Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I was one of the six or so nerdy souls to sign up for an extra class with the English department in February to read books with Nadeem Aslam. On the first day, there was this exchange:
Student: (referring to an early question about why we are here) I think the point is that we got to share these books with a professional author.
Aslam: Yes... (he looks around the room) And when will the writer be here?
So when will that elusive writer be here? I took the theory class required of all English majors in my second semester of college. In one of our readings, we discussed Barthes' essay "the death of the author". Basically, the text stands by itself. We learn nothing new or "correct" about the fiction if we learn the biography of the author. In fact, it destroys our reading of the text. If I am getting this wrong, it is because I don't agree, and have deliberately misinformed myself of the argument. I like the little bios at the back of the book.
But it does change things. Biographical details that I've sought out (the internet: it helps and hurts), have changed the way I see fiction, see characters, how I think about my own writing (i.e. Is this too telling? Am I only writing this because of my personal life?).
Even more shifts when you meet that author in person. I'm not talking about the ten seconds when you hand over a book to sign, I'm-a-big-fan, thank-you-very-much, who-is -this-made-out-to? exchange. I'm talking about sitting down, having a conversation, observing who that person is, bodily and personality.
I'd sort of read Nadeem Aslam's novel before signing up. Sort of, meaning, I'd was in the middle of one of the craziest semesters of my school career. Thesis, a journalism class, working. Sort of, because I'd been reading it in little bits, five pages here on the bus to work, fifty pages in between class before I fell asleep on the library chairs. This is not the proper way to absorb any writing style.
As we went through the four books (British authors, contemporary). We were told to get a pen or a pencil and underline what we found intriguing or well written. For the first time in many years of reading books in class and otherwise, I forced myself to slow down as I read. I noticed these things that I know for a fact I would have never picked out. I started to wonder what else I'd missed in the thousands of pages I've read.
When I read his essay in the "Lives" section of the NYTM, I practiced this again. Two things stuck out. The detail about the aunt's family arriving in a bulk shipment of Christmas tree. I am shocked I only picked up on this on the second run through. And how food is the ultimate metaphor. So much of this is about memory, encoded, not in song or smell, which are the richest in recollection for me, but in food.
"Each Pakistani woman spices her curries in her own way; each pan has a different aroma, the way each human body smells slightly different. The thickness, texture and the width of each woman’s chapati is also unique to her, depending on the size of her hands, the shape of her fingers and the strength with which she kneads the dough. And that evening all three of us were overcome very soon after we began the meal: the food — the flavor of the mutton, of the samosas — was the best we had tasted since our visits to our eldest aunt’s home in Lahore... We reminisced as we ate, each new mouthful sending us deeper into our memories."
This is beyond my understanding. Food is delicious, satisfying, and yes, sometimes even related to my family history - but not in the way Aslam writes about how the very body of the cook - the shape of the hands, the smells - imprints on meal. It's a lovely written passage, but it makes me confused - how literal is this supposed to be? Am I at a cultural dirth that I cannot connect this with my food?
There are three key tropes he's trafficking in. One is that of an immigrant family bonding over ethnic cooking from the home country. The second is the small-world phenomenon of meeting long-lost contacts in unlikely places. The third is the grace-of-God phenomenon of two people with the same roots winding up with very different fates, with the more fortunate of them looking at the less fortunate and thinking "There, but for the grace of God..."
On all these points, Aslam says some things that are true, and assuming he hasn't lied to the NYT, the specific events in the essay really happened. But nonfiction--in my opinion--must do more than just narrate actual events; it must go beyond the true-to-the-self-experience truth of fiction to tell us something tangible, actionable, relevant, useful and universal. It's called literary journalism for a reason: it serves a social function first, not an aesthetic one.
Back to Aslam's three tropes. First, Pakistanis care about their food, a lot. You can't go to a Pakistani's house, even as an electrician, and not accept something to eat; that would be like spitting on their feet. And it's a traditional society where women do almost all the cooking, so a family would of course associate all their favorite foods with some aunt. So this whole anecdote of obsessing about the food can be universalized to Pakistanis and maybe to other food-centric immigrant cultures, but the essay never tells us why this matters except to call up some kind of maudlin warm fuzziness in the reader. Nor does it address or acknowledge some very problematic actions/instructions/social implications inherent in this trope, like the fact that this middle-class Pakistani emigre who runs his own life and has a career as a writer is happily defining the women of a more restricted society he has chosen to leave behind solely by their function as homemakers. Part of the Pakistani food culture he's describing is the fact that the nieces and nephews would have little sense of the aunt's worth as a person outside her role in serving them food. If the author is expressing nostalgia or warmth about such a society while visibly benefitting from life in a very different social milieu, he has to deal with the politics of that. To just drop the story with all these tensions inside it flies in a short story, but a journalistic essay has different codes.
Pakistanis tend to be clannish in a way that makes these small-world meetings pretty common too: even if we don't normally encounter our relatives in restaurant kitchens, a Pakistani will ride in a cab with someone from the village next door to theirs and quickly find they know all the same people. This too produces a maudlin warm-fuzziness, both in the Pakistani expats who have such encounters and the readers of Aslam's piece. But what's the point here? It might be that you can travel halfway around the world in the effort to leave some of your past behind (which IS part of emigrating--if everything were perfect at home, you'd never leave) and still wind up defined by the place you were born. This would be a bold political statement, and one I'd disagree with (it would deny the possibility of social mobility and justify the elimination of progressive social policies like a graduated tax rate or affirmative action), but I could only agree or disagree once Aslam had bothered to make the point.
On the third trope, I don't think Aslam's anecdote can be universalized at all. Pakistanis are so family-centric, as the first two tropes illustrate, that it's unlikely many people would immigrate--even illegally--without contacting their relatives. The notion that two branches of the same family could wind up in such different places on the class ladder--one half cooking in restaurants and driving cabs while the other gets to eat out and ride in cabs--is not at all useful as a window into any broader trend. Nor is it especially warm and fuzzy. Instead it fulfills the criticism most often leveled at the NYT and the liberal press in general--that these publications are designed to exorcise the guilt of the affluent, to allow them to say "There but for the grace of God go I" and thus eliminate the fact of that inequity.
Frankly, it seemed to me that this kind of guilt-exorcism was at the heart of the whole piece--feeling warm and fuzzy towards a poor relation because she feeds you good food and then disappearing after a night of conversation with a full belly without addressing any of the social tensions that anecdote brings to light.
That all these tensions are discernable in the narrative is not sufficient. That's how it works in fiction, where the text has all kinds of internal quirks and different societies at different times can use the same text different ways; all the author has to do is give us a meaty narrative with lots of quirks to work with. Nonfiction, I believe, is written at a particular moment and with a particular social purpose. Aslam treats nonfiction as a fiction-style narrative that just happens to be true; in this, he follows a growing trend among nonfiction writers that I frankly find despicable. The fact that all the social purposes I can conjecture for this piece are so politically unpleasant only makes me dislike it more.
Nadeem Aslam’s article in the Times brings up another kind of home and this is the home I believe in. Aslam found home in his cousin and her cooking, a splash of Pakistan in an apathetic London. This particularly surprised me. I read Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers and was appalled by how a good story got lost amidst a mess of ethereal language, kind of like tearing out pages of The Count of Monte Cristo and scattering them through fluttering sheets of perfumed chiffon. What’s the point? So to find such a straight-forward point made quietly without fuss was, for me, a joy. I think I’d actually like Aslam if he didn’t waste his time on the fluff.
Back to my point. I actually see what Aslam is talking about. I don’t live in my parents’ home in Connecticut anymore but I’m instantly home with them when Dad makes the coffee. I find home in simple roasted chicken and steamed broccoli, the dinner we often had on Sundays. I’m still looking for the perfect falafel, the kind I ate frequently when I lived in Cairo, and one day I hope to be able to recreate a dish called koshari, essentially a bowl of straight carbs with a spiced tomato-based sauce.
Home is in our experiences. It’s not a physical place, but in the smells and tastes and sounds of our comfortable environments. It’s in the things that remind us of love and happy times. I don’t think Cairo wanted me to call it home, but I did and I will always seek out physical reminders of that home. If anyone knows where to find good koshari in Maryland, let me know. I think I remember enough Arabic to express my gratitude.
I have been working quite diligently over the past few weeks on some very important papers that seem to not be moving. But as the Walrus says:
Work?! The time has come
To talk of other things
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings
No work today!
We're cabbages and kings
SO today we talk about blogs and guests. Today FWFL holds its first blogger symposium. Today we shall have three wonderful bloggers discuss the story by Nadeem Aslam that I shared with you earlier. So let me introduce you to our bloggers:
KT from Cairokate
KT can't tell you what she does for a living. She can tell you that she is likely found knitting and watching movies or playing Guitar Hero after work. Her various aspirations in life include: Broadway diva, English teacher, general problem solver, and shortstop for the Mets.
Preppy McPrepperson from Instant Cappuccino
Preppy is a nonfiction writer living in New York, currently reporting for Forbes Magazine, pursuing a master's at Columbia Journalism School and blogging about the intersection of technology, business and social change. She has previously written for BusinessWeek Magazine,the Providence Journal, National Geographic's Glimpse Quarterly, Oxford Notes and Queries, the Columbia Journalism Review, Parents League Review, and a number of student publications.
TKB from Ahlan wa Cheerio
TKB will be joining us a bit late. On her own blog, she often posts about the intersection of culture, news, and life. I will post a more detailed introduction soon.
I will be following up their post with a bit of a summary, and my own thoughts. But I figured I would first just let them speak without any influence by me. Please do feel free to comment. The point of this is to open up dialog.
Until their posts, I leave you with the Walrus.
Enjoy their thoughts!
Your humble Author
Monday, December 22, 2008
On home- it is interesting. Perhaps it is because I have moved so much in the past couple years, but I definitely don't think of home as a physical place. I do think of it in physical attributes though. Home is most of all a smell and taste for me. I feel most at home when I am eating something that reminds me of places where I was happy.
For instance, tea and egg sandwiches remind me of England. They remind me of getting up early, and walking along the Thames with my friend Eleanor, as the sun was coming up.
For me, home is such a feeling and memory. I guess that is why I often decorate my room with stuff I have gotten from other places - i.e. postcards, pictures, etc.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I am home right now, and so I should warn you that my posts may be a bit limited until after the first.
However, between the Aslam link and coming home, I have been think a lot about family and more so home. To me, home is such an odd thing because for me home is in so many different places and times. Home is were my family lives and where my old friends are. Home was the one year I spent at Oxford, specifically certain Saturday nights sitting around a bottle of wine, discussing life and other such matters. And home is often the people in my life, which means that it is in Houston, New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, etc - even though I have been to few of these cities. And finally, home can being held somewhat in my digital life.
I am not certain that this is true for everyone, although I do not think it is uncommon. I should write more. I definitely think that I want to discuss soon the relation of objects, smells, and vision to notions of home and mental well-being, but I am sadly tired, so for another time.
I leave you with this fabulous short story from Zadie Smith. I like it a lot, and I hate it about as much. Her ideas are complex, interesting, and definitely worth the read. Her actual prose are awkward, and I know that this was intentional (at least I think so) but I am not yet sure if I buy into the rhetorical effect yet or not.
Well Good night,
Saturday, December 20, 2008
As I have mentioned many, many times, FWFL is moving up in the world. It's getting bigger, better, and more bloggy.
As part of this effort, I have invited some guest bloggers to post their thoughts on an article printed in the NYT at the end of last month. Here is that article by writer Nadeem Aslam (Perhaps one of my favorite contemporary authors). Each of our guests will be taking their own spin with the only limitation being that they talk about the article.
I shall introduce my guests in the near future. For now, I just wanted to give you the short article and spur some interest.
-Your Humble Author
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
In “Big Willie Style,” Will makes sure to get down to the somewhat played-out issues that often matter most: 1. He’s famous. 2. What he does IS rap. 3. His penis is large (and effective).
Listening to the album again, however, I realize this was a groundbreaking album. Now, I have no idea if this was actually innovative at the time (fuck no, I’m not researching for this shit), but his style is mimicked over and over again: steal a funky old beat and rap something kind of corny over it.
AND… without “Big Willie Style” we’d never have uttered the phrase “gettin’ jiggy.” Don’t forget I’d never’ve shouted “bienvenido a Miami” every time I (admittedly rarely) heard the mention of South Beach. Also. Remember that dance the alien does at the end of “Men In Black”? Or how you howled with laughter because you were probably too young and too inexperienced with CGI to think it was ridiculous? Yeah, that track’s from this album. Also, Will’s soft side shows through in songs like “Just the Two of Us” (aww, he’s rapping about his son).
I’m not gonna get into the rest of the tracks or those weird, egocentric interludes because I’m sure you’re tired of reading this already, but I’ll leave you with a taste of Will’s romantic lyrical genius from my personal favorite B-side track, “Candy”:
Be my Peppermint Paddy with a hundred wishes
An I'll be your Hershey daddy with a hundred kisses
Get the twins M&M to book us out a flight today
Me an’ you can Starburst to the Milky Way
I hope Will Smith actually has a candy fetish.
Today marks an important moment in Fierce Warres and Faithfull Loves's (FWFL's) life. Today we have our first guest blogger (And without telling too much, there is much more planned for all of you).
Our Guest hails from that wonderful land where you you ask someone what exit they take, rather than their hometown....Yes, New Jersey. Although she is currently galavanting around the home of Grey's Anatomy and McDreamy, Seattle. I am officially jealous.
Let me introduce you to Laura. She is an all time entertainment guru, specializing in the antics of Kayne, Rihanna, and Tyra. From personal experience, I can tell you that she is a mad-hot crazy dancer and can kick some ass on Mortal Kombat. She often spends her limited spare time rocking out on the mini-accordion or just being generally awesome. Oh and she lives an internet life here.
I am pressuring her to become a permanent fixture on this blog, so do welcome her heartily.
-Your Humble Author
For if a member were always strong and stiffe, it would be a great hinderance to men in many labours of this life, especially such as are violent, and beside it selfe would bee always subject to mischiefes, even as the arme or hand would be if it were continually stretched forth.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If someone on the street asks you if you know the time, typically (assuming you are wearing a watch), you say "Yes, I do" before, if only a second before, actually looking at your watch. You would never respond that same way about a query about a word you do not know, even if you had a dictionary close by. The point, Clark says, is that the ubiquituous and easily accessible wristwatch, unlike the more cumbersome dictionary, has in a sense merged with our sense of what constitutes our self...1
The ease with which we accept talk of the watch-bearer as one who actually knows-- rather than one who can easily find out--that time is suggestive. For the line between that which is easily and readily accessible and that which should be counted as part of the knowledge base of an active intelligent system is slim and unstable indeed. It is so slim and unstable, in fact, that it sometimes makes both social and scientific sense to think of your individual knowledge as quite simply whatever body of information and understanding is at your fingertips....According to one diagnosis, then, you are telling the literal truth when you answer "yes" to the innocent-sounding question "Do you know the time?" For you do know the time. It is just that the "you" that knows the time is no longer the bare biological organism but the hybrid biotechnological system that now includes the wristwatch as a proper part.2
1. pg. 30. Keller, Eve. Generating Bodies and Gendered Selves: The Rhetoric of Reproduction in Early Modern England. Seattle: U of Washington P, 2007. <<
2. pg. 42. Clark, Andy. Natural-Born Cyborgs: Mind, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence. Oxford: OUP, 2003. (qtd. in Keller 30)<<
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.-Marvell, To His Coy Mistress (ll. 21-24)
Considering the my life has been utter chaos over the past few days, I have been thinking a lot about time. My lack of time, thee compression of time, and, of course, going back in time. To be honest, I think about time often, not just when stressed. Temporality is related heavily to my ideas of materiality. Objects move through time, are in time, and are time. Objects become a means of shaping, directing, and understanding time.
Old books are old, not necessarily because the date on the title page (which could be a lie), but because of the marks that time has left on them. The 16th century hands in the margin, the rebinding and gilding in the 19th c (damn them!). The conservation methods used in the 21st c. In a sense, books, as with all objects, hold time within their boards.
But today, I want to talk about watches. If any other object best relates the temporality of objects, it is certainly the watch. Watches in a sense are portable representations of time. They move forward, backwards, and sometimes they just stop.
Of course, the watch has its own history (its own time), critic/historian Jonathan Sawday writes, "It has been claimed that the development in the course of the thirteenth century of the mechanical clock, and, later in the sixteenth century, of the portable timepiece or watch, marked a decisive shift in the everyday rhythms of life."1
It is interesting to think about a period in which watches, much less clocks, did not exist. Naturally, the sun has always been a wonderful means of telling time. Nonetheless, how much has the development of the watch lead to our time-conscious society? Would we have the same pressures, deadlines, and strictures if not for the watch.
More importantly, the watch generally moves forward, expresses a time that is linear and that cannot be regained. As such, we often understand time as linear. The past is behind us, the future in front.2 It is assumed that you cannot normally move up or down in time, backward, sideways, diagonally, tangentally, etc. No, we just move forward along the timeline. Of course, physics and theorist have heavily questioned this notion. Time is anything but linear. Personally, I like Deluze and Guattari's formation of time as Rhizomatic. Time works in connectivity and in becoming. Time is in the middle, never fixed, never ending, never beginning, anything but linear. Theirs is not the only non-linear time, but I think it is more dynamic than others. As such, if time is not linear, than we are just always having to fight the watch to reimagine time.
Why then are watches so pervasive, so controlling of our notions of time? Perhaps it is because watches allow us to own time. Sawday explains that as watches became popular "…time itself became privatized or personalized. Time became the property, if not of everyman, than certainly of many."3. Time becomes owned in the 16th c. It is no longer common, but rather now property. Time is then sold, bought, and marketed. The phrase "Time is money" has new meaning in this context. Yes, I do mean to infer Marxist notions of property, ownership, and the market. Perhaps linearality then is a property of capitalistic time, a time than has been packaged and controlled for the sake of production. It would be impossible to own a non-linear, rhizomatic time. Could you imagine a boss trying to scold you for coming in "late" if time were not linear?
The watch then becomes apart of this creation. The watch is the product that allowed for the conscription of time into a line. The object becomes not just touched by time, but as I mentioned early creates time.
-Your Humble Author
1. Pg 76, Sawday, Jonathan. Engines of the Imagination: Renaissance Culture and the Rise of the Machine. New York: Routledge, 2007. <<
2. Notice how the spatial dimensions of time are centered around the body. Words like "behind" and "front" all stem from the spatial directs of a body. A box or better sphere would never use such terms. <<
3. Sawday 76.<<
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Your humble Author
1. I jest with the undergrad comment. Although starting my MA, I have realized how annoying undergrads are. I apologize if I had ever been so "special." <<
2. Naturally, libraries aren't the only buildings or objects for that matter that serve as wonderful loci of human/thing interactions. <<
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Particularly, tonight I made my desktop all pretty. Admire the beauty:
The huge numbers = my clock
Friday, December 12, 2008
At first, the article above seemed ok. Not the best journalism, but I have not really come to expect much anymore...especially from CNN. But it gets just pathetic in the middle bits.
Ok so CNN tells us that Patricia probably was behind ol'Rod, supporting him through thick and thin, including corruption. But then they give us this:
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said Patricia Blagojevich is not the target of the investigation of the governor's alleged attempts to sell Obama's Senate seat, pressure the Chicago Tribune and threaten to withdraw funding from a children's hospital.Odd mixed sentiment, eh. So the point of the story is to tell us that she is a bitch, but not under criminal investigation. Ok, I guess the people of Illinois need to know that considering that they voted her into office. Oh wait....
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My most recent post had footnotes....
Yes I am proud of them (I edited the HTML myself).
If you read in a feed reader, they probably did not work. Try them on the site. Admire their beauty.
In case you missed it, Tuesday was John "I-F'in-Rock-At Everything" Milton's 400th Birthday. Hope you all pulled out your copies of Paradise Lost and celebrated appropriately. For this momentus occasion, I downloaded the audiobook of P.Lost and have been listening to it over the past few days on my walk to campus (Well worth the purchase...if you are interested, get the Anton Lesser version
This morning's bit was Book 3. Let's be honest about this book, it is probably my least favorite. In fact, I might even say that I find it more boring that an epic catalogue (which I actually find interesting because I am wierd like that). For those of you who don't remeber, or have never read P.Lost (If you are among this group, do your mind a favor and read it), Book 3 is the book where God has seen Satan heading to Earth to tempt man1. God foresees man's fall, but says that he will save them. Then he calls for a sacrifice and Christ is like "You rock, Dad! Of course, I will die to make you happy." Can we say serious daddy issues? Yes. Freud should have had a field day...I don't think he ever talked about P.Lost (If he did, you so need to share this!!). That is the basic jest of it all. Naturally, you should read it.
The reason I hate this book is simple: it is not interesting. Compared to the speeches of Satan and his followers, God and Christ are boring. All of Book 3 is about praising God's greatness. He is perfect, unquestionable, loving...blah, blah, blah. Gag. It is like a celestial circle jerk. Excuse my language, but seriously. Milton's Satan is a dynamic, kickass rebel, who tells God where he can stick his tyranny. Granted, God has the whole divine think working for him, but as a 21st century reader who loves the underdog, Satan is my man.
The other reason I have problems with this book is one of ethical, metaphysical concerns. For many of us who study literature, certain texts just stick out as personally significant. Paradise Lost is that for me, specifically this book. P.Lost was a major reason for my currently beliefs and problems with Christianity. Because it is about the Fall, Milton must deal with the fact that God, who is omniscient and timeless, must have created man, knowing that he would sin. In a sense, God created a man that would fail, allowed us to fail. Milton, as most Christian thinkers, justifies this through free will. Here are God's words right after he tells the Son man will fall:
For man will heark'n to his glozing lyes,
And easily transgress the sole Command,
Sole pledge of his obedience: So will fall
Hee and his faithless Progenie: whose fault?Whose but his own? ingrate, he had of mee
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all th' Ethereal Powers
And Spirits, both them who stood & them who faild;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have givn sincere
Of true allegiance, constant Faith or Love,
Where onely what they needs must do, appeard,
Not what they would? what praise could they receive?
What pleasure I from such obedience paid,
When Will and Reason (Reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoild,
Made passive both, had servd necessitie,
(Emphasis Mine)(ll. 93-111)2
Ok, so we can't blame God because man had free will. Seriously?
Even if I could accept God's logic here, my biggest problem is that he creates a situation in which man would fall. He, in a sense, aligns all the proverbal chess pieces to make the fall happen. In Book II, Milton states that Sin and Death follow Satan out of hell, "such was the will of Heav'n" (ln. 1025). God's foreknowledge and actions mean that he tests our faith. So the real question: so why not create creatures whose faith could not be broken? Why must we fail in order to be loved?
I realize that this post has turned into something of a rant and I have papers to write, so I will just stop there. Please do comment. Tell me what you think. I am really interested in the ethical implications of the Fall. Can we take Prior Walter's advice?4 Can we sue God for being morally bankrupt? For being a deadbeat Dad, who has abandoned us? If only 'twere so easy, eh?
-Your Humble Author
1. I apologize for what is very sexist language. I promise to do better next time. <<
2. The text comes from here. NOTE: This text is the ten book edition, not twelve. <<
3. I should admit that I realize that Milton's Fall is not necessarily a bad thing. For him, I believe, the fall is a moment where man gains real freedom, a real chance to make decisions and live. We gain God's grace because we want it not because we happen to live in Eden. He ends the poem with an amazing image of Adam and Eve, "They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,|Through Eden took thir solitarie way" (ll. 1539-40). This image is not one of utter devistation, but rather beauty, equality, and hope. The Fall is an opening, not foreclosing, of possibilities. I nearly accept it all at this point, but not quite.<<
4. From Angels in America, which if you haven't read it or seen the HBO version, you need to get on it. I would have quoted what are some amazing lines, but I left my copy in St. Louis. <<
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Seeing as I am becoming an academic or at least apprenticing to be one, I thought that maybe I could use this wonderful medium as a means of trying out some ideas. Plus, I kind of want my blog to become a bit more substantive, much like my wonderful friend TKB, who has recently embarked on such a mission.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
I love the food network, as do many of you. I love good cookbooks and food-themed books. But on my current budget, I honestly cannot afford to cook anything from these sources. Additionally, I have no time, and I am often just cooking for one. These recipes are usually pretty involved and make tons of food. SO I am going to start a new series on this blog: Cheap, Easy, College Food. There is no real reason for most college students to live off of Ramen (unless you like it - Yuck), and so I am going to share my recipes that make for a great dinner that is quick.
Tonight's adventure was Risotto. Now before I give you the recipe, I must admit that I have never had risotto. I am not sure why...I just haven't. As I told one friend, the ignorant are happy with slop. So this might be nothing like risotto, but I liked it.
Cream of Mushroom Risotto
Time: 1 hr (includes cooking and eating)
1/4 Red Onion
1/2 Small Yellow Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
1/2c Arborio rice
1/4c Cream of Mushroom Soup (I did not use condensed, if you do, you might want to cut it with water)
Bit of fresh parsley
1 tsp butter
Boil about three cups of water and dissolve Bouillon cubes to make chicken stock, You could of course just buy stock or make proper stock, but at $1 for a box of 8 cubes, this seemed the best option for me (of course, you could use any stock here). Keep the stock medium.
While the stock is getting ready, warm about a 1/4 in of olive oil in another medium pan. Fry onions and garlic until tasty :). Then use a slotted spoon to remove them. Saute Rice (most recipes say until translucent - but that never happened for me). I cooked the rice just until it started to brown. Add stock slowly, I did about 2 TBS at a time. It should be simmering quickly. Keep everything moving so nothing burns. Keep adding stock throughout cooking. Once the rice is al dente, you my friends are done.
Turn rice off, but keep stirring until cool enough. Add a bit of butter. Once melted, add cooked onions/garlic, parsley, and Cream of mushroom soup. Put back on warm burner for just a bit.
I estimated that the total cost was about: 5 bucks for one heaping serving. Not too bad for risotto, eh?
I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: Liberal politics. AS many of you know, after four years in DC, I have become quite jaded about politics. In fact, for years I just ignored them. I still hate to talk politics most of the time. I spent way too much of my first year arguing with ill informed idiots who knew nothing of realism or, more poignantly, their own country.
However, as with many people, this most recent election revived my interest. For once, it seemed that perhaps American politics would shift a bit. With Obama's election, I would say many things have changed, but the question I keep asking is a simple one. How much have things changed?
I love the fact that Obama is a more technologically and socially aware person; I love that he has a wonderful command of rhetoric and style. I especially love the fact that he tends to actually talk about issues. But too be honest, I never liked his politics. He is much too conservative. Which is why I am annoyed with current liberals who are shocked that his cabinet choices are centrist or even a little right. What in the hell did you expect from him? I mean if you wanted a truly liberal candidate then perhaps Obama was not your man.
This state of affairs has led me to a further problem. What is the state of liberalism in the US? Is liberalism like Canadian Conservativism (i.e. Laughably not that much different from the other options)? What I am saying is nothing new. Everyone, at least I thought so, knows that American politics is about the center. My problem is that our issues are not about the center. The gay marriage debate is anything but centerist. The economic crisis is anything but centerist. Even our education problems are anything but. So my real question is can centerist politics fix these issues? I am afraid not. I am afraid that the center will just prolong our problems and in the process screw things up worse.
Perhaps Obama's administration can do something...we shall see. But what I think it might do is expose the failures of centerist politics. Perhaps we will actually get some real debate, some real fighting. AS much as I hate fighting and confrontation, perhaps it is time for a real red state/blue state fight. Maybe that is what America needs. I don't really know. Perhaps I have no clue what I am talking about, which is more likely true. I think I need to do some more reading. Also it probably doesn't help that I am a complete cynic when it comes the American politics.
So I open it up to you. What do you think about the state of American liberalism? American Politics?
Your humble Author
P.S. Here is the article that got me thinking.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
However, I am in the process of planning Christmas Eve dinner, which my mom unwittingly agreed to let me cook. Bad life choice...since she is also paying for it. Mwahahaha. SO basically, I think it might turn into a best hits of things I have been wanting to make but have had no time/money.
The best part - I am going to do actual courses. I mean legit!
So here is the dinner plan so far:
1. Appetizers: Selection of cheeses, olives, and crackers
2. Soup: Roasted Vegetable Soup served in a roasted pumpkin
3. Salad: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
4. Main: Sirloin Roast with Red Wine-Tomato Sauce
Sides: Purple Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts
5. Selection of Fresh Fruits, perhaps
6. Dessert: Not sure on this one. Possibilities: Apple Crumble, Peach Cobbler, Creme Brulee.
Drinks (Could definitely use help here):
1. Probably nothing for the appetizers, just because I don't want to get the family drunk
2. Bold White - maybe an oaked Chardonnay.
3. Probably hoping the Chardonnay is still going.
4. Nice Red - Shiraz? Negroamero?
6. Coffee or Tea
So what think ye? Any suggestions? Changes?
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Again via facebook post
Via Facebook post.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
But at least there are Christmas presents at the end of this rainbow.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Hat tip /Andrew Sullivan
I tried to do a week long internet ban, and I failed miserably. Like it or not, the internet is the way I do things. As Dylz put (probably in much different and better words), it is my news, radio, schedule, distraction, funny, social network, accountant, general knowledge guru, cookbook, notebook, translator (ok not really), story teller, etc. Basically, it is pretty crucial to my daily routine. So I have instead of an internet ban, decided on an internet limit. I have yet to decide the rules of this limit, but rest assured, they will be just and appropriate.
So to celebrate my returning to those magical serious of tubes that Al Gore invented (a great man!), I leave you with videos from my new love (strictly in a platonic sense).....internet genius and star: Bo Burnham.
Your humble author.
Here is Bo at Youtube live
For Laura, Bo's "New Math"
For all you druggies or Mystic characters out there:
And finally, a PSA: