Tuesday, November 15, 2005


It's Top Five time again . . .

Every Tuesday, Our Man in LA delves into his own personal Top Five for the week - a mix of restaurants, books, movies, and goings on that have his attention, and a Bottom 1 that has his annoyance.

Given the events of the last week, where seemingly everyone I know is doing something important, it might seem like a bit of fluff, but I suppose in times of even great change, it's good to have things to count on. Our Man in LA is happy to serve. So without further ado, it's time for some Top Five.

5) Moonshadows Restaurant in Malibu. Longtime readers will remember that over the weekend, we hosted my wife's dad and stepmom for their first ever visit to Southern California. On a gorgeous Saturday, we started off the day in Venice, chilling, watching a pickup basketball game on the boardwalk, taking in muscle beach. Then we headed north to scenic Malibu, where we lunched at Moonshadows.

Good stuff. I'd been there years ago on a separate trip to LA, and the restaurant was more of a bar and grille than a place for fine dining. Maybe it was my youth and exuberant alcohol-imbibing, but my memories of the place mostly center on blue rum drinks and a decent burger while seated on an outside terrace looking onto the beach.

The restaurant's metamorphosized into something a little classier, which is why it's a good place for the out of town crowd. They've closed in most of the terrace, but the view's just as good (just no gulls swooping by). The food's a damn site better - I had a lobster Caesar that was pretty excellent, and some chowder that kicked. Plus, we could see dolphins frolicking from our table.

I didn't get a blue rum drink, and I'm not even sure if they still offer them. But I won't hold that against the place.

4) College basketball. I know that it's still a mite early to be talking about this subject. At this time of the year, you've mostly got big-time bball programs facing off against the little sisters of the poor.

On the other hand, Missouri played Sam Houston State last night, and lost, so maybe there is something interesting in the games against those poor, poor little sisters.

I don't know why, but I'm excited about the upcoming season. Sure, I'm more of a UNC guy than a Duke guy, and Duke looks just about unstoppable. But the rest of my teams could just be worth a look. Well, most of them.

SI ranks the Mighty Mighty Longhorns as the preseason #2 team in the nation, which fills me with dread and worry. But on the other hand, maybe this is the year that folks start to figure out that UT is a two-sport school like, well . . . there probably are some.

Ohio State looks to come back into the haves of the Big Ten in the new season. I like what I'm seeing from Indiana and UCLA, and though my family and friends from Carolina bemoan the Tar Heels' chances, they'll still probably go to the tourney. And they won it all last year.

Then there's Northwestern. The only school in a major Division I conference to never make it to the big dance. Could this be the year? Could it? Probably not.

But hell, they already have one win. Go Cats!

3) Farfalle in Los Feliz. OK, so a lot of a family visit to LA revolves around eating. And I'd be remiss in a major way if I didn't mention this tiny little Italian place less than a block from Our Home in LA. Pretty much fantastic is the way to describe it.

The place is small and intimate with good waitstaff. And then there's the food. The Father-in-Law described his meal as "The best Chicken Marsala that I've ever had. Do you understand what I mean by the best Chicken Marsala? I don't mean good. I mean real good. It's real good. Real good. The best." Same goes for the piccata dish his wife and I had, and for the appetizers at this place.

Seriously, I've eaten bruschetta at a lot of places, and this might be the best I've ever tasted. High praise from someone who honeymooned in Italy.

As we left, the Father-in-Law said: "We've had a lot of good meals on this trip. Not saying anything bad about any of the others. But you can take me back here, boy. Next time we're in LA, we've got to go back here. I mean, that's not good. That's real good."

Done. We're in agreement. I think Our Woman in LA and I will be back a few times, too.

2) Amoeba Music at Cahuenga and Hollywood. Stopped in here today after a meeting, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while. The store is right down the street from the Cinerama Dome, and it's reputedly the best record store in greater LA.

Man, it's not a record store. It's a church.

If you worship at the altar of music - be it rock or pop, blues or country, house or salsa, classical or jazz - this is a place you've got to go. Don't feed me any of that tripe about Tower Records. It's fine, sure, but so is Target. This place is epic. Without question the best selection of used and new CDs and vinyl that I've seen in quite some time, not to mention a movie section that's out of this world.

I didn't have time to spend the time Amoeba really needs when I did the stop-in today. But that's all right. I'll be back - and for hours and hours. Amazing. You could get lost. In the few minutes that I spent, I found myself remembering bands that I haven't thought of in some time. And then rushing to their section and flipping through the discs. I could have spent a week's pay in this place.

But then Our Woman in LA would kill me. And not a jury in the world would convict her. I wouldn't even blame her. But what a cool store.

1)The Tut Exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. One of the other truly worthy experiences from the weekend with the In-laws is that we spent time at LACMA going through one of its most celebrated exhibits in years. And what an exhibit it was.

As you may or may not know, Our Man in LA spent much of his wayward youth dreaming of a career in archaeology. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark about 45 times when it came out, and I thought there could be few things cooler than studying ancient cultures (and of course, fighting against nazis, evil spirits, and maniac swordsmen).

The dream petered out sometime in college, I guess. Even though I was studying journalism, it really took a bad, boring anthropology class to finally kill it for me. Whatever. I still scan the television listings for documentaries about the ancient world - about Egypt and the Middle East, the Pyramids, the Pharaohs and so on.

This was right up my alley. For an hour and change, I got to wander amongst some truly amazing artifacts from the teen king's resting place. I saw maces and knives, dog collars and furniture, re-read accounts of mummification and preserving the major organs in canoptic jars. I listened as an obsessed antiquities professor from Cairo described to the audio tour how the moment that he looked the mummified king straight in his dead eye, it was the greatest moment of his life.

We even got to listen to all the various theories about the King's death. Was he murdered? A victim of war?

So cool. Just gives me goosebumps.

Of course, it's no fighting Nazis or swordsmen. But it was pretty cool anyway.

And now, the Bottom One.

A lot of cultural touchstones clashed for the honor of being named Our Man in LA's Bottom One this week. The whole Terrell Owens saga coming out of Philly certainly made a splash. How on Earth do you get me to feel sorry for the Philadelphia Eagles? And yet . . .

Then there was Wednesday's episode of LOST. I know I've said more than enough on this subject, but really, this one was terrible. Sayid professing his love to Shannon in the freaking rain? And then she gets shot? Puh-leeze. Worst episode ever. So bad it makes that Hurley episode in Korean look good.

And seriously, someone needs to do something about Michelle Rodriguez on that show.

But the honor goes to all the hubbub about Maureen Dowd's new book ARE MEN NECESSARY?, which lambastes Generation X females and the way they treat feminism, not to mention discussing the ways in which men are afraid to couple with women who are powerful and successful. Among the pieces of proof that Dowd offers for this is herself - a successful and pretty journalist who, in her 50s, can't find a man.

Nevermind the fact that it seems a little disingenuous to criticize the feminism of a new generation and complain about not being able to find a guy. On the other hand, I don't want to go too far with my criticism of the book, since I've only read the New York Times excerpt and some of the criticism. Don't plan to, either - and as a Thurber fan, I don't know if I dig on her co-opting the title of Thurber and White's book IS SEX NECESSARY?, but I'll let it lie.

But the bigger question for me is: Does anyone care about Maureen Dowd's romantic life? I mean, really. Is anyone - anyone at all - out there worrying about a smug baby boomer columnist with millions of dollars who thinks that she can't attract a life partner because she's too smart?

I think I'd rather follow the romantic life of Marge Simpson's sisters, all things being equal.

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