Friday, July 18, 2008

Art, You Be The Judge

As you can see, Lacie is still acting up. A friend of mine who really knows his stuff spent about four hours yesterday trying to recover my data but couldn't do it. He took Lacie away with him and I haven't heard anything since. I hope they haven't fallen in love.

Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry when it comes to New York spending big bucks ($15.5 million in this case) for "artistic installations." This time it is the four "waterfalls" installed along the East River and on Governor's Island.

An Artistic Installation

Okay now, at $15.5 million for four this one cost almost $4 million. I find that to be seriously humorous. Well, it would be if it wasn't being paid for by the city.

Note - several readers have informed me, and I have verified this to be true, that the waterfalls were paid for by private contributors, not the city.

For some reason, however, that reminds me of the words of Bob Dylan in Ballad Of A Thin Man:

You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

Bar Man hates it when he is wrong, but admits it when he is.

I suppose the fact that it was conceived by Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist makes these, I don't know, art. When the water was turned on there was a media blitz promoting these as the biggest thing to hit New York since Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up saffron-colored fabric panels in Central Park for “The Gates” in 2005.

Hey, with no other problems to deal with I guess it was a good use of
Mayor Bloomberg's time to appear on four morning television programs to tout the installation. Supposedly these are a “symbol of the energy and vitality that we have been bringing back to our waterfront in all five boroughs.

To me they just look like more construction work along what is still a largely industrial looking waterfront.

You Be The Judge

I guess they might look marginally better if you are actually on the East River, but I doubt if too many people are going to spend the money for a boat ride just to see these. Somehow Mayor Bloomberg thinks they will generate and additional $55 million in revenue for the city due to increased tourism. All I can say is if this is the tipping point for someone deciding whether or not to come to New York this summer I suggest they have their head examined. Well, unless they are Danish or Icelandic.

I think there is much better art on the walls of Brooklyn. This one is kind of a mind bender, in it's own way.

Find The BLACK Arrow

True New York Art

My favorite "Waterfall Installation" is this one not far from where I live.

The Coolest Park Bench In Town

After touring the "Waterfalls" I had worked up both a thirst and an appetite. Pete's Waterfront Ale House seemed to be keeping with the theme.

The Offerings Of The Day

Having actually seen the green flash in Mexico a couple of times, I couldn't pass up the Green Flash IPA that they had in a cask.

A Green Flashback

It was quite good. Hoppy, of course, but not overpowering. I am still undecided about cask IPAs because I think they should be served a bit colder, but they are starting to grow on me.

As I have mentioned before, the food at Pete's is always good and the specials are, indeed, special. This day was no exception. How could you pass on the Beef Cheek Stew with Corn Bread.

Simply Delicious

The stew was great. Beef cheeks are great for a stew because they stay nice and moist and are very flavorful, kind of like short ribs. The corn bread was excellent and was a great counterpoint to the richness of the stew.

I can't remember what the Mysterious Chinese Woman had, but I know she enjoyed it mightily.

Yum, Yum, Yum (an inside joke)

Oh, and I am floating a proposal for my own "Waterfalls" installation. It will be a wee bit smaller, much cheaper, but prettier, in my opinion.

Miniature Waterfall

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Smoke Joint

No, that is not a suggestion, just the name of a new barbecue place in Brooklyn. And the fact that I am writing about this instead of Rome means that I have not yet recovered the contents of my Lacie Big Disk. If any of you have a suggestion on how to do this, feel free to let me know. I imagine I will have to take it in someplace where they specialize in data recovery.

Anyway, shortly after our return from Europe the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I decided to try out a new restaurant in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn at 87 Elliott Place. It isn't too far from where we live, kind of in the neighborhood of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The Smoke Joint

It is a bit of a hole in the wall, which isn't a bad thing. Gave it kind of a Down South atmosphere. There is a counter above which is the menu and where the cooks dish the plates. After deciding what you want you go to a little window and place your order.

Window Peeping

When your order is ready they call your number and you pick up your food. Very cafeteria style.

Servin' Up The Goods

There is limited space inside, but again, kind of like a typical rib joint you might find somewhere along a road in the South.

Grabbing Grub

There were a few tables up front by the open glass doors where you could watch the passing scene. On a hot sunny day like the day of our visit sitting in the sun wasn't very appealing though.

Roadside Service

They had a small, but interesting assortment of beers available including several Belgian style beers from the Allagash Brewery. I decided to go low-end and had a can of Dales Pale Ale. Well, the price wasn't low end, $4 for a can of beer, whatever the brand, isn't a real bargain.

Bar Man And Dale

Well, if the beer was no bargain, the ribs were a total rip-off. Before trying this place I checked out their website. When you click on the menu this is the picture that they have posted:

From The Smoke Joint Website

This is what we were served when we ordered a whole rack of spare ribs, for which they charge twenty dollars.

No Truth In Advertising

I actually asked if they got our order right, not believing this could be it. Well, it was. And the coleslaw was a double order for which we paid an extra two bucks. To be fair, there were two layers of ribs in that basket, but still, nothing like the picture.

It would be nice to say that the small portion and poor presentation was somehow compensated for by the ribs being delicious. However, that was not the case either. They were tender, I will say that for them, but pretty devoid of any flavor. I have to believe they were cooked in an oven and then crisped up in a broiler. I could detect no smokey flavor at all. Also, if they used any rub on them, which they claim they do, it was not noticeable. Without dousing it with the barbecue sauce that it came with they were completely bland. The coleslaw was also totally bland so it complemented the ribs perfectly.

The best thing about the meal were the Smokey Greens and Macaroni and Cheese at four dollars each. The Smokey Greens were, in fact, quite delicious.

The Side Dishes

In retrospect, ordering the ribs was a big mistake. The sandwiches that were being eaten at the table next to us looked generously portioned and the people eating them said they were very good. Hacked and Stacked pork, beef, and chicken sandwiches went for seven dollars each as did Crispy Catfish Cornmeal Crusted sandwich. They also had Beef Short Ribs for sixteen dollars but I think I would have to see what they looked like before I would order them.

In the final analysis I would have to say I was quite disappointed with our meal. When I go into a barbecue joint and order a rack of ribs I expect to get a full rack served to me. Even more so if that is what they are posting on their website. What I got was more like what I would expect at a drive-in restaurant, and I would expect to pay half the price.

Smoke Joint on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ruins In Rome

Sorry for the delay in posting. Major problems with my PCs, modem, my Network Attached Storage and, probably, my firewalls. I am still not sure what all is wrong. Took me numerous phone calls to get two PCs and a laptop connected back to the internet after replacing my modem/router. Had to give up on connecting an old laptop. That one is so old that it doesn't even have an Ethernet connection. All kinds of conflict between the modem, my firewalls, and who knows what else. Now my only remaining problem, which isn't insignificant, is that I cant access my Lacie Big Disk, and that is where I have all my pictures. Luckily I did manage to upload my first set pictures in Rome.

Well, enough about my problems, here is Rome.

The first thing we did after arriving in Rome was hop on a bus for a little tour of the city. I think we would have all preferred to just check into our hotel for a little wash up, but that wasn't an option. Our first stop was, appropriately enough, the Coliseum.

Crowds At The Coliseum

We didn't actually get to go in, that would have meant standing in line for an hour or so and we were told that there really wasn't that much to see inside. Whether that is true or not, I don't know.

An Arch

I am sure there was a story behind this arch, but for the life of me I just can't remember it. Although it is interesting to see this stuff for real, I think The History Channel has kind of spoiled it for me. There have been so many programs on this that the real thing is a bit anti-climatic. Also, the guide didn't seem to be all that well informed and that was a bit disappointing. Still though, it was neat to see it for real.

Coliseum And Bar Man

The sheer size of the Coliseum does come across when you see it up close. It really must have been an incredible undertaking to get it built. It must have been fun to be a Roman of means though.

Bigger In Life

Interestingly, the Coliseum had a retractable covering to protect people from the sun. Although the Coliseum in Rome was one of the larger ones, there were similar constructions all throughout the Roman Empire. I guess a good analogy would be the bull rings in Mexico and Spain. Lot's of gladiator fights and even more convicted criminals who were killed by them, killed each other, and killed or were killed by wild animals. According to our guide, slaves were not used in any kind of gladiatorial combat. I will have to research this though.

A Wider View

One thing that I learned, they did not hold chariot races in the Coliseum. It was too small for that. The chariot races were held on a track some distance away. Admission was free and it was primarily funded by the betting that took place. Both the top gladiators and charioteers made very good money and were the sports heroes of their day.

From here we stopped for a quick bite and then headed to The Vatican for a quick tour. The Sistine Chapel was scheduled for tomorrow morning.

The Swiss Guards were looking resplendent.

Nice Outfits

There is so much stuff packed in here that it is overwhelming. And most stuff is stored away out of sight.

Can You Say Ostentatious

It is hard not to be impressed by the true treasures like the Pieta by Michelangelo.

The Real Deal

Impressively, Michelangelo was only 23 when he completed this work of art.

A bit more morbid, I thought, was the display of the preserved body of Pope John XXIII. His face is now covered with a thin layer of wax and the Catholic Church has been careful to never claim that the body's preserved state was in any way miraculous. Many who pass by feel otherwise, however.

Pope John XXIII On Display

After our visit we finally got to the hotel and checked in. I had worked up a mighty thirst so I looked for a friend in the fridge. But damn, whoever had the room before me had filled the beer bottles with water. How rude.

A Really Light Beer

Luckily there were two more in there that had not been tampered with and I got replacements for the ones that were quite quickly.

Our room was really nice and it had a large balcony that looked out over well kept grounds.

A Room With A View

We couldn't relax for too long though. I signed us up for a group dinner. Not something I would normally recommend, but I was not that familiar with Rome and I thought it might be fun.


It was fun. It looked like there was a decent restaurant up front where regular people ate, and then a big dinning room in the back for the tour groups. But what the hell, free wine and beer, all the food you could eat, and it was decent if not inspired, and live entertainment. I ended up really enjoying myself.

Having A Good Old Time

And the Mysterious Chinese Woman even got serenaded.

A Song For Sweetie

One last stop before we headed back. We had to see the fountain made famous in the movie Roman Holiday, Fontana Di Trevi. It gets its name because it is at a point where three streets converge. If you never saw the movie, maybe you recall the song, Three Coins In The Fountain.

Crowded, Of Course

I did manage to force my way through the crowd to get close enough to actually see the water, though.

But, I Saved My Coins

I will have more on Rome tomorrow if I can access to my pictures. If not I will post about some stuff that I have done after I returned home. There was a street party to celebrate Bastille day last Sunday just a few blocks from where I live, and that was fun.