Saturday, February 28, 2015

Right. In. The. Feels.

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy.

Dean learns things.

Cannot Unsee.

Makes perfect sense, actually.

Reading - Feb '15 - "...thirty years is an eternity. But other times it felt like the blink of an eye."

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

The Day Remo Died (The Destroyer Book 0) by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Tripwire (Jack Reacher, Book 3) by Lee Child
Running Blind (Jack Reacher, Book 4) by Lee Child
Echo Burning (Jack Reacher, Book 5) by Lee Child
Without Fail (Jack Reacher, Book 6) by Lee Child

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Blackhawk: Blood & Iron by Howard Chaykin

Without Fail
"I was imagining a lone man, is all.” “It’s always going to be a team,” Reacher said. “There are no lone men.” He saw an ironic half smile reflected in the glass. “So you don’t believe the Warren Report?” she asked. He shook his head. “Neither do you,” he said. “No professional ever will.”

"But we had different brains. Deep down, he was a cerebral guy. Kind of pure. Naive, even. He never thought dirty. Everything was a game of chess with him. He gets a call, he sets up a meet, he drives down there. Like he’s moving his knight or his bishop around. He just didn’t expect somebody to come along and blow the whole chessboard away.”

“Afterward I was angry he was so careless,” Reacher said. “But then I figured I couldn’t blame him for that. To be careless, first of all you’ve got to know what you’re supposed to be careful about. And he just didn’t. He didn’t know. He didn’t see stuff like that. Didn’t think that way.”

"You didn’t cause it. I didn’t cause it. It just happened.” “Things happen for a reason.” He shook his head. “No, they don’t,” he said. “They really don’t. They just happen."

“Sounds like you’re contemplating a very serious course of action.” “People play with fire, they get burned.” “That’s the law of the jungle.” “Where the hell else do you think you live?”

Running Blind
“You need fighters, women can do it the same as anybody else. Russian front, World War Two? Women did pretty well there. You ever been to Israel? Women in the front line there too, and I wouldn’t want to put too many U.S. units up against the Israeli defenses, at least not if it was going to be critical who won.”

THEY DIDN’T SPEAK again, all the way to Seattle. Five hours, without a word. Reacher was comfortable enough with that. He was not a compulsively sociable guy. He was happier not talking. He didn’t see anything odd about it. There was no strain involved. He just sat there, not talking, like he was making the journey on his own.

And profiling works, Reacher. Those people have had some spectacular successes. ” “Among how many failures?” “What do you mean?” Reacher turned back to face her. “Suppose I was in Blake’s position? He’s effectively a nationwide homicide detective, right? Gets to hear about everything. So suppose I was him, getting notified about every single homicide in America. Suppose every single time I said the likely suspect was a white male, age thirty and a half, wooden leg, divorced parents, drives a blue Ferrari. Every single time. Sooner or later, I’d be right. The law of averages would work for me. Then I could shout out hey, I was right. As long as I keep quiet about the ten thousand times I was wrong, I look pretty good, don’t I? Amazing deduction.” “That’s not what Blake’s doing.” “Isn’t it? Have you read stuff about his unit?” She nodded. “Of course I have. That’s why I applied for the assignment. There are all kinds of books and articles.” “I’ve read them too. Chapter one, successful case. Chapter two, successful case. And so on. No chapters about all the times they were wrong. Makes me wonder about how many times that was. My guess is a lot of times. Too many times to want to write about them.” “So what are you saying?” “I’m saying a scattergun approach will always look good, as long as you put the spotlight on the successes and sweep the failures under the rug.”

“Why do you think the interstates were built? Not so the Harper family could drive from Aspen to Yellowstone Park on vacation. So the Army could move troops and weapons around, fast and easy.” “They were?” Reacher nodded. “Sure they were. Eisenhower built them in the fifties, height of the Cold War thing, and Eisenhower was a West Pointer, first and last.” “So?” “So you look where the interstates all meet. That’s where they put the storage, so the stuff can go any which way, moment’s notice. Mostly just behind the coasts, because old Ike wasn’t too worried about parachutists dropping into Kansas. He was thinking of ships coming in from the sea.”

...thirty years is an eternity. But other times it felt like the blink of an eye.

He was pretty sure he didn’t want to live in a house. The desire just passed him by. The necessary involvement intimidated him. It was a physical weight, exactly like the suitcase in his hand. The bills, the property taxes, the insurance, the warranties, the repairs, the maintenance, the decisions, new roof or new stove, carpeting or rugs, the bud gets. The yard work. He stepped over and looked out of the window at the lawn. Yard work summed up the whole futile procedure. First you spend a lot of time and money making the grass grow, just so you can spend a lot of time and money cutting it down again a little while later. You curse about it getting too long, and then you worry about it staying too short and you sprinkle expensive water on it all summer, and expensive chemicals all fall. Crazy.

“Did you approve of Vietnam, Major?” Hobie asked suddenly. Reacher shrugged. “I was too young to have much of an opinion,” he said. “But knowing what I know now, no, I wouldn’t have approved of Vietnam.” “Why not?” “Wrong place,” Reacher said. “Wrong time, wrong reasons, wrong methods, wrong approach, wrong leadership. No real backing, no real will to win, no coherent strategy.” “Would you have gone?” Reacher nodded. “Yes, I would have gone,” he said.

“It’s just a tool,” he said. “Tools have no memory.”

He knew people with houses. He had talked to them, with the same kind of detached interest he would talk to a person who kept snakes as pets or entered ballroom dancing competitions. Houses forced you into a certain lifestyle. Even if somebody gave you one for nothing, like Leon had, it committed you to a whole lot of different things. There were property taxes. He knew that. There was insurance, in case the place burned down or was blown away in a high wind. There was maintenance. People he knew with houses were always doing something to them. They would be replacing the heating system at the start of the winter, because it had failed. Or the basement would be leaking water, and complicated things with excavations would be required. Roofs were a problem. He knew that. People had told him. Roofs had a finite life span, which surprised him. The shingles needed stripping off and replacing with new. Siding, also. Windows, too. He had known people who had put new windows in their houses. They had deliberated long and hard about what type to buy.

“The F-4 Phantoms, for instance, they had about five thousand dollars’ worth of precious metals in the connections. Population used to hack it all out and sell it. You buy cheap jewelry in Bangkok, probably it’s made out of old U.S. fighter-bomber electronics.”

The Day Remo Died
He had to be shown he had layers of fat yet to be used up. Why eat? “I’m hungry,” said the white thing. “Yes?" “Well, I want to eat.” “Of course. You haven’t eaten for a day. You will always want to eat if you go twenty-four hours without food. But you don’t need to eat. You already have fat deposits to live on.” “But I wanna eat,” said Remo. “So?"

“You fall because you are afraid. Fear is nothing more than a feeling. You feel hot. You feel hungry. You feel angry. You feel afraid. Fear can never kill you. So what are you afraid of?" “It sounds crazy, Chiun, but I am afraid of being afraid.” “Ahh,” said Chiun. “The greatest fear. You are quite perceptive for a white man.” “Will you stop with that white stuff already?" “I said nothing. The problem with you whites is that you are overly sensitive.”

“What do you believe in?" “I don’t believe in anything,” Chiun said. “I know things.” “Well, I believe in something. I believe this country has given so many people so many chances that it deserves being defended and saved.” “Why?” asked the Master. “Because I’m an American,” said Remo. So Smith was right. This man who had been framed by his government, scared out of his very being because he had thought he might really die, this white had nevertheless felt obliged to kiss the teeth that bit him. Whites were often very tribal, Chiun realized. Remo did not own the country, owed it nothing, yet was willing to die for it.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir
Thirty sets of eyeballs turned and ice-grilled me as if I’d just taken my book to the front of the class and set it on fire. Three days in and no one wanted to hang with me. We kept reading the Bible, but from then on every time I challenged a story that didn’t make sense to me—how the universe was created in six days, why Cain killed Abel, how fucking big was that ark?—Ms. Truex put me in time-out. By the time Christmas came around, while all the other kids made cards, she had me sit in a corner and face the wall because I wasn’t a “believer.” The time-outs were worse than that time Optimus Prime died in the first twenty minutes of Transformers, so I gave up. I waved the white flag and asked Ms. Truex what I needed to do to be like everyone else. She told me that if I wanted to participate in class and go to Heaven, I had to “let Jesus into my heart.” So for the first time in my life, I sold out. One winter day, just after Christmas break, Ms. Truex asked me to stay late. The classroom emptied out until it was just me and her. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be down.

I don’t think people realize how fucking weird Christianity is if you’re not raised around it. But, hey, it got me off time-out. And, who knows, maybe a billion white people can’t be wrong and it’s all really true.

I didn’t know what pasta was, but was really starting to feel like a dumb-ass so I didn’t ask. The shit was so nasty. We never ate cheese and it stunk like feet. A lot of Chinese people are lactose intolerant, so it’s just not something we eat normally. We drink soy milk instead of cow’s milk and stir-fry our noodles instead of covering them with cheese. I suddenly realized that converting to white wouldn’t be easy, but still, that toilet paper was like silk. I tried to force myself to eat the macaroni and cheese but literally barfed it through my nose. Jeff and his brothers couldn’t believe it. I realized no matter how many toys they had, I couldn’t cross over. I’d much rather eat Chinese food and split the one good dinosaur with my brother. Macaroni is to Chinamen as water is to gremlins, teeth are to blow jobs, and Asian is to American. It just didn’t fit.

To this day, I wake up at times, look in the mirror, and just stare, obsessed with the idea that the person I am in my head is something entirely different than what everyone else sees. That the way I look will prevent me from doing the things I want; that there really are sneetches with stars and I’m not one of them. I touch my face, I feel my skin, I check my color every day, and I swear it all feels right. But then someone says something and that sense of security and identity is gone before I know it.

I got to hang out with Allen a lot that summer. He had tons of jokes, made fun of everyone, and had the best cut-downs. Most of the time, he made fun of Emery, Phil, or me, but I didn’t care—he was funny! He showed me my first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with Kathy Ireland in the artificial grass skirt by the artificial pool. One day toward the end of summer, he gave me something. A cassette tape. I put it in my deck, pressed play, and I’ll never forget what came out the speakers. “This is dedicated to the n!gg@s that was down since day one … [click clack] Welcome to Death Row.” It was The Chronic and, just like when I first spotted the Jordans, life would never be the same again. These rappers on the record talked like my parents when they were fighting, dropping words like “fuck,” “bitch,” and “shit,” but they had new slang, too, like “eat a dick.” I was all about this Chronic shit and didn’t even know what it was. “Yo, what is this, man?!?!” “The Chronic.” “It sounds like rap, but not rap.” “It’s rap, but it’s hip-hop.” “What’s the difference?” “Hip-hop is that real shit. Rap is just … rap.” “Word … I like this hip-hop! You got more of it?”

“Boys, I know you like Taiwan, but America is beautiful. You know what the best part is?” “Yeah, we know … land of opportunity, make money, blah, blah, blah.” “No. Your mom doesn’t want me to talk about this, but one day you will understand. In America, you can do anything you want. I couldn’t grow my hair long in Taiwan; in America, no problem! I had a band in America, we’re free in America!” “Man, you ran around shanking people with Uncle Xiao Hei in Taiwan and you’re telling me you can’t grow your hair out?” “Look, difficult to explain, but I tell you this way. In America, you can ‘sports fuck.’ ”

In Taiwan, girls only ‘make love.’ You have to take them out, lie to them, tell them you love them, etc. But in America, it’s like sports! They’ll fuck you for fun … or practice! When you guys are old enough, you gotta take advantage. Sports fuck, don’t forget it.” That was my dad. The one man besides Al Bundy who could take me on a magical trip to Taiwan, a trip that set me on to a huge soul search, set me up for what I expected to be the Rosetta Stone talk, and then tell me about sports fucking. I had to come to grips with the reality that my dad didn’t come to this country for freedom or opportunity or any special way of life. He came to America, knocked up my mom at a house party in college, married her three months later, and there he was that day, sitting in our kitchen, blowing up in his early forties, still figuring out how to be a dad. I realized that day that anyone can be a parent; you just need live bullets. My dad was always proud that he quit smoking cigarettes the day Mom had me. I believe it, but I don’t believe cigarettes were his only vice.

Both parents would hit us, but my mom was under control. It would hurt, but she’d never black out on us or get flagrantly creative, like it was her hobby. She’d use kitchen utensils or beauty products while my dad would use all kinds of joints: belts, whips, bo staffs, kala sticks, whatever he could get his hands on that would walk the line between really hurting and disabling us. He was smart. He never hit us in the face, he never hit us on the arms, and when he hit us on the legs it was above the knees. Smooth criminal.

Everyone needs those moments. The times that something forces you to step outside of yourself and realize, yes, I’m sure there’s a reason for what you’re doing and I want to respect your idea of morality, but in my eyes, at this moment, that shit you’re doing over there? THAT shit, son? That shit ain’t right.

We didn’t do it because it was cool. At private school, teachers, parents, and other kids looked down on us for listening to hip-hop. It was a “black thing,” downward assimilation. They didn’t understand why we had flattops and racing stripes in our heads, but we did. And when you get stranded And things don’t go the way you planned it Dreamin’ of riches, in a position of makin’ a difference Pac made sense to us. We lived in a world that treated us like deviants and we were outcast. There was always some counselor or administrator pulling us out of class to talk. We stayed in detention and we were surrounded by kids who had no idea what we were going through. We listened to hip-hop because there wasn’t anything else that welcomed us in, made us feel at home. I could see why Milli wanted to pull a pistol on Santa or why B.I.G. was ready to die. Our parents, Confucius, the model-minority bullshit, and kung fu–style discipline are what set us off. But Pac held us down.

On my thirteenth birthday, I won the 740 AM Final Four Pick ’Em, which was open to all of Greater Orlando. I remember the radio station calling my house and not believing it was a thirteen-year-old kid’s entry. I was also running NCAA pools at school, taking bets on NFL games, and selling porno. Emery and I figured out how to download Internet porn before the other kids so we put GIFs on 3.5-inch diskettes and sold them to other kids in school. Mind you, this was when everyone was still reading magazines, before USB drives or CD burners. The porno hustle was ill. We’d break up more popular photos into different sets and sell them for more like greatest-hits mixtapes. For people who wanted the physical magazines, Emery found my dad’s stash of Penthouse magazines and would tear out individual photos and sell them that way to the highest bidder. Ten years before I ever heard the Clipse talking about breaking down keys and sellin’ ’em like gobstoppers, we were doing the same thing with porno in middle school. I liked selling things or taking bets on sports because it was a challenge. School was easy for me, but no one, not teachers, not parents, not friends, taught me how to hustle but myself.

One day, we were eating breakfast and my mom comes running out of Emery’s room with pages ripped out of Penthouse magazine. Fuck … “Soosin! Soosin! Emery wants to be a serial killer!” “What are you talking about?” “Look! He cut out these girls from a dirty magazine!” “Hey! That’s my magazine!” “Who cares whose magazine? He is sick!” “Mom, Emery’s not a serial killer. He sells the photos to kids at school.” “Wait … people buy this?” “Yeah, people love it!” “Ahhh, almost heart attack …” When my mom found out what we were doing she wasn’t upset. She respected the hustle. Whether it was in school, piano, or porno, her entire American experience was about the paper.

People ask me what my greatest strengths are and I say perspective. The best way to get that is to meet people that are polar opposites; you learn the most from them. There are pieces of you that are inherently yours, but everything else is a collection of the things you’ve seen and the people you’ve met.

I stopped feeling helpless, became less nihilistic, and realized that if I didn’t want it their way it didn’t have to be, but that I’d really have to work. It’s harder to resist, but there’s honor in it.

I’m convinced that frats are the beginning of the end for most of the people who end up running the world. It teaches them to give up individuality, independence, and even their paper for acceptance.

I had become so obsessed with not being a stereotype that half of who I was had gone dormant. But it was also a positive. Instead of following the path most Asian kids do, I struck out on my own. There’s nature, there’s nurture, and as Harry Potter teaches us, there’s who YOU want to be.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
The notion of “selling out” is such a quaint one, after all. At what point exactly does one really sell out? To the would-be anarchist—invariably a white guy in dreadlocks, talking about forming a band and “keepin’ it real” while waiting for Mom and Dad to send a check—selling out is getting a job. Certainly, anytime anyone gets up in the morning earlier than one would like, drags oneself across town to do things one wouldn’t ordinarily do in one’s leisure time for people one doesn’t particularly like—that would be selling out, whether that activity involves working in a coal mine, heating up macaroni and cheese at Popeye’s, or giving tug jobs to strangers in the back of a strip club. To my mind, they are all morally equivalent. (You do what you’ve got to do to get by.) While there is a certain stigma attached to sucking the cocks of strangers—because, perhaps, of particularly Western concepts of intimacy and religion—how different, how much worse, or more “wrong,” is it than plunging toilets, hosing down a slaughterhouse floor, burning off polyps, or endorsing Diet Coke? Who—given more options, better choices—would do any of those things? Who in this world gets to do only what they want—and what they feel consistent with their principles—and get paid for it?

Well … I guess, me—until recently. But wait. The second I sat down for an interview, or went out on the book tour to promote Kitchen Confidential … surely that was kind of selling out, right? I didn’t know Matt Lauer or Bryant Gumbel or any of these people. Why was I suddenly being nice to them? In what way was I different than a common whore, spending minutes, hours, eventually weeks of my rapidly waning life making nice to people I didn’t even know? You fuck somebody for money, it’s cash on the barrel. You pick up the money, you go home, you take a shower, and it’s gone—presumably having used as much emotional investment as a morning dump. But what about week after week of smiling, nodding your head, pretending to laugh, telling the same stories, giving the same answers as if they’d just—only now—occurred to you for the first time? Who’s the ho now? Me. That’s who.

There’s that old joke, I’ve referred to it before, where the guy at the bar asks the girl if she’d fuck him for a million dollars—and she thinks about it and finally replies, “Well, I guess for a million dollars, yeah…” At which point he quickly offers her a dollar for the same service. “Fuck you!” she says, declining angrily. “You think I’d fuck you for a dollar? What do you think I am?” To which the guy says, “Well … we’ve already established you’re a whore. Now we’re just haggling over the price.” It’s a crude, hateful, sexist wheezer of a joke—but it’s as applicable to men as to women. To chefs as to any other craftsmen, artists, or laborers.

Then there’s Old Yeller. Even worse. A more cynical and unconscionably bleak message one could hardly imagine. The story of a boy and his dog. A Disney story of a boy and his dog—which, as all children’s accumulated experience teaches them, means that no matter what kind of peril the heroes go through, things will always turn out okay in the end. This, by the time we sat down in that darkened theater, excited, sticky with Twizzlers, we had come to accept as an article of faith. A contract between kids everywhere, our parents, and the fine people at Walt Disney Studios. This was as powerful a bond as we knew, an assurance that held an otherwise uncertain universe together. Sure, Khrushchev was maybe going to drop the Big One on us, but goddammit, that dog was gonna make it out okay! So, when Old Yeller gets sick with this rabies thing, little Tony is, naturally, not concerned. Pinocchio, after all, got out of that whale situation no problem. Sure, things looked bad for him, too, for a while, but he figured it out in the end. Bumpy ride with Bambi, what with Mom dying, but that ended okay. Like Mom and Dad never forgetting to pick you up at school, the Happy Ending was a dead cert. It will be okay. It will turn out fine. No one will hurt a fucking dog. That’s what I’m saying to myself, sitting there between Mom and Dad, staring up at that screen, breath held, waiting for the miracle. Then they go and blow Old Yeller’s fucking brains out.

From that moment on, I looked at my parents and the whole world with suspicion. What else were they lying about? Life was clearly a cruel joke. A place with no guarantees, built on a foundation of false assumptions if not outright untruths. You think everything’s going okay… Then they shoot your fucking dog. So, maybe that’s why until I got my first dishwashing job, I had no respect for myself and no respect for anybody else. I should probably sue.

Like a lot of things in my life, there’s no making it prettier just ‘cause time’s passed. It happened. It was bad. There it is.

I am not a fan of people who abuse service staff. In fact, I find it intolerable. It’s an unpardonable sin as far as I’m concerned, taking out personal business or some other kind of dissatisfaction on a waiter or busboy. From the first time I saw that, our relationship was essentially over. She accused me of “caring about waiters more than I cared about her,” and she was right.

We spent a somewhat less than romantic New Year’s Eve at a party hosted by the Gaddafis. That should tell you something. Enrique Iglesias provided the entertainment. A detail that lingers in the memory like the birthmark on one’s torturer’s cheek. Who had the bigger boat, wore the better outfit, got the best table seemed all that mattered. There were decade-old feuds over casual cracks long forgotten by everyone but the principals. They circled each other still—waiting to identify a weakness—looking for somewhere and some way to strike. People jockeyed for position, cut each other’s throats over the most petty, nonsensical shit imaginable. This from the people who, it gradually began to dawn on me, actually ran the world.

What my horrible week on St. Barths taught me was that this traveling strata of mega-rich people, all of whom know each other, crave nothing more than the comfort, the assurance, that they’re going to the same crummy place as everybody else. Perhaps this explains why they all go to the same lousy beaches—usually narrow, pebbly, and unimpressive stretches of oft-reeking sand that would be unacceptable to any half-seasoned backpacker—and to restaurants that any food nerd with a Web site and a few bucks would walk sneeringly by.

Am I too fat to be a chef? Another question you should probably ask yourself. This is something they don’t tell you at admissions to culinary school, either—and they should. They’re happy to take your money if you’re five foot seven inches and two hundred fifty pounds, but what they don’t mention is that you will be at a terrible, terrible disadvantage when applying for a job in a busy kitchen. As chefs know (literally) in their bones (and joints), half the job for the first few years—if not the entirety of your career—involves running up and down stairs (quickly), carrying bus pans loaded with food, and making hundreds of deep-knee bends a night into low-boy refrigerators. In conditions of excruciatingly high heat and humidity of a kind that can cause young and superbly fit cooks to falter. There are the purely practical considerations as well: kitchen work areas—particularly behind the line—being necessarily tight and confined… Bluntly put, can the other cooks move easily around your fat ass? I’m only saying it. But any chef considering hiring you is thinking it. And you will have to live it.

If you think you might be too fat to hack it in a hot kitchen? You probably are too fat. You can get fat in a kitchen—over time, during a long and glorious career. But arriving fat from the get-go? That’s a hard—and narrow—row to hoe. If you’re comforting yourself with the dictum “Never trust a thin chef,” don’t. Because no stupider thing has ever been said. Look at the crews of any really high-end restaurants and you’ll see a group of mostly whippet-thin, under-rested young pups with dark circles under their eyes: they look like escapees from a Japanese prison camp—and are expected to perform like the Green Berets. If you’re not physically fit? Unless you’re planning on becoming a pastry chef, it is going to be very tough for you. Bad back? Flat feet? Respiratory problems? Eczema? Old knee injury from high school? It sure isn’t going to get any better in the kitchen.

Treating despair with drugs and alcohol is a time-honored tradition—I’d just advise you to assess honestly if it’s really as bad and as intractable a situation as you think. Not to belabor the point, but if you look around you at the people you work with, many of them are—or will eventually be—alcoholics and drug abusers. All I’m saying is you might ask yourself now and again if there’s anything else you wanted to do in your life.

I’m extremely skeptical of the “language of addiction.” I never saw heroin or cocaine as “my illness.” I saw them as some very bad choices that I walked knowingly into. I fucked myself—and, eventually, had to work hard to get myself un-fucked.

...during the JFK era, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness created the expectation that you should be healthy if you were a kid. That you should, no, you must be reasonably athletic. That at the very least you must aspire to those goals, try your best—that your teachers, your schoolmates, and society as a whole would help you and urge you on. There would be rigorous standards. Your progress would be monitored with the idea that you would, over time, improve—and become, somehow, better as a person.

“Home ec” became the most glaring illustration of everything wrong with the gender politics of the time. Quickly identified as an instrument of subjugation, it became an instant anachronism. Knowing how to cook, or visibly enjoying it, became an embarrassment for an enlightened young woman, a reminder of prior servitude. Males were hardly leaping to pick up the slack, as cooking had been so wrong-headedly portrayed as “for girls”—or, equally as bad, “for queers.” What this meant, though, is that by the end of the ‘60s, nobody was cooking. And soon, as Gordon Ramsay has pointed out rather less delicately a while back, no one even remembered how.

I believe that the great American hamburger is a thing of beauty, its simple charms noble, pristine. The basic recipe—ground beef, salt, and pepper, formed into a patty, grilled or seared on a griddle, then nestled between two halves of a bun, usually but not necessarily accompanied by lettuce, a tomato slice, and some ketchup—is, to my mind, un-improvable by man or God. A good burger can be made more complicated, even more interesting by the addition of other ingredients—like good cheese, or bacon … relish perhaps, but it will never be made better.

Call me crazy, call me idealistic, but you know what I believe? I believe that when you’re making hamburger for human consumption, you should at no time deem it necessary or desirable to treat its ingredients in ammonia. Or any cleaning product, for that matter. I don’t think that’s asking a lot—and I don’t ask a lot for my fellow burger-eaters. Only that whatever it is that you’re putting in my hamburger? That laid out on a table or cutting board prior to grinding, it at least resembles something that your average American might recognize as “meat.” Recall, please, that this is me talking. I’ve eaten the extremities of feculent Southern warthog, every variety of gut, ear, and snout of bush meat. I’ve eaten raw seal, guinea pig. I’ve eaten bat. In every case, they were at least identifiable as coming from an animal—closer (even at their worst) to “tastes like chicken” than space-age polymer.

I’m hardly an advocate for better, cleaner, healthier, or more humane—but you know what? This Cargill outfit is the largest private company in America. A hundred and sixteen billion dollars in revenue a year. And they feel the need to save a few cents on their low-end burgers by buying shit processed in ammonia? Scraps that have to be whipped or extracted or winnowed out or rendered before they can put them into a patty mix? Mystery meat assembled from all over the world and put through one grinder—like one big, group grope in moist, body-temperature sheets—with strangers?

I don’t, for instance, feel the same way about that other great American staple, the hot dog. With the hot dog, there was always a feeling of implied consent. We always knew—or assumed—that whatever it was inside that snappy tube, it might contain anything, from 100 percent kosher beef to dead zoo animals or parts of missing Gambino family. With a hot dog, especially New York’s famous “dirty-water hot dog,” there was a tacit agreement that you were on your own. They were pre-cooked, anyway, so how bad could it be? The hamburger is different.

It’s my birthright as an American, God damn it. And anybody who fucks with my burger, who deviates from the time-honored bond that one has come to expect of one’s burger vendor—that what one is eating is inarguably “beef” (not necessarily the best beef, mind you, but definitely recognizable as something that was, before grinding, mostly red, reasonably fresh, presumably from a steer or cow, something that your average Doberman would find enticing)—anybody selling burgers that can’t even conform to that not particularly high standard is, in my opinion, unpatriotic and un-American, in the truest, most heartfelt sense of those words.

As incisively pointed out in the documentary Food Inc., an overwhelmingly large percentage of “new,” “healthy,” and “organic” alternative food products are actually owned by the same parent companies that scared us into the organic aisle in the first place. “They got you comin’ and goin’” has never been truer. Like breaking a guy’s leg—so you can be there to sell him a crutch. “We’re here for you—when you get sick of, or too frightened of, our other product. Of course it’ll cost a little more. But then you expected that.”

Regular pizza may be on the endangered list, “artisanal” pizza having already ghettoized the utility slice. Even the cupcake has become a boutique item … and the humble sausage is now the hottest single food item in New York City. Order a Heineken in Portland or San Francisco—or just about anywhere, these days—and be prepared to be sneered at by some locavore beer-nerd, all too happy to tell you about some hoppy, malty, microbrewed concoction, redolent of strawberries and patchouli, that they’re making in a cellar nearby. Unless, of course, you opt for post-ironic retro—in which case, that “silo” of PBR will come with a cover charge and an asphyxiating miasma of hipness.

Posting calorie information is, according to a recent New York Times article, not working. America’s thighs get ever wider. Type-2 diabetes is becoming alarmingly common among children. It is repugnant, in principle, to me—the suggestion that we legislate against fast food. We will surely have crossed some kind of terrible line if we, as a nation, are infantilized to the extent that the government has to step in and take the Whoppers right out of our hands. It is dismaying—and probably inevitable. When we reach the point that we are unable to raise a military force of physically fit specimens—or public safety becomes an issue after some lurid example of large person blocking a fire exit—they surely shall. A “fat tax” is probably on the horizon as well—an idea that worked with cigarettes. First they taxed cigarettes to the point of cruelty. Then they pushed smokers out of their work spaces, restaurants, bars—even, in some cases, their homes. After being penalized, demonized, marginalized, herded like animals into the cold, many—like me—finally quit.

I don’t think it’s right or appropriate that we raise little girls in a world where freakishly tiny, anorexic actresses and bizarrely lanky, unhealthily thin models are presented as ideals of feminine beauty. No one should ever feel pressured to conform to that image. But neither do I think it’s “okay” to be unhealthily overweight. It is not an “alternative lifestyle choice” or “choice of body image” if you need help to get out of your car.

If anything, I’m feeling pretty good about myself—in the smug, Upper East Side, Bugaboo-owning, sidewalk-hogging, self-righteous kind of a way indigenous to my new tribe. I am, after all, the only parent here on this fine Tuesday afternoon, alone among the gyrating nannies, the little Sophias, Vanessas, Julias, Emmas, and Isabellas. My daughter, grinning maniacally as she jumps and twists about three feet below me, is very pleased that I am here. “That’s right, I do love you more than the mothers of all these other children love them. That’s why Daddy’s here—and they’re not. They’re getting their fucking nails done, having affairs, going to Pilates class, or whatever bad parents do … I’m here for you, Boo … twistin’ my heart out—something I would never ever have done for any other person in my whole life. Only for you. I’m a good daddy. Goooood Daddy!”

Too much respect for your elders is, historically, almost always a bad thing.

No kid really wants a cool parent. “Cool” parents, when I was a kid, meant parents who let you smoke weed in the house—or allowed boyfriends to sleep over with their daughters. That would make Sarah Palin “cool.” But, as I remember, we thought those parents were kind of creepy. They were useful, sure, but what was wrong with them that they found us so entertaining? Didn’t they have their own friends? Secretly, we hated them.

So, who will work the Elysian Fields of Alice’s imaginary future? Certainly not her neighbors—whose average household income is currently about $85,000 a year. Unless, perhaps, at the point of a gun. And with Waters’s fondness for buzzwords like “purity” and “wholesomeness,” there is a whiff of the jackboot, isn’t there? A certainty, a potentially dangerous lack of self-doubt, the kind of talk that, so often in history, leads to actions undertaken for the “common good.” While it was excessive and bombastic of me to compare Alice to “Pol Pot in a muumuu,” it is useful to remember that he was once a practicing Buddhist and, later, attended the Sorbonne. And that even in his twisted and genocidal “back to earth” movement, he might once have meant well, too. Who will work these fields? No. Really. Somebody’s going to have to answer that question soon.

I am a proud hypocrite. I feed my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter exclusively organic food. My wife is Italian. Around my house, we’re more than willing to wait until next year for fresh tomatoes. We enjoy the changing of the seasons and the bounty of the surrounding Hudson Valley—and, of course, the bounty of Spain and Italy as well, readily available at Agata and Valentina, the fantastic but nosebleed-expensive Italian market in our neighborhood, New York’s Upper East Side. This celebrity-chef thing is a pretty-good-paying gig.

But what about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Or somewhere on the margins of Detroit? What if I were an out-of-work auto worker, living on public assistance or a part-time job? At least I have time to dig a “victory” garden, right? What does Alice suggest I do if I don’t live in the Bay Area, my fields turgid with the diverted waters of the Colorado River? Not a problem! “You have to think of a different kind of menu,” says Alice. “You eat dried fruit and nuts. You make pasta sauces out of canned tomatoes … you’re eating different kinds of grains—farro with root vegetables. All the root vegetables are there, and now, because of the heirloom varieties, you can have a beautiful winter palette … Turnips of every color and shape! Carrots that are white and red and orange and pink! You have different preparations of long-cooking meat … Cabbages! …” Basically, you can eat like a fucking Russian peasant, is what she’s saying. I don’t know if that’s what they want to hear in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or Buffalo.

And … what about the healthy, pure, wholesome, and organic foods that Alice says I should be buying—particularly if I have children? If I’m making an even average wage as, say, a sole-providing police officer or middle manager? Regular milk is about four bucks a gallon. Organic is about twice that. Supermarket grapes are about four bucks a bunch. Organic are six. More to the point, what if I’m one of the vast numbers of working poor, getting by in the service sector? What should I do? How can I afford that? Asked this very question directly, Alice advises blithely that one should “Make a sacrifice on the cell phone or a third pair of Nike shoes.”

It’s an unfortunate choice of words. And a telling one, I think. You know, those poor people—always with their Nikes and their cell phones. If only they’d listen to Alice. She’d lead them to the promised land for sure.

I remember well, when I was eleven and twelve years old, demonstrating against the war in Vietnam. My dad and I would travel to Washington. Later, my friends and I would march in New York. And what left a powerful impression in my mind, a lesson worth remembering, was how deeply and instinctively the construction workers, the cops and firemen—the very people whose families were most likely to be affected by the war—how they hated us. The message was lost—coming as it did from what they saw (rightly) as a bunch of overprivileged college kids, whose mommies and daddies were footing the bill for educations these folks would unlikely to ever be able to afford for their own kids. Here were these loud, self-absorbed ideologues who looked unlike anyone from their world and who lived nothing like them—but who had no problem talking down to them at every opportunity about the problems of the “working classes”—usually from the steps of Columbia University.

I cannot be trusted or relied on to give readers anywhere near the truth, the whole truth, or anything like it. I’ve been swimming in those blood-warm waters for a long time now. I’m friends with a lot of chefs. Others, whom I’m not friends with, I often identify with, or respect to a degree that would prevent me from being frank with a reader—or anyone outside the business. After all those years inside the business, I’m still too sympathetic to anybody who works hard in a kitchen to be a trustworthy reviewer. I’m three degrees separated from a lot of chefs in this world. I get a lot of meals comped. If I were to walk into one of Mario Batali’s places, for instance, and see something unspeakable going on in the kitchen—animal sacrifice or satanic rituals, or something unhygienic or deeply disturbing, I’d never write about it.

What the fuck does “authentic” mean, anyway? Creole, by definition, is a cuisine and a culture undergoing slow but constant change since its beginnings, a result of a gradual, natural fusion—like Singaporean or Malaysian flavors and ingredients changing along with who’s making babies with whom, and for how long. The term “authentic”—as Richman surely knows—whether discussing Indian curries or Brazilian feijoada, is essentially meaningless. “Authentic” when? “Authentic” to whom? But it sounds good and wise, doesn’t it?

Okay. I am genuinely angry—still—at vegetarians. That’s not shtick. Not angry at them personally, mind you—but in principle. A shocking number of vegetarians and even vegans have come to my readings, surprised me with an occasional sense of humor, refrained from hurling animal blood at me—even befriended me. I have even knowingly had sex with one, truth be told. But what I’ve seen of the world in the past nine years has, if anything, made me angrier at anyone not a Hindu who insists on turning their nose up at a friendly offer of meat. I don’t care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away the hospitality—the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience—of, say, a Vietnamese pho vendor (or Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with spluttering indignation. No principle is, to my mind, worth that; no Western concept of “is it a pet or is it meat” excuses that kind of rudeness. I often talk about the “Grandma rule” for travelers. You may not like Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry—and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblet you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it’s Grandma’s turkey. And you are in Grandma’s house. So shut the fuck up and eat it.

I’d just seen a city not very much unlike Miami bombed back twenty fucking years, I answered in a lather of righteous indignation. From a shameful distance, I’d watched, every day, as neighborhoods filled with people were smashed to rubble. I’d woken up and gone to sleep to the rumble of bombs and rockets rolling through the floor of my otherwise comfortable hotel room. And then seen, up close, the faces of people who’d lost everything—and sometimes everyone—in their lives: the fear and hopelessness and confusion of thousands of people, packed onto landing craft with the few possessions they could carry, off and away to uncertain futures. For nothing. For the “best” intentions, I’m sure—they always are, aren’t they? But, ultimately, for nothing.

I pointed out—any vestige of measured civility gone by now—that it was, perhaps, worth noting as well that anyplace where people were treated like animals—stacked in shantytowns, favelas, communes, and hutments—that animals suffered first and worst. Nobody gives a fuck about cute doggies or cats, much less a fucking dolphin or a white rhino, for that matter, when 90 percent of your diet is fucking bread—when you’re lucky enough to get it—or pounded manioc gruel. Where charred monkey on a stick (in fur) is a life-saving gift for a family, I spewed, all those neatly anthropomorphized animals we so love—like your fucking Yorkie (this was a low blow)—are seen as nothing more than bush meat.

I wish, really, that I was so far up my own ass that I could somehow believe myself to be some kind of standard-bearer for good eating—or ombudsman, or even the deliverer of thoughtful critique. But that wouldn’t be true, would it? I’m just a cranky old fuck with what, I guess, could charitably be called “issues.” And I’m still angry.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Training "...cardio makes you really good at running away slowly."

2/28 - shadowbox, yoga

"Would you like me to lie to you now?"

Over 10 years, now.  Angel’s finale brought hell to earth, and it was beautiful · Watch This · The A.V. Club: "“Not Fade Away” encapsulates Angel’s central philosophy: The fight against evil is one that never ends, but you just have to take your best swing. It does all this while also being both an emotional roller coaster and a twist-filled action thriller. And even though the world is ending, the finale also mixes in Angel’s distinctly dark humor, best captured by Acker in plainspoken lines like, “I wish to do more violence.”"

Gunn - "Okay, you take the 30,000 on the left ..."
 Illyria - "You're fading. You'll last 10 minutes at best." 
Gunn - "Then let's make them memorable." 
Spike - "And in terms of a plan?" 
Angel - "We fight." 
Spike - "Bit more specific?"
 Angel - "Well, personally, I kinda wanna slay the dragon. Let's go to work.""

Illyria - "You'll be dead within moments" 
Wesley - "I know."
 Illyria - "Would you like me to lie to you now?" 
Wesley - "Yes. Thank you, yes." [Illyria morphs into Fred] "Hello there." 
Illyria/Fred - "Oh Wesley. My Wesley." 
Wesley - "Fred, I've missed you." 
Illyria/Fred - "It's gonna be okay. It won't hurt much longer and then you'll be where I am. We'll be together." 
Wesley - "I-I love you." 
Illyria/Fred - "I love you. My love. Oh, my love."

"Change is the essential process of all existence." - Spock

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy.

“May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.” - Spock

"The climax that I pitched was completely unhinged and nobody said no, so that’s that." - Joss Whedon on 'Age of Ultron'

That bodes well.  Joss Whedon: Avengers: Age of Ultron’s Climax Is “Completely Unhinged” (Exclusive): "If you thought the New York-levelling finale of ‘The Avengers’ was huge, Joss Whedon says you aint seen nothing yet, promising an even more epic climax in the forthcoming sequel. “[‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’] got larger than the first film,” Whedon explains to Yahoo Movies.  “I didn’t mean for it to get larger, but the climax that I pitched was completely unhinged and nobody said no, so that’s that.”"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Training - "Your biggest rival..."

2/27 - bench, inc db press, seated rows, pushups, chins

Lindsey Waters IFBB Pro Athlete's Photos - Lindsey Waters IFBB Pro Athlete: "Ever feel your body won't ever change ? False! All it takes is a clean diet , proper training regimen and CONSISTENCY . Extremely proud and excited for my client @patty_2384 !! I swear every week I am even more inspired myself by this amazing woman!" 

Logic Bomb - "How could it be a war against “the Muslim world” if it’s confined to five countries that house only a minority of the world’s Muslims?"

The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t - The New Yorker: "The point of the column was to dismiss as “empty talk” the claim that we’re not at war with Islam. Elaborating, Cohen wrote, “Across a wide swath of territory, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, the West has been or is at war, or near-war, with the Muslim world.” You might ask: How could it be a war against “the Muslim world” if it’s confined to five countries that house only a minority of the world’s Muslims? Or: How could it be a war against “the Muslim world” if most of the Muslims even in these five countries are not the enemy? Beats me.
...there are also reasons that many scholars of religion look at the question differently. All major religions have changed so much over time, and sprouted so many branches, that a common rule of thumb is: if they say they’re Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist and don’t reject the most essential tenets of the faith, then that’s what they are. Mother Teresa and David Koresh, in this view, were both Christians."

"Basically, most people have just become lazy mother fuckers..."

Well worth clicking over & reading in full.  LIFT-RUN-BANG: The battle of obesity acceptance: "I don't think there is any denying that we are in a paradigm shift as a society.  Here in America, anyways. I can't get through most days anymore without seeing an article as to why it is, I should find obese women incredibly attractive.  One of those "you are all beautiful" type memes that is littered with various body types and shapes, from skinny to very obese with some woman packing a gut so enormous it would rival that of the most ardent of beer drinking red necks. Yes, I get told that I have to look at that and find it beautiful.  Otherwise, I'm fat shaming.  And fat shaming is just as awful as being a racist, homophobe, or Nazi/terrorist sympathizer...
Healthy at all sizes -  This particular gem has been floating around for a while. That you can have optimum health regardless of how much fat you are currently carrying.  That and, there are different "shapes and sizes" and that some men and women are just naturally fatter than others. The latter, I believe, is true.  That some people are more inclined genetically to be leaner, more muscular, carry more bodyfat than others.  The degree to which that manifests itself however, largely depends on your lifestyle.  They become more prominent based on your dietary habits and activity levels. So while genetics will ultimately determine the degree of what you have to work with, your own habits will determine the where you end up. The push for a "healthy at all sizes" is nothing more than a social agenda to enable fat bodies to continue down their health declining path and feel good about it. If anyone should be "shamed", it should be the people who keep pushing these agendas and ignore every relevant piece of medical data that shows, this really just is not possible.

...there's really no such thing as "healthy at all sizes". If you are obese, even if your blood work shows up as being fine and dandy right now, it won't show that eventually.  The chance of you staying obese and living a long and productive life are slim and none.  Those are your options.  Slim, and none for being healthy if you are overweight. So there's just no way around this.  If you're obese, you're headed for a world of shit in regards to your health.  You cannot be "healthy at any size".

...You want some eye popping numbers? Back in 1994 19% of women said they engaged in no physical activity.  Fast forward to 2010, and it's a whopping 51%.  For men in that same time span it was 11% to 43%. Basically, most people have just become lazy mother fuckers...

I will repeat that.  It's not food consumption.  It's inactivity.  People don't walk their dog anymore, or play outside with their kids.  Which is another major problem all together.  People don't play with their kids because they are lazy, get fatter, then have less energy to play with their kids, then the kids get "baby sat" by the television or internet, and exercise less as well.  Then they too get fatter.   I don't need a study to know that my kids don't have much activity time at school as I did growing up.  We had recess three times a day, where we played kick ball, swang on the monkey bars, and just "moved" in general.  Now, because of academic pressure, kids have less time doing those things, more homework (which means less time to play outside when they get home), and are fatter than kids were 20 years ago as well.  Which means more than likely, this obesity trend is going to continue, and worsen...

Lastly, I find it terribly hypocritical that, we have no problem shaming the fuck out of women who are anorexic.  Often reading about them, "feed her a fucking cheeseburger." or something of that nature, but then get ridiculed for saying ANYTHING negative about fat people.  Or let's just be honest here about all of this, obese WOMEN.  No one gets up in arms about a dude being fat, but we are constantly told that fat women are "just as beautiful too." ...then this is too. So let's get this out of the way.  If it's not beautiful for a woman to be 76 pounds because her anorexic lifestyle makes her look like that way, then it's not fucking beautiful for a woman to be 100 pounds over her ideal weight.  Beauty is not really in the eye of the beholder.  There's a reason why some women are models, and make millions for their beauty, and why I'd rather be a power bottom for Colin Farrell than accept that I had to find morbidly obese women attractive...

"Both anorexia and obesity are the manifestations of an unhealthy lifestyle.  If it's perfectly ok to say "feed that anorexic girl a cheeseburger!" then it should be perfect ok to say "take the cheeseburger away from fatty!"   You can't have it both ways...

Conclusion -  Despite more education and information, obesity rates continue to rise and activity rates continue to fall. Until there is a major incentive for people to lose weight, this will probably continue.  There won't be a major reason for people to lose weight until the workforce puts policies in place that reward people for not being obese, and punishes their employees for missing so much time from work from obesity related problems. There won't be a change until the school systems realize that our kids need more play time, and less time spent on school work.  A healthy body is a healthy mind.  There needs to be a better balance there. Also, stop letting fat people ride those motorcarts in stores.  That's for old handicapped people.  Not your fat ass.  You need to walk more, and sit less. "

Training - "Just Keep Going."

2/26 - shadowbox, yoga

Awesome/John Wayne Parr - Holding pads and sparring Joe Rogan

Sweet.Physique - Today is your day. | You can either choose to do...: "Today is your day. | You can either choose to do something | or choose to do nothing.  Either way, the choice is yours. "