Archive for February, 2012

When fried ice cream  burst on the scene in the seventies  , it created a considerable stir. Though it is said to have been around since the World’s Fair of 1893, it was only when Japanese restaurants in America put it on their menus that it became a hit . The idea itself was amazing. Fried ? Ice cream ? How could something cold be deep-fried and not melt into a puddle. The reason , as later became common knowledge , is that the ice cream was first coated with a tempura batter and flash fried . The resulting combination of cold and hot , soft and crisp , sweet and slightly salty proved irresistible. Pretty soon , fried ice cream became a staple on the menus of even second-rate Japanese and Chinese restaurants . Mexican restaurants , including the Chi Chi’s chain , also got into the act  though their version was slightly different : a ball of hard frozen ice cream coated with tortillas / cookie crumbs and nuts and flash fried before being dusted with cinnamon-sugar.

Unfortunately ,  novelty items soon become commonplace . So it was with fried ice cream . Its popularity soon caused it to be a cliché and the food industry started casting about for new fried dishes. The result has been a slew of increasingly bizarre snacks and desserts.

The first was deep-fried Mars bars which became popular in Scotland , a regular dessert at fish and chips shops in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The item seems to have started as a joke that quickly caught on, though I can’t understand why. Isn’t a plain Mars bar good enough ? Children seem to have been the main consumers . Other deep-fried candy bars include Bounty and, in the U.S , Snickers .

In the U.S , fried foods are very popular at State fairs and some of the offerings are so strange as to be almost unbelievable. At the Texas State fair of 2006 , Abel Gonzales came up with Fried Coke  and won a prize for the ” Most creative ” food item . The recipe consists of a Coke flavored batter , balls of which are deep-fried and topped with Coca-Cola  syrup, cinnamon sugar , whipped cream and a cherry. The concoction proved very popular ,selling  over 35,000 cups( @ $ 4.50 each) in three  weeks . It has since made its appearance at 47 different state fairs and there is even a version made with Pepsi. By the way , a single cup is estimated to contain 830 calories but , fear not , a Fried Diet Coke version is reputed to be on the way.

Here are some other deep-fried delicacies that can be had at State fairs around the country:

Chicken Fried Bacon

Deep Fried Jelly Beans

Deep Fried Twinkies ( Indiana)

Fried Avocado Bites (California) : Spears of tender avocado coated in a corn-dog batter and fried until golden and served with a choice of two dipping sauces: ranch or herb-infused oil.

Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack – A Buffalo chicken strip coated in flapjack batter, rolled in jalapeño bread crumbs, deep-fried to a golden brown, skewered, and served with a side of syrup.

Deep Fried Texas Salsa – A spicy medley of jalapeno, roasted garlic, onion, tomato, and pepper  rolled together, dipped in masa,  covered in crunchy tortilla chips , deep-fried and  served with  creamy queso.

Fried Autumn Pie – Puff pastry infused with a  combination of pumpkin, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and fall spices , deep-fried and rolled in ginger, cinnamon, and sugar.

There are more like this , such as El Bananarito,  but I think you get the idea. Something about the atmosphere at a state fair or at a carnival seems to make us let go , forget about calories and health and just indulge .Fried foods such as corn dogs , fried chicken and the like have always been popular and these are just newer  manifestations of the craving for fried food.

At least these items have some taste , though it may not be to everyone’s liking. To my mind , however ,  the worst of the lot is Fried Butter which made its first appearance at the Texas State Fair in 2009. Invented by the Abel Gonzales , the same chap who invented Fried Coke, it won the 2009 award for the most creative fried recipe. It consists of balls of frozen butter, dipped in dough , quickly deep-fried and dusted with a thin coating of powdered sugar. The other fried foods have some taste, but Fried Butter.. .I don’t think so. A spokeswoman for the fair defended fried foods , saying ” If this is not your lifestyle , then it’s OK to indulge once or twice a year.”  Maybe , but the problem is that these deep-fried time bombs do become a part of the lifestyle of the less savvy and that is why we have a national problem with obesity and obesity related disorders.

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The PC police are at it again.  A news story this morning says  that Ben and Jerry’s  , the iconic  Vermont ice cream company, is  modifying one of its products “Taste the Lin-sanity” . The concoction was originally  vanilla frozen yoghurt  with a honey swirl and pieces of  fortune cookie ; in the new version , the fortune cookie pieces have been replaced with a waffle cookie ,on the side for dipping. ” Taste the Lin-Sanity ” was to be available for a limited time and only at the Harvard Square location, a nod to Lin being a Harvard graduate.

Ben and Jerry’s GM , Ryan Midden , said that while there was a certain amount of backlash claiming that the product offended Chinese sensibilities , the primary reason for the switch was that the fortune cookie pieces got soggy. While that may have been true , there seems to be little doubt that the backlash and claims of racial profiling had a lot  to do with the change . It is a pity that Ben and Jerry’s caved in to the complaints of a few , humorless , hypersensitive idiots because it should have been clear to all that the company was not trying to offend. Ben and Jerry’s has a well deserved reputation as a fun-loving company , famous for its wacky products and their humorous names . Cherry Garcia , Chubby Hubby , Chunky Monkey and Chocolate Therapy are some of their current flavors ; some of their discontinued flavors include Economic Crunch , Concession Obsession and Schweddy Balls. For some people to make a connection between ” Taste the Lin-Sanity ” and the hate crime murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 is , well …  just plain insanity, another example of the PC police gone mad.

As an Asian – American myself , ( though not Chinese – American) , I can understand the abhorrence of cultural stereotypes. Definitely , the taunts that Lin heard from the stands during his Harvard career ( ” Go Back to China ” ,” Open your Eyes Wide ” , ” Duck Soup”) should be condemned in the strongest possible terms .  I can also understand penalizing   the newswriter who came up with the headline ” Chink in the Armor” after a sub-par performance by Lin , though I do think that the punishment  was too harsh. Suspending him for thirty days without pay would have been enough to get the message across . The guy wasn’t malicious ; he was just trying to be funny, though he should have realized that the word ” Chink ‘ is just as offensive to Asian – Americans as the N- word is to African – Americans.

The problem with too much political correctness is that it makes us  think twice about our most innocent utterances , stifles our sense of humor and ultimately causes resentment , exactly the opposite of what is intended. Some terms and references  ( we all know what they are) are racially insensitive  and perpetuate racial stereotypes  and , of course , they should be objected to . However , there are others which are not meant to be offensive and I would have thought that we  know what those are too.Some years ago , there was a hue and cry about how some of the names of pro teams were racially offensive and how they should be changed. Among the examples  given were the Atlanta Braves , the Washington Redskins , the Cleveland Indians all of which were deemed offensive to Indians , sorry Native Americans.  The protesters did not stop to think “Why on earth would anyone name their team after somebody they despised ?”. I am glad that all the teams named stood firm though the Stanford Indians capitulated and became the Stanford Cardinals in 1972. However, I am  glad that the Atlanta Braves discontinued their method of celebrating a homer by a Braves player. Until 1986 , when an Atlanta  Braves player hit an HR during a home game , the Braves mascot , Chief Noc A Homa ( ” Knock A Homer” ) would emerge from his tepee beyond the right field fence and do a little ” war dance” complete with whoops . My dislike of the practice had nothing to do with race ; I just found it silly and repetitive .

To get back to ” Taste the Lin-Sanity” : I was happy to see that most of those who responded to the Yahoo news story did not find the product name hurtful. In a victory for commonsense , several Chinese Americans wrote in to say that they were not find offended by the name . Some of the other responses were funny . One chap asked whether , as a white – American , he should object to Plain Vanilla .Another gentleman , who admitted to being portly , demanded that all containers of ” Chubby Hubby ” should immediately be confiscated and sent to him. There were some other very funny responses but I won’t repeat them here for fear the PC Police will get after me . You can read them for yourself on the Yahoo website if you want to.

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Recently I’ve been watching Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, a 2010 series hosted by Gordon Ramsay , the enfant terrible of restaurant chefs. The concept is simple : two restaurants in a particular category ( French , Italian , Indian etc ) are chosen by popular acclaim and  go head-to-head against each other under the watchful eye of Gordon Ramsay .He observes how the restaurant’s food and service holds up under trying conditions such as when thirty diners descend on it at once . Ramsay also sends in  mystery diners who make special requests to test how the restaurant staff respond to the unexpected. The winner advances to the next round until finally one restaurant is crowned The Best Restaurant in Britain. It is a good series , worth watching for the creations of the chefs  and its views of Britain . For home cooks like me , it also gives us ideas on how to cook and present dishes not in our repertoire.

The episode I watched had two Thai restaurants , Nahm Jim ( St. Andrews ) and The Mango Tree ( London ) squaring off against each other. At Nahm Jim , the mystery diner asked for a glass of Thai wine  but was politely told that it was only available in full bottles . He insisted that he only wanted a glass , not a full bottle ,brushing aside the server’s explanation that the restaurant did not want to  be stuck with the rest of the bottle. After some inconclusive back and forth , the waiter gave him the requested glassful of wine and then informed him that he would have to pay for the whole bottle. The diner refused to do so and the waiter threatened to call the police. Luckily , cooler heads prevailed and the waiter came back and struck a compromise in which the customer agreed to for half the cost of the bottle.This whole confrontation was being secretly videotaped and it was replayed for the Nahm Jim owners who were mortified by the waiter’s faux pas and declared that they would see  that it never happened again .

Was the diner’s request reasonable ?

I don’t think so. When the menu states that wine is only available by the bottle , I don’t feel the diner is entitled to ask for and get it by the glass.As the waiter at Nahm Jim pointed out , what is the restaurant supposed to do with the rest of the bottle ? It’s all very well for Gordon Ramsay to throw up his hands in horror but I wonder what would have happened if such a request had been made at one of Ramsay’s own restaurants. I think Nahm Jim would have been justified in firmly telling the recalcitrant diner that that particular wine was only available by the bottle but that there were other similar wines that were available by the glass and that they would be happy to recommend some alternative choices.

At the Mango Tree , another mystery diner sent back a dish saying that it was too spicy and the restaurant promptly and smartly brought back another portion with the sauce on the side. That request was reasonable and it was handled correctly but it reminded me of an incident that I observed some years ago right here , at a Chinese restaurant in Edison. At a neighboring table , a man ordered a lobster dish with instructions that he wanted it spicy. He ate it all and then announced that he wasn’t going to pay for it because it was too spicy. A heated argument ensued and the poor restaurant owner stormed to the kitchen threatening to call the cops. The diner’s wife followed him to the kitchen and , out of sight of her husband , begged the restaurant owner to suggest to her husband that he pay half the cost of the dish and that she herself would pay him the other half  then and there, unbeknownst to her husband. The husband must have pulled this stunt before and she was ready for him this time . The owner did as she requested and a nasty scene was averted.

One of the maxims of customer service is that ” The customer is always right ” but I think  such thinking has to be revised . There is a small, but growing,  minority of customers who will take every advantage they can . With some , it is not merely that they are saving a few pennies , it is a way of showing how ” smart” they are. These are the people who buy dresses , use them once , and then return them saying that they don’t like them . Such returns cause losses , and not always to the store that takes them back. One of my cousins used to supply garments to department stores , many of them prestigious ones known for their tony clientele. He is out of the business now , in part because of the stores return policies. He bitterly told me once that it was all very well for stores to trumpet their ” No Questions asked ” return policy since they were  not the ones paying for it . All their supplier’s clothes are accepted on consignment and , when anything is returned , the price is simply charged to what is due to the supplier.

At least now there is a thirty-day limit on returns ; previously, returns were open-ended and you had some customers who returned clothes six months or more after they had bought them.

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I am not a gourmet; I don’t have the palate . I can’t deconstruct a dish and tell you all the various ingredients and I feel envious of chefs who speak of ” flavor profiles” and ” layers of flavor”. I am not a gourmand either: I don’t pig out at buffets and feasts , not usually anyway. What I am is a foodie ,by which I mean someone  who likes to read ,about food , to see it , to cook it and not merely to eat it .

As a foodie , one of the things I like to do is going to food markets , especially ethnic food markets. When we travel abroad , it is a must to visit the local food market. Such visits give insights into the culture and the daily lives of the local inhabitants as nothing else does. Museums and palaces are fine ( I enjoy those too) but given a choice I would rather go to the marketplace. Thus I have been to the agora in Athens , the Spice Market in Istanbul , the outdoor market in St . Lucia , the fruit and vegetable market in Kyoto , a supermarket in Ocho Rios , the fish market in Pune , the vegetable market in Goa,and a food court in Tokyo.There have been others too but I don’t want to try to list them all. Each of these places has taught me certain things and added to my store of memories.

By far the most beautiful was the market in Kyoto which was a marvel of cleanliness and meticulous arrangement. The fruits and vegetables were lovingly displayed like jewels and even the  fish and meat sections were odorless and pristine. The basement food court at Takashimaya  in Tokyo was not only beautiful but staggering in the variety and amount of foods on sale. At the other end of the scale was the outdoor market in St. Lucia , where the paucity of the vegetables and their high cost made me wonder how the locals were able to survive. The Spice market in Istanbul was colorful with its bags of spice powders , notably among which was ” Indian Saffron ‘ but which merely turned out to be turmeric !

My visits to markets are not confined to our trips abroad. I also like to visit ethnic food markets here in the U.S. Living in Edison N.J  as I do , an enclave of Indian -Americans , there are dozens of Indian groceries, each of which is slightly different from the next . What a change from the time we first moved to Edison in the early seventies . Then there was one small store ( run by a Patel family , of course !) and the variety of vegetables and other comestibles was very limited.  Now the quality and variety of foods on sale is unbelievable. Every year there seem to be more regional foods , more prepared foods and even more vegetables , some of which I’ve never eaten though I was born in India. It is a constant voyage of discovery as I try to incorporate these new discoveries into our home cooking.

There are also a number of Asian groceries in the vicinity and I only wish they were closer. We had a cavernous Hong Kong Market a couple of miles away but they moved to another location , in East Brunswick , about 10 miles away. Luckily , there is a large Asian Food Mart in neighboring Piscataway and it is a place where I can happily spend a whole morning or afternoon. Looking at the array of fresh vegetables there , one realizes how limited the restaurant menus are .

I particularly like to go to go to Asian food stores  for meat and fish . Many of the regular supermarkets do not sell fresh fish any more , just frozen varieties. As far as meat is concerned , the Asian markets not only have a wider variety of cuts but are markedly cheaper. The one problem that I have with Asian food stores is that none of the help knows English and it is very frustrating to try and find a particular ingredient when one doesn’t know exactly where it is . Very often too , the types of fish are not labeled and, of course,  the countermen don’t know the English names.

Other ethnic food marts that I’ve visited in New Jersey are West Indian, Indonesian  and Latin American. The West Indian one  in Linden closed down , unfortunately, and it was interesting for its pyramids of canned foods, its fresh fish counter and its hot sauces . Its closing was not a surprise because there never seemed to be any customers .The Indonesian one also closed down  which was no surprise either and also no big loss. The one time that I went there I found only a limited range of goods and almost nothing that I could not get cheaper in the giant Asian stores. The Latin American supermarket on the outskirts of Newark is of interest because of its wide variety of South American vegetables but the meat section is a horror , with pieces of meat unappetizingly and unhgyenically displayed . If I had to get meat there I would sooner become a vegetarian.

A new discovery is H- mart , a Korean food market that has only been in Edison for about a year. I’ve only been there just once , but I think it is going to become one of my favorites. Everything is beautifully displayed and is unbelievably clean . You could eat of the floor , literally , and that’s no exaggeration . The array of fish and meat is staggering  and – thank you , Lord – everything is neatly labeled and everyone speaks English. The variety of hot bean pastes and sauces is entrancing as is the selection of marinated meats , ready for barbecuing at home . There will be a lot of Korean barbecue this summer at my house !

The H-Mart is huge and includes a food court selling sushi, Korean fried chicken , dumplings and Korean specialties. With the number of Korean TV series and movies that I’m watching on Netflix and with my discovery of H-Mart , I’m going to be well-traveled in Korea without ever having set foot there .

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I know what you are thinking : that this is about Stieg Larsson and his trilogy about Lisbeth Salander , The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Actually , it’s not.

Much as I enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s novels , this post is about Asa Larsson , no relation to Steig .I must have read upwards of eighty to a hundred Scandinavian mysteries , but Asa Larsson’s are probably the best I’ve come across. She has so far written five novels , at least four of which have been translated into English , and I’ve so far read and enjoyed two of them , The Black Path and Until Thy Wrath Be Past, her third and fourth books respectively. Since I get almost all of my reading material from libraries and since I did not know how absorbing these books were, I read them out of order.If you can, try and read them in sequence , since they are the continuing adventures of the public prosecutor,Rebecka Martinsson. The first in the series is Sunstorm ( 2006) and it was followed by The Blood Spilt.

When The Black Path begins , a dead woman is found in an ark , an ice-fishing shack , on a frozen lake. Her clothing is incongruous because , in the middle of winter, she is dressed in workout clothes over lacy underthings , and she appears to have been tortured to death. Inspector Anna-Maria Mella , called to the murder scene with her partner Sven Eric Stalnacke , fortuitously finds out the identity of the dead woman , an important player in a prominent financial company with mining interests .She knows she will need the help of a tax lawyer and luckily for her , she is able to call upon Rebecka Martinsson.

Rebecka is a tax lawyer from Stockholm who has moved to Kiruna to become a public prosecutor . In one of the earlier novels , which I haven’t yet read, she was badly injured and emotionally scarred. She jumps at the chance to get back into action and put the past behind her. Together, Rebecka and Anna Maria begin to follow the clues and unravel the mystery , all of which lead to Kallis Mining and its secretive founder , Mauri Kallis. As the complex story unfolds , layer upon layer of mystery is peeled away  and there is murder after murder culminating in an action packed climax.

Like its predecessor , Until by Wrath Be Past  has a memorable beginning narrated by the spirit of the murder victim, Wilma Persson . She and her boyfriend, Simon Kyro,  have cut a hole in the ice on a lake and are  diving to investigate a wrecked airplane , when they are murdered. Someone closes the opening in the ice ,waits until they drown , then dumps  the body in a distant river so as to confuse investigators and make it appear that her death was an accident.However , the dead girl appears to Rebecka in a dream and the thoroughness of the medical examiner , Lars Pohjanen , confirms that this is murder and not an accident. As Anne – Marie Mella and Rebecka Martinsson delve further into the case , every twist and turn seems to lead to the Krekulas ,as evil a family of villains as you could come across. We know early on that they are the murderers but it is only slowly that we come to understand which one of them is the arch villain and why the murders were committed. There will be more deaths before justice is served in a shattering climax that has Rebecka fighting for her life.

What I like about these novels is the strong characterization and the sense of place that Larsson evokes. Like her heroine , Rebecka , Asa Larsson was a tax lawyer before she turned to writing  and , once again like Rebecka , she was brought up in Kiruna , one of the northernmost cities in Sweden. She does a masterful job of painting a picture of life in those latitudes… the bleakness and the beauty of winter , the hardy townspeople and the hard, often lonely, lives they lead. Rebecka Martinsson is a compelling character, smart , brave , driven , as she throws herself into the case to forget the horrors of the past. I also like the policewoman Anne -Marie Mella , similarly driven , impulsive and stressed  as she tries to juggle her work life and her family’s needs. But theireare other characters who command our attention : Isak Kekula , his wife Keertu and his sons Hjalmar and Tore ,the dog handler Krister Ericksson , Rebecka’s elderly neighbor Sivving Fjallborg and a number of others , all expertly drawn.Frequent use is made of flasbacks to tell us the backstory of the characters as past and present are masterfully interwoven to great effect. I was not too crazy at first of having the spirit of the murder victim involved in the telling of the story but I got used to it .

Too many nysteries , not just Scandinavian,   feature serial killers, and a detective hero who is a) divorced b) depressed  c) an alcoholic or d) all three. Asa Larsson’s novels are different in that the murders are committed for good old-fashioned reasons (LOL) like greed and fear and the protagonist Rebecka Martinsson is eminently likable. We genuinely like Rebecka with her love for dogs , her attraction to her ex-boss and her get togethers with her elderly neighbor Sivving . She is the sort of character that you would love to have for a neighbor and I’m eager to know what will happen next in her life . Towards the end of Until thy wrath be Past , there are hints of a new romantic interest in her life . I’m waiting to see how that works out .

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As Jeremy Lin burst into the spotlight , there have been not a few haters who are jealous of his success. Floyd Meriweather is the most prominent , the most visible of these naysayers but there are others . When Lin scored 38 points against the Lakers , there were those who scoffed that he was playing against an aging ( aged?) Derek Fisher who can’t guard anybody anymore and that the Lakers were a tired team having played the previous night in Toronto. They might have had a point but then Lin led the Knicks to four  more victories . Before the latest game, against the Sacramento Kings,  thes critics said that Tyreke Evans would put Lin in his place . Didn’t happen . Lin played only 26 minutes as New York opened up an insurmountable  22 point lead by the end of the third quarter and in that short time he scored 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting and handed out 13 assists. Those who said that Lin would fade into obscurity once the Knicks injured  stars came back  are in for a rude awakening .Lin’s game will change as he showed yesterday. With Amare in the line-up, Lin’s scoring went down but his assists went up. Once Carmelo returns , I feel Lin will adjust his game accordingly and become even more of a facilitator. And the Knicks keep winning through it all !

Today’s Yahoo sports had a story about Lin moving into his own apartment , subletting an aapartment from former Knick David Lee . It’s a big change from sleeping on a couch in his brother’s apartment. The Daily News had photos  of a typical apartment in the building. Here is a description of the apartment which rents for $ 3,800 per month..  ”His 20th-floor pad boasts marble bathrooms, cherry wood floors, a built-in sound system and killer views of New York City in the distance…..the tower has indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, a gym, basketball courts — and an indoor court on the ninth floor.”

Oh, Did I mention where the apartment is ? It’s in the Trump Tower in White Plains , minutes away from the Knicks practice facility.

Looks like Lin will be continuing to work on his game . Yes , don’t wait for Lin to fail… it could be a long , long wait.


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In one of my earlier posts , two years ago, I had sung the praises of Indo- Canadian funnyman , Russell Peters. I’d written how his 2004 video Russell Peters … Comedy Now , had me in stitches. I’d written   Peters is cerebral , he is zany and he does “insult” the audience , though he is not nasty as Rickles was. He has also mastered different accents ; Indian , Chinese, West Indian, Latino ,etc. All of them are good but the Chinese and Indian accents are superb. His early subject matter was about growing up brown in a mostly white Canadian society and he riffs on Indian culture, racial stereotypes, and racism. He has a good-natured way about him , has a rubber face and is a master of timing. He does occasionally toss in a four letter word and his videos are definitely not for the very young. …his 2008 video Russell Peters .. Red , White and Brown  which was filmed in the sold out 5,000 seat WAMU theater( formerly the Felt Forum )  in Madison Square Garden is excellent though perhaps a tad below his earlier efforts.”

At the time Peters was enjoying the fruits of twenty years of hard work . In 2008-2009, he had pulled in over $10 ,000, 000 a year. He was hosting comedy shows on Comedy Central and performing to packed audiences in London and New York.  But , already, there were signs of decline. My nephew who had seen him perform live reported that the show was terrible , that almost his entire routine consisted of picking out people in the audience and insulting them .I myself had written “ He is less successful when he strays from these topics. I’ve seen a clip of him performing for the troops aboard the U.S.S. Eisenhower and it was not one of his better performances. “

Recently ,I watched ” Green Card ” , a video of a stand-up performance in London where he played to a packed house. The credits got my hopes up as they had a montage of him in different costumes and headgear pulling all kinds of funny faces.Unfortunately , that was the highlight of the tape. After the opening ” How are you? ” How you doing ?” he began to pick out people in the audience , ask them their ethnicity and make jokes about it. This went on for about 15 minutes at which point I gave up on him  and popped out the DVD.

Ethnic humor is okay in small doses , if it is good-natured. Peters goes on too long in this vein and , worse, he comes across as nasty rather than funny. I’m not sure why he has changed from  four years ago when he was genuinely funny without being hurtful. Is it hubris , an overweening pride that he is very funny and can do no wrong ? Or is it laziness that makes him descend to this level, making fun of racial stereotypes instead of trying to come up with new material ? Perhaps it is a little of both . Whatever the reason , I will not be watching his newer shows.

Stand-up comedy is one of the most difficult things to do and Peters is not the first to fall into a rut. Most stand-up comedians come up with one or two great routines and then live off them for the rest of their careers. However, continued success as a stand-up demands that you constantly update your routine . No one wants to hear the same joke twice but it is very difficult to come up with new stuff all by oneself . The British comedian Benny Hill is a prime example of this ; he was a big hit in the seventies but insisted on writing all his jokes and skits  himself . His shows quickly went downhill as he kept repeating the same jokes over and over again. Perhaps the answer is to use the services of a team of writers as Bob Hope and others did.

My final word on Russell Peters… he used to be very funny.

P.S If you’ve never heard of Russell Peters but would like to see what he is about, check  out some of his earlier clips on Youtube. The best of them, in my opinion , are the ones titled Russell Peters.. Comedy Now, Beating your kids, the Accents clip and African Names.

P.P.S You may also find my November 2013 post Russell Peters: Final grade of interest to you.

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lin !, Lin !! , LIN !!!

Kobe Bryant has been my favorite NBA player for a long time but that doesn’t blind me to his faults . Over the years I’ve come to realize that there are two Kobes. There is the good Kobe — the one who works harder than anyone else, who keeps his nerve when everyone around him has given up , the fantastic finisherwho wins close games. Then there is the bad Kobe — arrogant , petty and I won’t go into his off-court issues. At thursday’s press conference we saw the bad Kobe at his worst. Asked about Jetemy Lin , he claimed not to know anything about him , saying ” Who the ( fudge) is Jeremy Lin ?”

Well , now he certainly knows!

 Reading about Kobe’s Thursday interview , I thought to myself how nice it would be for him to get taken down a bit . I felt that Lin would acquit himself creditably and that the Lakers better watch out, playing as they were on successive nights. But in my wildest dreams , I never thought that Jeremy Lin would explode as he did for 38 points , 7 assists , 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He shot 13 for 23 from the field and  2 of 4 from beyond the arc. He penetrated and finished, shot well from the outside , fed his teammates for layups , played good defense and , for one night , he outplayed Kobe Bryant. As one fan put it :

Jeremy Lin … MVP …MVP… MVP !        Kobe Bryant … AARP,…AARP… AARP ! 

After the game , Lin was humble and lowkey and said all the right things . He was happy, very happy about  his performance  but deflected praise onto his teammates , mentioning Jared Jeffries and his offensive rebounding, and preferring to dwell on the fact that the Knicks won. It is still too early to proclaim him a star but , in these first four games as a starter, he has certainly played like one . In doing so , he has earned himself some job security and an extended look from the Knicks coaching staff. When the Knicks stars , Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, return , Lin  will have to change his game , take fewer shots and give up the ball more .His numbers are bound to go down but I feel he will be up to the challenge of keeping the big men happy.As has been remarked , he has the mentality of a true point guard. In many ways , he reminds me of a more physical John Stockton.

What the stats do not show is the electricity that Lin brings to the Garden. It is great to see how the fans have embraced him . Yesterday , there were plenty of them courtside , wearing Lin masks and cheering him on. I think they, like me , love seeing a kid finally make it after years of  being under-appreciated. This is his payment for sticking to it , working at his game , enduring taunts of ” Go back to China ” and ” Duck Soup”.

I’m not going to change my allegiance to the Lakers. Once a Laker fan , always a Laker fan . But my new favorite player is … Jeremy Lin .

P.S Some fans are miffed at all the plaudits for Lin . One of them sniffed “I don’t have anything against Lin and I really enjoyed watching him play last night.I think he’s very humble and unselfish-good traits to have in any sport.But all this talk about him being “good” for basketball as if he’s an NBA savior is @#$%.Basketball has thrived before Lin came into the spotlight and will continue to thrive when his shine dims.The only people saying this is the people who are tired of seeing black players dominate the game like they have done for the past 30 plus years.”  Another groused ,” …to compare this idiot to Jackie Robinson and the struggles Africans faced and still face is absolutely revolting. Asians never have and never will experience that kind of injustice. This idiot scores 38 points in one game and all of a sudden he’s the poster child for civil rights, the next Jordan or anyone we should spend more than 15 min. discussing? Give me a break. There’s so much more unsung talent out there. You need look no further than Kevin Durant. Dude is an awesome team player, led the NBA in scoring two years in a row as the youngest, or one of the youngest, to do so has been an All-Star, gold medalist internationally and is currently number 3 behind Lebron and Kobe as the top scorer in the league this year–not to mention his rise to success in two consecutive post-season appearances. He’s brilliant, yet gets passed over allllll the time. He’s Lin’s age by the way and has done more in the past two years then Lin will do his entire career.”

These guys miss the point . The adulation for Lin has nothing to do with his ethnicity. Some Asian -Americans may root for Lin because he is the first Asian American in a long time to make a mark in the NBA and there’s nothing wrong with that , but his  following is a rainbow coalition of  basketball fans. Being happy for Lin is not to take away anything from Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook or other black players.People root for Lin because , as one fan put it ” Even if Lin is a flash in the pan, I’m loving every minute of it. I’m just tired of the ball-hog prima donnas wanting the rest ot the team to cater to them. It’s refreshing to see someone who hasn’t been given a chance to step into the limelight and be successful. No drama, just happy to play and having fun while doing it. What a breath of fresh air!”

Go Jeremy !!

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It is exhilarating to read of the emergence of Jeremy Lin as the Knicks starting point guard. Lin ( 6-3, 200) is a Taiwanese -American who has followed a most unusual path to the NBA and it is uplifting to see how he has overcome stereotypical perceptions and fulfilled his NBA dreams through hard work and sheer persistence.

Lin is the son of two engineers from Taiwan who emigrated to America in the seventies. Though he was a high school star in Palo Alto, he did not get a scholarship offer from any Division I college.Finally , he wound up going to Harvard which offered him a guaranteed spot on its basketball team but not a scholarship; the Ivies don’t give out athletic scholarships.He thrived at Harvard , excelling in  most statistical categories and leading the Crimson to some notable wins . I remember seeing him on TV and being impressed by his game though I thought to myself ” How good a basketball player could a Harvard guy be ? ” 

College ball was not an easy time for him .Spectators at away games peppered him with racist comments such as ” Wonton Soup” , ” Open your eyes ” and ” Go back to China “. Playing through it all , he made the All-Ivy first team in his junior and senior years . However, he was not picked in the NBA draft , the talent scouts no doubt put off by the fact that he was an Asian American and that too from an Ivy League school. After all even though there have been a few notable Ivy Leaguers from the Ivies ( Bill Bradley, Jin McMillan, Rudy Larusso, Geoff Petrie) , no Harvard grad had made it to the NBA in more than 50 years .

Not willing to give up, Lin tried out for several NBA teams but while they appreciated his basketball smarts and his hard work , they felt his outside shot was lacking and doubted that he would be able to succeed at this level. Among the teams that passed him was ” my” team , the Los Angeles Lakers, who saw his  promise but were unwilling to risk giving him a guaranteed contract for half a million. Instead they gave  $16 million for four years to  Steve Bake and $500, 000 contracts for their second round picks , Devin Ebanks and Derek Caracter, none of whom have lived up to expectations.

Lin knocked around the NBA Developmental League , playing for the Reno Bighorns , biding his time before he was finally picked up by the Golden State Warriors . He played most of the last season with them but was cut this year and failed to make it with the Houston Rockets before landing on the Knicks. Even on the Knicks , he might have languished on the bench had it not been that injuries to the other point guards forced Coach D’Antoni to give him a shot. The rest of the story is well-known . Thrust into the rotation as the starting PG , Lin scored over 20 points and handed out 8 assists a game in each of his first three games as a starter. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. I watched some of the Knicks game against Utah on TV and Lin was simply electric , penetrating , dishing to the big men for easy baskets and hitting his outside shots. More than anything else , he made the game fun to watch. Seeing him in action, one couldn’t help wondering how everyone could have discounted his abilities.

Of course , I realize that it’s only three games that he’s shown his talent. They could very well be a flash in the pan though I don’t think so. Lin has too much desire , too many smarts not to succeed . He may or may not become a star but he  will be a solid player and I , for one , will be rooting for him. Partly , I will be doing so because he is Asian -American but mostly it will be because of the sort of person he is. He is the polar opposite of the typical spoiled , selfish, ball-hogging NBA player who has tremendous physical skills but not much else. Lin , however, has worked for everything he’s got and plays the game the way it is meant to be played . Perhaps , NBA talent scouts should not focus so much on metrics , vertical leaps and athletic ability when they evaluate prospects.

Lin also seems to have a good head on his shoulders. At Harvard , he graduated with a degree in Economics and maintained a 3.1 GPA while starring on the basketball team and that is no mean feat. Not having the security of a guaranteed contract until the Knicks signed him up for  $800, 000 , he has been bunking with his brother , Josh Lin , a dental student at NYU.( ” He has his own couch” , his brother cracks). I hope he makes it big in the NBA but even if he doesn’t , I know he will be a success. In fact, he already is .


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( Positively my last post about football until next season !)

Now that the Super Bowl is over , football fans’ thoughts turn to the 2012-2013  season and the perennial question : Can the champs repeat ? Some Giant players have already answered  , saying that yes, they can. My own answer, as a diehard Giant fan, is that the Giants  stand a slim chance but they probably will not repeat. In saying this , I am not being pessimistic , merely realistic.

It is more difficult to repeat as champs in pro football than it is in any other sport.There are many reasons for this but the biggest is that the NFL playoffs are sudden death affairs unlike  pro basketball, baseball or hockey which are best of seven affairs. No matter how good a team is , one bad afternoon can spell the end of  Super Bowl dreams. We saw what happened to the Packers and the Saints , in my opinion the two most talented teams in the playoffs this year.The Packers , the reigning champions , were coming off a great 15-1 season and yet were manhandled by the Giants in the playoffs.The same thing happened to the New England Patriots when they played the Giants in Super Bowl X LII, four years ago. No , it is very difficult to repeat.

Here are the reasons (  in no particular order) why I am not hopeful about the Giants chances next year:

1.The strength of the schedule . In the NFL , the more successful a team is , the tougher its schedule the following year. As Super Bowl champs , the Giants can expect a killer schedule in 2013.Not only that , every team will be laying in wait for them . There is nothing more teams love than to knock of the reigning champs.

2. The NFC East: The Giants will have a tough time , as always , merely getting into the playoffs because they play in the NFC East. The division has two other perennial contenders, the talent laden Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.It also has the unpredictable Washington Redskins who seem to have the Giants number .All in all , the division is so balanced that it will be difficult for two NFC East teams to make the playoffs; they keep knocking each other off.

3.Free Agent Defections: Following a Super Bowl victory , players who are not locked up in long-term contracts always try to get more money elsewhere . Given the short span of most NFL careers , who can blame them for wanting to make hay while the sun shines?  Still , this adds to the Giants problems. Osi Umeniyora was already unhappy with his contract and wanted it re-negotiated last year. I doubt that he will be able to get what he wants from the Giants. The Giants are loaded at the defensive end positions with Justin Tuck , Jean Pierre Paul and others and don’t have the cap space to keep Osi happy. I look for him to leave this season. Brandon Jacobs , like Osi , has been unhappy with his contract and I, for one , would not be unhappy to see him go. For all his physical attributes, he is not effective for one of his size .Other notable free agents are punter Steve Weatherford who had a fantastic season , WR Mario Manningham ( who is almost certainly gone because he will want a starting role and a commensurate contract), CB Aaron Ross , aging veteran OL Kareem Mckenzie ,CB Terrell Thomas and MLB Jonathan Goff. The Giants  are set at  QB with Eli Manning , and on the defensive line, but there will be many changes around them as they try to hang on to some of their free agents and bolster their weak spots. Next year’s New York Giants will have a number of new faces.

4. A lack of hunger: Inevitably , a team that has won the Super Bowl loses a little bit of its hunger the following year . And so small is the difference between winning and losing , that this can be fatal. Even for Tom Coughlin , who is in a class with Bill Belichick , as a motivator and a shrewd coach , it is going to be very difficult to keep the Giants playing at a championship level throughout the regular season and beyond.

5. New England Patriots:With two first rounders and two second rounders in the upcoming draft , the Patriots will be able to address their weaknesses and then some . Add to that the fact that many aging stars are eager to play for the Patriots in the hope of getting a ring. Bill Belichick is a shrewd judge of talent and they are already loaded at most positions . If they can get a WR receiver with breakaway speed and improve the defense , they have to be the favorites. In fact they already are ( see the odds below).

6. Peyton Manning: Eli’s older brother seems to have reached the end of his Indianapolis career. With the Colts poised to take Andrew Luck and with Peyton due for a $ 28 million payday in early March , I look for him to be cut. If he is able to bounce back from his injury and if he signs with one of the contenders , say the San Francisco 49ers , he makes them instant favorites.

The oddsmakers seem to agree with my assessment of the Giants chances. The posted odds for winning the Super Bowl next year are as follows:

New England Patriots    5  to 1.

Green Bay Packers          11  to  2

Philadelphia Eagles  & Pittsburgh Steelers ( tied)    6  to 1

New York Giants    8 to 1

New Orléans Saints & San Francisco 49ers ( tied)  10  to  1

 San Diego Chargers & Houston Texans ( tied ) 12 to 1

 I am more or less in agreement with these odds , but I would have picked the New Orléans Saints higher. The Saints, I thought, were the most complete team in this year’ s playoffs and ,next year , the Super Bowl will be held in New Orléans . The Saints could wind up having home field advantage throughout ( including the Super Bowl) and they are well-nigh invincible when they play in the Dome.

Also , I don’t feel the Chargers have any chance as long as Norv Turner is head coach.

  However , all this is just pleasurable speculation. The Las Vegas oddsmakers are good at what they do but they are by no means prescient. This year the New England Patriots were listed at 9 to 2 but the Giants were only 25 to 1 and we all know what happened.

Giant fans , enjoy the off season and keep the faith.


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