Well, look, Sartwell, obviously you have totally failed to understand that the greatest moral crisis mankind has ever faced is the authentication of Warhol works.
But, yeah, obviously the idea that "climate change" represents a moral crisis rather than, you know, a changing climate is preposterous. I want to point out to you that organisms change their environment all the time, sometimes to the detriment of their own species. When herd animals overgraze and experience die-back, no one proposes that it is the greatest moral crisis ever to afflict the Thompson's gazelle. And yes, yes, matters of scale, matters of scope, the "global" nature of the man-made catastrope. By my lights, the greatest moral catastrophe of all time was the arrival of multicellular life. No, the advent of photosynthesis. The . . . sufficient cooling of the primordial earth so as to allow for liquid water?
Now I like clean air and fishable rivers, and I'm happy to recycle and take mass transit and substitute the Scott for the Saturn as often as possible and so forth and so on. I spent the extra hundred-and-fifty bucks on the efficient washing machine when the old one went kablooey. But here is the thing, and I said the same thing about the "oil spill": industrial civilization is not green. No number of Prii can account for the fact that there are 7 billion of us, etc. etc. Let me propose to you that the only way to "address" human-derived global climate change is for half of us to die or to move to other planets. If any of these fuckers were half as serious about saving mother earth from her profligate children as they were about the remittance of their speaker's fees, they wouldn't be selling us all on 7th-Generation toilet paper; they'd be selling us on colonizing the asteroid belt.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Well, look, Sartwell, obviously you have totally failed to understand that the greatest moral crisis mankind has ever faced is the authentication of Warhol works.
Fareed Zakaria is as close to a sane, self-aware, and reasonably informed human being as you can find in the high orders of the American commentariat, and while that may be a bit like saying that Albert Speer was the closest Nazi to a gentleman and humanitarian, it is nonetheless a distinction worth making in our nation of Tom Friedmans advocating that we throw small countries against walls and a whole cottage industry of advocates for not quiiiiiittttteeeee going to war with Iran . . . yet . . . among which exemplars is Leon Wieseltier, who doesn't understand that the larger the leonine mane, the surer it is that the lion wearing it is cosseted, captive, and hand-fed: a pet in a zoo. But we'll return to the, ahem, "literary editor of The New Republic" presently.
Zakaria recently wrote a column that managed to be nearly rational about Iran. Although obviously I disagree with the notion that John McCain necessarily would have behaved more nuttily toward our Persian frenemies than The Obama, the broad outlines of the essay are so blatantly true that I'm shocked to find them in the Washington Post. In short, Zakaria writes that it is an error and a Western conceit to believe that the Iranian regime is simply dictatorial and autocratic and that it maintains power through force of arms alone; that both the Supreme Leader and the President are popular and have supportive constituencies; that the Green Movement is also popular, but that fact alone doesn't signify a majority; that in any case the Iranian government itself is divided and multipolar; and finally that it is an error to construe native Iranian dissent as reflecting pro-Western sentiment and naive to believe that the tearful, pro-democracy caterwauling of American politicians somehow lends credibility to the cause of Iranian resistance. Iran, Zakaria explains, is not Poland. (To which, obviously, we can add that even Poland wasn't "Poland.")
Fred Hiatt must've felt an immediate twinge of regretful reflux when he saw this column actually appear in actual print in his actual newspaper, for today Wieseltier skydives in like a mad cross between William Stoughton and Enigo Montoya. Wieseltier, I should say, first came to my attention in the nineties, when he published a book called Kaddish, a sort-of memoir of his own mourning and sort-of scholarly disquisition on Jewish mourning ritual. At first, I rather enjoyed the book, finding it, as its blurbs put it, lucid and bracing, but by the time I hit the halfway mark the whole thing had begun to seem like exactly the sort of gaudy and sensational religious puffery that makes Christianity so unappealing to most Jews, even though it hid behind a pale scrim of text-parsing Jewish scholarship. I put it aside not long after. Here was a man, I thought, seriously dedicated to the cause of tawdry moral exhibitionism. Subsequent events haven't yet proven me wrong.
Wieseltier, in addition to his own idiocies about Iran and crypto-Wilsonian declarations that "democracy and human rights" need to be "central objects of our foreign policy" (Boffo!, to quote Mr. Smith quoting Twentieth Century), which I don't need to enumerate here, also misrepresents Zakaria in the cheapest manner and more than once. Here is the worst example. Zakaria writes:
In May, Akbar Ganji was awarded, by a selection committee in which I take part, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Ganji, one of the bravest advocates of nonviolent agitation and secular democracy for Iran, was jailed for six years in Evin Prison, mostly in solitary confinement, for his writings against the government. In his acceptance speech, Ganji explained that U.S. foreign policy does have an impact on Iran's freedom movement but not quite in the sense that neoconservatives mean.He then quotes Ganji at length as Ganji basically says that if Americans really care about Iran they can stop fucking with it and let actual Iranians determine their own actual future, through whatever means they embrace on their own. His mention of the Friedman Prize isn't a boast, but the sort of disclosure that WaPo columns need more of. "Hey," Zakaria says, "I know this guy and was on a committee that gave him an award. Full disclosure. FYI. Just sayin."
Wieseltier pretends instead that it's a boast and then manages to dismiss not only Zakaria as some kind of self-promoter, but also Akbar Ganji!
The joke in Zakaria's column, and it is not funny, is that he seems to believe that he is an exemplary supporter of the Green Movement in Iran. He noted that he served on a committee that gave a prize to Akbar Ganji, an Iranian dissident. Good for him and good for Ganji.Now, were it just a matter of defending Zakaria's honor, I'd let it pass, because, after all, he and Wieseltier are in the same game, and internecine media sniping isn't very interesting, but that "good for Ganji" really floats like a turd in a swimming pool, doesn't it? I mean, Wieseltier, you fucking mook, the dude spent six years in prison for political dissent. Oh, and he happens to be Iranian. Not that this especially concerns our literary editor, who is too busy lambasting the whole world for failing to see, as he has, "that since June 12, 2009, the advent of Iranian democracy is not an idle wish." Oh, gracious. Shall we remind Wieseltier that as the "literary editor of The New Republic," all wishes beyond the realm of wishing they'd put that nice salad back on the lunch menu at Pastis are idle wishes.
After thundering on, Wieseltier concludes that "when democracy comes to Iran, Fareed Zakaria will plummily assure us that this was his dream all along." Ah, so that's it. Who gets to take credit?! No Iranian democracy would ever be acceptable to Wieseltier, obviously, but regardless of what transpires, one thing is for certain in his mind. Some American either gets the credit or the blame.
If you aren't making your own pasta then you are a degenerate. Third only to mastering the art of the roast chicken and baking your own bread, no skill in the kitchen will so improve the quality of your dining at home. A simple, hand-cranked pasta machine (don't go to a fancy kitchen store; your local Italian grocer sells them for less than fifty bucks), good flour, and good eggs are all that you need. I make almost all my own noodles, from orichiette (semolina, water, salt) to tagliatelle (tipo 00, egg), but the real improvement, the real boon, is that you will never eat shitty, store-bought stuffed pasta again.
Tortelloni in brodo AKA eye-talyan wonton soup
Tortelloni are tortellini's big, dumb cousins, a paper-thin casing around a hunk of seasoned ground meat floating in a clear broth.
for the stock
1 chicken carcass
1 whole carrot
1 whole yellow onion
2 cloves whole garlic
for the noodle
2 cups all-trump flour
1 cup semolina
3-4 small (AKA "large") eggs
for the stuffing
3/4 lb. sweet pork sausage
1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
1/4 cup diced prosciutto
1/4 cup diced chicken (or better, duck) breast
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
chives, finely diced
First make the broth. You leave everthing whole and you do not start by sweating a mirepoix in oil or butter as you would a heartier stock. The idea is to produce a light, clear, clean broth. Just put the ingredients in a pot, cover with plenty of room temperature water, place on high heat, bring to just below a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer on low for two hours. After that, strain through a fine sieve and return to the stove in a big clean pot.
To make the noodles, form a round pile of the flour and semolina. Make a well in the middle. Crack the egges into the well. (Why small eggs? Because they have better flavor and a higher ratio of yolk to white, making both a tastier and a more pliant dough.) Using a regular dinner fork, pierce the yolks. Begin to stir the eggs together, and then slowly begin incorporating flour from the "walls" of the well. Use your free hand to shore them up and keep the egg from spilling out onto your work surface. When you've incorporated enough flour that the egg mixture has become sticky and stringy, not yet quite a solid but no longer a liquid, discard the fork and, using your hands, begin folding in the remaining flour to form the dough. There is a certain art--it takes time for your hands to learn the feel of the dough coming together. You will likely have some leftover flour. The idea is to create a stiff and slightly (very slightly!) dry dough. After a few minutes of kneading, it should hold its shape. It will not be as elastic as a bread dough. Because of the semolina, it will have a slightly sandy texture. The proper color is a very pale, whitish-yellow. It will smell like a noodle. Wrap it tightly in plastic and set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.
For the stuffing, use a heavy sauté pan over high heat. Add the oil and then the pancetta. When some of the fat has begun to render, add the sausage and chicken or duck. Add the prosciutto. Cook until the sausage and chicken are just barely done. Remove from heat. Put into a food processor with the cheese, nutmeg, and a bit of black pepper. Pulse together until it is a consistent but rough paste.
To roll out the noodles, divide the dough into fourths. Begin on the lowest numerical setting of your machine. Pass each section through once at a number, then fold it in half and go through a second time. Go to the next number and repeat. (As you get up into the higher numbers, say, 6 and above on a 9-setting machine, you can go through once each time instead.) You want the noodles to be as thin as possible without tearing.
Now cut the sheets into 3" squares. A sharp pizza cutter works well. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the stuffing into the center of a square. Now fold it over into a triangle, pinching the edges shut with your fingers. Fold the top of the triangle down toward the stuffing and the two bottom corners of the triangle into the top. Pinch them together. Turn over and place into a floured tray. They will look like a cross between the classic "belly-button" tortellini shape and a big, Chinese wonton. Repeat until you are out of noodle.
Now simply bring the broth to a boil. Add the noodles. Boil for just a few minutes, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for a few minutes more. Serve the noodles in the same broth in which they cooked, garnished with herbs.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
So here is what happens when the G20 comes to fuck up my city:
The Furries, par contre, show up every year and manage to totally delight me for a week while not closing any fucking streets or throwing any college students in jail for "illegal assembly."
A lesson, I say.
I am glad to see that Mister Smiff and I are on the same page regarding General McChrystal Meth's embarrassingly frattish antics. At this point, I would really like to pop off about how democratic societies should properly be embarrassed by their career soldiers, consider them slightly grotesque even if necessary, rather than evincing this persistently Prussian fervor for a puffed, bedazzled chest . . . but obviously "democratic society," as a term, is its own punchline, escpecially when said society is a martial empire of hundreds of millions of citizen-subjects held in a state of persistent abject terror that some Arab or Mexican is somehow benefitting from . . . something. (By the way, the slightly wild-eyed look that Smith identifies in McChrystal's public photos is a sure sign that he's acting. Cf. Sterling Hayden, Jack D. Ripper.)
I won't bore you by dragging the fetid electronic lake for examples of progressive pride that the Senior District Manager finally decided to fire Stan. You should have no trouble finding the effusions about "leadership," the three most hilarious syllables in the English language. More to the point, I think, is the much-quoted declaration, "This is a change in personnel, not policy." If I may translate. We need someone whose ass will look more graceful as it boards the last helicopter from the embassy roof.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Right. Where does the idea that a loudmouth general so insecure in his masculine position that he's got to pop off to a fucking Rolling Stone reporter with the sort of loser-undergraduate dick-wagging that'd get you laughed out of a SigEp house party in order to reassure himself and his staff about the size of their balls has somehow "undermined" the authority of The Obama come from? Meanwhile, it seems to me that Obama is not only fully in command here, but that he's got a real nasty streak. Instead of firing the guy and letting him salute off to the golf course in silent obscurity, he makes him parade himself in front of the national press offering a litany of obsequious apologies, which is a lot more humiliating than being fired as far as I read it.
Addendum: And fired hiz azz.
On the other hand, I am glad to live in a world where the ongoing slaughter of civilians is a resume-builder but badmouthing the boss is a firing offense.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Ita mali salvam ac sospitem rem p. sistere in sua sede liceat atque eius rei fructum percipere, quem peto, ut optimi status auctor dicar et moriens ut feram mecum spem, mansura in vestigio suo fundamenta rei p. quae iecero.I enjoy the Stiftung Leo Strauss and was rolling right along with him until I came to this:
-Div. Augustus via Suetonius
What we seek is a stable liberal democratic republic with functioning law-based governmental institutions. We seek healthy intermediary participatory governing bodies between the citizen and the federal government. Above all, as a necessary precondition, we seek a roll back of the lawless Permanent National Security State and the corrupt socio-economic engine behind it.You may as well seek after the enlightened absolutism of Frederick the Great or the monarchic bureaucracy of the Han Dynasty or the Athenian democracy of the Periclean Age, because like any of them, the "stable liberal democratic republic" etc. etc. a.) ain't comin' back, and b.) never quite existed in the first place in any case. Let me therefore suggest that the problem with hoping or assuming that Obama was going to restore a moderately saner and less deranged America is not so much that Obama clearly lacks the, uh, the leadership for the task, but that no such America ever was. In retrospect it becomes painfully obvious that the American transition from Republic to Empire isn't an ongoing process. FDR was our near-Augustus. We've just had a string of pretty lousy Caesars ever since.
What NPR lacks in bombast, it more than makes up for in sanctimony. Minute 1:50: "And . . . and he didn't seem very apologetic, did he?" Yo, brah, your girlfriend Dina just reported, literally Joe Biden, just said twenty seconds ago that Faisal Shazad calmly and cleary explained to the court that he considered himself a soldier in a war, that his attempted bombing was conceived as a direct retaliation for American military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he and others like him would continue to attempt such counterattacks so long as the US continued its wars in those countries, and to this your natural response is, uh, oh, and, uh, was he sorry?
It's characteristically American to presume that no one else can possibly believe what they believe. Thus do we grow whole cottage industries of analysts, experts, correspondents, think-tankers, assistant best boy grips to the sub-secretary of the department of the ministry of the bureau of whathaveyou, all devoted to such imponderables as what do Osama et al. really want? When of course they have elaborately and in great detail outlined exactly what they want.
I'm actually more impressed by Shazad as a spokesmodel than a soldier. As a bombmaker he was a woeful dunce, but as a plainspoken and clearminded press rep, he didn't do half bad. That he managed, through all the fluff and dross, to actually inject Muslims:Americans::Americans:Muslims into the lead-skulled American national discourse is if nothing else a brilliant stroke of marketing. I don't expect it to stay on the charts, but I'm enjoying the single while it gets radio play.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I am not going to get too worked up about the fact that the Supreme Court has now held that "material support" is a term so broadly defined that it actually encompasses its own antonyms. Given the fact that our president has arrogated to himself the right to have you killed, literally Joe Biden, without any legal recourse or sanction and with no process of law or investigation necessary to legitimize your death, I think we should all consider ourselves lucky to be hauled to court in order to defend ourselves for saying that, oh, I don't know, Hamas is an organization of legitimate national resistance. At least we get our day. Assuming His Obamaness doesn't send in the Seals to garrotte us in the hallway before we hit the defense table.
In a recent comment thread, someone asked me what I thought of B.R. Myers' A Reader's Manifesto, which was first published in The Atlantic and subsequently expanded and released as a short book. Well. I think that it was worth it just to watch the usual gang of New York Times Book Review philistines circle the chariots and denounce Meyers for, among other things, failing to recognize that no one really takes Annie Proulx seriously, in other words defending themselves from charges of Human Centipedism by shitting in each others' mouths. Myers' critique of "literary" fiction, especially his ice-pick analysis of the habit of reviews to speak glowingly of a writer's sentences as if a novel were a lyric poem, is pretty spot on. I admit that I retain a soft spot for Don DeLillo, whom Meyers finds grandiose (true), tedious (sometimes true), and unfunny (also sometimes true, but sometimes not). I would've preferred he take on Pynchon, whose Gravity's Rainbow is the single most overrated and overpraised piece of kulturkitsch in the modern history of man, with the possible exception of Wagner's Parsifal, a nine-hundred hour elevator ride during which not one single memorable musical phrase is uttered by any man, woman, or instrument, the entire duration of which is devoted to a fear of vaginas so titanic and petrifying that it could have been set in The Star Wars universe. I'd rather be stuck on the old desert island with Finnegan's Wake AND a case of terminal diarrheaic dyslexia than with this shit. Anyway, I can't fault Meyers' for knocking his, rather than my, bugaboos. His take on the contemporary literary scene is right on, if hyperbolic (but he did call it a fucking manifesto, after all). Along the way, almost in passing, he mentions one of my favorite authors as an example of clear prose: Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood's stock has gone up and down. Tom Ford's glossy, gay bowdlerizing of A Single Man has served to repopularize him, and Cabaret keeps the Berlin Stories collection more or less on the radar screen, but to me his finest achievement was Down There on a Visit, and I have always found it telling of the limits of most Anglo-American critics' familiarity with their own literary traditions that for all the bazillion words spilled on Coetzee's insertion of a patheticized version of himself in his later novels and purported autobiographies, it is almost never remarked or noted that Isherwood was doing much the same more than fifty years ago.