Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   bait and switch
Friday, November 16 2001

Sometimes CNN is just plain embarrassing, and, unlike (say) National Public Radio, not the sort of diversion I take pleasure in admitting to. What I saw on CNN today, for example, was a particularly shiver-inducing condescension. I was treated to a graphic showing an artist's conception of one of the Afghan cave bunkers of Osama bin Laden. It was exactly the way anyone would imagine it would be: hollowed out in the rock, a room for sleeping, a room for storing fuel, and lots and lots of guns and ammo. They must really be desperate for filler content.
Then there's the issue of self-serving content, segments hyping the new movie version of Harry Potter: the Sorcerer's Stone. These huge megacorporations are so all-encompassing, it's difficult for their news subsidiaries to have any objectivity. AOL-Time Warner owns both CNN and the company that made the film Harry Potter. So stories about the film automatically become news. But things are worse than that. Even if you go through life trying to avoid the megacorporations, you end up handing them money and not even knowing it. I loathe AOL because it's destroying the minds of American adults with its fascist policies and Playskool interface (sort of like Windows XP), but then I think I'm smart by signing up for cable modem service and it turns out it's Road Runner Cable, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner! When, in the absence of anti-trust enforcement, capitalism reaches its most advanced form, choices dwindle away to none and things start feeling a little like they did back in the old Soviet Union, a place where all the restaurants on a block would be served from a common kitchen.

In the evening, Gretchen and I went on a date to the East Village. It started out as a meal at an Indian restaurant, one of those little places along 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. There are lots of little Indian restaurants on this street, and they all look very much the same. All are lit entirely by thick draping vines of jalapeno Christmas lights, and mixed in with these are other ornaments for assorted American holidays. Gretchen told me that this particular row of Indian restaurants where characterized by their cheap food that "might make you sick afterwards" and that actually there was a far better Indian place not much further up 6th Street. But I'd already seen all I wanted to see and that den of ruddy glowing jalapenos looked cozy and inviting, so we went in. The place was called Rose of India.
I was handed a wine list and immediately ordered a suspiciously inexpensive $13 bottle of French Cabernet Sauvignon, 1996. Then we turned to the business of ordering our food. The bottle of wine came out and we were pleased by the informality with which it was served. None of this fancy popping of the cork, having us examine the label, or standing by while I did the manly thing and tasted a sip. Gretchen even joked, "Like they're really going to give us the wrong wine!" But then we tasted the wine. "This tastes like water!" Gretchen proclaimed. I had to agree. It tasted like water cut with a little bit of tannic acid. Where was all that fruity flavor mentioned in the copy on the wine list? To be honest, I couldn't actually remember what I'd ordered and this just seemed like an embarrassingly bad choice. Gretchen looked at the label and began to laugh. It was "Chateau Diana Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Product." There was no year offered, and it claimed to have 6% alcohol. This substance we were drinking was nothing more than watered-down wine! Truth be told, if it hadn't been watered down, the tannins would have been so strong, it might have been even less drinkable. Suddenly we understood the lack of ceremony associated with our bottle. We'd been swindled, sold a bottle of wine that is probably only made for the purpose of restaurant wine bottle bait and switch. I must say, upon looking at the bottle myself, I was amazed to see it had actually been corked. The label, though, spoke of the same cheapness as the wine itself. It was a purple-toned plastic laminate, not a respectable paper patch. But I didn't raise I fuss; I only found out the wine I'd actually ordered when Gretchen requested the wine list at the end of our meal. Even then, we didn't say anything. I was too embarrassed and strangely entertained by what had just happened. I'd never really thought of it, but all the fussy little annoying wine rituals at the beginning of any proper meal date back to a lawless age when restaurant bait and switch was the norm, not the curiosity it is today.
Though the bottle of wine product was ultimately impossible to finish, the food itself was very good.

Next we walked to a big multiplex movie theatre and watched the new movie Heist (once again forking over money to AOL Time Warner in the process). It was, you know, one of those movies for guys who like movies, though it was a little more intelligent and complicated than your standard Chuck Norris flick. In the theatre, Gretchen sat to my right and to my left sat this woman whose perfume smelled distractingly of hot peppers. When the film was over, I remarked to a couple of Gretchen's lesbian friends (whom we happened to run across randomly) that it was a good movie, but that I didn't feel changed by it.

Next Gretchen and I walked down into the Lower East Side trying to find the Lansky Lounge. On the way down Bowery, we passed a mural depicting the nighttime skyline of New York as rectangular patterns of lit-up office windows. The World Trade Center towers were in the design, but their towering shapes had been replaced by mosaics of flowers. I remarked to Gretchen that the World Trade Center towers had been an essential lightening rod to concentrate the evil doings of foreign terrorists. Indeed, I went on, they should be rebuilt to their original height but kept completely empty. They should also be made of nurf, just in case another passenger plane is flown into them.
Once we found the Lansky lounge, we sat at a low coffee table type table and drank expensive fruity cocktails. There was an overweight gay guy at one of tables who had obviously taken his much cuter date out for dinner. The thinner, cuter date was focusing most of his attention on a huge slab of steak, his reward (so Gretchen thought) for dating a plump rich guy. I thought the thinner, cuter guy looked a little like Rory, so I told Gretchen the whole Rory story in all its horrifying detail. Gretchen briefly considered ordering something to eat, but she sort of lost her appetite on learning the salad came with shrimp and bacon. Lanksy's is a long way from its kosher roots.
We took the subway home, though we really should have taken a cab. This was partly because the trains were running slow and partly because we wasted considerable time waiting on the wrong platform.

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