This is just great, just wonderful. I especially like the Donk jumping in to accuse Mike Steele of hatin' on the Troupes. Plus ça change, bichizz.
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
One of the tricks of good sauce-making is knowing how to use small, intensely flavored ingredients to deepen the character of the sauce. Almost any tomato-based sauce, for instance, can be improved by the addition of a few chopped achovie fillets, which will disintegrate into the liquid (your friends who think they don't like anchovies will never know they're there) and imbue it with a complex, salty, savory backbone. You can achieve a similar effect with a splash of nước mắm, a bottle of which should always be handy in a kitchen. But to my taste, nothing beats chicken livers as an intensifier. Most good groceries sell packages of them, a few dozen in a plastic olive container. They'll keep for up to a week in the fridge, or you can freeze them. Dredged in salt and flour and fried in olive oil, they make great little hors d'ouevres on their own, but in this recipe they serve to enhance a stock-based pasta sauce.
Tagliatelle with pancetta and red onion
for the noodle
3 cups unbleached AP flour
3-4 small (AKA "large") eggs
for the sauce
1 large red onion, diced
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
1-2 chilies, chopped
2 chicken livers (4 lobes), chopped
a pinch of fresh oregano leaves, whole
a pinch of fresh basil, chiffonade
a pinch of fresh parsley, chiffonade
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbspns crème fraîche (see recipe below)
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
To make the noodle, use the ingredients above and follow last week's instructions. After you have rolled out the sheets of noodles, brush them generously with flour, fold lengthwise four times (into eighths), and place in a floured pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator. This will serve to dehydrate them slightly and allow them to be easily hand-cut.
Put on a large pot of very salty water to a boil.
In a heavy sauce-pan over high heat, get several tablespoons of olive oil very hot. Add the onion, salting lightly. Toss a few times. Add the pancetta and chilies. Toss together. Reduce heat to medium high. Cook until the onion is softened and some fat has rendered from the pancetta. Add the chicken livers. Sauté until just done--they will appear "crumbly." Deglaze the pan with lemon juice. Add the stock. Bring to just under a boil, then reduce to a quick simmer. Add the herbs. Add the crème fraîche. (I make my own rather non-traditional crème fraîche using the following simple method: I combine a 1/2 pint of heavy cream with several tablespoons of active-culture yogurt--I really like Erivan--and then let it sit for about 8 hours at room temperature. That's it. To thicken it, place it uncovered in the fridge for a day.) Stir the crème into the sauce to thicken in.
To finish the noodles, cut them perpendicular to the fold into 1/4" ribbons. Shake out the cut noodles. Cook them for no more than a couple of minutes in rapidly boiling water, then add directly to the sauce, tossing for another minute over high heat. Serve immediately garnished with more parsley and grated pecorino romano cheese.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Considered objectively, the Twilight "saga" is not so much a brief for virginity as it is a powerful case for the moral imperative of rape. I submit to you, dear readers, that it is therefore the most odious work of science fiction since Mein Kampf.
Increasingly, we're losing our perspective, maybe our minds. We have candidates for the U.S. Congress comparing the taxes that we pay to finance the U.S. military or to pay for public schools to slavery, or to the Nazi-led Holocaust. As Americans, we should all seek higher ground over what we talk about when we talk about slavery, and what we talk about when we talk about torture.American progressives are forever bemoaning the fact that the more publishable and marketable end of Donkeydom, your basic Beinarts and Goldbergs and suchlike, make much of their dough by calling the Party's putative "left" wing a clutch of trigger-shy pussies. The typical, pathetic rejoinder is to up the ante on troop-lurve. Rather than embracing anti-militarism in principle, they push their sad, little-boy boners more firmly against the leg of the military, uh, excuse me, "our troops" . . . oh, uh, no, OUR VETERANS. The more openly cruise-missile liberals then call them pansies and fetishists. Are they wrong? You can of course absolve many individual soldiers of some of the moral culpability for the foreign actions of the American government, just as you don't have to blame every private in the Wehrmacht for invading Russia, but let's not pretend that any of them are fucking heroes. The American military is an instrument for world domination, conquest, invasion, and occupation, not a goddamn gang of Girl Scouts.
So here you have notable purrrrrgressive Will Bunch objecting to the LUNATICS exclamation point exclamation point of America's nominal right for comparing taxation to ruhlly bad stuff like the Holocaust, and yet his first counterexample to this egregrious and tendentious comparison is that taxes pay for the army. LOLwut? You'd think he could've just picked bridges and railroads . . . okay, maybe railroads are a bad comparison. Schools and daycares? Of course, most of the teapartyische tax protesters to whom Bunch objects are incoherently pro-military, so I understand the rhetorical method here, but from the lofty, post-partisan, trans-racial, pansexual perch of Who Is IOZ?, it seems to me that nothing so undermines the case for the dissimilarity between taxation and the worst depredations of the twentieth century as a foreceful reminder that a fair bulk of the taxes we pay go to feed the ghastly death-delivering Mammon that is America's Armed Forces.
As for seeking so-called higher ground "as Americans" when we talk about slavery . . . Jesus. You know, Americans seem to have some idea that Abraham Lincoln was a path-blazing emancipator and that America's ultimate freeing of its chattel slaves was some sort of moral example to the world when, at least among European peoples, America was a rump offender, a vicious, backward nation of slave-drivers long after the Brits and French and Vikings had given up the ghost. Look, I know King Leopold did some nasty shit in the Congo, but from Colonial times onward, the American slave-owning regime was one of the most depraved and inhuman episodes in the whole history of our miserable species, and the idea that "as Americans" we have even the option of speaking about it from some elevated moral position is as damnheaded and wrongballed as the idea that America, a nation founded on perhaps the most thorough policy of genocide since the Old Testament, has some special post of moral authority from which to engage in importunate hectoring about ethnic cleansing.
Tom is the one who saw you at Susan's. He's known about you all along, isn't that right? We do know what that means. If Commander Farrell is the man who was with Miss Atwell, then Commander Farrell is the man who killed Miss Atwell. And we know that the man who killed Miss Atwell is Yuri. Therefore, Commander Farrell IS Yuri, quod erat demonstrandum.Anne Applebaum is a fool, but mad props for citing my absolute favorite obscure mid-eighties Costner vehicle in her column. Among the many questions that no one appears to be asking is, is it bullshit? Ima go with yes. On the other hand, the idea that these people were basically getting paid to hang around DC and troll the internet for information that any asshole with dial-up can acquire, and that this is somehow illegal, tickles and pleases me, for it suggests that we are that much closer to jailing Matthew Yglesias.
-Scott Pritchard, No Way Out
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Where were you on Simchat Torah, Lindsay Graham? Where were you on Tisha B'Av? America is waiting?
Faced with the fundamental question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" atheists have faith that science will tell us eventually. Most seem never to consider that it may well be a philosophic, logical impossibility for something to create itself from nothing. But the question presents a fundamental mystery that has bedeviled (so to speak) philosophers and theologians from Aristotle to Aquinas. Recently scientists have tried to answer it with theories of "multiverses" and "vacuums filled with quantum potentialities," none of which strikes me as persuasive. (For a review of the centrality, and insolubility so far, of the something-from-nothing question, I recommend this podcast interview with Jim Holt, who is writing a book on the subject.)Oh, well, okay, they don't strike you as convincing. Oh, that settles it.
The question "why is there something rather than nothing" is evidently meant to invoke some kind of profound ontological and epistemological conundrum, but it is in fact mere fallacy masquerading as philosophy. Define something. Define nothing. Define rather than. Let me propose to you that nothingness as universal (uh, multiversal?) nonexistence is less than meaningless even if only meant as a glib converse to "all this shit, you know, like life and planets and stars and galaxies and stuff." It is the most elementary Aristotlean canard of the prime mover dressed up for an era with fancier mathematics. Ron Rosenbaum, you are regular-old ∞ in an א world.
While some atheists may evince confidence that scientific inquiry may one day explain the mechanisms through which reality came to existence or existence became real or what have you, atheism such as it is makes no claims about the matter. Atheism encompasses a single proposition: there is no deity or deities.
Now. Insofar as science has explained natural phenomena, it is a useful tool and method. Most atheists would agree. However, science has no opinion on the fundamental nature of being or the meaning of life. The scientific method is a means of inquiry, a system for developing descriptive, prescriptive, and predictive models of natural systems, not a means of answering all the questions that occur to you when you get stoned. Eat some fucking Doritos and chill the fuck out.
Agnosticism accords a weird respect to a plainly untrue proposition: that there is either a single supernatural entity or a pantheon of supernatural entities who somehow brought the universe into existence and, furthermore, continue to affect its workings, in particular, who take an actual and active interests in the goings-on of Homo sapiens. These supernatural entitities are either easily discounted and disproved (the God/s of Western "mono"theism) or else construed in such an attribute-less, indefinable, vague, and incoherent manner as to be fundamentally nonexistent anyway--indeed, it has become the bread-and-butter of the, uh, "new theists," to define god so broadly as to un-define him.
Personally, I do not think that human science will ever adequately account for the existence of existence, because I think that the question itself contains a category error. Nothing about this conviction of the limits of human knowledge implies the existence of divinity.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Nice Liberal Arguments about banning guns are totally incoherent. Oh, oh, 10,000 people died in "gun violence" last year? Yeah, well, there were 33,000 traffic accidents. I say we ban automobiles and tear up the highways. There were almost 700,000 deaths from heart disease. I say we all subsist on saltless bread and distilled water. In fact, I think the epidemic of mortality afflicting the human race represents the gravest threat to our species. I suggest we all kill ourselves in order to prevent avoidable death, that affliction.
The idea that the Second Amendment, uniquely in the Bill of Rights, does not apply to individuals is obviously crazy. Would a liberal ever make such an argument about the First Amendment? Oh, yeah, uh, well, it only means that the federal government can't engage in censorship; that's not to say that Chicago can't ban people from saying "persimmon!" in public or agitating against the legitimate reign of the aldermen. What? If you think that guns are so bad that they should only be owned by the government, then I suggest you 1.) check your premises regarding the entity that engages in the most "gun violence" and 2.) repeal the Second Amendment. Oh, is that not feasible? I wonder if there is a lesson in that? I mean, last night I actually fell out of Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana when NPR interviewed some police chief who said that police were getting out-gunned by civilians (BTW, are police not civilians?), citing as an example the deaths by gun of several dozen cops last year. Yeah, well, how many "civilians" (and dogs!) were killed by police?
Monday, June 28, 2010
Jesus, James Wood is terrible, just terrible. Have you ever seen someone work so hard to create the elaborate, phantasmagorical impression of holding a critical opinion while wholly and utterly withholding any actual critical judgment? The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. IS IT ANY GOOD? Note that Wood does have modestly more concrete opinions about Mitchell's prior novels. Christ, hell, I wonder if that has anything to do with a preexisting critical consensus, which Wood can basically echo while occasionally staking out a position of quiet idiosycracy in order to imitate individual-mindedness.
Wood's general project is the whittling of all literature down to the dull confines of his own MFA-primer (How Fiction Works--oh, God, LOL: how does it work, Jimmy?). I want to pull out the most offensive and strained paragraph:
The jacket copy of “Cloud Atlas” mentions Nabokov and Umberto Eco, and calls Mitchell a “postmodern visionary.” This is true enough, but one is struck by the gestural nature of Mitchell’s postmodernism. You could remove all the literary self-consciousness without smothering the novel’s ontology, or coarsening its intricacy. It is not exactly that Mitchell’s heart isn’t in his authorial games; to put it positively, the persuasive vitality of his stories is strong enough to frighten off their own alienation. The novellas have a life of their own, and will not be easily burgled—which is to say that they function like all successful fictions. The revelation that, say, Adam Ewing’s journal might have been fabricated by his son, or that Luisa Rey’s journalistic crusade in California might just be a thriller written by someone with the nom de plume of Hilary V. Hush, actually strengthens the autonomous reality of these fictions. This is the opposite of the weak postmodernism of a writer like Paul Auster, whose moments of metafictional self-consciousness—“Look, it’s all made up!”—are weightless, because the fictions themselves have failed to achieve substance: a diet going on a diet. In this respect, Mitchell is more like Nabokov (or José Saramago, or the Roth of “The Counterlife”) than like the feebler novelistic creator Umberto Eco. Of course, the paradox whereby the exposure of fiction’s fictionality only buttresses its reality is at least as old as the second part of “Don Quixote,” and reminds us of the ancestral postmodernism of the novel form.Firstly, many of these phrases make exactly no sense: "the gestural nature of Mitchell's postmodernism"; "smothering the novel's ontology"; "coarsening its intricacy"; "the persuasive vitality of his stories is strong enough to frighten off their own alienation" . . . How do you smother an ontology? How can you frighten alienation? James Wood, what are you talking about?
It's plain what he's talking about. A stuffy enemy of the even-approaching-the-avant-garde and a relentless domesticator of unruly authors, Wood regards it as his critical duty to make all well-regarded fiction read like a crackpot retelling of Dubliners, a gently mediated inner life revealed in its moment of change . . . Fuck, even Dubliners blows that model to pieces. James Wood writes for the New Yorker. He should be teaching AP English at some third-rate midwestern high school. (Not to overburden the New Yorker with respect for its reputation. Excepting Anthony Lane, the New Yorker is like Highlights for people with enough disposable income to make sustaining pledges to NPR.)
Mitchell, a writer of period and historical fictions with an archivist's affection for lost letters and intertextual references, a dabbler in the toolbox of science fiction, is much, much closer to Umberto Eco than to Nabokov. This is true even if you believe (I do) that Nabokov is a superior writer. Note to James Wood: critical examination of a writer's method involves more than erecting a rubric of bad-to-good authors. Judging Mitchell to be a superior writer to Eco does not indicate that he is therefore a more similar author to Nabokov, who is also a superior writer to Eco. Fuck, Christ, is this your fucking homework, Larry? Is this your homework?
Is your ontology feeling smothered yet? Is your alienation getting a bit skittish? This whole shtick about Cervantes inventing postmdernism a billion years ago and therefore ergo propter hoc et veritas logo scientia prestochangeo sim sim saladin we can transmogrify all fiction into an undifferentiated whole from which we can extract moderate lessons about
He may be self-conscious, but he is not knowing, in the familiar, fatal, contemporary way; his naturalness as a storyteller has to do not only with his vitality but also with a kind of warmth, a charming earnestness.Don't worry, New Yorker readers, I, James Wood, guarantee that you will not have to think about this fiction. Just remember, if you find it challenging, it is really just charmingly earnest. He's just telling a story. It's about a man, just like you, just like me. It's just like my good friend, Vladimir Nabokov used to say: "Keep it simple, stupid."
Some experts say that this story relies heavily on vague quantitative adjectives in order to imply that the one or two people with whom the reporter may have spoken represent a substantial professional consensus, whereas a few researchers have even gone so far as to claim that a number of studies strongly suggest that these experts could be correct. One person, who also read the linked Times article, said that it sounded plausible to her. Her husband agreed. "That sounds plausible to me," he said.
Several people, however, proposed that in the absence of empirical, verifiable data, it was important to make highly generalized statements in order to avoid any potential contradictions should someone seek to independently establish the facts. "What we are saying," said one person, "is that it could definitely be this way, unless it is some other way, but either way, it is a serious issue."
Some educators worried about legal liability. "If we have to worry about violating the basic rights of our students, then our ability to protect them will be limited to legal means," said a principal. A parent agreed, noting that "abdicating our responsibilities in order to avoid temporarily awkward interactions with our social peers is getting harder and harder in this world of cell phones and internets."
One thing is for certain. Any number of people are concerned that this may be an issue, and the courts, so far, have ruled only on the merits of cases before them rather than constructing an edifice of exigent legal whatsit through which those who may experience cause for concern can act decisively without fear that others will misinterpret their good intentions.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.Well, lives may be blighted by the absence of food and shelter and clothing and entertainment and all the things that present arrangements demand money to acquire, but the absence of jobs? What? Oh, god, my life is going to be so debased, like, spiritually if I do not spend it grinding in a perpetual circle as a greasy cog in the satanic machine. I mean, I know that some people find themselves fortunately plugged into a remunerative avocation, bopping out biweekly columns from some leafy Princeton study, but most of us, even those of us fortunate enough to more or less like our jobs, would gladly do without.
But let's stipulate that what people need are jobs. Hey, Krugman, doing what?