Mar 14 2006

Big Bore

beet and caracara orange salad with mint and blue cheese
I stole this exquisite salad (the idea, not the actual salad) without asking from the Asti ristorante in Hyde Park. Roast some beets. Slice some cara cara oranges. Douse with a mixture of balsamic and blood orange vinegar. Add blue cheese, chopped mint, salt and pepper. A triumph.

The official Twisty preparations for screening the polygamy-is-grand show “Big Love” commenced on Sunday. I made a TV dinner of gazpacho and beet salad, and tuned to HBO an hour early so I wouldn’t forget to watch. Whereupon I beheld what was called the “season premiere” of “The Sopranos.”

It is off-putting that TV has “seasons,” and that these seasons appear to correspond to no distinguishable calendar whatsoever. Call me an old cynic, but to me the word connotes weather and agriculture and infinity, and an abiding, ancient sort of relationship to the earth’s position with regard to the sun, and that bloody fucking Vivaldi from which no American is ever really safe, rather than 6 endlessly repeated episodes of lite Hollywood entertainment revolving around asshole characters and misogynist themes. But there you are.

Prepending the Sopranos season premiere was a montage of the actors in glamorous clothes striking poses for tilted cameras at some unidentified red carpet event. This went on for a pretty long time, and because the actors were allowed to make unscripted speeches about their characters, was unbearably dull. My obstreperal lobe began to yearn idly for “Evil Dead 2.” To have watched the severed hand scuttle across the screen and squeeze the life out of those pointless gasbag celebrities would to me have been joy complete. That this pleasant scenario failed to transpire set off in my brain the release of the hormone ennuitine that would eventually dump me in the lap of Morpheus, which semi-minor deity is as one with my lime green recliner when the TV is on.

But not before “The Sopranos” proper commenced. I haven’t watched “The Sopranos” in a couple of years (seasons?), but it didn’t matter. The best thing about that show is the opening titles. Tony still breathes loudly through his nose in order to convey his primitive dark torment (somebody get that dude some Breathe-Rite strips already), some guy gets whacked, some young couple still wants out of the mob but is trapped by the Unwritten Law, some guy still yells at his wife and throws something breakable at a wall while an innocent child cringes, and Carmella still yearns. Yearns for what? Possibly a manicurist who is not a psychopath. Bo-ring.

Call me an old cynic again, but I dislike watching guys wrap other guys in plastic, throw them in trunks of large cars, and shoot them in the head. I realize that this aspect of The Sopranos—shocking amorality roiling beneath a thin veneer of socialization—is what gives the show its celebrated gravitas or whatever, but if I have to watch blood-curdling male posturing on TV I’d rather it be a PBS documentary about chimpanzee cannibals.

Anyway, the next thing I knew, it was 3 in the morning, and the dog Bert, who does not love me according to any human definition, was shoving a stuffed toy Canada goose in my wazoo. I had entirely missed “Big Love.” I won’t lie to you. I was kind of relieved.

Lest you come away from this fluffy post with the inaccurate notion that I have bailed entirely on my masochistic “Big Love” project, let me reassure you that I did finally watch the episode in question last night during one of its ceaseless reprise performances. My pithy analysis will follow shortly.


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  1. Any brand names to recommend for the balsamic vinegar?

  2. liberalserving.typepad.com/liberalserving

    I buy the most expensive I can sneak past my conscience.

  3. I totally admit that everyone here in New York City suffers from a weird Law & Order and Sopranos fetish. Several years ago I heard the singer Diamanda Galas complain bitterly about how shitty Sandra Bernhardt’s talk show was and how dare they bump the 11 PM Law & Order out of its slot for this shit. And the worst part was that I knew exactly what she was talking about! It’s a repetition-compulsion thing, I think, and the Sopranos is also totally a NY fetish.

    But it’s a repetition-compulsion-fetish I share and so I must respectfully differ. I think the writing is among the best on TV (which isn’t saying much, I know). “The Pine Barrens” episode is famous, and rightly so.

    Big Love was a Big Bore, though halfway through I did begin to have weird paranoid thoughts and wonder if the right-wing crackpots are right and it is a weird plot to advance gay marriage; if so, the strategery is way above my head.

    However, my girlfriend Miss Patsy is crazy about beets, but she’ll balk at the mint, I know she will, is there a substitute?

    I am, as always, your
    B. Dagger Lee

  4. cypress.typepad.com

    prepending – my new favourite word.

    diamonda galas watches law and order – now THAT is remarkable.

    what, please, is a cara cara orange? not likely to be available here in the small small place where i live, but a big big place is nearby – a mere ferry ride away. and that salad looks fantastic!

    be well

  5. B. Dagger Lee,

    You’re the only person I’ve ever known to mention Diamanda Galas. I saw her perform once–she was very cool. Therefore, I think you are very cool too.

  6. Having done my 10 years in NYC, my take on the Law and Order fetish is that it is,in part at least, because the damn shows film all over the freaking place and everyone is just excited about seeing their apartment building or gym or workplace or neighborhood deli on national television for 2.3 seconds. But that is probably just because I just don’t get Law and Order. Never have. None of the various iterations.

    And I have tried, trust me. I take my tv seriously and I’ve had folks I trust recommend it, and I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t click for me.

    Kind of like beets.

    I thought the Sopranos opener was great. I’ll stick it out till the last miserable minute. Big Love was pretty blah though. I just couldn’t give a crap. But damn, I hate getting all tweaked up and ready for some show only to fall asleep and wake up after it’s over.

  7. norbizness.com

    The Sopranos, of course, suffers from the curse of extending itself several seasons.. er.. “consecutive episode batches” past where the creator saw the story arc (I think he was shooting for three, it’s now in its sixth). Deadwood might suffer the same fate, but I’ve only seen the first season (I liked it much better than the Sopranos).

    I think the shows should be judged on an individual basis, though. I’ve never subscribed to the “it’s still better than 97% of the crap on TV, so please ignore the repetition of subplots and shark-jumping” school of thought. For instance, The Simpsons should have been put down in 1997.

  8. Will I be pelted with cara cara oranges if I admit that I like Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons? I don’t really know what is considered to be trite or cliched in classical music, I’m afraid.

  9. Dear Artemis:
    While I swell a little inside when you say I am cool, I submit that anyone who thinks and feels that “TV is my friend,” as I do, is not–cool, that is. It is largely Miss Patsy who is to blame for the endless repeats of Law and Order in our house. Miss Patsy would eat the same thing for dinner every night if I did not make faces all the time, and I’m sorry to say that turnips are even higher on her list than beets. I have a deep understanding and love of root vegetables except for turnips.

    Dear lavalamp,
    I believe your theory to be true. There’s a bar down the street from my apartment that is on Law and Order all the time, and these days, there’s always a film crew there committing a visual cliche.

    Meanwhile, I jones for new Deadwood.

    I am etc.

  10. excuse me for being a big dork, but what is gazpacho? It sounds Mexican and I like Mexican food. But it is slightly harder to find in my corner of the world (we have only 2 Mexican restaurants in the city!) Please help, fellow patriarch-blamers. Of course, you know who I blame for the lack of mexican cuisine here…

  11. Its Spanish, actually, a tomato/veggie soup served cold. When its done right there are not many things on God’s green earth more delightful.

  12. Dear B. Dagger Lee,

    What is your position on parsnips?

    I admit to watching L&O only when bored out of my mind.

    The only reason I had cable for many years was The Sopranos. I recently downgraded to basic and so will be one of those dorks waiting for the dvd. I just couldn’t wait any longer.

  13. Artemis:

    I like parsnips, so I suppose parsnips are what turnips aspire to be.

    Yours, etc.

  14. liberalserving.typepad.com/liberalserving

    When done wrong, gaspacho is pretty much a V8… maybe saltier.

  15. Twisty

    BDL, I regret that there can be no substitute for the mint in the beet salad. It absolutely makes the dish. I strongly urge you to include it even over the most strenuous of Miss Patsy’s objections. I die a little inside whenever a siginifcant other disembroadens one’s gastronomic horizons. That’s just too much power. Parochial eaters are not prevented from picking mint out of beet salads.

    Cara cara oranges are pink in color and very sweet, and are worth seeking out, but any decent regular old orange will do, especially if you are just going to pelt Sylvanite with them (my objection to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” is only its ubiquity. It’s like the “Stairway To Heaven” of Baroque music).

    Buy the best, most syrupy balsamic vinegar you can afford for situations like this one, when it will be playing a major role. Use the cheap kind for “balsamic vinaigrettes” that contain mustard or honey or other additives.

    As for gazpacho à la Twisty: skin and seed 4 big heirloom tomatoes. Dice some red onion, mince some garlic, and soak these in red wine vinegar for at least 15 minutes. Hack up a bell pepper and whatever chile you’ve got lying around and a peeled, seeded cucumber and a handful of parsley. Put all of this, along with the juice of a large orange (this is my secret ingredient. Most people use a cup of tomato juice) and a few tablespoons of olive oil, into your food processor and finely chop, stopping short of a full-on purée. Salt and pepper. Chill a couple of hours. Make some croutons by tossing chunks of good bread with good olive oil and baking in a 400 degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes. Serve in a chilled bowl with croutons on the side. You will bless me on your deathbed for this.

  16. reclusiveleftist.com

    Twisty, you probably don’t care, but — I miss the small font. The largeness of the new fontitude hurts my eyeballs.

  17. Twisty

    Your wish is my command, Dr. Socks.

  18. reclusiveleftist.com

    Ohmygod. That’s amazing how you just fixed it like that on my browser, just for me specially, without changing it for anybody else!

    Seriously, if other people loved the new font they will hate me. But I love the old font, Twisty, and I thank you a thousand times. This is, after all, my favorite blog.

  19. so, L&O and the sopranos; deadwood and big love.

    anyone into the shield? CCH pounder is terrific, and made more so when I recognized her on early episodes of ER – the george clooney version.

  20. A Spaniard here: “à la Twisty,” indeed! Anyway, you might be interested, in case you don’t know them, in two cold soups, Andalousian as well: salmorejo (actually a simpler variant of gazpacho andaluz, not tejano), and ajoblanco. They make you feel even thanful for very hot weather. La felicidad hecha sopa.

  21. blinkandyoullmissit.typepad.com

    Would that we here in the Antipodes were free of the curse of CSI and Law and Order and so on; but we aren’t. We have the token Aussie drama (set in a hospital of course) and the token Aussie reality shows (if you call The Biggest Loser a reality show) and then we have hours and hours of bad American TV. It’s not that American TV can’t be good — thanks for Buffy guys — but it just pains me to watch uniformly hot and slender American people investigating remarkably similar crimes in semi-darkness every night of the week.

  22. angryforareason.blogspot.com

    Ugh I hate the Sopranos.

    Heh, I watched L&O sometimes, but that’s only because I missed NYC and my friends dad was on it (RIP). I remember beinng really pissed at them one time for making it near impossible for me to get to work, as they were filming right outside the daytime entrance.

  23. faultline.org/place/toad

    Where the fuck are you getting heirloom tomatoes in March?

  24. No cable, but my corner indie video store had season one of Deadwood, and I really liked it. Fantastic writing. Now, when will the next season be out on DVD so I can get my fix again?

    I still like the original Law & Order, but miss Jerry Orbach.

    And if “Firefly” ever got another shot, I promise you that I would be glued to it. Whedon & friends can write dialogue like nobody’s business, and there was a lot left to do in that show. I blame Fox.

  25. thaliatook.com

    Oh CafeSiren, I so heart Firefly. The world really needs more Sean Maher. (Well, okay, I really need more Sean Maher.) Stupid Fox.

    As for Law and Order, I can’t stand it. My instincts for fairness, and my understanding of the intent behind this nation’s Constitution, means I spend most of that show pissed off at the attitude of law enforcement and the judicial system they portray. They repeatedly harass suspects, never apologize or are even decent to the people they erroneously arrest, and never, never, put an innocent person on trial. Sure, they don’t always get a conviction, but when they don’t it’s always some damn technicality and wouldn’t it be so much easier and wouldn’t “justice” be served so much better if they could just rough the suspects up a bit? Argh. It seems all the new cop shows have the same attitude; it’s about revenge, not justice. No compassion. I find it very disheartening that they are so popular.

  26. Yeah, Firefly. I am so glad some one else has heard of it. It was here, it was gone, I was sad. Why why why?

    But I console myself with Netflix and “Farscape” back episodes. I did not have cable and only saw 2 or 3 episodes while it was on at friends’ houses. But like crack I was hooked at first exposure. (SF and Jim Henson puppets in one package, plus Claudia Black? How could I not?) Now I am plowing through them as fast as USPS can get the DVDs back and forth. Thank the lard (on my ass) there are 6 years worth of episodes.

    My only excuse is I knit while I watch so it is CONSTRUCTIVE couch-potatoing. Any one need some confetti-colored mittens with an elaborate ruffle at the cuff? I am almost done and can’t stand to look at them any more.

  27. Twisty

    Ron: “Where the fuck are you getting heirloom tomatoes in March?”

    I found’em at the organic grocery store. I was as shocked as you are. I approached them with caution, of course, but they looked right and smelled right and were ripe as all get-out, so I bought’em. They came from a greenhouse somewheres, I guess, and were delicious. I went back the next day for more and they were gone-daddy-gone.

  28. gaudynight.blogspot.com

    Or the mint-lover could simply assemble and plate the salad without mint, then sprinkle fresh mint only on his/her plate, leaving the mint-hater to enjoy his/her inferior salad mint-free.

    Mm, heirloom tomatoes.

  29. ha ha ha, mint-hater. what a great phrase.
    thanks for the recipe by the way. any chance of a paella one too? That’s something I’ve been particularly eager to learn.

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