due torre
27 May 2004
Congratulations, you win my roommate's toaster oven
posted by mike d
Yesterday morning we had our one-thousandth visitor to due torre.

Those numbers would be more accurate if my mother wasn't reloading the site fifteen times a day. There's no way they could be considered impressive...
Tikal: the Movie
posted by mike d
I was getting lunch today (at Burrito Fast, the best burrito-to-go joint in the greater MtP conurbation), and waiting in line, I was staring at a poster of Tikal with my mind was idling in neutral. Tikal is a beautiful site (I've never been, I'm going on pictures here), and like other Mayan sites (Chichén Itzá), is a location waiting to be turned into a cinematographic masterpiece.

Which led me to the idea of a Mayan blockbuster: lush forest, white limestone, red-feathered headresses. A tragedy set in the mysterious collapse of the Mayan civilization twelve centuries ago. Diego Luna (the other guy from Y tu mamá también) plays the young prince whose smart friend realizes that unless changes are made, the people will starve and chaos will reign. Edward James Olmos as his father, the King, whose power is waning in his winter years. And Danny Trejo as the king's vizier bent on letting the people starve to strengthen his position and to succeed the king on the Jade Throne high atop the Templo Mayor.

Jaguar Knights, Human Sacrifice, and Chac Mool. Coming to a theater near you, Summer 2008.
24 May 2004
I'd say woo-hoo, but they're not going to let any of the stores in MtP do this...
posted by mike d
D.C. to Let Liquor Stores Stay Open Until Midnight
gadfly to the b-list literati. that's me.
posted by mike d
MemeFirst name-checked in the New Yorker. My sister will be so jealous.

[UPDATE] But not all the news is good: the mere reference in a respected journal seems to have killer the electronic soul of the site. Maybe we've just exceeded the bandwidth alloted to the whole damn country of Sweden.

[DOUBLE SECRET UPDATE] It seems to be working again...
22 May 2004
Good News
posted by mike d
Just so's I can't be accused of writing nothing but bad news here, rumor has it that the proposed Starbucks they were going to build on Mt. Pleasant St., and thereby kill the soul of the neighborhood, has been nixed. Whether by poor projected revenue or the voice of reason is left unsaid.

But I rejoice.
I call this enemy...the sun.
posted by mike d
(or another concern of mine about the decline and fall of Adams Morgan)

Some unnamed (not cause it's a secret- it's cause I can't remember) Greek developer has supposedly bought up all the buildings between Citi- er, Left Bank and the alley that empties onto 18th St about 150 feet up from the 18th & Belmont intersection. This Greek shopping magnate now holds sway over such establishments as the New Orleans Café, Burrito Brothers, a forgettable barbershop and a sketchy "Books & News" joint that is a cross between a head shop and the Porno Depot.

If they were to be bulldozed into the ground, I would miss none of these spots, with the exception of the New Orleans Café. So I am willing to bow in reverence to the whirling dervishes of capitalism that will lead this latter-day Onassis to erect a new building on prime real estate. If he could bend the DC Alcohol Beverage Control Board to his will and have more sidewalk seating, all the better. While I worry that the new space could play host to something offensive to God, like a TGIFridays, I am more afraid of what is going to put in over the new real estate: I'm afraid of the building itself.

As geology has molded Adams Morgan, 18th Street between say, Kalorama and Columbia road, is lined with turn-of-the-century (no, no, 1900) townhouses, that all pretty much top out at three stories. In the summer, this allows for sitting out and catching the evening sun during happy hour at any place along the eastern side of the road (ahhh, the hallowed days of yore, when we did happy hour...). The only obstructions to this glory are the buildings Left Bank and Reef are in, and in Reef's case we luck out, as the locale across the street (Tryst) doesn't have sidewalk seating.

But with the possibility of seven stories of sun-blocking cement rising over the west side of 18th Street, as part of some developer's plan for overpriced condos, the patio seating of Toledo Lounge, Mezé, La Fourchette, and that indian place (doh!) would all be left as soulless as a prison yard.

So please, Mister Real Estate Mogul, make the new condos exclusive, and stick to four floors, tops.

"Since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing...block it out!"

I realize that post was rushed towards the end, but I'm on my way out the door. Sorry.
20 May 2004
Unverifiable fact of the day
posted by mike d
According to otherwise-unimpeacheable college roommate MLG, one in nine of all Swedes have been on reality TV at some point.

The rationale behind this is that reality TV was "invented" in Sweden, and has been on TV there for something like the past twenty years. While I could see a significant number of people having been on TV in Sweden, that's still one million people. Highly dubious.

A quick Google search turns up nothing to confirm the fact, so I'm going to chalk it up as lost in translation somehow. But I thought it was too good to pass up.
This One's for my bro...
posted by mike d
Jon Stewart's William & Mary Commencement Address. Maudlin towards the end, but better than any one I've ever sat through:
Today is the day you enter into the real world, and I should give you a few pointers on what it is. It’s actually not that different from the environment here. The biggest difference is you will now be paying for things, and the real world is not surrounded by three-foot brick wall.

And he even references Psi U...
19 May 2004
Trouble on the Left Bank
posted by mike d
(this is my first attempt at architecture- or cuisine-based commentary, so bear with me)

Recently Cities, the heart of Eurotrash Adams Morgan, underwent a serious face-lift. For a couple of years it's been waffling between whether it would be a restaurant downstairs/club upstairs, or club downstairs/VIP club upstairs, or club downstairs/million-dollar condos on the third floor and nothing in-between. Whatever the layout du jour, it was always a good place to get your pretensions on. I always imagined it did well (and from all you hear, it did, with the owners opening up Mezé accross the street as a restaurant/lounge with a heavier turkish accent). So I was surprised when they closed down without much fanfare to undergo six weeks of remodelling.

Eight weeks later (contractors, no doubt, being contractors), they've reopened, under the same owner and more-or-less the same management, as Left Bank, an "all-day french bistro" (the name highlights the fact that DC is on the left bank of the Potomac, a fact that anyone who lives in this town would never think about, and look at you wierd for pointing out).

Trouble is, I think Left Bank is going to fail. What is it trying to be? If it's trying to be an all-day diner, it's got the competition of, well, The Diner across the street, and the established joint has a (slightly) cheaper menu that fits into the more established diner genre. If it's trying to be a French bistro (which I would encourage, frankly), then why does it have an omlette cart that comes around for breakfast? Why is there a sushi bar in the back?

Left Bank's schizophrenia continues with the decor: the walls look stolen from some poor school in Oaxaca, the barstools from the set of 2001, the tables are picnic tables (!) cast-off from some IKEA design studio.

The whole effort smacks of trying to be all things to all people, and succeeding in pleasing none. Which should please the competition, but be a dissappointment to the rest of us.
12 May 2004
Follow-up on Marginalia
posted by mike d
So back in the dark days of winter, I rambled about how corporate social responsibility programs in many ways were marketing gimmicks much more than they were corporations being socially responsible. At the time, I included a cheap shot at Starbucks, without backing it up. This article by the due torre fave Rob Walker, talks a bit more about Starbucks & Newman's Own, and how they use social responsibility as a marketing tool. The money quote:

TransFair USA, a nonprofit founded in 1998 and associated with the Fair Trade Labelling Organizations network, oversees a certification process, and beans bought at the proper price (currently $1.26 a pound) carry a "Fair Trade Certified" label--appealing to consumers who are in the know, and trying to educate those who aren't.
Cycon sniped that TransFair "won't tell you" how much coffee certain "self-proclaimed 'socially responsible' companies" buy at Fair Trade prices, and helpfully listed those percentages for Green Mountain (12%), Starbucks (1%), and Seattle's Best (0.5%).
Bad decisions made while drunk...
posted by mike d
Or, Great Moments in Government-Media Relations

So the Brazilian government, in it's infinite wisdom, has decided to eject Larry Rohter, NYT bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro since the dawn of time, from the country for his journalism, which is "flippant, deceitful and disrespectful to the honor of the President of Brazil." The government has cancelled (cassado) Rohter's visa, and given him eight days to leave the country.

The brazuca indignation comes from Rohter's article in the NYT on Sunday, about Lula's supposed drinking problem.

This is a wrong step at almost every level for the Brazilian government, and is disappointing coming from the administration of a man who started his career fighting against the oppression of the military government. And that's exactly what this is: oppression. It's no coincidence that all the Brazilian papers are using the word cassação to describe the move. While the dictionary translates the word as to "void, annul, cancel;" that neutral definition does not provide the dark connotations that cassação brings.

In a brilliant turn of bureaucratic authoritarianism, the post-64 military government used to cassar (for 10 years) the political rights of anyone who opposed them. Instead of making them dissappear (althought that did happen) or arresting them (which happened as well), anyone who criticized the government would be cassado. The Orwellian Newspeak feel to the word reflects the censorship that's being practised by the government.

Or, as Claudio Shikida put it much more wittily than I, we're tasting the "authoritarian hangover."

And yes, I still do occassionally write. After my hiatus in New York, and getting back into the swing of things here at the National Affairs Desk, hopefully I'll be posting more here and elsewhere, soon...

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