Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I’m not sure I’d use Twitter if I were rich. Swampy, boggy, inescapable connectivity: it seems my middle-class existence has stuck me here.

These worries started to surface for me last month, when Bruce Sterling, the cyberpunk writer, proposed at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin that the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on “connections” like the Internet, Skype and texting. “Poor folk love their cellphones!” he said.

In his speech, Sterling seemed to affect Nietzschean disdain for regular people. If the goal was to provoke, it worked. To a crowd that typically prefers onward-and-upward news about technology, Sterling’s was a sadistically successful rhetorical strategy. “Poor folk love their cellphones!” had the ring of one of those haughty but unforgettable expressions of condescension, like the Middle Eastern gem “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

“Connectivity is poverty” was how a friend of mine summarized Sterling’s bold theme. Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard.

Nice, right? The implications of Sterling’s idea are painful for Twitter types. The connections that feel like wealth to many of us — call us the impoverished, we who treasure our smartphones and tally our Facebook friends — are in fact meager, more meager even than inflated dollars. What’s worse, these connections are liabilities that we pretend are assets. We live on the Web in these hideous conditions of overcrowding only because — it suddenly seems so obvious — we can’t afford privacy. And then, lest we confront our horror, we call this cramped ghetto our happy home!

- exerpt from Virginia Heffernan's article in the New York Times
Published: April 16, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009


I've always held to a simple and well-defined stance on pets. They're great, so long as they live outside. While we always had a couple of dogs loafing around in the backyard, they never really felt like part of the family. They were, in the most tepid sense of the word, pets - fed and watered, occasionally walked, but mostly observed. My viewpoint was clearly passed down from my dad, who took the best care of our dogs, but insisted that their permanent residence would be in the back yard.

New York City has a notable propensity to alter its residents' viewpoints. As dreamers continue to drift to the 5 boroughs (despite all signs that there are greener pastures elsewhere) their preconceptions will be filtered through the bizarro realities of this city. Eventually astronomical rents make sense, storefronts filled with bongs and sex toys fail to shock, it's okay that nature is stifled and constrained to a rectangular patch of winding turf, and semi-solid hot dogs & fossilized pretzels are viable dining options.

For all the strange and enumerable ways that New York has impacted my understanding of daily realities, the most shocking has to be the shift in my attitude towards pets. I find myself stopping to peer into pet shop windows and oogling the endless stream of people walking their pets in the neighborhood. I'm beginning to see myself as a potential pet owner.

Ashley and I have been batting around the idea of getting a puppy for a few weeks and, predictably, there is a little contention over the breed. Ash has been brainwashed by the SoHo fashionistas to believe that French Bulldogs are cute. Not familiar with the breed? I'm posting a pic below, but continue at your own discretion.

I don't feel that it's necessary to detail all of the unforgivable shortcomings of the breed, but lets just say that I've all but veto'd the Frenchie. (To Ashley's credit she did almost win me over by suggesting naming the puppy Jacques Pepin)

Although we don't have enough space at the moment, we'll be moving to a new and, hopefully, more spacious apartment by summer's end. With a little more room at our disposal bringing a dog into the fold will be a possibility, but there is still the looming issue of breed. My sensibilities have always favored a Lab, while Ash is pushing for a smaller pooch. Despite the price tag, a Shiba Inu (puppy cam) is in consideration.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

BFDH Obsessions: Bánh Mi

As hordes of budget-conscious Americans turn to Subway's $5 foot long hoagies to fill their bellies, the lunchtime lines here in their myriad Manhattan outposts are growing painfully long. The hoi polloi take mid-day refuge in sloppy Meatball Marinaras and terrifying microwaved Chicken & Bacon Ranch subs, but I've been blessed to be introduced to the Bánh Mi. Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of French Colonialism in Vietnam, the Bánh Mi may very well be the tastiest and best lunchtime value in New York. At $3.75 a pop there is a shared understanding among those in line for the sandwich that they've just 'out-ordered' the masses.

The sandwich is beautifully simple, but complex enough to intimidate the ham & cheese crowd. My obsession with the Bánh Mi starts with pork. While I've found that toppings vary from shop to shop, roasted or grilled pork and delicious head cheese are mainstays, bringing a deep and fatty base layer of flavor to the table. Additionally a light spread of pate and/or spiced mayo is applied to the crusty baguette and it's topped with deliciously light and crisp pickled vegetables (usually carrot, cucumber & diakon) and fresh sprigs of cilantro.

Man, they're really just too good to be true. Definitely good enough to sacrifice being fit for the summertime. Eat up, kids.

Almost as if the Banh Mi gods could hear my hallelujahs, NYC's thrid Baogette has is opening a block away. What a treat.
"Sometimes a cowboy is just a man in a cowboy suit"
- John Vanderslice