In The News
So, China’s gone and censored your internet again. No worries. Just make sure your friends, family and bureau chiefs in the West all have a copy of this code list and you’ll be able to communicate freely – just like you’ve kind of gotten used to. You can send your postcards and emails knowing that the People’s Republic security apparatus will be none the wiser.
The asparagus here is amazing.
I think my room is bugged.
The asparagus here is definitely amazing.
I know my room is bugged.
Everyone is very polite.
I’m not sure which ones are the spies and which ones are just being friendly.
I am absolutely in love with the soup dumplings here.
The traffic is obscene. No one knows how to drive.
I’ll make sure to get you and Brenda some kitschy Chairman souvenirs.
OMG! People seem oblivious to the fact that Mao killed 70 million of his countrymen.
The weather reminds me of Burbank.
I can’t breathe!
We saw the Forbidden Palace, which was really impressive. So much history!
Everyone at Tienanmen Square looks tense, like someone might mention what happened there.
It’s a lot different than I’d imagined.
It’s not communism. It’s like totalitarian capitalism. They can’t possibly
keep this up. They must know this.
Honestly, it’s some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had.
George Orwell would totally be
I have a new love: Sesame Luck Noodle.
The track team was juicing! I saw it first hand!
Peter prefers to skip the guidebooks and go out on his own.
Peter asked what happened to the guy who stood in front of the tanks
and yelled at the army.
Peter’s been trying out his Mandarin on the bellhop.
Peter told them Taiwan was not part of the People’s Republic.
Peter sends his love.
Peter was sentenced to death.
Banterist talks with Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Kevin Sydney Melton about the newly-designed New York City taxi logo that no one likes.
Why did they decide to change the logo from the old-fashioned stencil to one that no one likes?
While adding a powdered milk-like substance to my coffee in the break room it occurred to me that New Yorkers had lost the feeling of camaraderie we’d all had right after 9/11. I wanted to bring that sense of solidarity back by giving New Yorkers something they could all wholeheartedly agree to despise.
A lot of people are saying “It looks like crap. It’s something I could have come up with by accident.” Was that intentional?
We felt quite strongly that a good design would make graphically-challenged individuals feel bad about themselves. I went to a school that didn’t use grades because they’re divisive and can hurt your feelings. In that same spirit I wanted a logo that anyone – regardless of race, creed or intellectual capacity – would feel they could have designed on a Macintosh SE with a pirated copy of MacPaint.
Can you walk us through the design process?
Sure. One of our designers found an old floppy disk from 1989 that had a crude bitmap font still on it. Apparently the original owner of the floppy had hoped to destroy the disk and the crude bitmap font, but failed. So we used it.
What about the T in the circle?
It’s funny how that came about. I was on the phone with a friend from Massachusetts and he said “It’d be wicked awesome if you stole the logo that we use for the mass transit system here in Boston. It’s a T in a circle.” So that’s exactly what we did.
Was the “axi” intentional, or were you hoping that it looked like it belonged to the plagiarized T in the circle?
We were hoping people would see “Taxi” instead of “axi” but then we realized it’s even better this way. When you see “axi” it leaves you wondering what someone must have been thinking. Turns out it’s the same kind of bewilderment you experience when you realize all the cabs are off-duty at 4:30pm – when you need them the most.
So you’re happy with the new New York City taxi logo that no one likes?
From my perspective, yes. It’s like we took a bunch of outdated fonts, stuffed them in a blunderbuss and shot them on the side of a car. As far as I’m concerned it’s a total success.
Little Mommy Play All Day Toddler Doll
Only plays half day before shooting strychnine spikes at your child.
Lightning McQueen Twin Race Car Bed
Bed implodes when exposed to FM radio waves.
Little Tikes Shopping Cart
Razor-sharp chlorine wheels release toxic gas when exposed to water.
Leads children to sockets.
Checkers smolder when exposed to youth.
The Farmer Says
Animals issue Fatwas.
Pretend and Play Doctor Kit
Breakable plastic pieces packaged in bird flu.
Fisher Price Chatter Telephone
Phone summons Chinese assassin.
Bedtime Dora The Explorer
Shouts in Spanish; convenes hastily-assembled tribunal prone to issuing death sentences.
Jay Jay Wooden Jet Plane
Crushes child’s windpipe when removed from packaging.
Atlanta actor Mike Schatz plays the character of Emory on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The Cartoon Network show is currently in the news for a guerrilla ad campaign that wreaked havoc in Boston, and produced one of the greatest press conferences of all time. I tapped Mike for an iChat interview that took eighty times longer than I expected.
Brian Sack: You play Emory, one of the characters in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Are you aware of that?
Mike Schatz: Yes, I am.
Not ever having seen the show, can you explain the character to me?
I play the part of Emory, a Plutonian alien who flies around the universe with another Plutonian who goes by Oglethorpe. Emory looks like a Christmas tree, wears a sweatband and oozes soap.
According to the New York Post, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force is “geared toward the Doritos-munching insomniac stoner crowd.” Is that pretty much who you imagine is listening to you when you’re acting in front of the microphone?
Well, that pretty much is what I am when I’m acting in front of a microphone, so no comment.
Have you ever worried that you were an unwitting pawn in a terrorist organization?
1/31/07 – Never Forget
If you saw a Lite Brite giving you the finger, would you assume Al Qaeda was involved?
It was my understanding that shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that the government brought in Hollywood writers to conjure up some of the worst case terrorist scenarios. I don’t think any of them could have seen this coming though.
Apparently the campaign had been underway for weeks in several cities, but no one noticed until recently. What do you think that says about our state of readiness, some five years after 9/11? Are other cities “less ready” or is Boston “more ready”?
It is the home of the Minute Men.
Are you implying it takes them a minute to ascertain the situation and respond accordingly?
Well, in this case it took three weeks to notice and three commercial breaks on Fox to actually retrieve the device and blow it up on national television.
In New York, the MTA has a mass transit security campaign called “If You See Something, Say Something.” Do you think spotting guerrilla marketing endeavors is what they had in mind?
I think if you don’t see wires hanging out of the lite brite, then things would have been fine. I think wires freaked people out long before Al Qaeda did.
Initial criticisms of the PATRIOT Act were that it wiped its bum with the Constitution. In light of recent events, do you now think it should be expanded to cover all aspects of promotional campaigns and marketing to keep America safe?
Boston police did what they were supposed to do in that situation, which was to protect the public. If eliminating advertising was in the best interest of public safety, well, it should come as no surprise that Attorney General Gonzales is on the board of directors for TiVo.
Do you think this whole event has anything to do with Boston wanting to be higher profile in the hopes that The Departed wins an Oscar?
So you’re saying that Boston was using Aqua Teen Hunger Force?
That’s where I was headed. Either that or Mitt Romney wants attention. Moving on: I have had to deal with Massachusetts State Police on several occasions – once when I was ticketed for “kissing passenger” and another time when I was arrested for not paying the “kissing passenger” ticket. I personally think the long-haired hippie guy who got nabbed should be terrified. Can you pass on my fears to him?
I originally thought an iChat interview might be a good way to generate quality material in a short amount of time, allowing me to go back to the book I’m supposed to be writing. Your overall typing speed has made me completely reevaluate that belief. Are you in the middle of building a shed?
[Tremendous pause] I’m not that connected. Nor should my views reflect the views of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Adult Swim, The Cartoon Network, Turner Broadcasting, AOL Time Warner or Mitt Romney. I think they all feel pretty bad about what happened.
I’m slow because I’m at work.
Building a shed.
I’m originally from Boston, but I live in New York. Do you understand why now?
I grew up in Boston. So I can’t understand why you’d live in New York.
Seeing that Aqua Teen Hunger Force has a movie coming out, this couldn’t be worse timing to have their show on the front pages of nationwide publications. Right? Right?
I think that the coincidence is unfortunate. Aqua Teen has a very strong following, and those people are going to the movie and I hear it’s great. I recorded my part 3 years ago though, so I’m not sure how the John Kerry jokes are going to go over.
Hopefully better than John Kerry’s jokes. Moving on: Every bar in Boston asks for ID until you’re about 40. It’s really miserable. Why do they do that?
Because one person who looked 40 but was really 18 ruined it for everybody.
Lastly: If you could say one thing to the good, often loud citizens of Beantown, what would it be?
You don’t need Todd Helton.
I thought it would be just another lonely night nursing my Guinness in my smoke-free watering hole – until he caught my eye. By “he” I mean New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The mayor was glowing like a guardian angel sent from heaven to protect us all from everything. Our eyes locked. Within seconds I found him next to me, making sure I was properly seated on the stool so that I didn’t fall off and hurt myself.
I was humbled by his compassion and love as he checked the soles of my shoes to see that they weren’t perilously worn. He looked up at me and smiled.
“Thank you for banning trans-fats,” I said, saluting him with a flavorless French fry.
“My pleasure,” said the mayor as he set about blunting the bar’s dangerously sharp cocktail toothpicks.
He fixed a steely gaze on another patron’s hamburger and snapped his fingers. Immediately the City Council and Board of Health appeared behind him.
“I want all hamburgers to be cooked for 85 minutes,” said the mayor, “only then can we make every burger in this great city safe. God help us.”
His entourage nodded in unison and immediately passed legislation. I was impressed by his incredible power and Bono-like concern for us New Yorkers.
He ran about the bar pouring boiling water on every raw oyster he could find. Everyone applauded. He returned to me, trading my worn baseball cap for a much warmer wool beret. Before I could thank him he was strapping me in to a life jacket in case I accidentally fell into the Hudson.
His desire to protect me – to protect all of us – obviously knew no bounds. I felt like I owed him one.
“May I buy you a drink, Mister Mayor?” I asked.
“Sure,” said the kind-hearted billionaire, “a non-alcoholic one in something safe and shatter-proof.”
He glanced over at the Board of Health. They immediately understood what he meant and legislation was passed faster than you could say “nanny state.” Within seconds the bartender had transferred my Guinness to an 8 oz. plastic cup. And it wasn’t Guinness, but rather sugar-free molasses juice.
The mayor turned his attention back to me, eyeing me from head to toe.
“Lovely scarf,” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied.
“But the wind could blow it and it might get caught on the side-view mirror of a bus,” he said, “you’d be dragged to your death or suffer abrasions, and I would cry and cry and cry.”
Tears welled in the guardian mayor’s eyes. Before he could turn to the Council and Board members behind him, legislation had already been passed. Buses were illegal, and several NYPD officers had been reassigned from homicide to rogue scarf patrol.
“Let’s you and I get out of here,” said the mayor. We left.
Outside, the air was cold and inhospitable. The mayor looked over at his entourage. They seemed unable to do anything. He was grief-stricken.
“I’m sorry it’s cold,” said the mayor, “if I could change the weather, I would. Believe me.”
He held my hand and helped me across the street. We passed several French restaurants that were forbidden from serving foie gras before finally arriving at the Freedom Tower. At one story tall, it was not technically a tower.
“Towers are dangerous,” said the mayor. He unlocked the giant steel door and ushered me into a room filled with nothing but amazingly soft, non-flammable pillows.
“You’ll be safe here,” said Mayor Bloomberg, “I’ll be back later. With everyone else.”
And with that he was gone. But not before decreeing all sidewalks be made out of sponge.
Cuisine: Soul, Caribbean, Latin
Cards: All majors, and Discover
Features: Healthy options, late-night dining, felonies
As soon as we arrived my companion and I had anticipated that management wouldn’t be able to honor our reservation due to a double stabbing near the entry foyer. But, to our serendipity, what might have put Le Bernardin or Café Grey out of business for the night wasn’t the slightest bit of a hindrance for the veteran Justin’s staff. We were escorted to our table mere moments after crossing the police line.
Justin’s ambience makes it quite suitable for a romantic dinner – the soft candlelight could smooth out the most hideously scarred of dates and the pounding, bowel-quaking music mimics a beating heart. On most nights a live DJ mixes a variety of memorable tunes peppered with swears and occasional small arms fire.
Although you’d think a muzzle flash and scream would set diners on edge, we found it added a sense of electricity and excitement to the air – something I’ve never experienced at an old stalwart like nearby Gramercy Tavern. As we learned, an atmosphere of impending danger tends to bring people together – be it a first date, record release party or company outing.
Our waiter knew the menu like it was written on the back of his hand, which it was. When pressed for his opinion on what to order he recommended an appetizer followed by an entrée. He left open the possibility for dessert assuming we weren’t too close to closing time. For a starter, I opted for teriyaki wings while my partner chose the basket of fried catfish.
Though the wings themselves were cooked well – not too much, not too little – I found the teriyaki sauce to be overly salty. The portion was suitable enough for one person, but you’d be disappointed if you’re the type who likes to share. I couldn’t help but notice Jay-Z slumped over in the booth next to us, delirious from blood loss.
The fried catfish was another disappointment. When I asked the waiter if the fish was fresh or frozen, he said he’d find out – but he never did. Whether that’s because he forgot or because he was hiding from a gun-toting Young Jeezy, I’ll not know. In my professional opinion this was generic, frozen catfish heavily battered and fried in oil that was well past its prime. We hoped the entrées would be more promising, and we wished Fabolous well as he was wheeled out on a stretcher.
It should be noted that throughout our dining experience service was highly irregular. Our water glasses were refilled only once and our mustard not replaced even after a ricochet shattered the entire condiment dispenser. The pepper mill, having been used to bludgeon a member of Mos Def’s entourage, was rendered useless.
Even a talented bartender with a fully-stocked bar is useless when he’s been run through with a bread knife. I was forced to accept that another cough syrup, Sprite and Jolly Rancher cocktail would not be forthcoming. To add insult to injury, no one would answer questions about my order – apparently in keeping with the restaurant’s “Don’t Snitch” policy.
Though there was huge lapse in time between the appetizers and entrées arriving, it in fact seemed like no time at all had passed. I chalk that up to the excitement of being present for 50 Cent’s tenth and final shooting. The majority of the establishment erupted in cheers as the recording superstar crumpled to the ground. The remainder of his entourage limped out of the establishment – peppering the crowd with 9mm gunfire and epithets. In an homage to the fallen singer, the DJ put on a delightful 18-minute version of P.I.M.P. before being taken away for questioning.
My beef ribs with steamed vegetables and fried plantains was quite a satisfactory dish. A large portion was called for – especially when your menu items are in the $25-$30 range – and a large portion is what I received. The tender ribs fell off the bone, as did Nas.
My partner found the roast chicken was to die for, prompting me to pass on dessert.
It should be noted there was no effort made to recompense me for the loss of my colleague, and after looking at the check I saw why: an 18% gratuity is automatically added to every table, something I find reprehensible in a service industry. I grabbed my companion by the ankles and dragged her out, making sure to give the manager an earful on my way.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Justin’s has its task cut out for them. There are far too many restaurants in Manhattan to be this mediocre. Being owned by Diddy is not enough to make it in the restaurant business, especially in the face of competition like Kanye’s Steaks and Mousse of Usher.
Israeli helicopters converge on a group of happy children having a wonderful day and minding their business. (Adnan Hajj for Reuters)
An Israeli tank fires on a clearly marked, helpless baby transport plane as it takes off from Beirut’s Hummus International Airport. (Adnan Hajj for Reuters)
Pita-hating Zionists laugh at comedian Gallagher after he goes melon crazy in Tyre and destoys an apartment building. (Adnan Hajj for Reuters)
With yet another bouncer killing yet another bar patron, New Yorkers – at least the ones who go out and drink a lot – are understandably frightened and want answers.
What’s the difference between a doorman and a bouncer?
A doorman resolves conflicts using witty repartee and vague references to his martial arts training. A bouncer resolves conflicts by peppering you with hollow-points.
Should I be scared of enraged bouncers?
Not really. Being murdered by an enraged bouncer only affects people who patronize bars where they might not be let in. The easiest way to avoid enraged bouncers is by patronizing establishments that don’t have them, such as Old Town or Hooters. Pretty much anyplace that serves wings.
What kind of person goes to an establishment where they might not let you in?
The ‘in’ crowd, ironically. And my friend Dave, for whom 98% of all women are morbidly obese. And in general – people who feel very important when a guy with a high school equivalency degree, headset and a clipboard deigns to allow them to pass a velvet barrier.
Are all bouncers enraged?
No. There are good bouncers, like TJ the seven foot tall black guy at Flatiron who makes me feel like a dwarven Jewish lawyer. He’s as nice as they get, but if he snaps we’re all terribly screwed.
Can you quell my fears with some kind of reassuring statistic about not being killed by an enraged bouncer?
You have a better chance of Heidi Klum attacking you with Seal’s loofah as you’re accepting an Oscar for Bush Is Awesome: The Movie.
Should I just stop going out?
Only if you want to be well-rested and save money. But if you change your lifestyle to accommodate enraged bouncers, then the enraged bouncers have already won.
Are enraged bouncers the alligator attacks that bird flu was?
If you’re talking about the latest media talking point, no. Bouncers are apparently really starting to go nuts.
Shouldn’t bar owners be responsible for not hiring people prone to murdering their clientele?
You would think, but profiling individuals simply because of their background as burly, hair-trigger gatekeepers of the shady world of New York club life is un-American.
What’s the closest you’ve come to an enraged bouncer?
A high-strung friend called one a ‘faggot’ once, though to the bouncer’s credit he only said “Now you’re definitely not getting in” instead of shooting us to death.
What’s the best way to handle an enraged bouncer?
An enraged bouncer is like Harry Belafonte in that he’s going to say and do things he will regret later – but he’s not rational at that moment. Your best bet is to make like Paul McCartney and amicably part ways. If that doesn’t work, you can die knowing the odds are pretty good the guy will get caught.
What’s enraging these enraged bouncers?
Many bouncers are upset about the Sarbanes-Oxley act. They feel it’s created a gigantic paper trail that has crippled businesses and created more problems than it solved. Others are simply guys plagued with doubts and insecurities – in particular they’re unsure if their Chris Daughtry votes for American Idol were ever actually counted. But most are just plum nuts.
In the wake of James Frey’s comeuppance on Oprah, and with my own memoir of hardship, addiction and persecution heading to press, I feel it behooves me to come clean now.
Rather than “I stormed the beaches of Normandy” I should have said “I walked out to the water line 50 years later to get a D-Day soldier’s perspective.” I’m sorry if “stormed” suggested otherwise.
Though “I suffer from poliosis” sounds serious, it actually means premature graying of the hair. I am expected to recover.
I never met “the Bachelorette” and did not “high-five her with Sidney Poitier.”
My friend Karl and I did not overdose on a combination of cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. We shared a bottle of Shiraz and fell asleep watching The Suite Life with Zack and Cody.
When I said “some of my best ideas came while walking between classes at Harvard” I did not mean to suggest I attended Harvard.
I was not “abused” as a child, but my father never let me win at Monopoly.
I did not lose a sister to Cat Scratch Fever.
My boxer is named Rommel, but he was not a member of the Bow Wow Wermarcht and Hitler never threw VolkSnacks at him.
My uncle did not invent a hover tractor.
I did not call Monika Lewinsky a “tubby tartlet” to her face. Rather, I was across the street and muttering to myself.
I “dined with Donald Trump at Nobu” in the sense that he was at another table talking to Mark Burnett. I do not wish to give the impression they know me.
The statement that I “slept with” 118 women in one night was a rough estimate based on the number of guests at the Holiday Inn. It was not meant to suggest I was in the same room with them.
My only knowledge of the Kamchatka Peninsula comes from playing Risk, and therefore most of my travel tips will not be helpful.
By “I had a large group of followers” I meant people behind me on the escalator at Best Buy. Not necessarily people who revered me.
The only evidence that I am the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln came from a ditzy tarot reader and not “a government think tank.”
I am a billionaire only if you convert dollars to Mozambique Meticais.
My understanding of twelve-step recovery programs comes from something I heard on NPR while driving in the rain, not from actually attending them for eight years.
I do not operate Raven Riley’s Webcam, and she does not “pay me in coochie.”
You can disregard this chapter as I was never a bishop.
De Gaulle did not “hit on me at a rockin’ bat mitzvah.”
I was indeed named after Irish king Brian Boru, but there’s no evidence he’s my grandpa.
The Pop Rocks Kid did not die in my tree fort.
The term “gonzo journalism” was not coined by Madonna.
When I said I accidentally ran over a cop, I neglected to mention that I was playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
When I said I grew up in the ‘hood and know what it’s like to be black, I neglected to mention I was playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
“Made out with Heidi Klum” is misleading. It was a peck on the cheek, and her name was Velda Ross.
Para-sailing in Cancun does not qualify me to call myself a stuntman.
Usher is not afraid of me.
My grandmother did not bequeath me an Orc Sword.
“I have a fleet of cars at my disposal, 24/7” is a reference to taxis.
Steven Seagal and I were not in the CIA.
“Let’s do this” is not a phrase I hold the copyright to.
It’s possible “an orgy of gruesome decadence” is a little heavy-handed when describing the purchase of an overpriced organic lemon at Whole Foods.
I do not have a memoir.
‘Twas five days before Christmas and all through the town;
Not a train was up running, they’d all been shut down.
The turnstiles were locked and the stations were cleared,
in hopes that Old Bloomberg would give them their share.
The workers were nestled all snug in their booths;
Where oft they’re found sleeping, to tell you the truth.
Toussaint wants their pensions to be like the cops’ –
you know, ’cause it’s stressful announcing each stop.
Alas, from the public arose such a clatter,
Their leader seems not to have thought out the matter.
With shoppers not shopping and travel delayed,
public support dwindled, New Yorkers’ nerves frayed.
You dumb, lazy morons! The people did cry.
Pensions the same as the FDNY?
It’ll cost us a fortune, illiterate twits!
The people weren’t happy. In fact, they threw fits.
There’s strength in a union, or so they believed
but not before Christmas – now everyone’s peeved.
It’s terrible timing for stranding the masses;
If Reagan were here he’d have fired your asses.
Looks a little like you’ve been confronted by a mob of angry smokers, but it definitely says you’re the boss.
History is filled with mustachioed politicians, but they rose to power through revolution, putsch or brutality. That’s not coming through here.
THOMAS V. OGNIBENE
He’s got the conservative look down. In New York City. Sure to take the Lower East Side by squall.
What’cha got in there Seth?
A party with a one-note platform is slightly absurd, but I can picture you angry over a wounded Spruce. Sold.
Yearbook committee called. Wants photo back.
Rent Is Too Damn High Party
Voter intimidation only works if you’re standing in the booth with us.
MARTIN G. KOPPEL
Socialist Workers Party
Can’t be bothered to supply a profile or a photo. Must be busy teaching film.
Car Bomber lanes will be established on the Holland Tunnel. Anyone driving to the city in the Car Bomber lane will be subject to search – unless they refuse – in which case they’ll be sent back to New Jersey.
A newly established Best Friend Force will get to know everyone in the city and see what they’re up to.
Cabbies will report any suspicious passengers, unless they’re Pakistani, because we can’t expect cabbies to report their own countrymen.
To smoke out the baddies, fresh-faced young men and women holding clipboards will stand on sidewalks all over the city, asking everyone if they have a moment for jihad.
Anyone purchasing a bag from Manhattan Portage will be subjected to four powerful questions created by Scientologists to determine if they fit the profile. If they do, their warranty will not be honored.
Leaflets that say We know what you’re doing will be distributed to everyone on the subway in the hopes of totally freaking someone out.
All MetroCards will feature legalese on the back stating that anyone using the card for evil will be subject to prosecution.
People will be randomly asked to swear on the Bible that they’re chill.
Train service will be made even more unreliable in order to throw martyrdom operations off by several minutes.
Mini-bottles of Ketel One will be offered to random passengers. Anyone who turns one down is either a recovering alcoholic – or more likely – one of those non-drinking Islam people.
Cops on overtime will rally subway crowds by shouting Whadda we want?…When do we want it? – and if anyone answers Jihad…Now! they’re in big trouble.