Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upcoming Teaser

I am working on a long-ish post about our recent trip to Vegas.  I would also like to write something about the Republican Primaries, except that they sadden and weary me so much that it's hard to talk about them without becoming, uhm, sad.  And weary.  But let me say that I predict not only an Obama victory but a crushing and overwhelming one.  In a way, I think that's what the party needs.  It's time for a come to Jesus moment--a real serious stock-taking, on the part of party elders, about where they are going.  They need to wander in the desert.  And there, in the desert, they should leave Rick Santorum.  And Newt.  And Sarah Palin.  And Rush.  And all the many, many knuckleheads who have made the party the sad spectacle that it is today.

But, Vegas was great, and grand, and food-orific.  I made friends with some blackjack pit bosses, embarrassed my wife by my good-natured boisterous vodka-tonic-y-ness, and somehow managed to win money playing poker AND--miracle of miracles--blackjack.  And I got to eat fried nuggets made of bone marrow.  So.  That's something, right?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Golden Ticket Has Arrived

Next weekend the wife and I are heading to Vegas for a weekend vacation.  While there, we will eat dinner at E, a foodie mecca created by the international superchef, Jose Andres.  (The e, by the way, has an accent aigu on it--as does the 'e' in 'Andres.'  I can't make the accent appear on this interface, however).

Because I want the experience to be a surprise, I have purposefully tried to keep myself from learning too much about the food they serve at E.  I know its inspiration is essentially Spanish, and I know that it's a redoubt of molecular gastronomy.  Other than that, I'm a blank.

Still, I know its reputation (otherwise, why plan a trip to Vegas to eat there?) E is discussed on food websites in the same tone I imagine Spanish conquistadors must have once used when talking about Cibola.  E, in fact, is not even really a "restaurant"; it's really a single room hidden inside another restaurant (Jaleo, a tapas place in the Cosmopolitan).  It only has room for eight people in it, so it only has two servings per night.  A meal lasts about three hours; it's mostly single bites (as I understand it) and comprises about 15-20 courses.  Obviously the food is said to be sublime.   Andres trained under Ferran Adria, the genius madman behind El Bulli, the restaurant most foodies consider to be the best in the world.  (Considered, I should say: El Bulli closed for good last fall.  Apparently now the best restaurant in the world is in Norway.  Or Denmark?  But I digress).

To get a reservation at E, I had to stay up till midnight on the day exactly one month before the night we wanted to go, and send an email requesting a reservation.  Once we got the reservations we were sent, in the mail, our golden ticket.  So, next Saturday, the 25th, I'll hand our ticket to the hostess at Jaleo and be invited into one of the inner sanctums of American eatery.  It should be quite something.  Any damn restaurant that sends you a golden ticket in the mail--that's one I support.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Michael Jackson's Immortal

This is the letter I just sent to Cirque du Soleil.

Dear Sir or Madam

I’m writing to tell you about my recent experience at Immortal, the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil, which I saw last weekend at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Let me say first that this is eighth Cirque du Soleil-related performance that I’ve seen.  I’ve seen, and enjoyed, O (three times), Ka (twice), Love, and…a touring one that had a loose South American theme (Samba?  This was many years ago).   I have recommended—proselytized, you might even say—your shows to family and friends on numerous occasions.  I essentially compelled my parents to see O against their will (they’re not big ‘show’ people).  I am, in other words, a fan.

Which made watching Immortal all the more painful.  I have no interest in insulting you or your staff.  Putting together a full-length musical performance can’t be easy, and certainly you’ve done it well in the past.  Immortal, however, was offensively bad.  It was beyond disaster.  The choreography was lame and uninspired.  The circus aspects of the show, such as there were, felt random and disconnected; my wife suggested that the show’s director had pulled out-of-work performers from other Cirque du Soleil shows and told them to do whatever tricks came easiest.  I couldn’t even close my eyes and listen to the music; the audio quality made it impossible.  It sounded as if someone had hooked up a dozen loudspeakers to a cheap stereo, shut the whole thing inside a high school gym, jacked up the volume and left it alone.  And the routines!  The dancing chimp!  The life-sized white glove, which evoked nothing so strongly as the Hamburger Helper spokesman.  The creepy insistence on foregrounding the Neverland ranch.  The shot of Macaulay Culkin in the video montage.  You couldn’t even say that the taste level of the questionable; it was only bad—irrevocably bad.

Beyond all the many passing failures, the show suffered from a failure of conception.  Michael Jackson was not a prophet.  He was not a social visionary.  His ideas, such as they were, were banal and unexceptional (peace is better than war, love is better than hate, the environment is important, eetc.)  And yet for reasons I can’t begin to understand, Immortal focused not on the early Michael Jackson, the singer and dancer whose work inspired us all with feelings of freedom and joy, but on the later freaked-out Jackson, the one who inspired only pity—or something worse.  Why anyone attempting to produce a show that ostensibly paid tribute to Michael Jackson would decide to take away minutes from  “Beat It”, “Billie Jean” or “Smooth Criminal” and give them to eight-minute renditions of “They Don’t Give A Damn About Us” or to a seemingly endless array of synth-drenched laments for the sorrow of the Earth’s future is more than I can understand.   At the very minimum, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about the legacy and significance of Jackson’s work.

Having said I didn’t intend to be insulting, I’ve just reeled off a list of what I guess might seem like insults.  Unfortunately, there’s no other way I can describe what it was like to experience Immortal.  And frankly, however insulted you may feel reading this, is nothing compared to how my wife and I felt by the time we left the show.  We felt as if we’d been victimized, as if we’d been conned.  Because Immortal was an insult; it was an insult to Jackson’s fans; it was an insult to Jackson’s legacy; and it was an insult to the thousands of audience members who paid out hefty sums to watch this debacle.

Included in this letter are my tickets, as well as the receipt showing the amount of purchase.  I mail these in order to help your staff process my refund.  Yes, refund.  I have never before asked for a refunded ticket price for a live show.  (I’ve never even walked out of a bad movie!)  But in the case of Immortal, I have no choice.  When I pay to see entertainment, I hope for brilliance—but I expect only competence.
Immortal did not come close to meeting that expectation.   It was a tacky, cynical, slapdash affair in no way worthy of Michael Jackson’s name—or your own.