Archives for category: People

Every once in a while I emerge out of the YouTube vortex with a few gems to ponder on and reconsider. The above clip is one of them. In it, the Washington D.C. television host Ralph Waldo ‘Petey’ Greene brilliantly deconstructs a very prominent American racial taboo – watch this and then, as supplements, read Stanley Crouch’s The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity and (if you really want to go off on the deep end) the second chapter of Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology.

The late funnyman Petey Greene’s genius is that he was a funny man. To say he was merely talented wouldn’t do him justice. To call him a comic or even a comedian would be reductionist. Greene was honest and the highest compliment you can pay an honest man is to tell him how you really feel. Either be yourself or Greene, stone-cold Falstaffian fool that he was, would tease that self-in-hiding to the surface. Politics, protocol and etiquette be damned.

Today, perhaps since the 2007 release of the movie based on his life, Talk To Me, Greene may be remembered largely as the man whose live ‘breakdown’ on Johnny Carson preceded Dave Chapelle’s infamous $50 million change of heart and subsequent move to Africa and stands firmly in the tradition of brilliant, humorous black funnymen who were, alas, all too sensitive to humanity, their own and ours, to allow an audience ignorant of the joke’s complex core to co-opt their humor – to dull its subversiveness and diamond-sharp, universal truth by lavishing it with cheap laughter and even cheaper, albeit Wal-Mart-sized, rewards.

At nine years old, Nathan Myhrvold thought he’d try to do something he hadn’t done before. So he went to the library, carried home as many cookbooks as his little arms could tote and made Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family. By fourteen, he’d graduated high school. By 23, he’d earned two masters degrees and a Ph.D. from Princeton – in theoretical and mathematical physics. He’s studied under Stephen Hawking and, up until 1999, worked for Bill Gates at Microsoft as the company’s chief technology officer. He’s a multimillionaire and part-time paleontologist (who just so happened to systematically, methodically stumble upon 9 previously undiscovered T. Rex specimens) and wildlife photographer and car racer and skydiver and volcanologist and all-around world-changer (check out his ideas for handling global warming and preventing malaria) .

Oh, he’s also a chef who’s even published a cookbook.  By now, you probably expect me to say something like, ‘But not just any chef – Myhrvold has a World Barbecue Championship under his belt; and not just any chef with a cookbook – Myhrvold’s recently released work has just been inducted into the cookbook Hall of Fame.’ Which would be right.

I can’t afford to buy the book, so this isn’t a review. But something tells me that a cookbook on the ins and outs of what some call ‘molecular gastronomy’ to the chagrin of the ‘molecular gastronomists’ (who, I hear, would prefer their field to be called something else, like Modernist Cuisine, which Myhrvold, of course, understands), is sure to be as high-charged and prodigious as its author (overseer would perhaps be more appropriate, since not even Nathan Myhrvold can compile a six-volume, 2,400 page, $625 tome all by himself).

And if the hype is any indication, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, might be as era-defining as Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But I think I know of an even better indication of how effective this volume will both channel and shape the present culinary culture.

If you’re fortunate and curious enough to purchase a cookbook for about the same amount of money that you’d spend on a 40 inch flat panel plasma television, when you’re done browsing (what I think will be its) glossy, super cool, kick-ass pages, tell me whether or not you actually cooked something from them. Any answer would be revealing.