I freelance edit and design motion graphics when I’m not consumed with death anxiety or chronic IBS and sometimes I get to work on some really fun projects. Below is my most recent, a pilot for Travis Irvine’s Overbite Pictures called “Congressdude”. I designed all of the Fox News style graphics that you see at the beginning. Check it out:
Less than 24 hours after getting back to San Francisco from New Orleans I found myself watching the Saints win their first road playoff game in team history against the Eagles (apologies to Joe Tobin, no apologies to Kevin Shea). Exactly what I expected to go wrong in the game went wrong: Drew Brees threw two interceptions against a team that leads the leauge in takeaways. Despite this, the Saints still won because exactly what I didn’t think would happen did: the Saints defense showed up HUGE and Mark Ingram suddenly became an (almost) every-down back.
To celebrate the Saints season lasting at least one more week, I’d like to share with everybody my takeaways from a few new restaurants I tried while out in New Orleans. If you know me personally you might be aware that I have a Google Doc of about a dozen or so things to go see and, most importantly, eat in New Orleans that I gladly hand out to people who are visiting there. Some of these might make it onto the doc, but for those that don’t its less about how good they were and more about their location.
These are in order of when I tried each.
Don’s Specialty Meats
If you ever find yourself driving from Houston to New Orleans you’ll notice several signs off the road for boudin and cracklins, mostly near Lafayette. I usually drive right by them because I always stop at Prejean’s restaurant for a mid-trip meal. Its perfectly situated halfway between the two aforementioned cities and they have the best gumbo you’ve ever eaten. This time, however, I couldn’t help myself. I still ate lunch at Prejean’s but I bought a cooler and some ice and stopped at Don’s, which is just within a mile or so of Prejean’s anyway. Don’s isn’t a restaurant but rather a pit-stop with, according to locals, the best boudin and cracklins in town. Oh, I should probably explain that boudin is a type of sausage made with pork liver and rice and cracklins is basically Louisiana’s version of pork-rinds. I bought some cooked boudin for the cooler and a small bag of cracklins, just to try a few before lunch. Cracklin’s are amazing, fried pork skin with cajun/creole seasoning bursting with hot fat. I ate about three pieces until I had to stop to keep my heart from exploding. I ate the boudin the following morning with eggs. Its harder to describe the boudin because it looks like sausage but when you cut into it shredded pork and rice fall out. It’s really, really good and something you have to try if you get the chance. Just don’t sacrifice the trip to Prejean’s to make it happen. Pro-Tip: Since Don’s knows people are just passing through and will need to store their boudin in coolers until they get to their destination they sell a variety of cheap styrofoam ones at the store.
This place is in Mandeville so I don’t imagine anyone reading this outside of the North Shore will go there but I have to give this place some credit. Its in the city’s old downtown and has the type of food and atmosphere you’re more likely to find in a sought-after New Orleans establishment. Finer, Brennan’s-style food is on the menu (think grilled redfish with lump crabmeat) and its unbelievable. The restaurant itself looks great, with an old bar that is made out of finely carved wood. My old man took me and Steph here for dinner, and we were very grateful.
Lüke is a restaurant that I found out about from Tom Fitzmorris’ food show. Its a John Besh restaurant, whom you might recognize from Iron Chef. What makes this place unique is its inclusion of German-themed food, apparently inspired by a forgotten era in New Orleans cuisine. There’s plenty of French food on the menu, though. We had crab bisque to start and the California-forbidden foie gras, which came in a ridiculous deck-of-cards sized portion. We split an entree, the pork shank with sausage and pigs belly, which I’d recommend. The prices aren’t cheap but the portions are huge so it winds up being a pretty decent deal if you split the main course. Everything was amazing, its probably the best German food I’ve had. Even better, its in the CBD which is a quick stroll from the French Quarter but doesn’t attract the regular onslaught of tourists you see a few blocks away. If you find yourself in Nola and you’re more of a meat-and-potatoes guy, definitely come here.
I always tell everyone who is going to New Orleans to hop in a cab, go Uptown and eat breakfast at Slim Goodies. Now I believe I’ll tell everyone who is there for more than one day to also hop a cab to the Bywater and go to Elizabeth’s for their other morning meal. The Bywater is located in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, formerly a very poor and notoriously sketchy neighborhood that is now inexplicably gentrified and often referred to as, wait for it, “hipster”. I’ll give you the gentrified part, for sure, but maybe we just have bigger hipsters in San Francisco. The people at Elizabeth’s look just like that, people. And even if it was crawling with moustachioed dudes from Brooklyn I’d still eat there. Its delicious. There’s poached eggs on fried green tomatoes and eggs with fried chicken livers topped with pepper jelly. All kinds of awesome. The portions here are huge and the caloric alchemy is diabolical (the fried chicken livers come with a heaping portion of buttery grits. I mean, come on). You may want to walk back to the French Quarter after eating here, and apparently nowadays you can.
On first glance, this restaurant reminded me a lot of the places we have in San Francisco. Lots of wood, very dark, romantic lighting, a hip, attractive staff. The menus used old-timey font and have smug, asshole phrases like “Daily Soup Preparation”. The big difference, however, was that the food wasn’t overrated. Unlike those shitheads in the Mission who charge $25 for fried chicken the folks at Sylvain actually put together a meal that’s worth your money. The selection wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a restaurant of this tier in the French Quarter: redfish, shrimp with popcorn rice, quail. Really nice stuff, and with decent prices: some entrees go lower than $15. And way nicer food than you’d get at the Mission restaurant at a greater cost. I mean fuck me, do you want quail with cornbread stuffing, creamed mustard greens and warm tasso vinaigrette for $25 or fucking fried chicken? Fried chicken is delicious but it isn’t $25 bucks. Honestly, the only downside to Sylvain was that I couldn’t stop thinking about the bank robbers in SF while I was enjoying a much better meal with the same ambiance and lower price.
Anyway, sorry, I digress. I don’t want to takeaway from Sylvain here. If you are in New Orleans looking for a nice, candle-lit meal with your lady or guy and you don’t have a ton of money to blow, go here. Like I said, you can get an entree for under $15, that’s a killer deal for a nice place like this in the Quarter. Sure, that will only leave you with a choice between their three sandwiches, but throw another dollar on the table and you get pappardelle bolognese. BOOM. Guess what $16 gets you at Maverick? The ol stink eye.
Hey everybody, I’m here in Slidell, Louisiana, clacking away at Dad’s computer. I’ll be in my favorite place to be for New Years Eve tomorrow: New Orleans. Its my 3rd year in a row celebrating the New Year in that city and it still hasn’t become old. Usually I leave the Big Easy to head back to San Francisco on January 1rst but since things fell mid-week this time around I’m staying until the 3rd, which means I’m in town for Leon Blanda’s show at the House of Blues on Thursday, January 2nd!
Show starts at 8pm and will be in the Voodoo Garden unless it rains. Then it will be at another part of the House of Blues. Just ask someone when you get there. Say something like, “Hey, were da comedy show at?” And they’ll point you in the right direction. Just show up at 225 Decatur St in New Orleans at 8pm on Thursday night and you’ll figure it out.
There’s more Google bus protesting today, with things in Oakland getting way out of hand, but I won’t be posting my opinions on the matter this time around. So you can all breathe easy.
No, instead I wanted to make sure everybody who comes here is aware of my upcoming shows at SF Sketchfest. The dates are now listed on my Calendar and you can check out the sweet, sweet performer page that the good people of Sketchfest put up for me here.
Comedy festivals are awesome to do and its particularly great that this one is in my own backyard. The whole list of events is here and let me tell ya, there’s a shit-ton of great shows this year. Really glad to be a part of it.
edit – my calendar is fucked right now. Just go to the sketchfest website for the shows. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
I made red beans and rice for the first time yesterday. I had planned on doing it for the past couple of days and I’m glad I did, it was just what I needed after spending most of the weekend working on a freelance project and watching the Saints get demolished by the Rams (why is it always the Rams? Is this some fucked up unbalanced karma from Hakim dropping the god damn ball?)
Anyway, the recipe I used was from Tom Fitzmorris’ website nomenu.com. Tom is the host of New Orleans’ long-running Food Show, a radio program that could only exist in a city like Nola. Its three hours of restaurant and recipe talk shoe-horned in an ESPN affiliate station. The live callers are the best part of the show. Usually I hate the call-in portion of any radio program. No one offers anything really interesting to say and often they just embarrass themselves on the air. Not with the Food Show. You get a lot of great info and its all told through thick New Orleans, Metairie or St. Bernard Parish accents that you won’t hear anywhere else in the country. Recently one caller brought up red beans and rice and after hearing their discussion I decided to take a crack at it.
Truth be told, I used to hate red beans and rice as a kid, and with good reason. It was commonly served for lunch at whatever Slidell, Louisiana school I was going to at the time and it was always god-awful. Its amazing that I like any food at all considering how often I ate public school lunches (always). I remember they were something like fifty cents, or maybe a dollar once I got into high school. At the beginning of the month you would go to a booth with a 20-spot and someone would hand you a bunch of red raffle tickets as if you were going to the world’s saddest carnival. The only ride was disappointment. The best case scenario for lunch was something that had no flavor at all, otherwise it was just nasty. Which is what public school red beans and rice were. I’m not sure of their ingredients other than kidney beans and white rice but I strongly suspect that dirt was a crucial element. It was often served with a dry, frowning piece of cornbread that was so bad it can only be described by its own flavor: public school cornbread. Not surprisingly, I hated cornbread for years. Thankfully I got over my hatred for both of these normally delicious foods. Especially cornbread. I mean, really, how do you fuck up the buttery and flakey goodness that is cornbread? Easy, you add dirty ass to it. Fuck that cornbread.
Allright, now that I’m done venting, here’s Tom’s recipe, which can be viewed in full here. I mostly stuck to it, any additions I made are in bold.
1 lb. dried red beans
1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
12 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. savory (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water. You probably want to rinse them off, too.
2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).
3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.
4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick. Cook at a higher heat or for longer than two hours to make the soup matrix a little thicker. Tom prefers his red beans and rice more “soupy”, which is apparently more traditional. I like the new, thicker variety, which just requires you to cook off more water.
5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. You will need more salt, definitely. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley. I added in the bacon, crumbled up into bits.
The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat. This isn’t optional in my book. I used four small/medium sausage links cut into small disks. Don’t chop the sausage up into little bits like an idiot. They should be little hockey puck disks. I also wouldn’t get caught up in finding a sausage that says “Louisiana”, “Cajun” or “andouille”. That shit can be hard to find and sometimes unnecessarily expensive outside of Louisiana. Look for something that is smoked. Ideally you want something smoked and spicy but smoked is more important. You can always add cayenne to make the shit spicier.
Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.
Serves six to eight.
Hey, did you guys see that thing in SF today? You know, the thing all over the twitters?
Yea! This Thing:
In case you missed it, a Google Bus was stopped by activists this morning protesting its use of city bus stops to transport tech employees to Mountain View without compensating the city for use of the stops (whew). I was stoked to read about this. Yes, there is apparently something, “in the works” to regulate these buses as some blog commenters have pointed out but nothing has been done up to this point. And even when a deal is reached its hard to imagine it not greatly benefiting the tech firms. Unless, of course, the people speak out.
Honestly, my first thought was, “what took so long?” In a city known for its activism, its been really quiet around here. Aside from a pathetic “anti-gentrification” rally were a small crowd beat up a Google bus pinata, there haven’t been a lot of organized protests on the matter. Which is surprising given that every other article I read about now has to deal with evictions, rising rents and a City that is rapidly losing its character. “When do we reach our boiling point?” I wondered. Occupy SF wasn’t that long ago, I’ve seen what happens when people get pushed too far.
So finally, today we get a well organized protest with a clear message. And then this happens:
Man was I pissed! What an asshole, right? Twitter sure was pissed, too. Facebook was pissed once it heard the news from Twitter. Everybody’s pissed everywhere.
Then this happened:
Fake Google Employee Was An Actor, Union Organizer, And Occupy Mainstay
A staged event! Holy shit! Well, I got all pissed off at this guy. So did Twitter and Facebook. The blogs who reported on the guy were extra pissed because they felt they were deceived. We’re all still pissed but now for different reasons!
Luckily for me I have a friend in Nato Green. While I like to believe I’m a reliable left-wing guy who shows up at his town hall meetings and supports activism, I really know very little about protesting and how it works. For example, I never knew that there is the occasional theater act. Protesters like Max Alpern, the real name of the fake Google employee, will act out the scenario that they are protesting against. This theater is obviously an act to those who are watching it. Being a comedian, I immediately got this. This guy Max was putting on a show and the media being the dummies they are thought it was real and reported it as such. Or maybe they knew it was fake and reported it as real anyway for the added exposure. After all, the Guardian was the paper that uploaded the video of Alpen and distributed it as fact despite their having interviewed Alpen as a member of Occupy a couple of years ago.
Not everyone gets to have Nato explain things to them, though, so the chorus of, “this guy ruined the protest” is still ringing out. The online news sources are really butt-hurt; the SF Weekly felt the need to write an article chastising his actions. Everyone seems to think that Alpern should have turned around after his performance and acknowledged it was theater. If what Nato tells me is true this is absurd, it would be like me saying, “just kidding!” after every joke. I’m doing comedy, you get it – he’s doing theater, you should get it. But then I read a comment by Boots Riley that made me think even a bit further. Responding to a friend of mine who made a point about the theater getting all the attention rather than the protest, Boots wrote, “Few would have heard about it if not for the theater.” He’s right. He’s so right that I wondered, “What if Alpern did really try to dupe everybody into thinking he was a Google employee? Would the end justify the means?” Since that is what happened regardless of his intent (for the record, I believe he had no intent to fool anyone) I think the answer is yes.
I’ve learned that protesting has a lot to do with visibility and disruption. Not long ago I was one of those people who didn’t understand Critical Mass. “All it does is clog traffic and piss people off, what’s the point,” I’d think. Well, that’s exactly the point, dummy. Without the big show no one pays attention to these causes. I read some comments about the bus protesters stating that they’re just holding up traffic and keeping people from work. They’re being a nuisance, not solving a problem, etc. This argument is silly when you get right down to it. If not the disruption, what’s the alternative? Ask politely? Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Everyone did ask nicely, a whole lot of times. And nobody listened. So now we are stopping your bus or filling your traffic lanes with bicycles until you do listen. If part of that noise is a guy impersonating an antagonistic figure, so be it. The attention to the issue is what matters.
Great news, I’ll be appearing in SF Sketchfest this year in three shows. I have all the dates. I’ll give those out in another update.
Also, I’ve lost my voice. Will probably write about that later, too.
For now, I just re-watched Alien at the recommendation of Joe Tobin. This was always one of my favorite sci-fi movies but it’s been a while since I last sat down and enjoyed it. All I’ve gotta say is, man, what a fantastic-looking fucking movie. I mean, I always loved the tone, atmosphere and slow-pacing, but on this viewing I really found myself admiring the cinematography and set design. The Nostromo is a kaleidoscope of lights, buttons and switches, some that do nothing and others that self-destruct the vessel. There are two particular parts of the ship that I find really impressive. There is one near the main controls that has a pentagon-shaped light source on the ceiling, casting great halos around the crew while the light from the consoles illuminates their faces. The other is the white, “lite-bright” room where the crew communicates with the computer, “Mother”:
Yea, there’s no good reason I can think of as to why the room looks like that, but damn it looks good nonetheless. Then there are the alien planet sets that appear absolutely massive. In an era where matte paintings and miniatures were the only way of executing these types of effects its pretty amazing how seamlessly everything looks. Pair this with the dark lighting, occasional lens flares and haunting sound design and you have yourself one really sensory-satisfying film.
Most people I talk to about the Alien franchise tend to say that James Cameron’s “Aliens” is better than Ridley Scott’s original. I (and Joe Tobin, apparently) feel like its comparing apples and oranges. “Aliens” is a mile-a-minute thrill ride with colorful characters and a great, wider-reaching story. “Alien” is a slow burn; it’s classic 70′s pacing that takes a long time to set the stage and then gives you a massive payoff at the expense of a larger narrative. Given the awesome look of the film, it deserves the shuffling and plodding. We need the time to take in just how awesome each shot looks.
I was wondering if comics truly use their personal websites for anything more than placeholders to direct traffic to social media websites. The answer? Yes, except for me. So I’m going to use social media to track back to this post – take that me! Truth is I have a bunch of stuff going on in the next 48 hours and its too much to list on twitter. So I’m back to my neglected blog to give write out all the goods. Here we go.
TONIGHT, Wednesday November 20th.
I’m at the Sacramento Punch Line middling for my pal Reggie Steele. My other pal Marcella Arguello is opening. If you live in that part of town I defy you to find a better time in Arden Fair for $15 and walking distance from a Sleep Train. Tickets: http://punchlinesac.com/event/1C004B31E0379525
1. I’m doing a benefit for spinal cord injuries and I’m really glad to be a part of it. I haven’t done a benefit in a while, probably not since last year, and its always a great feeling. This will be in SF at the Barrel House and tickets can be purchased here: http://www.juliasmiracle.com/
Sal Calanni and I filmed a short last year as a pitch for a travel show. It was rejected. This Thursday, however, it rises from the ashes and will be screened at The Roxie Theater as part of the Festival of the Moving Image! Take that Hollywood! The screening is at 7pm, which means Sal and I won’t be there. Why? We are both performing at the aforementioned benefit, that’s why. We do intent to be at the after party at the Pork Store, however, so if you come check out our film be sure to tell us how much you liked it / hated it while we drink and wait for people to notice us. Info and tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/festivalofthemovingimage
Ok, that’s it for now. See you in 3 months.
So these past few days have been pretty awesome. Doing the Late Late Show was a great experience and the positive response from everybody has been amazing. Thanks to Craig, Phil, Bart and all the people at the Late Late Show who gave me the opportunity, Molly and the Punch Line and Jamie and the Hollywood Improv for giving me stage time, Kevin Shea for housing me in LA, and Ryan Stout for his sound advice after I ate it the night before taping.
I’d also like to express an extra-special thanks to my friends from Slidell. I was uncertain of how everyone would react to hearing someone call their hometown a piece of crap (and obviously I didn’t care because I said it anyway). Thankfully, instead of burning my effigy in the streets of Olde Town, my old friends and acquaintances responded by congratulating me and then posting and re-posting my set on Facebook and Twitter over and over again. There’s nothing better than a crowd that can take a joke, and you guys were one hell of a crowd. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
It sure feels great to be typing this: I will be making my national TV debut on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson this Thursday!
I’ll be doing the Improv that Wednesday at 10pm in West Hollywood if you’d like a preview, too!
– very excited Matt