not only good but happen to be in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and the right team assembled and that winning smile. Or sneer.

And The Greedy Bastards. The Greedy Bastards are usually really smart. They see what everybody else doesn't. Apparently, once you travel in the rarified air where it seems that God has pointed out to you and you alone that there is a sucker born every minute and you're the only one who has noticed, it is hard to avoid diving in.

This is Plotnik's guess, anyway. If your job classification is Greedy Pig, you want to be the Best Greedy Pig you can be, so you can hold your head up while at the trough with the other Greedy Pigs. So maybe it's all just ambition, magnified?

Who knows? But we interrupt this broadcast to send Best Wishes to John the King, who is sporting a bit of his own sneer these days. Feel better, King, your public demands it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Monkeys! BZ! Monkeys!

Here is a note Plottie received this morning from Mr. Courtenay Rooks, who lives on Trinidad and offers guided tours and information about the island:

"March is the start of the Leatherback Turtle nesting season so I think what you can go with 3 days in POS and 2 days in Grande Riviere so you can see the turtles and do some fun hikes in the area and a waterfall hike on the way to Grande Riviere. I think Le Grande Almandier in Grande Riviere will suit you perfectly, the food is local and excellent. You will be here after Carnival, so we will have to look around a bit to find some steel drums being played (we call it Steel Pan or just Pan). We could do some hiking in Chaguaramas - probably where you will dock your boat - and look for monkeys."

Except for the boat part, because Plot and Duck will not have a boat, this sounds pretty excellent. POS stands for Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad.

Hit this link and scroll down to the 'Tank-Sized Turtles' section.

It's starting to look more like Trinidad than Panama, and that's good because the money Plot and Duck save by not flying to Panama almost offsets what they'll spend to tour around in Trinidad. Plus East Indian food. Mmmmm, rotis.

The Panama Canal will still be there, ready for maybe all the Plotniks in the Travel Division to see one day.

Thanks to Cousin Two Names for a very nice note yesterday. Sounds like Argentina is another great place to visit, but not for rotis or red howler monkeys.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Yesterday Plotnik changed his airline ticket for the trip to S.City in the middle of January. He and Barb are going down for a family event, but decided to stay two nights instead of three. He has to admit that his recent conversations with certain family members, in which he and Duck have once again been accused of not doing enough for the family, had some input into this decision to stay less time than they usually do.

So what happens? Last night Plotnik and his Mom are walking down a path in the forest, returning home from some visit. Plot is upset about something, so he walks ahead of Mummy P. but then realizes he's lost contact with her and starts retracing his steps to try and find her. There she is, off in the distance, walking uneasily down the path, trying to make her way home. She's alone and is having trouble walking. She totters, flails and then falls. Plotnik shouts but she can't hear him. Someone helps her up and she begins the slow, laborious trek again. Plotnik calls to her but he is stuck in some meadow and can't get back to her fast enough. He wakes up, sweating, heart racing.

He sits up in bed, realizing once again that of course he loves his mom and would do anything to keep her from falling. He also realizes he is a total putz who can't do any damn thing concerning his family without paying the Price of Guilt. Duck hears him rustling and says: "Another Jewish dream again?"