David Foster Wallace begins Infinite Jest on I and remains there for the next thousand pages.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Chicken in mustard cream is a totally classic bistro dish that's usually browned and simmered on the stove, but I've modified mine to make a spicier, richer dish without the heavy sauce. Because the bird is quartered, it roasts quickly, and onions roasted along with the chicken make a quick salad dressing as seen below.
1 young chicken, quartered (breast split, spine removed and reserved)
1 cup flour
1 cup dijon mustard
2 tspns ground cayenne (or to taste)
1/4 cup dry white wine
juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the sliced onion lightly in olive oil and lay in a thin layer on the bottom of a shallow ceramic baking dish. Pat the chicken dry and place it on top of the onions. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, mustard, cayenne, wine, lemon juice and a small splash of olive oil and whisk together until smoothly emulsified. Brush the mixture generously over all the exposed surfaces of the chicken. Roast in the oven until the exterior crusts and darkens, 35-45 minutes.
To make a simple green salad to match, use a spicy, peppery green like watercress, arugula, or sorrel, and simply toss it with the onions from the roasting dish.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Look. Don DeLillo. I will defend Underworld, which, although big and messy, had the ambition to be big and messy . . . and none of the goddamn 19-year-old-on-mushrooms cutesy-patootsey naming conventions that make me want to crucify Tom Pynchon on a cross made of the bones of Ken Kesey. Our literary culture, such as it is, is seriousy lacking in ambition these days. It is suffused with pasty domestic tedium or lovingly filigreed magical squealism of the Foerite model. Underworld had some truly magisterial setpieces, and if the elliptical dialogue seems like a wannabe poet's take on Pinter, well, you know, maybe that's not so bad. And I enjoyed Libra just fine, Americana okay, and I actually find that if you read White Noise as a descendent of Mary McCarthy's campus satire instead of a Serious Take on Hofstadterian American paranoia then it is every bit as classic as the back-cover blurbs make it out to be. On the other hand, Ratner's Star is the single worst novel ever written by a human being who is not Nicholas Sparks.
The new novel is called Omega Point, and it is basically the cutting-room remnants of Underworld, full of filmmakers and deserts and defense contractors and post-Cold-War, post-9/11 bric-a-brac. Why am I reading this? Is it intentionally self-parodic? If I were to sit down and pen a pastiche of the DeLillo style, this is the book I'd come up with. The entire thing gives off a futsy, mothballed odor. It's like the old man got caught in a light rain on the Upper East Side, ducked into the Guggenheim, saw some Bill Viola, and then, when the weather broke, toddled off to the nearest Starbucks to pen his revelations.
Um, and also, can I point out that theories of justice are not in fact theories. On a hazy day I might grant one or other of them "hypothesis". And while I understand that the popular usage of the term is distinct from its meaning in the so-called hard sciences, I also propose to you that when purported social scientists use it to describe their intellectual noodlings, they're using it in its scientific sense, even though, what, how, who, when . . . I mean, is "Rawls Theory of Justice" testable, repeatable? Is it both descriptive and predictive? Can it be used to accurately model real-world behaviors? Let us grant for the sake of argument that such supposed theories may be incisive, observant, and interesting on the subjects of human nature, fairness in society, truth, justice, cooperation, etc. So is Tolstoy.
Which is just to say that drug policy needs to be evaluate on the merits in terms of systemic consequences. There’s no question that our current policies are badly broken and lead to huge quantities of needless suffering. But at the same time, I’m glad there aren’t heroin ads on TV and that kids can’t buy crack at 7-11. There’s a broad range of options between the status quo and a true libertarian approach.Yeah, um, well, kids can't buy Celexa and Paxil at the 7-11, but there are plenty of ads on TV, and there are no Marlboro ads on TV, but kids seem to have figured out how to buy them from the 7-11. (The "merits in terms of systemic consequences" is the sort of PowerPoint Generation solecism that one expects to find in a Defense Department presentation, and probably shouldn't follow the clause, "Which is just to say," as the latter implies that something is about to be clarified.) Calling "current policies" "badly broken" implies that they functioned in some other manner from whose effective heights they have declined through use, or abuse . . . you know, the usual wear and tear. Except, obviously these policies are designed to cause immense suffering, to be hugely and disproportiately punitive, and to be monstrously racially unjust so as to maintain a persistent, racially segregated, socially inferior underclass. You think it's a coincidence that the creation of the DEA and the passage of the Rockefeller drug regime and its imitators came right on the heels of the Civil Rights era, you fatuous stooge?
The prohibition regime isn't broken. It functions exactly as it is supposed to function. Iniquity is its purpose . . . well, that and secondarily the preservation of market share for the legal tobacco and alcohol industries. The fact that powerful people can talk openly on the teevee and in their hackjob memoirs about smokin' doobs and blowing a few lines without consequence isn't evidence that we need to address the unequal application of laws and statutes but rather evidence that inequality is the fundamental principle underlying the practical application of these policies.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
MCA inheritrix and reliable Donk watergirl Katrina vanden Heuvel wants you to know about the Biggest Scandal:
But perhaps the biggest political scandal is the one that aids and abets these others -- the pay-to-play system that buys up Congress, pollutes our political system with special-interest cash and deep-sixes the kind of bold reform agenda that we voted for and need.Pay-to-play, pollutes our system, special-interest, bold reform agenda . . . a lesser woman might find it difficult to force that many turgid, market-tested, The Nation-approved, B-roll journalismisms into a single sentence. Credit where due. Apparently this notion of the post hoc corruption of noble ideals by the vicissitudes of campaign fundraising and the pernicious influence of legal tender being legally tendered still holds sway in the liberal imagination.
A coworker of mine was recently outraged, OUTRAGED to learn from the website that whatever goopy Southwestern salad she'd been buying from the Qdoba for lunch turned out--predictably--to have like a gajillion calories. But . . . but . . . it's a salad!
Debt restructuring is the new currency devaluation in the euro zone! As the Greek example has shown, this doesn't mean rescheduling the debt or reducing the principal on the debt, or in any other way making the debt more manageable: it means servicing the debt in ways that business likes, by pushing developed nations into a "developing" model of rapid growth through popular impoverishment.What I find especially curious is the notion that wealthy societies should, or need to, experience "rapid growth." I mean, whatever happened to enjoying a long, comfortable middle age before eventually losing your mind and shuffling off to senesence and death?
-J.R. "ladypoverty" Boyd
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Although I would contend that it is James Woods, not Harry Bloom, who takes the prize for "most ponderous and tiresome literary critic," I otherwise enjoin you to read this brief snippet on The Flower hisself, whom the Times' exhumed from a coffin filled with the knishes of his native land to fire rounds of anti-anti-Semitic birdshot in the direction of The Entire History of Literature, excluding the increasingly self-parodic Elie Weisel. What is rather hilarious about Bloom, aside from everything else, is that he is exactly the Dead-White-Guy, Canon-Defender who will haughtily brush aside the complaints by some theory-sop Wuhmyn Of Color when she objects to, say, Conrad spouting "nigger!" every fourth or fifth word. Indeed, it is practice to almost gleefully swipe aside as anachronistic the strong concerns and major objections of your sundry feminists and Subaltern studiers and postcolonialites and whathaveyou, but let us not catch some Victorian turning a jaundiced eye toward ye Jew. I mean, I like Daniel Deronda as much as the next guy, but would not want it as my sole companion on a desert island if my other choice were Shylock.
I enthusiastically endorse this David Brooks column with a single enormous caveat that I will mention in a moment. He gets right to the point:
About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.Now I am not so certain that this began a mere decade ago; I think that Harvard was plenty full of company men in 1950 as well. But it is undoubtedly the case that the ongoing replacement of "education" with "training" and "knowledge" with "skills" has metastatized within our purported learning institutions. Paradoxically, as higher education degrees have become ever more hollow, the formal rites of a credentialist culture, the University-même has come to resemble nothing so much as a trade school, if only culturally, and even the most poetical of English and basketweaving majors find themselves in an endless audition line for internships and externships and resume-builders and weeks and hours with the Career Office, formerly a campus backwater with an unharried, frumpy secretary dispensing largely useless pamphlets, now a veritable fiefdom in which snappy "counselors" dress in business attire and dispense the various nostrums of managerial office culture.
If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.
Likewise, Brooks' conclusion regarding Supreme Nominee Elena Kagan is pithy and true:
I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.The belief that the sole and entire purpose of one's formation is to form oneself into an adequate candidate for employment has contributed monumentally to the paucity of intellectual life in our great, forlorn nation, and the calculated rise of men and women like Kagan is a direct result. If you want another, consider Our President, as the Kossite-Progressive rump movement still reverentially calls him: a man of some intellect and some grasp of the native tongue who has conscientiously idiotized himself in order to become the world's most powerful Distric Manager.
But--this is the neon-flashing caveat--Brooks' insight here is a wee bit ironic, isn't it? Although he is certainly no Thomas Friedman, forever pledging that the future of America is an Indian immigrant inventing a new Chicken-only sandwich for KFC, or whatever, his entire political economy is predicated on a plan of suburban, good-living professionalism that both results from and necessitates the perpetuation of the very so-called meritocracy he appears to lament. The comfortable, reasonably centrist, semi-urban, Federal-District-ringing, BA-to-MBA, 70K-300K-earning gaggle that Brooks considers The American Middle Class is a direct product of that system. The belief in America's high-tech, service-sector future is an element of the catechism of Merit. I have read Bobos in Paradise. The mind supressed for the sake of career describes that book's author just as readily as its subjects.
Update: The Prof beat me too it.