Day: March 21st, 2007

To air is human

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Film, Music

My dinner plans got canceled, so SYB invited me along to attend a preview screening of Air Guitar Nation  at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village.


Air Guitar Nation

Alexandra Lipsitz, who was a producer for Bravo’s “Project Runway,” directed this documentary chronicling the birth of the United States Air Guitar Championships and the road to the 2003 World Championships in Oulu, Finland. Drawing inspiration from a 2001 Wall Street Journal article about the Sixth Annual Air Guitar World Championships, the producers filmed competitions in New York City and Los Angeles, eventually accompanying the American finalists to Finland. The footage was originally intended to form the basis of a new reality television show for VH1, but when plans for the series got shelved, this documentary was the result.

The story is framed around a pair of colorful characters: musician/freelance writer Dan Crane, aka Björn Türoque — love the heavy metal umlauts — and his chief rival for air supremacy, David “C-Diddy” Jung, a charismatic actor/comedian who performs in a flowing red kimono and Hello Kitty breastplate. (For real.)

The international competition was begun by Finnish students in 1996 to promote world peace, a fact worth noting as the Americans entered the contest for the first time in 2003, shortly after the outbreak of the Iraq war. Crane, the underdog of the two, declares himself an “ambassador of air,” at one point taking the stage bare-chested with the words “Make Air Not War!” scrawled across his torso in black marker. Still, one can sense the wariness towards the Americans from the European contingent. During the obligatory trash-talking, one Austrian acidly quipped that Björn Türoque should change his monikor and represent the French as Björn Toulouse. (thought that was funny, but I probably have a higher tolerance for puns than most.)

Eventually, we see the international contestants bonding over a shared love of power shredding, slashing riffs and windmilling… and one suspects, a mutual admiration for arena rock and Bill & Ted. In fact, SYB recognized the winning performance music — which I think I’ve identified as Play With Me” by Extreme — from the chaotic mall scene in Excellent Adventure.

It’s all pretty charming, and I found the proceedings far more entertaining than I thought I would. One of the film’s most touching moments shows Jung’s Korean immigrant parents, who had wanted their son to become a doctor, cheering him on in the Finland final and throwing up the “metal horns.”

Crane, whom SYB knew back when he was an educational software producer, attended tonight’s screening along with producers Dan Cutforth and Anna Barber, promoting his new book, aptly titled: To Air is Human.

Afterwards, having hit my rock and roll quota for the night, I skipped out on the Rolling Stone party to add yet another notch on the ramen belt. At 5th and B, Minca is the farthest off the beaten path of the city’s top ramen joints, but clearly well on the radar of the Japanese expats that filled the dozen or so tables and bar stools.

Minca kitchen

I ordered the Minca ramen, which centers around an earthy broth made with pork, chicken and dried seafood. According to the Times  (in which Minca got the “$25 and Under” treatment), the chef-owner boils a combination of 80% pork bones/20% chicken bones for hours to prepare the thick and porky brew; the dried noodles are delivered directly from Japan. That kind of care for ingredients is carried over into the dish preparations; from where we sat at the front window, I could watch the chefs carefully assembling each bowl, pouring the steaming broth over the noodles, thin-slicing the fatty, pork belly chunks, layering on the mahogany-colored soy sauce egg, tangle of scallions, bamboo and mushrooms, until finally, finishing things off with a leaf of dried seaweed.

Minca ramen

This may be the best one yet.

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