Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Local blogger Wild Soda is back, and in a considerably better mood than when she last posted. You know what's really cool? When one of her best friends got into town, the first palce she took him after a nap was Tulip (I know, I know, I really have to work on that web site). And she called it "excellent" and her friend was surprised by the quality of the food. That's what I'd call a Very Nice Thing to Hear (or read, as the case may be).

Now, about Tulip. I generally don't blog that much about this cafe of which I'm a part-owner. Maybe it seems like I do -- I can't tell -- but I generally leave out the good stuff. For instance, I don't think I wrote about the chef who walked out without notice on a Friday at 6 p.m. and never came back, made vague and nasty threats when we refused to pay her final salary, and then recently started working at the restaurant next door... There's some pretty amazingly writable stuff that goes down in the restaurant business, as you can imagine, but I don't generally write about it for the same reason you wouldn't want the whole world reading about the fight you had with your girlfriend last week.

That said, it might be worth announcing that in 2004 -- or for the next two months or so, at least -- I'm going to be spending a lot more time at Tulip. No, you won't see me waiting tables, which is a good thing for the customers because I'm a klutz. But I'll be managing the back of the house, putting some systems in place that will hopefully lead to the long-term financial soundness of the business. Call it a corporate restructuring. My feelings about this are mixed, because I've always thought of myself as a hack, not a restaurateur or entrepreneur or a guy who runs a bar.


Anyway, Wild Soda doesn't like Christmas. This of course reminds me of that line from that song by Belle and Sebastian, which goes like this:

I don't love anything
Not even Christmas
Especially not that.

This Christmas seasons has been especially hectic and stressful for me. I still haven't mailed all my Christmas presents to my family back home. Come to think of it, I still haven't bought all of them. It was only about ten days ago that we finally got around to putting up the Christmas tree. Yes, I made time for that. We've made it a point of buying a proper Christmas tree since I moved into a flat that can accomodate a big fir tree.

We invited two friends over to help decorate the Christmas tree -- actually we invited a whole bunch of people, but only two showed up -- and when we were done, we sat around starting at the Christmas tree smoking a joint. We mused on the strange provenance of the Christmas tree tradition, and how odd it might sound if you had to explain it to somebody for the first time. It's understandable that you'd want to bring a bit of outdoorsiness into the household... But a whole tree? No, not just a part of the tree, you have to bring the whole tree inside. Not a plant or a bush, mind you -- it has to be a whole tree.

Say, did you have look at a Christmas tree? No, I mean really look at a Christmas tree...

I have a Jewish friend who's gotten really into Christmas the last few years. Not the religious side of it, of course -- there's a religious side of it? -- but the traditional festive trappings. Every year she picks up something new. Like this year, she came over and said (not a direct quote), "I've finally been let in on the special trick to hanging Christmas ornaments" and proceeded to explain this special trick, which was too banal to repeat. She was a bit disappointed when I told her there's not really a special trick to hanging ornaments that the goyim have been keeping from the Hebes all these years. You just hang the things on the branches and that's all.


So tonight is New Year's Eve. Things have been exploding outside for the last couple of hours. It seems everybody I know has waited until the last minute to make New Year's plans, and the only parties I know about are at Celnice and Tulip (four course meal, welcome drink and champagne included, Kc 650).

I didn't make time to write after the fact about the Amnesty International Christmas Party (see photos here) that I organized two weeks ago, but suffice to say it was hugely successful from the planning point of view. Everything went off without a hitch and everybody who volunteered their time and talent to help deserve a big thank you. As for revenue, neither Tulip nor Amnesty walked away millionaires, and slightly fewer people showed up than I'd expected (60-70 as opposed to 100+) but whatever. After expenses were paid, Amnesty came away 9000+ crowns richer.

From the blog point of view, perhaps the funniest part was the man who insisted on meeting Steve Hercher because he was a big reader of his blog. You, too, may know Steve from his blog but not personally; as usual, the voice of the blog (bitchy, sarcastic, good-humored...) has little in common with the man in person (kind, quiet, serious, good-humored in a bring-him-home-to-mom sort of way). If you missed the party, Steve gives a short and sweet description of it here. (The emcee in the pork-pie hat is David O'Kelly; he's a local actor, and somebody should offer him a job to make him famous.)

Happy New Year.
United Press International: Iran earthquake leading to diplomatic thaw: "Since the Iranian revolution of 1978... "

UPI always makes the weirdest mistakes. The Iranian Revolution was in 1979, duh.

Happy New Year.
Josh Marshall says it's an "open secret" who the "real perps" are in the Valerie Plame affair. Maybe it's an open secret in Washington. Not where I'm sitting. Who?? Do tell.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Hi! Welcome to that strange period between Christmas and New Year's during which, ideally, nothing at all gets done. Heck, I haven't blogged for a week, which is a record since September. If you came here and found nothing and went away disappointed, go drink some grog.

This holiday season, why not try a little mental journey to an exotic destination like Beirut. This article that I found on Travel & Leisure, the magazine about travel and leisure, says it's quite the scene these days. The new Tallinn, as we like to say in Kafkaville.

Or, via Matt Welch, here's British journalistic prodigee Johanni Hari's recent essay about North Korea, the Worst Place on the Face of the Planet.

If half of what they say about North Korea is true -- and I have little doubt more than half is true -- the Kim regime couldn't have been invented by even the sickest of Star Trek scriptwriters. Hari no longer advocates an invasion of North Korea like he once did, but his recent essay puts the North Korean government-engineered famine in some perspective, although it's really hard to call it "perspective" when there's nothing else in the world to compare it to.

Nearly half of this country's children are suffering from such severe hunger that their physical and mental development is being seriously retarded. This is not unfolding in Africa, but instead just a few miles from a prosperous industrial economy.

It is happening in North Korea, and you haven't seen many reports because a vast range of vested interests find it convenient for the world to forget about the North Korean people.
One small correction, however:

[A]n excessively zealous response to the worst tyranny on earth is surely better than evasion. This is, alas, the response of most "peace" activists, who - when the topic of North Korea is raised - simply change the subject. Gore Vidal was asked recently what he would do. "Don't you think that's their problem? That's not your problem and that's not my problem," he replied.
I did a bit of poking, and to be accurate, that was Gore Vidal's response when asked about the suffering Saddam Hussein had inflicted on Iraq. He was not talking about North Korea, although if you asked him about that, he'd probably say the same thing. The point still holds. Gore Vidal can relax in his Italian villa, sipping Chianti, knowing that the millions murdered by Kim Jong Il are "not his problem." Despite the fact that a lot of the world's biggest dipshits like to call Gore Vidal a pompous asshole, he really strikes me as a pompous asshole.

I did a bit of reading on Johann Hari's site. The world needs more Johann Haris. Here's a man who can say upfront that America's "foreign policy has done more harm than good in the last fifty years." (It's a contention I wouldn't be too quick to agree with, but I definitely wouldn't exactly rush to contest it either.) Yet he'll be the first to say that only the most cold-hearted, isolationist goon could say the human tragedy called North Korea is "not his problem."

Happy New Year....