Sunday, May 23, 2010

Some Thoughts on LOST (tv)

These are my own thoughts on both the finale and the TV series as a whole. It's been an incredible ride and the finale is certainly up for interpretation. At first I felt more confused than I did watching the Sopranos finale, but all of it sank in slowly and I did feel a calm and understanding sweep over me.

The Series

Does anybody still remember that the genius touted for the sensational pilot and first season of LOST was J.J. Abrams? Even though he was obviously instrumental to the early success of the show, the show as we all remember it now really belongs to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. What they did was revolutionary in making a show that went back and forth between science and spirituality. A show that debated the many extremes of light/dark, science/faith, free will/destiny, time/memory, etc.

This thematic shift worked for me because I am a fan of opening myself up to all subjects of interest. I have no problems with being a "jack of all trades, master of none." However, LOST picked up a lot of the nerd sci-fi audience with the Dharma and time travel seasons, and I would guess that many of them are dissatisfied with the spiritual turn at the end.

The one core element, especially from the 4th season onward (when the show had set a final episode count) was love. Whether it was couples or families, this really came through in the finale, which I'll discuss below. In fact, a spoiler had come out over a month ago that when asked whether Lost was at its core a love story, Damon Lindelof replied, "You are the very first person ever to get the meaning of the show. Yes. It is a love story. Always has been...always will be."

The Finale

You can call the flash-sideways purgatory, or heaven's waiting room, or whatever you want. I thought it was explained pretty well by Christian Shephard. Everything else Jack had gone through was real. This world was just a path for him to let go. To not just live together then die alone. To rediscover those he loved and accept their love. Remember when Locke said that Jack didn't have a son? I think Jack's son was just a way for him to come to terms with his love for his father. Time did not exist in that sideways world. All those people had died at different times, but brought together by their love for each other. A clear example that time had continued to move on in the real world before they all died and went to sideways world was when Hurley and Ben had the exchange about being great number one and two, suggesting that they had continued life (which ended) as protectors of the island.

The actual island part of the story left a lot of questions, however. Wasn't the plane rigged with Widmore's explosives? What actually happened with the unplugging of the light and MIB's return to mortality? What was going on with Desmond, who sounded like he thought the sideways world was how it should be and wanted to get there?

So what are your theories? I know one of the more prevalent ones believe that this was all Jack's test. He was the "lost" one and this was about him coming back to faith. I'd be ok with that theory except for Christian's insistence that everything on the island was real. To me that throws a monkey-wrench into that whole theory.

Another Sushi Seki Review (food)

It's time for another Sushi Seki review for a couple of reasons. One, there just isn't much out there on the web about Sushi Seki. For a well-respected top level restaurant in NYC, it doesn't have much of a presence on the web. They don't even have a website. Seki doesn't seem too interested in opening multiple locations. If you google "sushi seki", a NYM article from 2003 still returns on the first page of results. Also, it's one of the few top level sushi places where I don't have to make a reservation in advance to satisfy my craving. A big reason for that is that I don't feel a big drop off in quality between sitting at a table versus sitting at the sushi bar like I feel there is at other places.

Sitting at the sushi bar, most patrons order the omakase (chef's choice). In my experience, however, the omakase at Sushi Seki is almost always the same every time. The same pieces in the same order, unlike many places where freshness and availability strongly affect what's served. So I no longer order the omakase. I've been there enough times to know which pieces I prefer and just order them separately. Below are pictures of some, but not all, of the pieces I will usually have at a dinner there.

Chopped eel and avocado.

Tuna with tofu sauce.

The three golden flowers rolls. The photo was taken after I ate exactly half of what was on the plate. Since I don't like everything on the omakase, this helps to fill me up. On the left is the salmon with tomato on top, in the middle is spicy tuna with more tuna and tofu sauce on top, and to the right is more eel with avocado.

Salmon with scallion sauce and seaweed.

Seared toro with garlic sauce.

Sauteed whitefish in butter. One of the few times to eat completely cooked fish at a sushi place. The crisp exterior gives way to buttery flaky fish that's cut just a little with the vinegar from the sushi rice.

My favorite piece of all, the triple decker. A grilled kumamoto oyster on the bottom, with a slice of chutoro and topped with uni and his green sauce. I've written about this piece before, and it's just as good as I remember it, especially if the oyster is hot and the uni is chilled. They still don't have a name for this piece, so when I order it I just show them a picture on my phone from one of my previous blog entries. I was also surprised that a regular (you could tell he was really a regular) had not seen this before I ordered it. I left before he gave it a try, but hopefully he liked it too.

Other notable pieces include the snow crab and the spicy tuna hand roll. He does have shiro ebi on occasion as well. The food is great as it is, but I give it extra points for the ease with which I can find a seat. They're also open late, till about 230am, so I hear it is a favorite of chefs who get off late and want good food.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catching up (stock/trading, sport, bridge, food, tv)

The past week has been very busy for me, and I think it will continue that way at least until I've finalized the move. Unfortunately it has also been one of my worst weeks trading in a very long time. Volatility has certainly come into the markets with the VIX in the 40s again, but there's just something I'm struggling with that I need to work out.

One of the main bits of news related to the market has been the financial reform bill. I think that most of the time spent by these lawmakers is on coming up with cute names for these bills. I personally would like to see all the derivatives stuff (and even stock dark pools) moved onto exchanges with no grandfather clause. I also think that Fannie and Freddie need to be addressed, although it looks like that's not going to happen with the Democrat-led charge.

One of the questions raised about the financial reform bill is whether the lawmakers actually understand how the markets etc. work. Obviously they don't, and my question is why we can't change that? I propose that every politician (either before running or after winning) be forced to take and pass a test that is at least at the introductory college level on basic subjects such as economics. If the person gets reelected, he/she would just have to take a continuing education course like what the NASD does for registered reps. And if the elected official is to take part in a special committee/subcommittee such as banking and finance, environmental protection, or military spending, he/she must take an even more specialized course or test to show adequate understanding of the field. Is this so hard to implement?

Staying on the subject of serious matters, this sunday is the big Lost finale. My friend SM was nice enough to get tickets to a live interview with the co-creators of Lost. It was an entertaining evening moderated by a New York Times journalist and Michael Emerson (Ben Linus) and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) also showed up. We saw a scene from the finale and they took some audience Q&As. The biggest revelation to me was when they discussed the end with Jorge Garcia. Garcia is known not only to be an actor on the show, but a big fan as well. Lindelof and Cuse offered themselves to him to answer any questions he still had after they finished the finale. His response was along the lines of, "Well I have no questions really. I mean, I got it." To me, this means that the narrative will be wrapped up in a coherent way, even though some diehards might not get the answers to some small details.

Also on TV is the NBA and I've still been watching the NBA playoffs and they continue to be a treat. Boston has a good chance to win this series now that they won both in Orlando. For those who are even thinking sweep, you have to remember that this year the Celts have actually been a better road team than home team. One interesting note is that with a "healthy" (playing) Garnett, the Celtics have not lost a playoff series yet. A Boston-LA final would probably draw terrific ratings.

I was on the winning Harvard Club team for the 2009-2010 Interclub Bridge League, a casual league that includes many social clubs in NYC such as the Yale Club, NY Athletic Club, Harmonie Club, Regency Whist Club, among others. We won the regular season by a record margin, and won the playoff as well. The playoff was a 24 board 5 team board-a-match. At halftime, we had a score of 6.5 boards and were actually in the lead as the other teams scored three 6s and a 5.5. To celebrate, one of the team members will be taking us out to Daniel, which recently won a James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant. Looking foward to it and hopefully I'll post some nice pics.

Speaking of food, here are some more pics of recent good food I've had.

This is as close as it gets to food that I would miss once I move out of LIC. While most of the places around here are overpriced Italian, there is some pretty good pizza. This combination, from the Food Cellar market downstairs (like a Whole Foods), was one of my favorites. Cooked shrimp and sliced potato provided a terrific range of textures with the slightly chewy crust and the fresh mozzarella. There was no red sauce, but some EVOO and arugula added at the end provided the perfect flavor notes.

I should have included this one in the sandwich post but forgot. It is an oreja cemita from one of the taco trucks along the 7 line. I'll be looking forward to much more of this type of food once I move back closer to the heart of Queens. While eating pig's ear is not new, I find that most Chinese preparations I've had are chilled, and so the melty gelatinous feel of the heated ear was a nice surprise.

There's a reason classics are classics. This is the oyster pan roast from the Grand Central Oyster Bar. A deliciously creamy soup/stew that goes terrifically with the plump oysters. I had to get more of the lightly toasted white bread to soak up all the sauce.

Another one that should have made the sandwich post but was hiding in my food pics folder. This is the grilled and sliced tuna sandwich also from the Oyster Bar. Perfectly grilled, still rare inside and served with a simple tomato salsa, this is a terrific value at $9 for simple, fresh flavor. They make a lot of these sandwiches during the lunch rush, so if you get there late, the main problem is that they might run out of bread to make sandwiches with (I got the last one that time at around 4pm).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Some Sandwiches (food)

Everyone loves sandwiches. Here are a few of the ones I've had recently that I hadn't profiled before. Enjoy the pics!

The soup and sandwich lunch at Gramercy Tavern. Only $14. The sandwiches change frequently but usually will be either ham, turkey, or roast beef. This picture is of the turkey sandwich with parsnip soup.

This is the roast beef sandwich. I liked it much more than the turkey sandwich, although my favorite is their ham and cheese sandwich.

Spicy catfish sandwich from Baoguette. Mild spicy. The tumeric roasted catfish has great flavor and is a very good deal at $7.

Hot roast beef from the Manhattan outpost of Defonte's of Brooklyn. It's a big sandwich stuffed with sliced to order roast beef, fresh mozzarella, and fried eggplant, with plenty of beef jus which they put on the bread as well. It's a $10 sandwich, but it's filling. The only thing I have a problem with is that it's warm, and would probably be even better if the beef and jus were really hot.

Capri sandwich from the Food Cellar Market downstairs (think Whole Foods). Fresh mozzarella and pesto on bread studded with seeds which add a really nice heartiness to it. At $7 it's ok, but after 9pm, it's buy one get one free for any pre-made sandwiches still left, so at that point it becomes a very good deal.

Pork bun at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Glorious.