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Mario Batali: 9 Questions, 0 About Cooking

If you want to know how old Chef Mario Batali is  or where he went to culinary school or where he gets his orange Crocs, no offense but Google it. Asking questions that are easy to find the answers to isn't really my thing.

Fortunately, when I told Batali at a Publix Apron's Cooking School event that most of my questions weren't about cooking, he said, "Good. My specialty."

1. How would do you describe yourself in three words? 

[Pause] That’s a good question. [Long pause] Fast, delicious, real

2. What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you? 

I like quiet ... sometimes. As much as I appreciate the cacophony of my life and how busy and intense it is, I like to sit down quietly for 15 or 20 minutes, two or three times a day and try to empty everything. At the bottom of the sea, there are as many interesting things to see as there are at the top of the sea. Everybody likes to see the top of the sea. I like to see if I can find the bottom every once and a while.

3. How many hours do you sleep a night?

Between four and five and a half. I don’t even have an alarm clock. I wake up every day at 5:30.

4. What are your pet peeves?

In the kitchen, it’s people who pretend lazy is rustic. And in life, when someone will ask a question, and they really don’t care what the answer is. They just want to ask the next question. And I do that all the time. It's like the answer seems less significant than me asking the question ... which is pathetic. [Laughs] My pet peeve about myself is not listening. I need to listen more.

5. What's your favorite band?

This week? Disappears. They're really good. 

6. What actor would play you in a film of your life? 

Oliver Platt

7. What is your favorite restaurant that’s not yours?

In the world? Sin Huat in Singapore. But I really like Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelius Street in Manhattan. And I really like Palm Valley Fish …   More


Ortega River Run 2013: A Twitter Addict's Story

Until today, I had never "run" a five-mile race in my life (and by "run," I mean "slow jog"), but I'm participating in a 12-week fitness program called We Run Jax, organized by Cross Training San Marco, and I was strongly encouraged to do so by my team leader and teammates. So, despite a recently sprained ankle and chronic laziness, I did the race this morning.

To say it was easier that I thought it would be would be a big, fat lie. But I am glad I did it if for no other reason than I learned something very important about myself: Embarrassment and/or pride don't motivate me nearly as much as annoying people.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don't mind embarrasssing myself, so being passed by kids, moms pushing strollers and folks old enough to be my grandparents didn't bother me (check the photo gallery above for some of my more interesting competitors). Being around people who irritate me, however, was incentive to move faster and get away from them (I'm talking to you, spitting guy, woman cracking her bubble gum and ladies wearing headphones and talking very loudly because you couldn't hear each other over your music).

Though my time wasn't anyting to brag about, I am proud of myself for finishing — especially in front of the four ladies who told me they took a "couple of shortcuts."

Thanks to my We Run Jax teamies (Brandy, Garrick, Jimmy, Lauren, Natalie, Sarah and Michael) and Marlo for the support.

And to the police officer who said to a group of us as we walked by, "You're cheating. It's called the Ortega River RUN not the Ortega River WALK," you're a jerk.   More


EXCLUSIVE: A Real Interview with the Fake Mayor

His Twitter name is Alvin Brown. His Twitter handle is @jaxmayorbrown. His Twitter profile photo is of Mayor Alvin Brown. He posts about budget matters, City Council members and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. He has more than 1,100 die-hard followers. But the person behind @jaxmayorbrown is not the Mayor Alvin Brown.

Affectionately referred to as "the fake mayor" around town, @jaxmayorbrown pokes fun at the real mayor and city government in general through his witty tweets. One of the most interesting aspects of this parody account is the fact that only a handful of people know the person behind it (and, no, I am not one of them).

Though his real identity remains a mystery (we do know he's a him), the fake mayor did agree to an exclusive interview with The Specktator — via e-mail, of course. 

What are the most pressing issues facing our city?

How to reach the next level. How to become more effective and efficient.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Jacksonville — by residents and the rest of the country?

Misconception? Hold on … let me grab my dictionary.

What do you consider the most significant barrier to Jacksonville's growth and becoming a world-class city?

Mayor Brown doesn't see barriers, only opportunities.

Why did you choose to make such a big investment in Downtown?

In order to reach the next level, we need a vibrant downtown. One that is a destination, not a pass-through.

Do you plan to run for re-election?

I thought I was mayor for life. Is that not the case?

Would you consider running for governor?

I fully expect a "draft Mayor Brown" movement. What Floridian doesn't want to take our state to the next level?

Any interest in applying for the pope gig?

Catholics from all over the world have asked me to throw my mitre in the ring. Naturally, they want to take their church to the next level.

What's with all of the sports events coming to town …   More


There's No 'We' in Valentine's Day But There Is an 'I'

It could be said that Valentine’s Day is the most depressing day of the year for the unattached. Watching co-workers get showered with flowers, listening to friends drone on about their romantic dinners at Wine Cellar or Matthew’s and being subjected to a constant stream of Lionel Richie, Chicago and Air Supply on the radio … it’s enough to make anyone feel unwanted, unattractive and even unloveable.

The truth is havinlag a valentine isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. In fact, those of us without significant others have plenty of reasons to rejoice in our singledom:

1. Saving approximately $139: the average price of the check for a Valentine's Day dinner, according to OpenTable.

2. No nicks, cuts or razor bumps: since there's no need to shave. But if you are feeling amorous...

3. Better chance of having sex: ironic, huh? A survey conducted by Men's Health and Women's Health revealed less than 50 percent of men in relationships expect to have sex on Valentine's Day.

4. More candy: not having to share your Peterbrooke chocolate-covered popcorn. That alone is enough reason for me to celebrate being single. I'd eat that stuff out of a urinal. TMI? (In the alternative, you don't need to consume calories just because someone gave you candy in a heart-shaped box.)

5. Avoiding greeting card anxiety: Valentine's card section = virtual landmine for relationships. Singletons need not worry about choosing between a card that's funny or romantic or — gasp — blank inside. Or trying to figure out if you should even get someone a card, like, say, a friend with benefits?

6. Better service at non-romantic restaurants: assuming you consider Wacko's or Gold Club restaurants. Guys can also expect extra-attentive service at Hooters.

7. Absence of gift-related stress: whether you are the giver or receiver. In addition spending an average of $130.97 for cards, candy and gifts, according to a BIGinsight …   More


UPDATED UPDATE: Gov. Scott's Twitter Faux Pas

Just when you thought you heard the last of my obsession with Gov. Rick Scott's questionable Twitter follows, the plot thickens—or should I say, fattens.

After my original post, John Tupps in the governor's press office contacted me via email and offered this explanation: "We discovered that the account was set up automatically to follow anyone who followed our account. The issue is being fixed immediately."

I can't vouch for their removal of the automatic follow feature, but I can tell you Gov. Scott is no longer following the accounts I mentioned, including Teen Porn Sex, MTV Teen Mom Farrah Abraham and Top Brass Vodka.

While I appreciate the governor's press office taking my advice, they obviously missed the big picture: They should have checked every account he is following.

If they had, they would have discovered he also follows @TheIceHouseMan (see photo 2 in the photo gallery at the top of the page). Granted, the name isn't offensive and neither is the description. But the profile pic (check photo 3 ... if you dare) should have been a clue as to what kind Tweets a naked man in a cardboard box would post (if you are not easily offended and want to check out some incredibly distasteful comments, check out @TheIceHouseMan's Twitter page. And don't say I didn't warn you.)

My only regret in all of this is that the governor's office also unfollowed @OprahQuote after reading my post. He really could have benefited from its September 25 Tweet.

Whenever trouble comes my way I ask, "What is this here to teach me?"



Where the Streets Have Two Names

I've always wondered who came up with the names of streets in Jacksonville.

I'm guessing the city planner who dreamt up Peter Pan Place and Snow White Drive on the Westside was a fan of fairy tales, while an Ivy Leaguer must have named Harvard, Princeton and Yale avenues in Ortega.

These thoroughfares, I assume, were named by the Department of Redundancy Department:

Lane Avenue

Boulevard Street

Circle Drive

Court Street

Lane Circle

This one, however, defies explanation. Even for the City of Jacksonville.




UPDATE: Gov. Scott's Twitter Faux Pas

Earlier this week, I made a disturbing discovery about Gov. Rick Scott's Twitter account (@FLGovScott), namely, that the state's top dog was following a teen porn website — among others that were just plain strange (@FartingElephants anyone?).

Prior to posting, I contacted the governor's press office for a comment. In my message, I only mentioned Twitter and made no reference to any of the questionable accounts he was following. No one called me back, but I received this email the afternoon it was posted.


Governor Scott likes to use as many ways as possible to communicate with Floridians on how to make our state better. Twitter is another example of that.

John Tupps

Office of Governor Rick Scott

Press Office

While I appreciate Tupps' response (all 27 words of it), he didn't refer to the teen porn site — or the farting elephants, for that matter — probably because he didn't even know that the governor was following them on Twitter … mainly because he didn't return my call.

The following day, I received a voicemail from Melissa Sellers in the governor's office. Before I could return the call, I received another email from he of the concise message. 

Hey Kerry,

I tried calling you a couple of times today - wanted to let you know that we discovered that our account was set up to automatically follow anyone who followed our account. 

This problem is being fixed immediately.

Unfortunately for Scott & Co., Tera Barz of Action News had already picked up on the story.

I'll have more on this story as it develops … if for no other reason than I've always wanted to say that.   More


I Got Plenty of Time fo' This

An apartment fire certainly isn't anything to laugh at. To hear Oklahoma City resident Sweet Brown describe her harrowing escape, though, you can't help but laugh.

The fact that one of Jacksonville's favorite sons makes a brief cameo in the autotune remix makes it all the more amusing.

At two minutes, 38 seconds, you got plenty of time fo' this.

WARNING: This song may cause an ear worm. If your ear worm lasts more than four hours, consult your physician immediately.   More


Gov. Scott's Twitter Faux Pas

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has more than 34,000 followers on Twitter (@FLGovScott), a more than acceptable number in relation to the state's population (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for example, has 73,400+ followers and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn more than 21,600).

What's strange about Scott's Twitter account, however, is the number and type of people, businesses and organizations he follows (click on photos above).

Where Cuomo and Quinn follow less than 400, Scott follows more than 25,000. Some are to be expected like Lou Dobbs, Team Romney and First Lady Ann Scott. Others are just plain amusing: Elephantsfarting, Oprah Quote, i have never voted, I'm a Panda and multiple colon cleansing businesses (is the No. 1 in the state obsessed with #2?).

There are the curious...

Scott, who The Palm Beach Post referred to as a "near teetotaler," follows Top Brass Vodka. And one certainly wouldn't expect a governor who rejected funding from the Affordable Care Act for programs including public education about teen pregnancy to follow Farrah Abraham, who appeared on MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom.

And then, there's the just plain disturbing...

Of the Twitter accounts Scott follows, one is a a porn site—and not just any old porn site but a teen porn site. That's "teen," as in "teenager," as in "not yet an adult," as in "probably still in high school."

"Following," for those of you not familiar with Twitter, is not a passive process. In order to follow a person or company, one has to physically go to that page and click "follow." Scott's 34,100-ish followers, on the other hand, followed him without him (read: a staffer) lifting a finger.

Sure, we can give Scott the benefit of the doubt: perhaps his office uses some automated program that follows any Twitter account that follows him or his account was hacked. But someone on his staff should monitor everyone who follows him. Any offensive or questionable account …   More


Jags Should Be Playing in the Super Toilet Bowl

The Super Bowl is today. And if I remember correctly, it's the Whatchamacallits vs. the Who Cares. The reason I don't care is because I'm really not a fan of football — or TV ads (little-known fact: commercials are the reason God invented the fast-forward button on DVR remotes).

I am, however, a fan of the Jaguars, mostly because I love Jacksonville, and I understand their significance to this city—which is why I have analyzed their record-breaking 2-14 season to figure out what went wrong. Knowing very little about the sport, my theories have nothing to do with football and everything to do with nothing.

1. The team's name: The Panthera onca or jaguar, as it is more commonly known, is a solitary animal that lives alone and hunts alone: hence, there is no name for a pack of jaguars. How can you be a team when your namesake doesn't know anything about teamwork? Killer Bees would have been a better choice.

2. Shad Khan and his mustache: Fans, I blame you for this one. If you'd pay a little more attention to supporting the team and players than its dashing billionaire owner and his lip sweater, maybe they'd be inspired to play better. 

3. The uniforms: Even if you don't buy into the theory of dark clothing absorbing more heat than lighter colors, black is associated with mourning and death. Teal, on the other hand, is associated with emotional health and stability. 

4. Mike Mularkey: I know nothing about his coaching experience or skills, but what do you expect from a guy whose last name means "nonsense"? (Yes, I know the word is spelled "malarkey," but it sounds the same.)

5. Twitter: It's great that so many players are on Twitter connecting with fans, but perhaps they should spend a little more time talking about preparing for upcoming games or commenting on their performance. Instead, most of them spend their time chirping about video games or where they are going to eat (80 …   More