Getting Any Younger

Whenever I encounter folks more than a few years younger than me, I feel old. It's the usual reasons - ignorance of music, shows, or other cultural ephemera that defined a part of my own life. "What do you mean you heard [insert song title here] on a classic rock station!?" The absolute worst example to date was trying to explain the concept of a newspaper comic strip to my 8-year-old nephew after giving him his first Calvin and Hobbes book as a gift.

I figured it was a given that having a child of my own would only exacerbate the situation. Each passing day would provide an avalanche of reminders that I was aging, accelerating once she entered school and developed a peer group that determined what was cool and interesting.

Maddie's infancy has, so far, had the opposite effect on me. Within myself I'm reduced to a state of ignorance several times a day. Why is she crying? What's funny to her about the tone of my voice? Can she recognize my moods yet? Externally, when I spend time with my daughter I fall in to patterns of absurd songs, made-up words, silly faces, and spontaneous laughter. I don't know what could make me feel younger.

First Impressions of My Noodle & Bar

Another Cycle

The downstairs restaurant space under the Stuart Court Apartments has provided a home for innumerable restaurants since I arrived in Richmond back in the autumn of 1999. Nobody would laugh at you much if you suggested that the spot was cursed, much like some other locations that have, in the past, rotated through their fair share of owners and/or dining establishments. But curses break, and now Elephant Thai has stuck around at Cary and Harrison for some time. Garnett's has a comfortable hold on the corner of Park and Meadow.

I'm not sure that My Noodle & Bar is the solution to this basement dining room's short attention span.


My Noodle has been open for a couple of weeks as of this writing, and my dinner tonight tasted like they're still working on their product. I started with an appetizer called "Thai sun dried beef" that was actually dried by some non-breaded deep frying. It wasn't bad, but improved quite a bit after dipping in some nondescript, slightly spicy sauce.

My main course was chicken and galangal (a relative of ginger) soup that included a coconut broth and rice noodles. This dish was an odd duck. On one hand, the chicken looked/felt/tasted as if it had simply been chopped then roasted or stir-fried, then dropped into the bowl of soup after the fact. Same story with the broccoli. Neither had much flavor. The noodles themselves were perhaps a bit more al dente than I expected, but not enough to be a problem. The broth - while sweet and tasty coating the other components of the dish, was overwhelmingly sweet after a few spoonfuls.

Vais-je revenir?

I think it's exam week at VCU as I write this, so parking close to Stuart Circle is still kinda tricky on a week night. Tricky enough that I've passed up trying out My Noodle a few times already. I think I'll hold off on a return trip until the semester is over, but I do want to go back. Maybe soups aren't their thing. Perhaps I should ask about their favorite dishes (though my soup was listed as a "chef's special" already). Next time.

Next Steps

I'm NOT quitting my day job, but I'm trying to get a little more serious about my photography.

I've been taking pictures with great enthusiasm for years now, and over these years I've recognized both an apptitude and affinity for photographing people and food. That's probably because people and food are my favorite things. I've been able to turn the latter into a little food column for RVANews, but never really did much with the former.

I want to take on more work for hire, so I've reorganized this website to emphasize my photographic work and keep my side projects from becoming a distraction. Primarily I'd love to take portraits for creative and professional folks, but I don't have too many clearly-set boundaries. Take a look at my People portfolio to see the sort of stuff I do. If you want a portrait along those lines, I'm your guy.

I'd also love to photograph more food, whether it's a restaurant menu, cocktails, local food and beverage producers, etc. Food photography is most of my paid experience, and I still enjoy it. Check out my Consumable portfolio for a sample.

If any of this fits your needs and you're interested, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you, meet with you, and work with you.

Be Careful What You Don't Pay For

I was visiting the website of a local confectionery when I noticed something strange at the top of the page. You see that? It's not just an ad, but it's about type 2 diabetes - the kind you can get from eating too many sweet things.

Why on earth would a bakery want, or even allow an ad that seems to cast its products in a bad light? The problem seems obvious at first; the ads are context-based. That means some keywords on the site matched up with some ads in the service's system and there you have it. Sugary food gets us diabeetus. But most site owners would prefer to keep certain ads from their pages because of undesireable associations such as, I don't know, their products might give you a disease.

Then I noticed something else. That URL in the location bar isn't for the shop in question. It's for a mobile website service, DudaMobile. This is the real problem with our scenario.

DudaMobile makes money in one of two ways: either you subscribe with a monthly fee (discounted if you pay annually), or sell ad space at the top of your website. I don't think every website faces such comically mismatched ads, but it's the price of "free" in this case.

Baby Styles

Early this morning, my little girl Madeline was born, and she's wonderful. If you're in to the whole family site kinda thing, don't forget to check out - it's where Valerie and I will be posting absurd quantities of photos, writing about the development of our family, and other related what-not.

Go to Curry Craft

Ever since I first heard that Mel Oza was opening a new place in Carytown I was excited. He's the man behind the food at Lehja - one of the few good reasons to drive out to Short Pump - and I've talked about his vittles before. Now he's opened Curry Craft at 2915 W. Cary Street and, having eaten there last night, I think I can save time and fuel when I want Oza's take on Indian cuisine.

I don't know their hours (not posted on the door or the website yet). I don't think they're open for lunch. And they won't have their ABC license until this Thursday (4/25), but just do yourself a favor and go try some stuff out. I know this week is Richmond Restaurant Week, but spare a night for a new joint if you can.

Oh yeah, of course I'm going to tell you about what I ate. Valerie and I did two appetizers, a couple orders of garlic naan, and a shared entrée, and we took some leftovers home. Valerie started with their soup of the day which was a creamy tomato and coconut soup. It was a little on the spicy side for her, but she still loved the flavor (and so did I). I think there was something sweet in there other than coconut, but I couldn't place it. I just wanted to soak it up with some naan all night, or pour it over almost any other food as a sauce. Really, it was fantastic soup. I started with Tellicherry Chicken Rotti, a well-spiced collection of chicken pieces with cherry tomatoes and diced mango. The chicken was juicy and tender, and the blend of spices was strong but not overpowering. Really good stuff.

The main course we shared was called Chicken Ananas "Udaigiri". Along with the same spiced rice I've enjoyed at Lehja, the dish was delicious chunks of poultry in a coconut curry sauce with sweet pieces of pineapple. Val and I both loved the heck out of this dish and were happy to take home what was left. I look forward to checking out more of their menu in the future. Next time I'll get an entrée of my own so I can eat something a bit hotter (like the duck vin d'alho).

It's a new place, so I'm sure folks will find things that need improvement (though everything was fine, service included, when Valerie and I were there). Just cut them some slack while they settle in, and help give this place a good start. It's delicious, and I want it to stick around.


Valerie and I are having a baby! I created another site exclusively for family stuff so Val and I could both post thoughts, photos, and whatever else on there.

I did it my way.

Tonight marks my first run of at-home color film development. The photo above was on a roll of film developed using the kit pictured in the photograph.

I did all of this with a used, analog heating circulator and a giant plastic tub of water - all for the sake of a constant temperature around 102º F. Constancy is important for even developing, and I'm pleased-as-punch with the results. I can't wait to shoot some more color, and I certainly can't wait to tackle some post-processing on the remaining images from these first two rolls.


I got a thing I put together starting this week about one of my favorite bands. Go check it out.

deco: no surprises

Trying a restaurant for the first time on the Saturday night after Valentine's Day isn't the best idea; many restaurants produce special menus, and the crowds may have different expectations. But the quality and execution should still represent the business, correct?

Valerie and I received a late confirmation of visiting friends and made a quick effort to find a place for dinner. The nature of this weekend meant that our favorite choices (and usual back-ups) were already booked, so I suggested calling Deco. I wasn't hopeful they'd have a table for 4 on a Saturday evening, what with their recent win of the 2013 Elby Award for "Best New Restaurant", but we had no trouble. So it was that tonight was my first experience at Deco.

It's a neat little space. It looks like a shoe box from the outside and it's simple on the inside. But the interior is helped quite a bit by some pretty and effective light fixtures, and while the dining room is cozy it never felt cramped.

I started checking out the menu while Valerie and I waited on our friends to arrive, and noticed two things. First of all, much of tonight's menu was different from what I saw on the website. This shouldn't shock, but it's not just the specific items so much as the sections and pricing. Then I saw "San Valentine" across the top of the page and realized that, while it wasn't a pre-fixe menu, it's probably a special set of dishes running from this past Thursday through this weekend. They certainly seemed to carry a holiday premium with prices well above the online menu (I'm talking most main dishes over $20 while they're almost all under $20 on the website). So yeah, see paragraph one. This wasn't likely the usual fare. But some of Richmond's best restaurants change up their menus frequently to little or no detriment, right?

Well I've gotta say that the food at Deco was just...okay. I had the risotto del giorno which, tonight, included clams, mussels and shrimp mixed into the rice with a healthy dose of marinara stirred through. I wouldn't get it again. It wasn't bad, but it was just on the right side of keeping it at the table. I may be growing snobby about what passes for a good restaurant, but I don't send food back unless there’s something truly problematic about it. "Bland and mineral-y" is a disappointment, but not the same as delivering incorrect or undercooked food.

Valerie's pasta with a "filet ragu" tasted much better, but I feel like the only reasons they used beef tenderloin in that dish were to both justify the higher price and catch the eye of folks who reflexively drool over filet mignon. A different cut might have added more flavor for a lower food cost, but "sirloin ragu" doesn't have quite the same ring to most diners, does it? Valerie just wanted pasta with meat sauce, so ultimately it was fine. I wish I'd ordered it. I didn't finish my entrée, and I was planning to skip dessert, but I always fall victim to cannoli. Deco's cannoli were pretty good, I have to say.

Between our companions' meals and our shared appetizers, we saw a few other unremarkable dishes. Their "crab meatballs" were basically miniature crab cakes (including that pale orange-y dipping sauce), and the fried calamari (because of course...) was passable with its included marinara. If Deco's typical menu is close enough to what's on their website, it's also fairly unremarkable. That's not automatically bad, but I'll have to try it myself to see what the fuss is about.

I was disappointed with my main course, but I'm more disappointed by the restaurant - not because it's particularly bad, but because it's not particularly good. Not tonight, at least. It doesn't have to be the best restaurant in town. But par-for-the-course, upscale-casual Italian food isn't something we're lacking in this town or any other the size of Richmond. What is it about Deco that secured it's "Best New Restaurant" award? How did Deco win the award over Belmont Food Shop? Or Heritage? Or Peter Chang's China Cafe?

Look, I'm not saying people shouldn't eat here. I just tend to spend a lot of words explaining why something bothers me (I am descended from lawyers). I want to give Deco a fair shake, so I plan to return soon and try a few more dishes. Hopefully next time I'll be eating my words along with the food.

House of Cards, Netflix, and Power

It isn't news that Netflix has just released House of Cards - their adaptation of the 1990's British series of the same name. I'm probably not the first person you've heard of that recently started watching the show, taking in a few episodes at once. I'm also not likely the first person you've heard to say the show is good but not great. It's well executed and well acted, but merely okay in the writing department (so far); a little too heavy handed or on-the-nose with some of its themes.

I'm three episodes deep, but it's a scene from the first episode that struck me last night. Zoe Barnes, an ambitious young journalist, is talking to Representative Frank Underwood in his home. It's their first real meeting and, new to this game, Zoe is attempting to use flirtation and revealing clothes to extract information from the congressman. He's a Washington veteran and calls out the cheapness of her tricks. Impatient, Zoe tries to be direct, leading to this excellent exchange:

"Oh, is foreplay over?" asks Underwood.

"I read somewhere that JFK never lasted more than three minutes," Zoe says.

"Your point being?" he asks.

She counters: "Time is precious. Powerful people don't have the luxury of foreplay."

This scene is the show at its best; the dialog is good but also feels real. The timing is great, and so is the tension and uncertainty of where this meeting will lead. But I disagree with the sentiment. I was immediately reminded - really, right in the moment - of a scene from Scorsese's Goodfellas. In Henry Hill's reminiscing, he contemplates the situation of mob capo Paul Cicero, noting that at gatherings he typically sat down in one place while everybody else came to him and other people did all the talking. He observed that, "Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody." That, according to Hill, was power. No rushing, no regard for the scarcity of time. I think Hill's comment says a bit about the changing power structures of the entertainment industry - changes for which Netflix is partially responsible.

You see Netflix (and increasingly, everybody else) doesn't have a lot of power with audiences right now when it comes to releasing new programming, so they don't have time for "foreplay". They cannot afford to make an audience wait from week to week to see each new episode, because waiting risks that viewers will lose interest in the process. So Netflix skips the foreplay and gets right to the point by dropping the entire season on us at once. This allows the strength of the season-long narrative arc to draw us through the show's rough patches, because we don't have all week to wonder whether it's worth giving up another hour. Was an episode perfect? Not even close. But if I want to know what happens next, I just have to queue up the next installment whenever I want to find out.

David Fincher, who directed the first two episodes, said in an interview last month:

The world of 7:30 on Tuesday nights, that’s dead. A stake has been driven through its heart, its head has been cut off, and its mouth has been stuffed with garlic. The captive audience is gone. If you give people this opportunity to mainline all in one day, there’s reason to believe they will do it.
— [](

I think he summed it up rather well. There are, of course, exceptions. Maybe not to the "specific time slot" or "specific day of the week" aspects of his quote (thanks to DVRs). But there are a few TV channels and a few shows with enough power left that they can take their time. HBO and AMC are the two cable channels that come to mind. These two channels have earned a reputation for high quality television drama, so they can afford to keep up with the traditional television schedules, releasing a series one episode at a time while production is still in progress. AMC has even taken to the frustrating habit of splitting seasons of its most popular shows in half, spreading two half-seasons over an even longer stretch of the calendar.

Could Netflix get away with such behavior on a new series? It's possible, but I doubt it. Lillyhammer, Netflix's first original show, was just a blip on the radar even though it was released the same way. Any extra power for House of Cards would seem to come from its high profile director and leading man. And when Arrested Development returns this year, that will surely trade on the strength of its preceding seasons.

Granted, this isn't all about the power of content producers for Netflix. Their customers are already used to binging on TV series. It's how many of my friends and myself watched Friday Night Lights or were introduced to both Downton Abbey and Sherlock. And it's not like Netlfix has advertisers around these episodes of original programming, either. But if Netflix is trying to establish itself as an alternative "channel" of original content, they're not in a position to release a series piecemeal as they wrap up production. I'll be interested to see, if House of Cards is a hit, whether Netflix considers getting episodes of other seasons/shows out earlier, while a season is still in process. It would mean audiences have to wait from week to week, but they wouldn't have to wait for the entire series to wrap before they can start watching. That's the kind of anticipation only afforded shows with real power.

Tom Hooper's Les Miserables

I tagged along with my wife and her mom to see Tom Hooper's cinematic take on the musical, Les Misérables (as opposed to Bille August's non-musical take on the novel in 1998). I admit having walked in with tainted expectations ever since reading the exhaustive and excellent critical take-down of the movie's cinematography by Film Crit Hulk. But I've always loved the musical (one of the rare few I enjoy), so what the heck. Preconceived notions aside, I formed what I believe to be my own thoughts on the film. The old adage goes, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all", so I'll start with the nice.

I felt the acting was generally very good, from the leads to the supporting cast. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were believably emotive while Russell Crowe was appropriately intense. The singing from the non-movie-star supporting cast was often excellent, particularly Éponine, and of course, the music is mostly the same music I love from the stage musical.

But some things are miserable indeed in Hooper's Les Mis...

The top-billed cast were not up to the vocal task. Crowe and Jackman sang through their noses. Amanda Seyfried warbled. Hathaway's pitch wandered. I'm particularly upset about Hathaway's singing since, in interviews, she so frequently referred to her mother's role as Fantine in the original touring musical cast.

But the visuals bothered me as much as the singing. The editing frequently recalled Michael Bay's frenetic cutting every few seconds for no discernible reason. The shot choices and cinematography made me feel claustrophobic; where we should have seen many wide shots emphasizing the scale of situations we instead spent half the film looking up Hugh Jackman's nose. The overuse of wide-angle lenses, shots below character eye-lines, and hand-held cinematograpy made the whole world feel false and disorienting - even when we should have felt joy and celebration.

Whether or not my opinions were corrupted ahead of time, the entire movie felt musically and visually unstable.