Well, who wants to fuck her first? I'd do it myself, but, you know.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still / Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed / By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill . . .
I completely agree. Let's kill that motherfucker! I'll bring the pitchforks. You bring the torches. Afterward, we can grab some brews.
Right, because war isn't political, and the conduct of war shouldn't be the subject of political debate. That's a farcically absurd argument, but one that seems to hold some currency in contemporary political debate. If the President had said something like "Democrats are endangering our troops for partisan gain," I'd disagree and accuse him of the most wretched hypocrisy, but would allow at least that it was a reasonable position to put forth. This is much worse, though; it's an effort (not just by Bush, but by a long line of others) to try to place the most consequential activity that a state can engage in beyond the realm of ordinary democratic politics. While accusations of partisanship are ordinary democratic politics, arguing that war is beyond the political is almost fascist, in addition to being downright stupid.Not "almost," bubballah.
-Robert Farley at LG&M
And meanwhile, let me just say this about that. When Hilzoy laments the failure of the Senate to act on its supposed, privately held convictions that the Iraqi pooch has been screwed two fetches and a roll over beyond its miserable life, I applaud his articulate rage, but smack my forehead at his credulity. What Senators say to scribes in "private" is not private. What Dick Lugar or John Warner or any of the rest of them says to David Brooks is not his own true and sincere inner belief. David Brooks is not a man but a conduit, a municipal sewer-line through which pretend-private musings can be flushed out into the sleepy republic. Private regrets that air publicly on the nightly news and seem calibrated to the public mood aren't private regrets. They're press releases, boys and girls, by any other name.
What Senators believe about Iraq is what Senators do about Iraq, and that means that there is essentially unanimity on a policy of hanging as much blame as possible around the outgoing neck of scapegoat GWB and the salving the all-along plan to establish
(Obsidan Wings post via Jim)
Friday, July 20, 2007
You must not grow up to be a lone wolf:
There are two big schools of thought about what the U.S. should do next in Iraq, and both schools are almost certainly wrong.To paraphrase: Thus begins an article; who knows how it ends!
Of course the two schools of thought are one school of thought, and the split difference our author imagines is sitting comfortably at a desk there, waiting for class to begin. Underneath their public rhetoric--and not even very far underneath; as close to the surface as the cherry scent of scratch-and-sniff--everyone in a position to activate their espousals espouses a plan whereby the US reduces its presence in Iraq so that the folks back home don't notice it so much, all the while retaining a permanent base presence there for several tens of thousands of American troops.
Jim Henley covered this territory already. Let's stipulate also that if 150,000 soldiers can't prevent everyone belligerent in Iraq from spontaneously metamorphosing into al Qaeda whenever it's propogandistically convenient, then fiddy thou ain't gonna do it neither. Let's further stipulate that the same applies to the once-and-future "core mission" of "border security." But consider this:
A force of 50,000 to 100,000 troops would dig in for a longer stay to protect America's most vital interests: denying al- Qaeda a safe haven and preventing an almost inevitable civil war from spilling into neighboring countries."Preventing an almost inevitable civil war from spilling into neighboring countries." Now that's interesting.
It's interesting because the US has taken up a policy of arming Sunni factions in our efforts to combat Shia agitation and violence, and now such leading lights as ol' Doc Merkwurkdigliebe are noting, as Yglesias informs us, that this basically amounts to ensuring a modicum of armed equity between the major ethnoreligious communities that will fight a civil war in the aftermath of our invasion.
So, what Michael Duffy of Time Magazine is effectively advocating is that we form a ring around Iraq like a bunch of high-school boys, chanting "Fight! Fight!" and throwing whichever poor bastard gets knocked to the ropes back into the ring to take some more lumps. Now there is an edifying mission for the Bestest Army Ever.
Meanwhile, "U.S. Generals Request Delay in Judging Iraq." When I read the headline, I expect to find Davidus Maximus Patraeus mounting the video-conferenced rostrum to advocate for another six-month lacuna in analysis where we all drop our faces into disinterest and clear our minds with a little Om mani padme hum muttering against the depredations of the material world. But no, no, the generals request that we delay judgment from mid-September to . . . November of the same year!
Listen, you weasely cracker: if you can't make her come, another thirty seconds of franting pumping will only make everyone feel worse about themselves than they already do. Pull out.
Fuck it. Foodie Friday has been altogether too healthy, too lean, too pure. The question remains: Why does the food I love most at the restaurants I love best taste so much better, richer, deeper than my own. The answer, my friends, is fat. Lard. Butter. Duck fat. Goose fat. Pork fat. Fat rendered, melted, fried, mounted, blended. Today's recipe, one of my favorites, is a rich, deep, Southern French, Northern Italian dish. You don't want to eat like this every day, or every week. But from time to time . . .
Sweet Sausage, zuchinni, and guanciale stew over polenta cakes
The sweet spiciness of the sausage (yes, giggle), the delicate sweetness of fresh yellow and green zuchinni, and the smokey, dark, complex notes of the guanciale--cured pig jowl--combine with the bright, slightly funky flavor of marjoram. The polenta cakes are broiled the on olive oil under a layer of jowl fat and Regianno Parmigiano. Red bell peppers give it color. A deep background of garlic-scented olive oil and a final mounting with sweet cream butter make for a dish that is sophisticated, luxurious, and best of all cheap.
First a few ingredient notes. You can make your own polenta, which is easy (just corn meal, water, and a little salt), but cooling it and baking it into molds for cakes is a pain in the ass, and not the good kind. I buy this stuff, premade, pressed, and packaged at a local Italian importer. It's quite inexpensive and of a perfectly fine quality. It keeps forever in the fridge and is a great general pantry item. It slices easily into cakes of any shape or size and holds its form in liquid or in the oven. As for the guanciale: a substitute is jowl bacon. Most grocers and butchers that cater to a black clientele carry it. It's usually smoked, and the end result is a slightly less sophisticated layering of flavors in the dish, but it's a perfectly decent substite. (Also, I might add, a good pantry item.) Finally, when I say cheap balsamic vinegar below, I mean it. The cheap stuff, which is basically sweet, slightly thick red wine vinegar, is exactly what this recipe wants.
5-6 garlic cloves
1 lb. loose sweet Italian sausage (or rope or links with the casing cut away)
1/4 lb. guanciale (or substitute jowl bacon)
1 large yellow onion
3-4 large shallots
1 medium red bell pepper
1 green zuchinni
1 yellow zuchinni
cheap balsamic vinegar
polenta cakes (see link above)
extra virgin olive oil
sweet cream butter
To make the stew, first slowly heat five or six cloves of garlic in olive oil--start with oil and garlic in a cold pan, and slowly bring up the heat. When the garlic begins to pop and brown, remove it with tongs or a slotted spoon. Now lightly brown your sausage in the bowl over medium-high heat, then remove and reserve as well. Add the diced onions, shallots, and red bell pepper to the pan, bring the heat down slightly to medium, salt lightly, and sweat out 3/4 covered. Remember, the idea in this recipe is to preserve the juices of the vegetabls, which form a sweet liquer. Their liquid will also deglaze any bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pot.
When the onions and shallots have turned transparent, add your zuchinni, salt lightly again, and cover. They will soon begin giving up their liquid. Now add the sausage and your sprigs of marjoram. Add two tablespoons of vinegar. Stir together. Reduce heat to low (simmer) and cover tightly.
Now slice your quanciale thinly. Cut away the rind if it remains. As you can see in the photo, one half of each slice will be pure fat, the other half a mixture of fat and meat. Cut away the long strips of fat and set aside. Cut the remaining meat into little strips, about 1/8" by 1/2". Add these to your stew and cover again tightly.
Cut your polenta cakes. If you use the item I recommended above or something similar, you will have cylinders about 3" in diameter and you want a thickness a little less than an inch. Place these in a pan lightly seasoned with olive oil. Then cover each cake with thin strips of jowl fat. Then shave your parmagiano with a vegetable peeler and put these thin strips on top of the fat. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, then turn it off. Put the polenta inside the warm oven on the top rack. It will slowly heat through, and the jowl fat will render slightly.
The stew, after simmering for about 30-40 minutes, is almost done. Uncover it. The liquer of the vegetables will be sweet and hearty; the zuchinni will have absorbed much of the flavor of the meats; the marjoram will have given it all a pungency and brightness. Now quickly turn your broiler to high to brown and crisp the cheese on your polenta. Meanwhile cut a generous hunk of sweet cream butter and melt it into your stew, thickening it and giving it that final touch of decadance. Remove the polenta when the top layer has browned.
To serve: Place a polenta cake in a shallow bowl. Spoon a mixture of liquid, vegetables, and sausage over it. The liquid, ideally, should rise about three quarters of the thickness of the cake. Dash with raw extra virgin olive oil; top with grated parmagiano; garnish with a sprig of fresh marjoram. Serve.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
As we wind the dull clock forward toward 2008 and the next presidential election, it becomes increasingly clear that the Republican field is lacking that certain je ne sais quoi. And it occurs to me that what's happened is that the Grand Old Party has somehow conspired to run George W. Bush again by splitting him into several parts--Captain Planet, returned to the rings of his Planeteers. You've got Mormon Mitt doing both religion and the Northeastern MBA thing; you've got John McCain doing the imperious kill 'em all thing; you've got Fred Thompson somnambulating through a series of grotesque homilies to some sort of Robert Penn Warren-meets-Bill Faulkner Southern regional Americanic Utopia; you've got Giuliani to snarl and, presumably, if given the opportunity, mock the pleas of those condemned to die. By our powers combined, ladies and gents. The Democrats, meanwhile, are fielding a reasonable collection of empire managers. Would the world do better to swallow them up in floods and tremors? Yes. But let us not wander into false hopes. The contest is to determine who will best manage the smooth passage of the ship of state for whomever: the United Fruit Company; Morgan Stanley; Lockheed Martin; the Defense Department; Boeing, etc. If it comes down to--let's be arbitrary--Romney and Clinton, say, who do you think the big guns are gonna get behind: the guy who wants to "double Guantanamo?" or the gal who will quietly shift our torturing back to dark rooms and third parties where it belongs?
Oooooooooooooh! An independent, bipartisan commission to investigate! Oh, gracious, me, yes, yes. Just what we need!
At first I was just going to make fun, but then I remembered how we got out of Iraq.
Let me tell you about the screenplay I'm writing. It's about a nice girl named, I don't know, Jane Roe, let's call her. Successful. Career woman. Sweet. Sexy. Gets a little toasted at a bar one night. Goes home with some loser guy. Is he cute? Eh, she's not really sure. Whatever. He's not so bad in the sack.
Holy shit, she's preggers!
Tracking Shot. Jane wakes up, showers, brushes her teeth, eats her cereal, walks out to her car--I figure, maybe, a little silver Bimmer 3-seer--backs out of her cute suburban driveway, drives down the road, listens to some oldies or something, heads to an anonymous office-y building, hops out, walks in, gets an abortion, walks out, and is totally okay with it.
10 minutes. They can show it before the next Pixar film or something.
If you, friends and fools, have been looking for the perfect metaphoric vehicle for the entire Iraqi catastrophe, the singular story representative of the entire series, look no further. It now appears that our allies, the Iraqi government, have not killed the potentially fictitious leader of the insurgent group al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Someone call Umberto Eco. Someone call Robert Anton Wislon. Someone call me crazy:
Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A official and Middle East expert, acknowledged that experts had long wondered whether Mr. Baghdadi actually existed. Still, Mr. Riedel suggested that the briefing on Wednesday indicated that recent intelligence on Al Qaeda was hardly perfect and may not be the final word.Misinformation? Disinformation? Qui sait ? Qui s'importe ?
“They say we have killed him,” Mr. Riedel said, referring to earlier statements by Iraqi government officials. “Then we heard him after his death, and now they are saying he never existed.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Now I am not one to defend the goings-on at DailyDross, but OMG LOL PNP GBM Str8 MILF BTW ASL! O'Reilly is angry that someone called the pope a primate! What's hilarious is that certain folks in the ecclesiastical vocations are primates in both senses of the word. Oh, this is too, too wonderful.
Next up: The President is a mammal!
In Which I Explain Harry Potter for Matthew Yglesias, A.S. Byatt, Harold Bloom, and All Y'All Motherfuckers
Matthew Yglesias wants someone to say something interesting about Harry Potter that places the series in a broader cultural context, that explains its origins and antecedents, that accounts for its popularity as well as the anger and disdain it engenders, and generally to do so without sounding like the cranky A.S. Byatt. There are really two questions here: Why is Harry Potter popular; and, What does Harry Potter's popularity signify? The answer to the latter question is "not much," and the failure of both advocates and detractors to appreciate that simple truth is at the root of all the hateration between the two camps.
But let's put the horse before the cart, or the dragon before the sled, or whatever. Harry Potter is popular because it provides a simple narrative of eminently and entirely recognizable parts. It's real literary antecedent isn't The Lord of the Rings, but the Odyssey. That's not a claim about literary merit, but about narrative technique. It occurs episodically, and like the narratives arising in the old oral traditions, its formal structure derives from the material of familiar, recognizable, memorizable, easily repeatable tropes. The characterological simplicity of its personae is the point, as are the predictable mechanics of all the dei ex machina--the secret rooms, sudden discoveries, help from above, beside, below, abroad. It is in many regards the oldest form of storytelling that we have, and the most familiar. Like Odysseus, its main character is both beset by trials and fortune-favored. Like the Odyssey, it's a story built on aggregation rather than narrative unity. Tolkeinian world-creation--the building up of a single, coherent, alternate mythopoesis--is in fact a very modern and rather unusual technique. The spells and secret rooms in Harry Potter stories have a lot more in common with Odysseus bag o' wind.
Each episode in a classical epic is itself a style and strophe that recalls for the audience another very much like it elsewhere in the tradition. There are tales of physical courage and tales of cunning; there are domestic interludes; there are comic set-pieces; there are little passion plays, etc. The reason that the narrative progression feels effortless is because it is effortless. The reason that all the trappings of magic and fantasy in the world can't derail its underlying familiarity is because of . . . its underlying familiarity.
On the merits of Harry Potter as a character or as an artistic creation, I have little good to say. For the most part, he appears to be a brat. I can be more defensive about the relative flatness of all his foils and enemies and even his drably psychotic nemesis. In an epic, agglomerative story, secondary characters are always unidimensional. They exist not for their own sake, as do the lavish casts in more sophisticated tales (especially the high-novelistic tradition of the late 18th century onward), but as catalysts for the further adventures of the hero, who may develop some depth along the way, but who remains, as I said, both beset and fortune-favored. That, also, is the point. Does Harry Potter pass ungraciously through puberty? Yes. Is Harry Potter a Bildungsroman. Not on your fuckin' life, my little witches and wizards. J.K. Rowling's real nod away from this tradition is the crafting of a few supporting roles with more meat than the main character. This is Shakespearian in kind if not in quality. Beatrice and Benedick are way more interesting than Claudio and Hero.
So. To the great and eternal question of why Potter is pleasant fiction: Familiarity breeds favor. It is no more or less than that.
As for its vast popularity, well, that's just an accident, no more significant than Hello Kitty. Disco Sucks!, yes, but man did people love to disco. To plumb the depths of every pop cultural phenomenon for signification is to run up against the impenetrable wall of human whim. Why are some things big and some things bombs? The truth is: Luck, location, accident, chance. J.K. Rowling wrote an easy story with a broad appeal that found word-of-mouth buzz and then had the good fortune to be well and often marketed. She avoided the pitfalls of undoing expectations in her follow-ups. She didn't tinker with her successful formula, and she gave readers what they clearly wanted. The shocks were never too shocking, and the payoffs never too stringently withheld. The humor is broad, and of course Potter stories have no aspirations to any great literary status, so their workmanlike composition moves them along at a neat clip, never taxing a reader's patience by making him interrupt his reading to consider what precisely just happened or what exactly it means. Potter is a huge commercial success because it is hugely commercial. It is a nigh-unto perfect product. Getting angry at it for ruining literature, or extolling it for saving it, is perfectly beside the point--like trying to figure out the future of vegetables from the fortunes of Heinz Ketchup. Harry Potter bodes neither well nor ill for literature. It has very little to do with literature at all.
One of the leading experts on sex education programs, Dr. John Jemmott of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, says some abstinence education programs in the future might show promise. He is hopeful about an abstinence curriculum that he has designed which, unlike many, tries to get teenagers to think long-term about their behavior and its consequences, questioning, for example, whether a boyfriend would really love you if you had sex with him. Many programs dwell on the risks of sex, not the reasons.Uh-huh. Perhaps one of you, my lovely libertines, can explain to me the presumption that all women who have sex do so as part of a grand strategy to acquire "love." I mean, being a fag and all, perhaps I've misconstrued something about your anatomy, ladies. I mean, it's not, like, really all that terrible to have a dick up in there, right? It can be sort of okay? Help me out, here.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In another hypothetical but horrible scenario, let us assume that each week one commercial aircraft were hijacked and crashed. What are the odds that a person who goes on one trip per month would be in that plane? There are currently about 18,000 commercial flights a day, and if that person's trip has four flights associated with it, the odds against that person's being on a crashed plane are about 135,000 to 1. If there were only one hijacked plane per month, the odds would be about 540,000 to 1.Of course this scenario is highly over-favorable to the fortunes of plane-hijacking terrorists, and in our actual world the chances of dying in an airline hijacking are up there in lottery territory. Let's also bear in mind, as this amusing tale tells, that there's not really any such thing as a binary liquid explosive capable of bringing down an airliner. Finally, let's consider how seriously our own government takes the threat of liquid explosives:
Oh, mes amis ! I would surely let my risk of dying from a terror-torn, airborne Claiborne approach bee-sting anaphylaxis if it meant I could return to those heady days when I traveled with naught but a carry-on.
The government has no right, I tell ya. Sometimes a comely flight attendant beckons; sometimes in the lonelysphere of Transcontinentia at 30,000 feet, a boy simply has to rub one out in the restroom. Either way, let no hourly-wage federal drone come between a man, his toiletry bag, his KY jelly, and his flight!
I take a certain grim pleasure in watching official Washington realize--exceedingly slowly, but nonetheless--that egg can't be unscrambled, that the tender maiden, once screwed, can't re-attain her Vestal purity. Here: look at Anne Applebaum doing her best John Miltion: "Farewell happy fields, / Where joy forever dwells: hail, horrors!"
I'll actually advise you to follow the link and read the article in its gray entirety. Rarely are all the miserable aspects of the sunk costs fallacy so energetically invoked at a columnist's Ouija. The author reviews briefly a series of bogus politicians' bogus plans for Iraq, finds them all lacking, and prescribes that since we're already soldiering, we must therefore soldier on.
Anthony Bourdain, the Brasserie Les Halles executive chef-turned-writer, has a chapter in Kitchen Confidential called "Owner's Syndrome" where he amusingly, acidly notes the long convolutions that follow the first whiff of doom. The failing Italian place goes French Provençal, then American Videogame, then Sushi Fusion, ever hemmorhaging money, friends, respect, until at last the poor owners, imagined impressarios who only wanted the chance to pick up tabs for their friends and bring the world their special, artisinal styling of meatloaf, face the prospect of ruin. A smart operator runs from impending loss: he grimaces, loses his pound of flesh, sells off what he can to save his seed money, and gets the hell out before the Titanic sucks him down in its undertow. The novice, the fool, changes his concept.
The argument for staying because things might--will--"get worse" is no argument at all. The illusion here is that a failure is not a failure, a loss not a loss, the dead not truly dead and gone. Yes, things in Iraq are bad and will get worse--at very least in the short run. That outcome is totally inevitable, whether we stay or go. Applebaum lists a series of mighty disasters proceeding from an American departure, then says:
Perhaps these things would never have happened if we hadn't gone there in the first place--but if we leave, we'll be morally responsible.We're already morally responsible. We did something wrongly, and we don't have the power to put it right. It cannot be rectified, remediated, or forgiven. The practical, tactical, strategic, ethical, and moral failures are ours already. We can't take them back, but we can leave and stop implicating ourselves ever further in their unwinding.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Oh me oh my. Every Bourbon's favorite not-so-sans-culottette is in a high state:
I cannot believe that the Democrats voted for this en masses on the merits. It had to be a deal of some sort, or some kind of assurance from the powers that be or something that I'm just not getting. I'm usually pretty good at figuring out the kabuki of these inexplicable legislative actions but in this case, I'm stumped.Where ya goin' with that shotgun, pa? It's just too precious for words.
Prior to the sugar buzz of their lately lamented electoral successes, our dear Donkle friends spent a lot of time fretting over various tired, cryptoMarxian theories on the false consciousness of the vast, flat, dreaming heartland--how those people kept voting contrary to their interest, even as they were betrayed at every turn. Now for all the world to see the geese nest, the cows are comin' home, the mallards return to the lakes, the crocuses sprout, the grass greens again. Every single Senatorial mule whinneys out an "Aye!" to expanding our aggressions, including the sanctified, reified, beatified Russ Feingold, and Los Netroots cry, "Why!?"
Digby's coblogger tentatively embraces the light:
Is it possible that 97 voting senators all want a war with Iran? Seems hard to believe, but in the absence of any serious opposition to expanding this war, what else could they be thinking?Nothing else, you heaving morons! Cry havoc and let loose the dogs! They are veritably slavering to get their war on. This ain't 1976, boys and girls. Why flee the rooftop when you can fly next door and bomb the roof?
My first thought is that Harry Potter has an awfully hot chest for a twelve-year-old, or whatever. Beyond that, a slow Sunday and rash decision to take in the matinee to see what The Fuss is about ended for me in bemusement. This is our century's hero? On one hand, what I witnessed was a good-faith effort to portray the manic-depressive changeability of post-pubescence, but I cannot be alone in finding our wizard a thankless, witless, nasty, thoughtless, self-pitying little jerk--a cruel, callous, egotistical little shit who people inexplicably help and save all the fucking time. Inexplicably, I say, because he is really, really, really fucking nasty and mean to everyone.
Meanwhile, the narrative fails utterly by this standard: If your story requires that everyone make precisely the wrong decision at every juncture in order to advance, then your story, to use the writerly term, sucks.
Otherwise, Helena Bonham Carter, please call lost and found. They've got your dignity.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush will eat a baby during a national press conference before the end of his presidency.
Let's step back from his unnecessary failure to eat a baby and focus instead on the fact that he still has time to eat one. Liberals will argue that in the months and years since September 11, 2001, President Bush has not eaten a single baby, but that's probably because he's been distracted by Iraq. After General Patraeus cleans up over there, President Bush will have plenty of opportunities to concentrate on eating a baby.
Plenty of procedural objections may be raised. How will eat the baby? Will he braise it, deep fry it, or grill it as kebabs? Yet the American people may look on the prospect of entering 2009 under the iron fist of Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, and Justice Stephen Breyer and conclude that it is not only fair, but necessary that the President make a bold choice to eat a baby, regardless of how it is prepared.
I like the odds.