I guess liberals are gleeful over the generally nutty display at last night's GOP shindig, but I will say this for the Republicans--as a matter of pure aesthetics, they have produced once again a genuine bestiary of real American types, whereas every time I see a gathering of Democrats, they seem to have beamed straight from some nearby planet, speak through slightly glitchy universal translators, learned human mannerisms from watching distant television broadcasts that have at long last diffused through space. You may think that Mitt Romney is a huge fake, and you're right; but even he is recognizably homo americanus: the hair, the smile, the "my friend," the gladhanding--he's a classic bonhommian businesstype; Bachman is no nuttier than any other PTA or Little League lady I've had the displeasure to know; Ron Paul is as affable and futilely beloved as any barroom political crank; even the crackpot pizzabaron is comfortably of the same species as you and me. Barack Obama on the other hand seems like a holodeck beta test.
Friday, August 12, 2011
So I listened to this last night; I caught a promo in the car on the way home from the store, and I thought, oh boy, this is gonna be good. And I WAS NOT MISTAKEN. The main guest was one Drew Westen, late of NYTimes fame for penning an article about how Barack Obama is not FDR he's just some wimpypants wimpleton who won't tell us a bedtime story. Really!
The stories our leaders tell us matter, probably almost as much as the stories our parents tell us as children, because they orient us to what is, what could be, and what should be; to the worldviews they hold and to the values they hold sacred. Our brains evolved to “expect” stories with a particular structure, with protagonists and villains, a hill to be climbed or a battle to be fought. Our species existed for more than 100,000 years before the earliest signs of literacy, and another 5,000 years would pass before the majority of humans would know how to read and write.With the possible exception of fake trend stories about how everyone in America is now wearing diamond-encrusted beaverskin condoms (but actually just some asshole on the newly discovered moon called Brooklyn is), there is nothing the Times likes so much as combining dull paternalism with crackpot evolutionary psychology. Um, "our brains evolved to 'expect' stories with a particular structure"? Um, dude, the Freytag Triangle dates from the 1860s. The ancient oral tradition and the early literary and religious texts do not have "a hill to be climbed or a battle to be fought"--the are not composed of linear progressions through rising action to climax and denouement. They are non-linear and episodic; they wildly oscillate between offering catalogues of moral precepts and martial derring-do and interminable tribal genealogy. What you consider a "story" is not some ancient architecture of the human mind; it's a narrative artifact of modernity.
Anyway, On Point is your typical NPR call-in show, which is to say that everyone pretends to know what they're talking about while betraying an extraordinary ignorance of what they're talking about. (I guess the car dudes are the exception; they feign ignorance over a reserve of knowledge; but I have always believed that the Sports and Automotive press are the only provinces of journalism worth a damn anyway.) The host and his guest yammer in a boring, high-school forensics level colloquy for a while and then NPR listeners call in to bemoan in various ways the atrophied mental state of their fellow Americans. So you get a lot of people who are like BARACK OBAMA HAS FAILED ME HE'S NO FDR WHERE ARE MY SOCIAL SECURITY LOLCATS AHHHHRGGHHG! and some other people who are like BARACK OBAMA IS DOING THE BEST HE CAN WITH AN INTRANSIGENT RETHUGLICAN DEATHSTAR OPPOSITION, and Jonathan Chait from The New Republic is like You're all fucking idiots here is how the government works . . . not a single person managed to mention that what Barack is doing is what Barack said he was going to do all along.
This may be my favorite recipe. It was supposedly beloved by that loveable Hugenot Henri IV, but its provenance is pure paysan. It combines the singular heartiness of single-pot cookery with a brightness of individual flavor that a whole kitchen of Ferran Adrià imitators with their agar and basket whisks couldn't achieve. It is--especially if you grow your own herbs and vegetables and if you bake your own bread--cheap; this recipe will feed six people for less than $20. It's called poule au pot, quite literally chicken in a pot, a sort of poultrified counterpart to the more recognizeably French pot-au-feu. The principle is the same. In this case, a young chicken is stuffed with something midway between a forcemeat panade and a bread stuffing and placed in a pot with vegetables, seasoning, and cold water. It is brought to a boil, then covered and simmered for hours. There is a classic sauce made of shallot, cornichon, and hardboiled egg; if you were to pick a wine, you could do worse than a simple red from Irouléguy.
1 young chicken, no more than 4 lbs.
for the stuffing
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup diced bacon (dry rub), pancetta, or lardons
1 1/2 cup day-old bread, soaked in milk and then squeezed dry.
fresh herbs (whatever is available; I use lavendar, thyme, fennel, and wild marjorum)
salt and pepper to taste
for the pot
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and halved
1 summer squash, such as zucchini, halved and cut in thick half-coins
1 green or savoy cabage, outer layer removed, heart cut into sixths
3 leaks, trimmed and halved
a handful small shallots, peeled and whole
1 bouquet garni of the same herbs used in the stuffing
whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
for the sauce
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/2 cup cornichons, finely diced
1 hard-boiled egg, finely diced
salt and ground pepper to taste
In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, render the bacon fat in some clarified butter. Then increase the heat to high. Brown the ground pork, then add the bread and herbs, mashing together as you cook. Remove from heat; let cool for ten or so minutes; mix with one egg and light salt and pepper.
Stuff the chicken. Really, you know, fist it in there. It's going to come out as a kind of sausage, ahem. Sew up the bird's cavity and then truss its legs and wings. Put it in a good dutch oven or similar heavy pot. Surround it with the raw ingredients from for the pot. Cover in cold water, generously salted. Place on high heat and bring just to boil, skimming any foam or froth that rises to the top. Reduce heat. Simmer for 3 hours on the lowest flame.
To make the sauce, simply combine the shallot, cornichons, and egg with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. A trick is to undercook the egg; the slightly underdone yolk will act as an emulsifying agent.
To serve, remove the chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Halve along the breast and remove the stuffing. Cut the chicken into large serving pieces. Slice the stuffing into rounds. Pour the remaining ingredients through a seive, catching the broth in a bowl below. Arrange the cooked vegetables, meat, and stuffing on a large serving platter and drizzle lightly with the sauce. Serve with cups of the clear broth to start or on the side. Can be accompanied by a simple green salad and a plain rustic boule.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
WASHINGTON - Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters today that the Pentagon had successfully eliminated the underlying problems in the global economy. He did not explain how the military had been able to find and identify these problems, but assured the reporters that his commanders were "highly confident" about the identity of their targets.
Using "tips and local intelligence" along with unmanned surveillance, the military was able to track these issues back to their hideout near the introduction of coinage as a means of exchange. After first ensuring that civilians had been evacuated from the area, drones fired several Hellfire missiles. At least one of their targets has forged documents that suggested he intended to flee in the direction of an abstract fiat-backed system of unsecured legal tender.
"If he had been successful," said Panetta, "it is unlikely we would have ever found him."
The White House made no official comment, although one official who asked not to be named because he had no knowledge of the events which transpired, said that he had heard that the President may have been pleased by the news.
House Speaker John Boehner praised the military success but was cautious in his assessment of its overall impact. Some military experts echoed this caution. One Army colonel who asked to remain anonymous due to his request to remain anonymous, said, "Really, we are taking a long look at the moment of complex language acquisition. Some people would be happy with the agrarian revolution, but we do not want to go for half-measures now and be stuck here for another 10,000 years."
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Lolshit. Gurl please. Does anyone believe this sort of thing? We killed some guys. THEY SUNK OUR BATTLESHIP!
If there is one thing Hollywood loves more than raping and humiliating women, it is hobbling beloved heroes and villains alike with totally schematic back stories that explain in grotesquely uninteresting detail just how wut wuz became wut iz. What made Star Trek so wonderful was that it had at its core a great trio of old friends and comrades who served as believable foils to one another. Kirk, Spock, and Bones! That shit was great. They were characters. Then fucking J.J. Abrams got his hands on it, and while sure, he made a skillful scifi action flick, it completely lacked human drama because there were no human relations. Kirk and Spock fucking hated each other and Bones was just some fucking afterthought who lost all his money and possessions in a divorce even though he lives in a future where there is no fucking money. NO ONE GOES TO SEE WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF TO WATCH GEORGE AND MARTHA'S TENDER EARLY COURTSHIP. Or look at Batman. Batman is this dark, fascinating, powerfully mysterious, obsessive creature of the night. Oh, uh, no he's not; he's Christopher Nolan's exercise in crackpot Jungian archetypalism or some shit; look, here's how Liam Neeson trained him as a ninja or whatever. Fucking boring. George Lucas needless to say pissed all over everything good about Star Wars. All these simple, beloved, enjoyable stories and characters are utterly and forever ruined by showing us how
losing the class election in Mrs. Breon's third-grade class turned a person into a ranting cocaine-fueled anarcho-nihilist a cool character became what he is. "Origin" stories are bad for individuals and ensembles alike. Imagine if instead of putting Bruno Ganz in the bunker in Downfall they'd, I don't know, set him up with a little easel and plein air kit and let you watch him make lousy architectural watercolors for a couple of hours. Exactly. Fucking boring.
So anyway, in X-men Colon Colonoscopy, we learn a whole bunch of shit about Chuck X and Magneto that we already knew from one swift scene and a few moments of dialogue in Bryan Singer's original film. Xavier was a total pratt, I believe is the term; he only becomes wise after he gets fucking crippled, which is just amazingly lame, part and parcel with Hollywood's penchant for turning retards and cripples into saints because of course they couldn't simply be ordinary, complex people despite their different abilities and capacities; no, sunshine has to shine out of their assholes. Now Captain Picard as Charles Xavier is interesting; a wise, sagelike figure whose extraordinary powers are really only hinted at and seem therefore all the more extraordinary. He and Ian McKellan have known each other forever; were once friends; I do not have to tell you this. The point is, they have a relationship; it is interesting. In the origin story, they don't, and while you can certainly make a film in which the slow development of an intense human relationship is explored in all its nuance and ambiguity, you can't do it in a goddamn summer blockbuster where half the film is given over to poorly-done CGI action scenes. So anyway, Chuck and Eric: they're strangers, they're friends, then they're enemies. Along the way, Hank McCoy is so ashamed of his big feet that he turns himself into a monster, and Kevin Bacon is the villain.
Now, the reason that so many origin stories are written by Hollywood hack assholes is that origin stories are incredibly easy to write. No one knows anyone else, and therefore the difficult part of writing a story, which is crafting believable relationships between believable characters, is completely unnecesary. A truly talented schlock director like Micahel Bay could do all of X-men Xposition far better and faster in one of those Introduce-the-Team sequences he so loves. The fucking title sequence of the Captain Planet cartoon better accomplishes what X-men tried to do and does so in about 25 seconds. The only thing worse than Michael Fassbender's French is Kevin Bacon's German, and the only thing worse was every single effects shot, which were better done by Konami. Assholes.
Harry Potter is over, oh god, now I can cum. I guess it is easy enough to criticize JK Rowling for writing absolutely execrable prose, but I have read C.S. Lewis, and let me tell you, that guy couldn't write a graceful sentence if his reward were a chaste peck on the lips from JayCee himself. Tolkien obviously couldn't write either; I mean, maybe that shit sounded better in the original Elvish, but the GoogleTranslate English version sucks. Somehow every single sentence in I Snored. There Were Rings? sounds suspiciously like, "Able was I, ere I saw Elba." What was my point? Ah, you know, just that you can criticize JK Rowling for writing ten million pages of clumsily derivative horseshit, but that is effectively the nature of fantasy. Anyway, I was feeling a bit undertheweather on Monday, so my boyfriend and I went to see Harry Potter 19: The Phantom Penis. I could not actually tell you what happened visually because the entire movie was filmed without any lighting instruments; occasionally a magical CGI squiggle darted across the screen; the aesthetic vision seems to have been something like: Screensaver, Windows 95. There are also some CGI magical creatures that look like they were left in the recycling bin outside of the office that created the latest Shartosquidasaur for the [sigh]Fi Channel. There are a number of British accents, and invariably someone tells Harry Potter, When the Time Comes, You'll Know What to Do. Now I understand why this sort of thing is so popular a trope in fantasyland. It lazily suggests magic and intuition and an un-mundane world of things unseen, but it is exceptionally frustrating to hear and to read. If your friend just found a really awesome animated .gif tumblr, he doesn't say, "Kittens with Hitler moustaches eating spaghetti . . . when the time comes . . . you'll know where to find it . . . your heart will guide you." No, he sends you the goddamn URL.
Anyway the movie was really long and boring, just like the books, and Ralph Fiennes looks like a cock. The End.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
The Market is at once wise and unthinking; it has a superhuman capacity to order the world, and yet it is essentially human in its behavior; it is a force of nature beyond human power and reckoning, yet it can be appeased, argued with, altered, bribed, influenced, redirected, appealed to, etc.; it is amorphous and yet incarnate--though immaterial, it takes on many forms. Our markets are like a cute classical pantheon, a gaggle of mercurial superhuman principalities of the heavens who sprung out of the self-created ancient orders of the universe and then sorta took shit over, although they seem a bit out of their depth actually running things; in their foibles they are more human than human; their appetites are ours, exaggerated; their greater wisdom smells faintly of folly and stupidity; they are more poetical than actual; the are not, in any case, real. Markets are always doing this because of that, responding to injury with injustice, bickering, dithering, making backroom deals--all in all like a bunch of line-graph Greek Gods. I will spare you the image of Paul Krugman at the Bacchanal. The proper way to read this sort of thing is as an installation in a rather dull epic, full of epithets. Volatility remained high, everyone.
Amusingly, the Washington Posts' "Five Myths About Mormonism" neglects to include Mormonism.
So you have an entire so-called economy based on theft and expropriation; basically your life must be either precarious true poverty or the illusory security of some or other sort of debt-peonage, which is the foundational theft and expropriation upon which all the profits of finance rest; literally, like, uh, basically, um, half the world is enslaved to the immense extortionist enterprises of state capital--the other half is covered in a three-inch Congo-delta oil slick and is a skein of extraction points. And what really worries you is that some London homebro is stealing some trainers from the Foot Locker? Oh, you worry, how can these people ever expect social change and the advancement of their lot if they don't respect the law. Yo, mah nigs: how can they ever expect it if they do?
Monday, August 08, 2011
Man, it's too bad that Mark Duggan wasn't Iranian; all the same assholes who are like, "Oh, the rioting, Oh, the looting, Oh, the humanity!" would be making room for another green ribbon between their LiveStrong bracelet and Kabala string. I was in fact just chatting with a liberalische acquaintance the other day, the sort of gal who hates Bush and is sorely disappointed in Obama, and she said, in regard to the ongoing Syrian uphevals, the kids in Greece and Spain, the Israelis, etc. etc., that it was really a shame that Americans no longer protested: too fat, lazy, apolitical, and so on to take to the streets. "Girl wut?" I sez. Americans still take to the streets when injustice is done. They just happen to be black most of the time, and your nice liberal show of solidarity is to lock the doors in your distant enclave lest the niggers come for your TV too. If his name had been El-Rodney Al-King and he'd gotten the beat-down in some market square in East Whutupistan, you'd be poring over headlines about Violent protests in response to brutal crackdowns by state security forces. But, anyway, as for the current sitcheeyayshun: somehow I doubt that we're going to hear too much about the poor youth of London demanding a better life after years of economic stagnation and political neglect.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
I am going to throw a reciprocal link at John Kindley at People Vs. State in part just because he was a good sport in comments recently, and in part because general antipathy to deities aside, I do like me some of that good old-fashioned gnosis. I don't much care for priests and prelates, but I do have a soft spot for mystics. In any case, I want to revisit the sewers. You know, I have always admired the ingenuity of the poor: the black dudes on my street who keep those cars running and passing inspection somehow, long after they should die; the Iraqis' goddamn genius with a generator. Now there is no moral dilemma in working to improve the material lot of the poor; the truism holds: no one should starve. But that desire to improve swiftly becomes the moralistic paternalism of the very liberalism we claim to despise. It is one thing to have compassion; quite another to pity. Insofar as there is a moral dimension, it is the inverse of the material one, and when I say that we may have to learn to be poorer, I do not mean simply that we may have to make do with fewer possessions and trips to the Whole Foods. Of course, it is likewise easy to sit in a position of privilege and edify poverty, and I don't advocate the poverty of asceticism merely for its own sake, which has always struck me as slightly juvenile. Nonetheless, the radical sensibility, truly embraced, as J-Lamb himself imagined it, requires not that you wonder how to make the poor more like you, but that you seek to become more like the poor.
I happened to flip past the Tavis Smiley show today on the way to the store; he had the most incredible--I do not mean that as a compliment--panel of yahoos: Cornell West; Arianna Huffington, Frum, Milibank, John S. Chen. Oh god, they started in on edumatcation. Chen was like, Yo, back in Hong Kong, we study for 29 hours a day; our children do not sleep; failure is not tolerated. The last bit is especially hilarious because he had said, literally moments before, that the reason American higher education is superior to all the rest of the world combined to the billionth power whereas its K-12 sux mah balls is that colleges fail students which incetivizes blah blah blah whereas in public edumacation social promotion rules the day. Well I guess in Hong Kong failure is an option, just . . . an unexercised one.
A month or so ago, David Brooks said something astonishingly intelligent. It was when everyone was still talking about the Tiger Balm mother or whatever, the one who's like, I psychologically torture my children in order to guarantee their superficial success in the credentialing sector. Brooks said, in effect: that shit, it's easy. Anyone can play the violin if they practice; anyone can learn calculus. Try navigating the social currents at a tween sleepover and get back to me. He said, look, anyone can learn shit. Neuroscience tells us that the mind is almost infinitely plastic. All the old developmental truisms about, like, learning a language when you're a wee bairn; that shit is basically completely unfounded and untrue, mere anecdote, completely at odds with the still-emerging portrait of the brain as it really, remarkably is. So, you know, snuffing out your child's spiritual development in order that they get through two years of algebra in eight months in order that Forbes magazine or whoever can say that America has better eighth graders than Sweden is effectively nuts; it creates automatons with no capacity to act cooperatively and creatively outside of a rigidly ordered hierarchy in which all decisions flow from an apex point . . .
Oh. Oh, wait. Oh, shit.
Most of what you are being prodded to perceive as important and catastrophic has nothing to do with you. The Dow, the US credit rating, even the made-up aggregate national unemployment statistics? All fundamentally concerns of an ownership class to which you do not belong. Now it is true that cataclysm does rumble across the globe from time to time; one would not have wanted to be caught up in the Eastern Front or rolled over by the Golden Horde, but much of what we perceive in historical retrospect as sudden and apocalyptic change was not so sudden and not so apocalyptic, and while the ruling powers may have rearranged themselves, the individual lifetimes of the ruled went on, within those lifetimes, much as before. Perhaps people were a little richer or poorer than they imagined they might be; households grew to accommodate more mutual support or shrunk when smaller units could be self-sufficient; taxes and impositions were more or less onerous; the forces of law and order were better or worse; but still, mostly, the animals went to pasture, the soil was tilled, the lunchbox packed, the shop opened, etc. What minor investment you believe yourself to have in the outcome of all this, your retirement plan, say, your little nest egg, is just a mind-control device; its purpose is to inculcate a false identity; but you never actually owned it; I mean, just watch its "value" rise and decline unmoored from any rational, predictable, comprehensible process. It's just an arbitrary grant that can be given or taken away at any time. It doesn't belong to you. To look at "the economic climate" today and consider any of it a catastrophe is to self-delude in the most preposterous manner; it's to become consumed with minor and utterly meaningless gradations of mostly phony wealth. We may all become a bit poorer. SO WHAT?