Yay.

When Hitler died, some immediately fretted that the USSR would fill half the power vacuum in Germany. And they weren’t wrong. But it didn’t change the fact that his death was a glorious day for the civilized world. As is this.



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Let Them Eat 40-Day Dry-Aged Burger, Caramelized Ramps, Hostettler Bergblumenkaese Cheese, Seared Foie Gras, and Black Truffles.

From 312 Dining Diva comes this news about a menu item at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago:

…Guests can order the $225 (YES, you read that correctly!) sandwich that comes loaded with its famed 40-day dry aged burger. It’s topped with caramelized ramps pickled in-house, Vidalia onion, Hostettler Bergblumenkaese cheese, seared foie gras and shaved black truffles.

All that goodness is encased in foie gras brioche made in house (in which fresh, foie gras butter is incorporated into freshly baked brioche). You’ll also get lobster tater tots accompanied by a rich, creamy caviar Hollandaise for dipping.

Can the revolution be far off?


Grammy-Winning Group Seems to Yearn for Those Good Old Slave-Holding Years.

Most of us learn in high school American history that “antebellum” refers to the years before the Civil War (it is Latin for “before the war”). So why did the country group Lady Antebellum decide to call itself that?

Here’s the answer given by one of the band members in a recent interview:

We knew when we came up with this name that we’d have to explain it everyday for the rest of our lives. We were taking some photos one day in front of some old ‘antebellum’ style houses in Nashville, and that word came out and it just kinda stuck.  The word has a nostalgic feel to it, and in a weird way we felt that reflected our sound and what we were going for.

Okay, the reason I’m not buying the completeness of that answer is that those antebellum style houses are called antebellum style houses because the word has meaning–the style of those houses is pinned to the period in the South that preceded the Civil War, and since “antebellum” means anything that is tied to that time and place, it is an apt descriptor of the style. That “nostalgic feel” in the band’s name is a nostalgic feel not just for  plantation-style houses, but for those good old slavery years that gave rise to them. I think Lady Antebellum wants it two ways–to subtly evoke nostalgia for that period in those who are nostalgic for it, and to deny any deliberate evocation.

Was Lady Antebellum’s top priority to appeal to racists when they chose their name? I’m not saying that. Since they’re from Tennessee, their first association to the word was probably architectural. But I’m guessing  history is taught mostly the same in the South these days as it is in the North, and that means the band should have been able to step back and say, “Wait a second. This word has meaning–a meaning which is much larger and more central to our nation’s history than whether a house has an exaggerated portico with lots of columns.” They didn’t do that. And (here’s the suspicion I wish I could dismiss) perhaps they don’t mind if, just incidentally, a benefit of their name is that it appeals to a reactionary streak in a portion of their fan base.


Keep Hope Alive.

Christina Rossetti.

This being December 11, only ten days remain before the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. And that, dear friends, means that only eleven days remain before the days start getting longer again!

This is something I tell myself to get through the bleak Midwest midwinter.* Maybe it helps you to think about it, too.

*Paradoxically, one of my favorite Christmas carols is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” the lyric for which began life as a poem by the nineteenth-century English poet Christina Rossetti, pictured above.


Shows Within Shows.

On the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which contained excerpts of an imagined “Seinfeld Reunion Show,” we saw once again how difficult it is even for a great writer like Larry David to find inspiration when writing a show-within-a-show. The segments were surprisingly lame. They weren’t intended to be lame, since we could hear the “Seinfeld” studio audience yukking it up and Larry and Jerry seemed happy with the product. But lame they were. If the original Seinfeld had been as unfunny as the excerpts of this fictitious reunion show, it wouldn’t have lasted a season.

What accounts for the classic difficulty of the “show-within-the-show”? It goes as far back as Hamlet; the play that Hamlet and his players put on within Hamlet is not as good as Hamlet. On Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 from a few seasons back, about brilliant writers who produce an SNL-type show, everything we saw of the SNL-type show stank, even though Sorkin’s writing for his actual characters was up to his characteristically good level. On 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon is presented to us as a smart, funny writer, but everything we see of the show she’s writing (“The TGS Show”) sucks.

I think the answer is twofold. One, writers can only write their best for characters they care about. And for Larry David, ten years after Seinfeld ended, that doesn’t include the characters of Seinfeld. Aaron Sorkin cared about his characters who created a sketch comedy show, not the characters in the sketches they created. Shakespeare cared about Hamlet, not so much the characters Hamlet came up with.

Two, it’s hard enough just to write a show, never mind a show-within-a-show. The energy it takes to write a great show leaves very little for the show-within-the show. When writers get to that point, I think they’re exhausted and just fill in the blanks as best they can. Inspiration is long gone.

Exceptions to the rule are few, and involve stretching the definition of “show within a show” a bit. In the movie Funny People, a comedy from last summer about standup comics, Judd Apatow managed the feat of making the material his standup comic characters delivered on stage funny. In Mad Men, Matthew Weiner has managed to make the ads created by his Madison Avenue characters good when they’re supposed to be good. In general, though, the show-within-the-show defeats the best of writers.