Cooking for Thanksgiving

I finally uploaded some photos from Thanksgiving. Here's Karen showing off the heritage turkey that we roasted and that I wrote about before. It's the best tasting thing I prepared all year.

Our turkey

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a huge group just doesn't seem possible for one person in a home kitchen. I couldn't have done it without the help of my sister Karen, my sous-chef/commis. For our creamed corn pudding she grated about two dozen corn cobs with a box grater. That's heroic.

My sous chef

Alicia and Stephen

Monsieur Colbert gives Alicia Keys an assist on "Empire State of Mind."

At the start line of the NY Marathon this year, as we stood at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, waiting for them to release our wave, they had someone sing the National Anthem and God Bless America, and then they blasted Jay-Z and Alicia's majestic "Empire State of Mind" over the loudspeakers. We were all so pumped up that when the pistol shot fired to start us, all thoughts of not going out too fast were tossed aside and carried away by the stiff winds that morning. We all blasted through that first mile up the bridge in record time; I'd pay the debt for that some 17 miles later.

When I hear that song, I'll always think of that moment at the foot of the bridge, thousands of people hopping and vibrating in place, all overflowing with anticipation and nervous energy.


I had just landed in Chicago for Thanksgiving and was strolling through the O'Hare concourse towards baggage claim when my phone rang. It was my sister Karen's fiance Kevin.

"You know how Karen was going to pick you up from the airport?" he asked. "She can't. She's been in a car accident."

He sounded calm which reassured me, especially since he'd already spoken to her. But then he told me their Prius was in bad shape. My gait quickened even though I had nowhere to go. She might be fine physically, but mentally an accident of that severity had to be a shock.

I called my other sister Joannie to fill her in on the situation, and after an hour or so of phone tag, one car was dispatched to get Karen from the place where they'd towed her car, another to get me from the airport.

When we finally all gathered back at Joannie's, the story had been reported and rereported multiple times, the truth coming together like pieces of a puzzle. Two guys in a sedan had the right rear corner of her Prius, sending her into a spin that ended at the center median of the highway. The sedan, meanwhile, somehow ended up flipped on its side on the other side of highway, on the shoulder.

As Karen got out of the car to gather herself and as various people stopped to help, the two guys somehow made it out of their vehicle. One of the two stumbled a few steps and vomited all over himself. The two of them were drunk.

The police took the two men to the hospital to draw blood, but they'd already failed the onsite sobriety test. The legal system will, I assume, deal with them. But in the meantime, I felt firsthand the anger of those hurt by the stupidity of those who get behind the wheel of three to four thousand pound machines under the influence of alcohol. There is nothing courageous or admirable about someone who manages to drive from point A to point B drunk; it's merely dumb luck.

It's also luck that helped Karen get out of the accident unharmed, save for a stiff neck and bruised knee. My flight arrived late, and so traffic on the 90/94 was light, so no cars were close behind that might have run into her during or immediately after her spinout.

The story has a happier ending as most of our family spent the rest of the week together celebrating Thanksgiving. We didn't dwell on the subject of her accident, especially the hypotheticals. To do so would seem morbid, and I sensed a need for us all to move on lest we cede the happiness of the entire holiday weekend to those two drunken idiots.

This was my first time in charge of preparing a Thanksgiving meal. I did a lot of research on how to prepare a turkey having had many a dry and unappetizing bird in Novembers past. My first big decision was to go with a heritage turkey over the breed commonly found at the grocery store, the Broad-Breasted White. Though they cost more, up to $10 a pound, heritage turkeys are known for their higher proportion of dark meat and a more guilt-free narrative: they tend to be raised on organic feed, on small farms where they're allowed to roam freely. If it lived up to the taste, then paying around $160 for a turkey that would feed the entire group on this once-a-year holiday would be worth it.

The next question was how to prepare the turkey. I consulted most every foodie I knew about their past experiences, and the number one technique mentioned was brining. I thought I could stop there, but it turns out there are different brining techniques. The one I'd heard of most often involved soaking the turkey in salt water. But then, while I waited for my take-out lunch one day, I saw a front page story in a section of the LA Times on the bar counter about dry brining.

It sounded too good to be true; just salt the turkey a few days in advance. Not only was it less messy than a wet brine, it supposedly produced meat of a superior texture.

The best laid plans were nearly derailed by a FedEx delivery person who couldn't distinguish a one from a zero. I spent all of Tuesday checking FedEx online, and mid-afternoon, I got the note that the turkey had been delivered to the front porch. I wandered outside, around the side of the house, poked in some bushes, looked out on the back deck, behind the turkey. I called FedEx, they tried to call the driver, but he was gone for the day.

Just as I was ready to call FedEx back to tell them they'd ruined Christmas for a group of orphans, a guy in a grey station wagon pulled up out front and walked out with a box. I was standing out on the front porch with such a look of consternation on my face that he must have put it together all at once.

"Are you Eugene? I found this on my porch when I got home just now."

Whoever you are, guy in grey station wagon, I salute you.

After letting the turkey thaw for a couple hours in a cold water bath (it was still vacuum sealed), I brined it inside and out with a mixture of kosher salt and minced parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, a the Simon Garfunkel of seasonings. I put it in a baking bag and we put it in Joannie's basement fridge, breast-side up. The next day I massaged it and flipped it over, the salt having sucked some of the liquid out of the turkey as I had read it would.

Wednesday we spent the afternoon prepping a few dishes in advance, a batch of creamed corn pudding, garlic mashed potatoes, and the turkey stock. Spices at the grocery store are not sold loose but in plastic containers that always contain too much for any one dish, I used the excess thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley to make a compound butter and stashed it in the fridge to use as a rub on the turkey the next day. Compound butters are handy to have around in the kitchen and a great way to not waste all that spice.

Making stock, like ironing shirts, alternates between soothing ritual and exasperating burden from one minute to the next. I love the meditative pace of the process, the way the scent sneaks up on you as the liquid absorbs some of the character of all that's in it, the turkey giblet, heart, and neck bones, the mirepoix of onions, carrots, and celery, the sprigs of rosemary and thyme, the parsley and stray chicken parts. But with seven other dishes to worry about, I was tempted, at moments, to reach for canned stock, like a monk tempted by the sins of the material world.

Thankfully I had Karen as my faithful partner chef in crime, and we had enough time to get enough prepared that we could let the stock just simmer while we dined on some Chicago deep dish pizza.

On Thanksgiving Day, I thought about using a turkey bag for roasting, but some articles I'd read suggested that the steaming it would encourage would deprive us of trying a more traditional roasted texture and flavor. My decision was made when we couldn't find the turkey bag we'd set aside.

I contemplated two other methods of adding flavor, one being injection and the other being a rub. Since we didn't have a turkey syringe and I'd made the compound butter the night before, we went with the rub.

Heritage turkeys don't require as high a finishing temperature as regular turkeys as they're free of antibiotics. That brings with it another benefit: a shorter stay in the oven. I gave it about a half hour at 450 degrees to brown the skin, then lowered the temperature to 350 and covered the breast with aluminum foil. One of the chief problems with in preparing turkeys is the fact that the white breast meat tastes best at a lower temperature than the darker leg and thigh meat, thus the selective application of foil. Ultimately, I had to remove the legs and thighs and give them an extra ten to fifteen minutes alone after the rest of the turkey was finished, about two and a half hours later.

Fast forward to the taste test: dear readers, it was good. Damn good. The best turkey I've ever had. Was it the dry brining, or the rub, or the heritage of the turkey? I don't know, but the white meat was moist like a roast chicken, and the dark meat tasted almost like duck. But it was still undeniably a turkey.

A few years back I ordered a turducken for Thanksgiving, and while it was fine, there didn't seem to be any real synergy among the three meats. Stuffing one inside another inside another seemed to offer simply an advantage in carving efficiency, but the flavors simply added up to the sum of the parts, nothing more.

The heritage turkey, with its mix of different meat textures and flavors, seemed to fulfill the vision of what a turducken was trying to be. But whereas the turducken resorts to the culinary equivalent of plastic surgery, the heritage turkey is au naturel, a product of good genes and healthy living.

Thanksgiving day, one soon-to-be-convicted drunk driver was probably pondering a grim future at the hands of the law. Meanwhile, my little sister may have been without her new Prius, but that day she was celebrating Thanksgiving with loved ones over a great turkey she helped prepare. Sometimes the lessons of Thanksgiving come as simple as that.

Please help support the fight against cancer

This Sunday I'll be running the NY Marathon for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as part of Fred's Team. I would be so thankful and touched if any of you would be willing to make a contribution to support this cause on my behalf. I also encourage you to note, on the contribution form, the names of anyone you've lost to cancer or anyone who is fighting or has fought cancer. I plan to write these names on my jersey Sunday; thinking of them will inspire me through the tougher parts of the race and remind me of what I'm running for. I'm not sure my old joints and legs will survive Sunday on their own, but they will if accompanied by a full heart.

Know that I will be able to run this Sunday whether or not you contribute. I actually got an entry into the race through the lottery, and then through the unbelievable generosity of brother James and his wife Angela, I reached the Fred's Team contribution milestone overnight. I write this in hopes that you'll join them in contributing to the fight against cancer. My brother Alan works at Sloan-Kettering, and if his colleagues are half as dedicated and conscientious as he is then they've more than earned their reputation as one of the leading institutions of cancer research in the world.

The fight against cancer is a cause that means a lot to me. In 1998, I lost first my mother and then her mother, my grandmother who raised me for many years, to cancer. I used to think that the phrase "there isn't a day goes by I don't think of her" was a metaphor, a figure of speech, but then I lost them both and learned that it is neither an over or understatement, only a gentler expression of a genuine state of lifelong mourning. Some days I wonder what my mother and grandmother would think of what I've made of my life, but every day I miss them.

I struggle to make sense of the random nature of the onset of their cancers. Both were healthy and active. They never smoked or drank. They ate plenty of vegetables and stayed engaged with family and friends. I don't imagine for a minute that if research could lay bare the exact causes and mechanisms of cancer that it would be comfort enough, but neither do I find it fair that cancer continues to claim so many lives in such an agonizing way. It is a cruel and merciless killer.

Earlier this year I read a brilliant memoir of one daughter's loss of her mother to cancer: The Mercy Papers by Robin Romm.

There is one passage I'll never forget; the first time I read it I was laying in bed on a Sunday morning, and tears started streaming down my face and onto the pages of the book.

"I know it's selfish," I say. "But I can't tell you it's okay to die. I won't be okay." My words are coming too fast. "I'll try to go on, I'll try to live a life you'd be proud of, but I can't imagine life without you and I can't tell you to die."

My mom stares at me with her wide brown eyes. She looks at people these days in the same way she looks at the clock by her bed or the television on the dresser or the large wall-length crack in her wall.

It's hard to hear her through the whirring of the BiPaP mask.

"Thank you sweetie," she says. "I dun want to die. But at thiz point, iss what should happen." Tears stream down my cheeks. I'm getting the pillows damp. "And, sweetheart, I dun need your permission."

Janelle Monae at Dakota Lounge

Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, a few of us self-declared LA refugees went to check out the opening party for Dakota Lounge, formerly Temple Bar, in Santa Monica. I wanted to catch Janelle Monae who I'd seen perform at the Viper Room previously.

Though we had to stand outside in line for a bit, we managed to get inside before her set began. Despite our late entry, we managed to walk right up to the front of the stage for her set.

Janelle Monae

Just as in her set at the Viper Room, Janelle was a dynamo on stage. At one point, I looked down at my camera to adjust the settings, and WHAP! Something hit me in the face. It was her white sportcoat, which she'd flung into the crowd.

Janelle Monae

Afterwards, we were at the bar grabbing a drink when she walked out. Someone saw us looking her way and asked if we'd like to chat with her. Turns out he was her manager.

I showered her with effusive praise. She thanked me and said, "Keep me in your prayers."

I had her manager snap a photo of us with her.

Meeting Janelle Monae

One think I do thank Dubya for

Maybe the only thing: recently he signed into law the Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008. Years too late, for my taste, but better late than never. I'm not sure what the old AMT tax was intended to do, but what it did to me was tax me on exercised stock option value even if I hadn't sold them. Way back in the day of the old Internet stock bubble, that meant paying a ton in taxes on stock that I couldn't sell as an employee.

Of course, later, the stock came back down to earth, conveniently when the window for employee selling opened back up and after the government had bled me dry. Instead of getting my AMT taxes back as a refund, the government kept it all and only allowed me to apply the credit as an offset against capital gains of which I never had enough in the subsequent years to claim much of the credit.

So for some ten years, the government has had a big interest free loan from yours truly. So forgive me if I'm not feeling so generous about funding bailouts of mismanaged banks and those dinosaurs in Detroit.

The relevant clauses of the next tax act, for those dot-commers affected:

• Increase of AMT Refundable Credit Amount for Individuals with Long-Term Unused Credits for Prior Minimum Tax Liability. The Extenders Act changes the way in which the refundable portion of the "long-term unused minimum tax credit" for a particular tax year is computed, and eliminates the previously applicable phaseout of the credit based on adjusted gross income, potentially increasing the credit available in that year. Individuals with long-term unused minimum tax credits in a tax year ending on or before December 31, 2012 now may receive a refundable credit equal to the greater of (i) 50 percent of the long-term unused minimum tax credit or (ii) the amount, if any, of the long-term unused minimum tax credit determined for the preceding tax year.

• Specific Relief for AMT Attributable to an Incentive Stock Option Exercise. The Extenders Act eliminates any otherwise outstanding liability for tax, penalties and interest attributable to an AMT liability arising from the exercise of any incentive stock option before 2008. In addition, the amount of a taxpayer's long-term unused minimum tax credit described above that is allowed as a refund in each of 2008 and 2009 is increased by 50 percent of any interest or penalty paid by a taxpayer that would have been abated by the Extenders Act if it had not already been paid.

Marathon Man

I was in NYC the first weekend of November to watch my brother James run his first marathon. It was a true family affair as James ran for Fred's Team to raise money for Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where my other brother Alan works. James raised something like $13,000, just an amazing amount.

I flew in late Thursday night. The next day, while James was off at work, I got up and just walked around. New York City is still my favorite among all the cities I've lived in, and I suspect it's because it's the one city where I can feel both alone and among people at the same time.

I stopped for lunch at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, one of the outlets in the David Chang empire. Back when I lived in NYC, I came here on its first day open, when they still didn't have a menu. It was like a burrito bar back then, and when I walked in the one guy behind the kitchen counter looked surprised to see anyone. Now it's transformed into a fairly chic sit-down joint with a menu and prix fixe lunch. I had crispy pork belly buns...

Pork buns at Momofuku Ssam

...and spicy rice cakes.

Spicy rice cakes at Momofuku Ssam

It was Friday, Halloween, but more importantly, it was the last day of the Banksy exhibit in the West Village, The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. I managed to get there just about a half hour before it closed.

Banksy is to the art world as Michel Gondry is to music videos, just conceptually brilliant. This faux pet store wasn't populated with the real animals. Instead, there was a depressed and caged Tweety...

Tweety Bird in a cage

...a caged animatronic monkey wearing headphones, clicking on a remote control, and watching a TV playing a documentary about monkeys free in the wild...

Monkey channel surfing

Monkey watching tv

Monkey watching monkey documentary

...a rabbit looking in a mirror and applying lipstick...

Rabbit applying lipstick

...animatronic fish fingers swimming in fishbowl...

Fish sticks

...and animatronic sausages squirming around like earthworms.

Animatronic sausage in cage

A leopard fur coat basked in a tree branch, its "tail" hanging down and swaying lazily. A rooster watched over its children, little Chicken McNuggets with legs bobbing for food.

Not Banksy's most subtle social commentary, but a humorous conceit executed simply. According to the security guard, the exhibit was on its way to London next.

That night I caught a production of David Mamet's Speed the Plow at the Barrymore Theater on Broadway. This three person meditation on the conflict between art and commerce in Hollywood starred Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson on Mad Men), and Raul Esparza.

Speed the Plow

Bashing Hollywood for favoring money over art is hardly an original form of cynicism, but the underrated Piven is always fun to watch on stage. He plays a character not so unlike his Ari Gold from Entourage: Bobby Gould is a studio exec tasked with making commercial hits. When Elizabeth Moss, a temp secretary, playing someone not unlike her Peggy Olson in Season One of Mad Men, appeals to his conscience to push for an adaptation of a dense and decidedly depressing novel (for some reason I thought of Blindness by Saramago), the battle for his soul is on, with Raul Esparza playing the devil on his shoulder, having brought Gould a made-to-order action script with a big star attached.

Piven has a way of making greed warm and fuzzy. His Ari Gold and Bobby Gould both talk a game of mindless materialism, but the body language conveys a person not entirely comfortable with all the bravado. We see in Piven our own greedy nature, but because we sense his chance for redemption is our own, and so we root for him. Tony Soprano and Don Draper are part of a recently crowded stable of antiheroes, and Piven is like their comedic brother.

After the play, I set off to my old neighborhood haunt of Union Square. I'd read that there would be a flash mob of Sarah Palin look-a-likes this Halloween night, but only a few materialized. Dagmar and Alex, two other folks from UCLA Film School were in town for a thesis shoot, so I met up with them and followed them around, taking pics of Dagmar with costumes that struck her fancy. We snapped a lot Palins, among others. But the most popular costume, by far, perhaps for ease of creation, was Heath Ledger's smudged-lipstick-and-white-face-paint Joker.

The night ended, as many busy social days in NYC end, with my sister Karen hobbling in pain alongside me at 3am in her Audrey Hepburn circa Breakfast at Tiffany's high heels, the two of us trying and failing to find a single unoccupied taxi in Greenwich Village.

The night before the marathon, we all stayed at the Westin in Times Square as James and all the Fred's Team runners were put up there for their fundraising efforts. They got their own transportation to the start line.

The family met up to watch him at the Fred's Team viewing bleachers on 1st Ave., near 67th St, around mile 17. We saw the wheelchair division fly by. One man in a wheelchair stopped across the street, attached a pair of artificial legs below his knees, and ran. The competitive women and then the competitive men flew by, and we saw both eventual winners in those groups.

Thanks to the marathon's e-mail alerts, we knew when James was approaching. As he ran by, giving Alan and the kids a quick hug, I shouted out to him to "Drop the hammer!" He looked back, then down at the street, puzzled, thinking I'd said that he'd dropped something.

James makes a pit stop

Group hug

We tried to make it across town to the finish line to catch him, but he was too fast. He'd already finished in an impressive 3:57 by the time we waded through the Central Park mob.

Congrats, on both the great time and the amazing fundraising haul! Each speaks volumes, one to his obsessive nature, the other to his likability.

My weekend in Nevada

I am as exhausted as I've been in a long time having just returned from a long weekend of canvassing and rallying for Obama in Las Vegas. Nevada has traditionally leaned red, and it went to Bush in 2000 and 2004. Polls shows a near coin toss right now in Nevada. Its five electoral votes may not mean much, but just as a symbol, we (I use the royal we, my support for Obama being no secret) would desperately love to win it this time around.

It was an eventful and exciting weekend for team Obama:

  • The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obama. Growing up in Chicago, I was used to seeing their blue masthead bleed red election after election, so this endorsement is a pleasant surprise.

    Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

    We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

    We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

    The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.


    This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.


    McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.

    Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.

  • Colin Powell endorsed Obama this morning. It was once thought that he might be the first African-American to be President, but it was not to be. But his part in this saga was still to be played, and today was that day. Ken texted me from the East Coast at around 9am PST: "Powell endosed Obama on MtP." It was the perfect start to the morning and fired up the volunteer team for the morning rally in Chinatown.

    Republican former House speaker Newt Gingrich said on ABC's "This Week": "What that just did in one sound bite -- and I assume that sound bite will end up in an ad -- is it eliminated the experience argument. How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former national security adviser, former secretary of state was taken in?"

  • Obama raised $150 million in September!

  • Someone was indeed trying to manipulate the prediction market Intrade to boost McCain's numbers.

It's often written that the Republican ground game won them the White House in 2000 and 2004. The terminology similarity to football is not the only apt comparison. As in football, where the ground game tends to grind out yards, three, four at a time, the ground game in politics is hard work.

This was more vivid for me this weekend in the Vegas desert heat as I strolled from house to house in various Clark County neighborhoods. But while economists wonder why people vote because it's irrational (one vote is so unlikely to make a difference), volunteering feels more sensible. If each of us can reach ten, twenty, fifty people, and if we can encourage a few extra people to get out and vote, or convince a few undecideds to vote for Obama, then the multiplier effect lends our efforts feel numerically significance.

Andrew Sullivan, writing about the ground game, says Obama's "major enemy is complacency among the young."

That's fair given weak youth turnout historically, but my generation (X) and generation Y are not happy about the label, and I believe the pundits are severely underestimating the youth vote and impact. I can't remember an election in which more people my age and below have been so active, not only contributing money but flying all over the country to do phone banks, voter registration, canvassing, rallying, and everything in between. If the Republicans are counting on youth complacency this time around, they are going to be disappointed. We don't just want to win the election (what Obama dismisses as the 50-plus-1 governing model, referring to the idea that it's enough to win 50% of the country's support plus one additional vote), we want to make states that have always gone red go blue.

Did our efforts this weekend make a difference? Saturday was the first day of early voting in Nevada. After a rally this morning, a local Obama organizer shared some figures with us. ~15,000 early votes were cast on Saturday, and 64% of them went Obama.

16 days to go.


Joannie and Mike were in Temecula this past weekend visiting the folks, so I went down to visit them all and check in on Connor who is now over a year old.

He's still a serious and cautious little guy, but we managed to get a few laughs out of him during the weekend. I learned that he enjoys walking up small hills and mounds. Up and down, up and down. And, for a minute or two, at least, he found the swing set amusing.

Connor enjoying the swing

By the way, adjustment brushes in Adobe Lightroom 2? Awesome. Worth the price of the upgrade. How long, I wonder, before they migrate to Photoshop?

Taco truck, where art thou? Also, some Hulu updates

We launched a bunch of new features to Hulu at around midnight, debugged for a while, and then just before 3am the late night crew here hopped into cars and rushed over to hit our late night go-to spot, the taco truck near Vons in West Los Angeles. Taco trucks do a poor job of branding. They have no names, only locations, and they are all referred to just by the generic name of their classification: taco truck.

That truck typically operates from 10pm to 3am, but on this night, it was not there. You know the economy is bad when even the taco trucks are impacted.

So we went to Izzy's Deli in Santa Monica and celebrated our labors until 4 in the morning.

Some of the new things you'll find on Hulu:

There are other subtle changes, some of which you may notice as you browse around the site.

Two other cool Hulu news bits: the latest issue of Wired magazine has an article on us, and Tina Fey mentioned Hulu when accepting the Emmy for 30 Rock as best comedy series on Sunday night. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to having Tina Fey say my name. Good enough.

We're also still working hard on adding and replenishing our content library. Here's the season three premiere of Heroes.

Okay, I will go collapse now.

Bob Dylan

I saw Bob Dylan at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium tonight. I've never heard Dylan live before. He's more mythical to me than real, seen mostly in black and white photos, documentaries, and movies, played by a variety of actors.

I'm a lifelong developing Dylan fan. My first real exposure to Dylan came in high school as one of my friends was a huge Dylan fan and would play Dylan in the tape deck of his car all the time. Recently I found a good deal on Amazon for a used copy of the Bob Dylan SACD box set, and I've been working my way through it, one disc at a time. His sound transports me back in time and across America like a musical road trip in a convertible with its top down, with the wind tousling my hair.

I will remember tonight, but not for the venue. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is fugly, and the acoustics of the cement-floored space are awful and muddy. The speakers were balanced to lean to the left, and it sounded like Dylan was singing from a space floating about 20 feet over the left third of the stage when he was in fact standing about two thirds of the way to the right of the stage most of the evening.

It's a credit to Dylan's songwriting that despite the terrible acoustics (which made his already incomprehensible lyrics sound like the language used in Apocalypto), my toes were tapping the whole time. Given the state of my Achilles, that's no small feat. I nearly fell over from exhaustion a few times--for some reason, tearing your Achilles reduces your endurance for standing--but managed to stay upright to the bitter end, through the second song of his encore.

As a fan of speech, I admire Dylan for his sui generis command of the rhythms of English language. He really is the poet laureate of American music.

NOTE: You can download "Dreamin' of You", a previously unreleased track from Tell Tale Signs, from

The moment you become a New Yorker

Article in the NYTimes about that moment, some period into your first year living in New York, when you become a New Yorker.

Though I can't recall a specific moment things changed for me in NYC, I did reach, sometime about four or five months into living in NYC, a state of harmony with the city, when I understood its rhythms and its personality, when I felt all the privileges of living in the country's greatest city open to me.

The city, like its people, can seem prickly, antagonistic, or even dangerous. But NYC has more layers than any city I've lived in, and the longer you're there, the more it surprises you.

The woman who should sing the next Bond song

Last night at the Viper Room (famous as the venue outside which River Phoenix died), I heard the woman who should sing the next Bond theme song, and her name is Janelle Monáe.

Janelle Monae

Her set was short, just 5 songs, but it was one of the most energy-packed, blow-your-mind 5 song sets I've heard since, well, ever. I've heard her songs online via MySpace, and I was impressed, but seeing her live is an experience unto itself and not to be missed. She's like a live bolt of electricity on stage, and frankly I'm not sure she could keep maintain it for a 15 song set without just passing out and getting carried off in an ambulance.

The Viper Room's concert hall is tiny, and that was part of the experience. Being able to see her animated expressions, being able to see her dancing like her life depended on it. I'm sure I'll never experience her music that way again. For her last song, she crowd-surfed, and I nearly ruptured my other Achilles trying to help guide her across as she passed over my head.

She has an interesting style (that hair!) and sound, both futuristic yet classical. That's why she'd make a great choice for the next Bond theme song. She can bring some of the Shirley Bassey funk and marry it to a more modern, hip-hop sound. With her interest in science fiction--she references androids in her album cover and some of her songs--she might even be able to write lyrics that incorporate "Quantum of Solace" in an organic way.

Her music is hard to describe. She went from the propulsive drive of "Many Moons" to the hushed emotion of "Smile". My favorite track is "Sincerely Jane". There's funk, hip hop, soul, pop, and bits of other musical goodness in there.

After the concert, we all stared at each other wide-eyed, and then I ran over to the merchandise table to buy her CD, because all I could think was "this girl's going to blow up" and "I need to buy stock in her."

You can buy her CD Metropolis: The Chase Suite or mp3's from Amazon. Here's the rest of her appearance schedule for 2008; those of you in SF, Portland, Seattle, Arlington, NYC, or Chicago should get your tickets now.

Ah, youth

Having come in a night early for a morning meeting here in Boulder, Colorado, Christina and I strolled around University of Colorado campus tonight. Being around a university reminds me of the happiest time of my life, as an undergrad.

We walked into one building, saw signs for a performance, and walked out to find a play being put on in an open-air theater. I stood to watch a scene--given the many references to D'Artagnan I assume it was The Three Musketeers--then walked out with a smile on my face.

Nothing like mannered student theater acting and eating disorder brochures in the hallways to remind one of college.


Facebook's profile updates are rendered in an odd tense, in a very Facebook-centric view of the world. You change your profile to married, and instead of writing, "Scott changed his relationship status to married" it reads "Scott is now married." Never mind that he may have been married for years; in the Facebook world, nothing is so until you declare it so in your profile.

What happens if you change your sex? "Fred is no longer male"? Your birthday? "Susan is no longer born July 7, 1978"?

I am going to change my relationship status to king so it reads "Eugene is now king."


As of Friday morning rehab, I am sans crutches. This is a big moment for me, and an even bigger moment for my armpits.


To the person who came to my website via the Google search "eugene wei the dark knight" yesterday: yes, I am Batman.


Speaking of Batman and my crutches, I didn't buy Harvey Dent's conversion in The Dark Knight. But I can empathize with the personality-transforming power of physical injuries or deformities. Having one bad leg, not being able to exercise, has definitely made me grumpier these past two or three months.

I walk by a homeless guy, and I flip a coin. Heads, I give the guy the coin. Tails, I kick him with my walking boot.

No, not really. But not being able to run or work off occasional frustration has left me snippier. I'm like Harvey Two-Leg.


Lebron vs. Yao Ming in the Coke ad "Unity" from Smith&Foulkes for W+K Portland.


One of the restaurants I wish I ate at before moving from NYC is Blue Hill at Stone Barns. This glowing review with its gorgeous photos is like a megaphone for that regret.


Cleverly written commercials for dandruff shampoo that could be done by any one who knows After Effects.


Why read The Watchmen, which has spiked in popularity now that the non-geek masses have seen The Watchmen trailer playing before The Dark Knight? Bryan Caplan says: "The Watchmen is the Best... Utilitarian Parable... Ever."

I've never thought of it that way, but having read that graphic novel probably five times in my life, I'd have to say it makes sense.


"Tarantino's Mind" (short film)