Alibi Volume 13, Number 47
November 18, 2004
Alibi's hopelessly lame and thoughtless editorial staff calls in an expert for holiday shopping advice
We admit it: We're a hopelessly lame band of losers who have neither the time, energy or imagination to come up with holiday gift ideas for the folks on our lists this year. Knowing that we'd catch hell for giving out another batch of McDonald's gift certificates, we decided to call in an expert to advise us on these hard-to-shop-for friends, family members and associates. We chose the talent, style, creativity, empathy and eye for fashion of a real pro, Brendan Picker. We don't need five experts like the TV show, our guy's got it all: a degree in design, fashion flair and his finger on the pulse of all things cool. He not only gave us shopping suggestions, but in the process, transformed us from lame friends, fathers, daughters and coworkers into fabulous folks who “really care” (as far as our gift recipients know).
A Northeast Heights resident uncovers a water bill mystery
Would it upset you to learn that you might have been paying $35 more than necessary every month on your water bill for the last 13 years? Well, that's just what happened to Richard Gold, and he's not taking it lying down, or even sitting. He's standing straight up and shaking his fist, ready to charge; and it seems like he has every right to hurtle full-speed into the bureaucratic turmoil of Albuquerque government, although it might not do him much good.
Like some gawker slowing down to linger over a roadside disaster scene or a NASCAR junkie unable to tear himself away from video footage of some particularly spectacular speedway carnage, I find myself returning again and again to the Nov. 2 election results.
Dateline: England—A gang of inept thieves tried to break into an automated teller machine near a gas station in Worcester, using an oxyacetylene blowtorch. A spokesman for the local West Mercia Police summed up the results best: “The attempted theft, which was reported to police at 12:10 a.m. today, resulted in the cash machine catching fire.” With their victim in flames and their loot in ashes, the thieves ran away. Police are appealing for witnesses to the attempted theft.
And the week that was ...
De mortuis nil nisi bene, the Romans said long ago. Speak nothing but good of the dead. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's a rule we stick to in these pages. But it's not everyday the man who sired the idea of the suicide bomber passes away, either.
The last glimmer of hope in the Bush administration burns out
While I, like millions of other Americans, was disappointed in the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, I can't say I was surprised. A month out, I called a landslide in favor of Bush, much to the dismay of my coworkers and despite the fact that John Kerry handily reduced President Bush to the out-of-touch corporate puppet—not to mention moron—that he is in all three presidential debates. Closer to the election, however, I began to feel a little more hopeful that America wouldn't be stuck with Bush's misguided arrogance for another four years as the Kerry campaign gathered steam. And, I admit, I bought into the quadrennial notion that new and young voters were really going to come out in droves in a historic uprising that would change the face of American politics and, in turn, the world. Wrong. Again.
House Party—On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20, the Guild Cinema in Nob Hill will be hosting the Southwestern premiere of the new horror flick The Halfway House. The film stars cult icon Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul, Rock 'n' Roll High School, Death Race 2000) and is best described as a campy mixture of monster movie, nunsploitation and the ever-popular “girls in prison” genre. The film's writer/director, the one and only Kenneth J. Hall (Puppetmaster, Evil Spawn, Dr. Alien, Nightmare Sisters), will be in town to introduce the film, which begins at 10:30 p.m. each night. Also in attendance will be one of the film's main stars, Albuquerque's own homegrown scream queen Stephanie Leighs (The Stink of Flesh, Pretty Dead Things). Hall and Leighs will participate in a question-and-answer/autograph session following each screening. Tickets are $7 and are available at the door of the Guild Cinema. For more information, log on to www.halfwayhouse-movie.com or www.stephanieleighs.com.
Men behaving badly
Filmmaker Alexander Payne has made a career out of presenting audiences with some very thorny characters: from Laura Dern's glue-sniffing poster child for the pro-life movement in Citizen Ruth to Matthew Broderick's vindictive, decidedly unadmirable high school teacher in Election to Jack Nicholson's rootless retiree with a meaningless life story in About Schmidt. Now Payne presents us with Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), a pair of middle-aged losers stuck in an extended bout of arrested development in the gloriously painful romantic comedy Sideways.
Punks will be punks in DIY documentary
The Ramones could very well have been the most dysfunctional family in rock 'n' roll. And that's saying something in a genre of music that has spawned its fair share of dysfunction. But few of those most famously implosive bands (The Beatles, The Doors, Guns & Roses) truly fit the description of “family.” The Ramones, on the other hand, launched their shtick under the premise that they were actually brothers. Over their 20-plus years of existence, the four self-styled trouble-making punks from Queens expanded, contracted and fractured apart from stress, but they were unable to ever fully separate the bond they had with one another under the name of The Ramones.
November Sweeps sweep losers away
In television terms, it's report card time. A month after most new fall shows premiered, it's time for the dreaded Sweeps. This is the time that network ratings are tallied. Since the networks set many of their ad rates based on these tallies, they want the highest ratings they can get. As a result, shows that are, shall we say, underperforming get kicked to the curb.
The Week in Sloth
with Between the Buried & Me, Cattle Decapitation and Fear Before the March of Flames
Tuesday, Nov. 23; Launchpad (all ages, 7 p.m.): Darkest Hour are the band Metallica might have become if they hadn't gone all egotistical, drug-addicted pussy on us. Then again, “might” leaves a lot of room for speculation.
Classical music of India
Saturday, Nov. 20; Outpost Performance Space (all ages, 8 p.m.): If your idea of sitar music is George Harrison plinking away at the instrument while seated in the Lotus position during the recording of Revolver, you need a new idea. Cool and exotic as it may have sounded to those who were alive and listening intently to popular music back in 1966, the sitar—a lute-like instrument with seven playing strings and up to 13 that resonate sympathetically—dates back at least 700 years, and the music created on it within East Indian culture dates to ancient times and has a richness and history that neither Harrison nor Sir George Martin could ever hope to recreate.
Fa la la la la, la blah, blah, blah ...
Don ye now your gay apparel, because the holiday season is upon us and you're going to have to listen to at least some holiday-themed music over the next six weeks whether you want to, like it, or not. So we figure you might as well spend your time listening to the good and avoiding the bad. That's why, for the past 11 years, we've gone to the trouble of listening to the most recently released batch of holiday albums and painstakingly compiling our thoughts on them. A little holiday music is good to have around just in case you decide to throw a little party or gathering, or a bunch of creepy relatives show up for an unannounced yuletide visit. And some of this stuff really ain't that bad!
This weekend you can get a jump on holiday shopping simply by taking the 25-mile drive northward up to Placitas. Artists and art lovers of all stripes will be infesting this little burg during the 23rd Annual Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale.
Blue Surge at SolArts
As a theater critic in Albuquerque, I've got plenty of blessings to count, and the number keeps rising every month. For some reason, new theaters have been popping up all over town recently. One of the newest is a hip space at 712 Central SE operated by SolArts, a local nonprofit visual and performing arts organization.
Museum of International Folk Art
Every year just before the Catholic season of Lent, communities all over the globe let loose during one version or another of carnival. An amazing new traveling 10,000-square-foot multimedia exhibit opening this weekend at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe gives participants the opportunity to experience the many different faces of the annual event as it is celebrated in Venice, Spain, Switzerland, New Orleans, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia and Northern Africa. The only difference is that at this exhibit you won't be allowed to get either drunk or naked. $5 for New Mexico residents, free on Sundays. (505) 476-1200.
Angus Macpherson brings his talent for creating haunting ambient landscapes to a series of urban scenes in an exhibit opening this weekend at MoRo Gallery (806 Mountain NW). As is often true of Macpherson's natural scenes, these views of artificial, man-made architectures are often captured at night or in half-light. From Chicago to Tucson to San Diego to his home base in Albuquerque, Macpherson takes us with him on his nocturnal ramblings through these fascinatingly varied cityscapes. Cities opens this Friday with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. featuring a jazz performance by Jeff Solon. Runs through Dec. 31. 242-6272.
New Mexico Books & More
In years past, I've managed to largely avoid doing any Christmas shopping at malls. The crowds, the crappy plastic music, the generic chain stores—it just doesn't seem worth the migraine. This year, though, I think I'm due for an attitude adjustment.
An interview with FOUND magazine founder Davy Rothbart
Three years ago, Davy Rothbart started a little, self-published zine called FOUND. In it, Rothbart reproduced the best items he had found lying in the street: old love letters, shopping lists, kids' drawings, mangled photographs, stained postcards. Each item, separated from its creator, took on a mysterious life of its own. A humorously mutilated “Lost Kitten” flyer could share gutter space with a suicide note. Each one, a tiny riddle.
Just after I wrote that whole story on oatmeal, I noticed Quaker Supreme at the grocery store. Quaker Supreme is a line of "heartier" oatmeal packets clearly marketed for adults. It's slightly better than regular Quaker oatmeal packets, but don't be fooled. It's not great. I know I run the risk of sounding like some crazed hippie (or worse, my mother) but when it comes to prepackaged and preflavored things like oatmeal and yogurt, you're really better off making your own. Buy a big tub of yogurt. Spoon as much as you want into a glass and then add your own jam, honey, granola, cinnamon sugar, pomegranate syrup, whatever. It's always better. The same is true of oatmeal. Why would I pay extra for sub-par cinnamon- and pecan-flavored oatmeal? I mean, the stuff is still a white, pasty glop when you pull it out of the microwave, despite the picture on the box. Where is this brimming bowl of dark, richly textured oats? Not in my Radarange. For one thing, the bowl and spoon in this picture are obviously a demitasse cup and its dainty stirrer. That's it. I've had enough. I'm going to start working on making my own recipes for oatmeal and find a way to put it in individual packets. You just wait and see.
You must go eat at Pho #1. Both times I've been to this brand-new Vietnamese restaurant at San Pedro and Zuni (268-0488), it's been packed with a mix of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese patrons. What's all the fuss about? Well, the atmosphere is nothing remarkable, so it must be the fantastic food. Chef Day Nguyen previously had restaurants in Boston, Mass. and Arlington, Texas, but recently moved here for the pleasant climate. Pho #1 is owned by Nguyen's brother-in-law Hue Chung and their house specialty is the magnificent Seven Courses of Beef. Don't be intimidated by the confusing names of the dishes. Grill Hawaiian loaf leaf beef is absolutely scrumptious, for example; so is steamed beef paste/meatball mixed with glass noodles and spices. It sounds horrifying, I know, and the meatball isn't much to look at either, but I swear it's one of the best things I've eaten in recent memory. Whatever you do, don't miss the beef grilled on your table and served with a lemongrass sauce. It's to die for. Oh, and make sure you have time for a leisurely dinner. Service can be slow for a regular meal, but the seven courses of beef takes a pleasantly long time to get through as well.
A smashing new way to give thanks
Here in the Land of Enchantment, nothing says "family gathering" like whacking a papier-mâché animal until it bleeds candy. First you'll need to buy or make a piñata. The fabulous bird you're looking at now was hand-crafted by our friends Jada and Crash (call 401-8794 to order). There are instructions on how to make a simple balloon-based turkey piñata at www.familyfun.com.
What kind of bird to choose and where to get it
Is one kind of turkey really any better than another? Probably. When the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine cooked traditional frozen turkeys (labeled as self-basting) and "natural" turkeys, they discovered big differences. The vast majority of frozen turkeys are labeled as self-basting because they've been injected with fluids to make them juicier. These fluids, usually salt and broth, but occasionally artificial flavors, do indeed make a moist turkey. But Cook's Illustrated's taste-testers said they could taste some weird and unnatural flavors. You know how turkey deli meat doesn't taste anything like roasted turkey even though it's technically roasted turkey? That's what we're talking about here.