make-believe.org

This has been my kitchen bible for years.

Deighton

Yes, he's packing heat.

Recipes are presented in comic-strip form. To take a sequential sample from, say, page 144 onward:

  • Partridge
  • Steak and Kidney Pie
  • Tripe and Onions: A Stirring Tale
  • Boiled Leg of Mutton with Caper Sauce (to feed over a dozen)
  • Osso Buco
  • Sharp and Sweet Tongue
  • Gird Your Loins (here Len explains various cuts of lamb)
  • Corned Beef and the New England Boiled Dinner
  • Pork Loaf
  • Ris de Veau a La Creme (veal throat, in case you were wondering)

A perusal of Wikipedia indicates that Len is now looking forward to his eightieth birthday and has not yet succumbed to heart disease or assassination. Eat that, nutritionists!

Joseph | 23 Aug 2008

Wintergreen

She is a noble soul, that is what she tells me, in no fewer and no more words, in those very words. This is in the context of the bumblebee. The bumblebee, which was really just a bee, so we will call it a bee, landed on her person. It took shelter under the collar of her coat perhaps. The point is that she is the bumblebee, but then this is a true story, and we should imagine the curious bee stumbling around her shoulder hunting down the promise of her sweet scent, which is pollen as you know, but since we have rendered and bottled it and thereby deceived the bee, it is hopeless. She is hopeless, no of course she is not, for she is a noble soul. That much is clear.

With the bee thus tucked beneath her lapel, wandering hopeless but cheery in pursuit of her promise, so she boards a tram and validates her ticket with a beepity beep. And sits down, and some time passes, and she becomes aware of the buzz of the bee, and surprised, she might in your imagination suddenly move, disturbing and distracting that hymenopteran mind from the tryst she never intended to make. Perhaps a flick of the hand. Let's say a reflexive flick of her hand. So now the bee is in the air, and finds itself upon a tram.

That didn't happen, not immediately. Instead, as you've surmised, she sat still and considered that the bee might become airborne, and find itself upon a tram, and this troubled her more than the possibility of a painful prick, for she is a noble soul. So she sat still, and glared balefully at anyone who thought of taking the seat next to her, giving the wrong impression but for a greater good she hoped they would never know. See? Already there is hope, and it relies not on heroism but quietitude and stillness and sacrifice. I think it often did for her.

But she had many stops to go, and some things are inevitable, and one of them is that a bee, given pause, will eventually realise it is on a tram. Of course a bee has no conception of trams or conveyances of any kind, being possessed of wings, and only dimly perceives a prison, so I'm really just saying that the bee knew something wasn't right. The world was moving and its wings and hairy legs were not. There was a discernable absence of flowers.

So it took off, up from her garment into the air, to what it knows best, which is the promise of freedom, and all promises seem alike to a bee, for it can only smell them. So it headed for the smell of flowers. You and I both know that nothing (but flowers) smells so much like flowers as old women, who shroud themselves in the mist of English gardens. The bee made a bee-line for the promising cloud.

"Then I thought," this is what she said to me, I am merely recording it, she said "I thought I'd better do something to try and get it off the tram because I felt a little responsible and I am a noble soul." This is a true story, and all the parts of it are true, except what you and I imagine of it, which merely contains the possibility of being true. But we know what she said.

Rummaging in her bag, feeling pangs of conscience for having brought the bee onto the tram (but to whom did she feel guilty? The bee? The old woman in her miasma of roses?), she found a tin of Wintergreen Altoids. The mints fell into her hand and she put them in a safe place, perhaps because she liked the taste of rootbeer, perhaps because her mind was on the bee, which was on the tram and whose own thoughts were full of roses and the unthinkability of windows. She folded some paper. By this stage a rough-headed Preston guy (we are proceeding on her descriptions, for we have nothing else but ghosts) had replaced the old woman in her seat, presenting a dilemma that is hard to articulate but easy to understand. She pressed her thumb and forefinger against the fold of paper and watched the bumbling bee.

Then, and again I have to quote, she thought: "Sod it, I'll just go for it." This bit she had to explain to me, and the mechanics of it require some precision: "The tin goes over the bee against the window then you slide the paper in so you can move the tin away from the window." At that moment, the rough-head stood up and the bee fell neatly into another enclosure.

She wasn't sure, but she thought that the other people on the tram were impressed.

What you don't know of heroes is the agonism that comes after. We all imagine ourselves performing good deeds, normally in hindsight, and rarely do we consider that the aftermath is difficult. What she felt was the buzzing of the bee against all sides and corners of the Altoids tin. For many stops, until her stop came, it beat itself against the night and the cruel betrayal of rootbeer, which to bees makes no sense, being sweet and useless. But it's not a bad thing, because the bee is therefore alive, and has not succumbed to menthol. It struggles and struggles and in the struggle it remains a bee, a living bee.

Her stop came and she disembarked and felt the bee smashing against the metal box in her hand. There was row of planter boxes before a cafe. They were full of Liriopes.

"Perfect." That's what she told me.

She knelt down and prised the tin open. The bee tumbled out into the grasses. It was coated in white Wintergreen Altoid dust. Landing on a blade, it shook itself clean. A moment, and it zigzagged into the air.

Maybe she wasn't the bumblebee. Maybe that was you and I. It hardly matters.

Joseph | 19 Aug 2008

Pearson's corollary to Murphy's Law

The thing that goes wrong will activate your contingency plan for what you expected to go wrong, which it never is. This will have disastrous repercussions.

Also: fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Joseph | 7 Aug 2008

Distant splintered glass

I ate alone at Sahara, where four years ago I wrote about the view from a cracked window. The vista has changed — then it was a deep hole in the ground, now it is another city mall. The window is still broken. I liked that.

Joseph | 4 Aug 2008

Pirate statues of Hanoi

I picked up David Foster Wallace's collection of essays, Consider the Lobster, again the other day, and re-found his account of John McCain's failed presidential bid in 2000. It was written for Rolling Stone. An excerpt from early in the piece:

Here's what happened. In October of '67 McCain was himself still a Young Voter and was flying his 26th Vietnam combat mission and his A-4 Skyhawk plane got shot down over Hanoi, and he had to eject, which basically means setting off an explosive charge that blows your seat out of the plane, and the ejection broke both McCain's arms and one leg and gave him a concussion and he started falling out of the skies over Hanoi. Try to imagine for a second how much this would hurt and how scared you'd be, three limbs broken and falling toward the enemy capital you just tried to bomb. His chute opened late and he landed hard in a little lake in a park right in the middle of downtown Hanoi. (There is still an NV statue of McCain by this lake today, showing him on his knees with his hands up and eyes scared and on the pediment the inscription "McCan — famous air pirate" [sic].) Imagine treading water with broken arms and trying to pull the life vest's toggle with your teeth as a crowd of North Vietnamese men all swim out toward you (there's film of this, somebody had a home-movie camera and the NV government released it, though it's grainy and McCain's face is hard to see.) The crowd pulled him out and then just about killed him. Bomber pilots were especially hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time his right knee was bent 90 degrees to the side, with the bone sticking out.

I went looking for a picture of the statue:

Airpirate

Joseph | 29 Jun 2008

The unseen virtue of keeping a blog

It'll be a decade next year since I started blogging. Like most people who have engaged in this activity for a while, I have a slew of unpublished drafts, discontinued when I stopped to think, or fell into a quagmire of details I could see no way to resolve and consigned to a better, future self. They are rarely ever eventually published, which is a good thing, even if it means my future selves don't live up to expectations.

Though I hit Publish intermittently these days, I am better for having this space. Because it is where I go to express my beliefs, to an audience, meagre but highly valued, and in my imagination deeply critical. Sometimes, often, in my thoughts I arrive at an opinion, and if it is an interesting one I consider bringing it here. And then I wonder what you will think of it, and how, given you are different to me, you would respond. Sometimes I doubt you would respond at all, which makes me question whether it's an interesting subject. That's good. But if I decide you might, then I start to review all your possible objections, any of which might reveal me for a fraud. Then I think of ways to make the assertion so as to deny or invalidate your objections. I rewrite and rewrite the argument in my head, seeking a defensible position against your cleverness.

Sometimes it never comes, and then I understand that I don't really believe in my erstwhile opinion. That I agree with you. And I am better for it. And I have written nothing.

It bothers me when people apologise for not having blogged something recently. Be unrepentant, and wiser for it.

Joseph | 22 Jun 2008

A June-November romance

This appears to be an exercise tailor-made for me. Not because I have much chance of winning, but because it crams the best aspects of political and cryptographic nerdery into 40 characters. I started running my numbers, but two thoughts stayed my hand: first, there's no way I'll keep my trap shut for five months, and second, there is a lot yet to happen. In January I thought Edwards might contest the primaries for longer than he did. Even in March I thought Obama would win over Ohio.

So let's keep the temporal purview narrow. Will the VP choices count for much? It was Edwards and Cheney in 04, Cheney and Lieberman in 2000. No, I don't think it will matter all that much. Americans vote for a lot of reasons, but for veeps rarely these days. As a test of one's analytic capacity, though, it's a bit interesting. I'm intrigued by the possibility of Brian Schweitzer, but I think Obama might choose Kathleen Sebelius, and I hope he does. McCain, I suspect, will pick a friend first and an asset second, but in a toss-up, perhaps Crist.

Feel free to lampoon my general wrongness.

Joseph | 9 Jun 2008

The default-position pizza

All sorts of things end up on a home-made pizza when I'm feeling inspired, but when I just have to use the pides in the fridge before they go brittle, there's the fallback, the default position:

  • Pide base
  • Tomato paste
  • Long strips of Hungarian salami
  • Diced brown onion
  • Button mushrooms
  • Pitted Kalamata olives
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Cubes of Australian fetta
  • French capers

Grill it til the corners of the cubes go dark. Go easy on the tabasco. And use a knife and fork, landsakes!

Joseph | 13 May 2008

To the pain means the first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles.

Ah, wasn't that something? From the first counted votes in the early morning (Melbourne time) until its mid-afternoon denouement, Indiana was a feast of democratic theatrics. If you couldn't set aside the time to follow the narrative as it played out, let me recap.

Indiana belongs to two timezones (Eastern and Central), and has the unusual, arguably dubious practice of closing polls early at 6pm — not so strange to Australians, but then again we don't vote on Tuesdays. So at the groggy hour of just after 8am, results started to trickle in from the Eastern majority of the state. Beginning, as usual, with rural areas. Those deep southern tracts that Bill Clinton spent a week traversing repaid their debts and left a tip. Hillary streaked to a 30 point lead that simmered and settled into a high-teens holding pattern as Fort Wayne proved an Obaman buttress — but while the percentage held, the vote difference grew: first ten thousand, then twenty, then quickly enough forty. Marion County, host to liberal Indianapolis, began its slow churn of results, and eventually the vote difference stabilised at fifty thousand displaced chads. Consequently the percentage shrank, dipping to 53:47 with the surprisingly pro-Obama votes from the Catholic northern county of St Joseph.

Just under four hours into the count, the percentage came to rest at 52:48 in Clinton's favour, a net advantage of some 40,000 from just short of a million votes. The university town of Bloomington in Monroe Country was secreting predictably Barack-loving numbers, but only in counterpoint to the wide rural stretches of lower Indiana turning out on behalf of the woman who wanted to save them $50 at the gas pump over summer and protect them from vile gun-control laws.

Two counties reserved their judgement at 0% counted, hanging like Damoclean swords or waterbombs over the numerical status quo: Lake County in the north-west — home to the city of Gary and 8% of Indiana's population — and Union in the mid-east, in deep Clinton country, which looked ominous until one glanced at the census data (something like 0.1% of the state).

On the 29th of March this year, the mayor of Gary — a man by the name of Rudy Clay, an unabashed Obama supporter — claimed that the city would be the talk of the nation two months later on election night. Gary, you see, has a history of electoral king-making, because it produces results like molasses makes bubbles. Clay said that day that Gary would be the name on the lips of newscasters: "They are going to point at Indiana and say Hillary Clinton is leading by one point but Gary ain't come in yet."

He was only out by a percentile or two.

So we waited. Clay had the numbers — we knew this because other mayors of Lake County appeared on the networks and explained that they'd tendered their machine votes at half-six Central. But Clay had a sense of drama akin to the great Elizabethan playwrights. It was not until 1:45pm, just short of midnight in Indiana, that Clay dropped a 28%-of-the-vote bomb on a frothing commentariat: this quarter of Lake had gone 75:25 for Obama, yielding him an eighteen thousand vote gain, and tightening the margin to 23,000.

The sanest voice I've found in US electoral psephology put Obama's chances of winning Indiana at 30% when this information was divulged. If anything like that ratio held in Lake, the state (and likely the nomination) was his this night.

But Clay had a finer ear for melodrama. He waited forty minutes for the chattering heads on the cable nets to exhaust this tantalising revelation, and then produced the 56%-of-the-vote enigma: Barack's advantage reduced to 65%, his gains in Lake minor but still enough that when extrapolated made every vote count.

Then, gaining my admiration for his gumption, he made himself available to the media. He talked and talked and talked about the so-called reasons for the delay, and said at one point "there's more results coming in about 20 minutes", deftly dodging the ham-fisted attempts to pin him down for (quite obviously) staging the scene.

But wasn't it a dream? For a long moment, Obama had the nomination if he could just pull out 20,000 punctured ballots, and how couldn't he in Chico Gary? Of course Clay gave us his third act right on time, a 98% fizzler, when the inevitable south of Lake County redressed the imbalance initiated by Gary, leaving Hillary comfortably 30,000 clear.

All of which means that West Virginia looms next Tuesday, a presumed victory for Clinton, like Kentucky a week later. But when Kentucky votes, so does Oregon, and it is the likely win there for Obama that should finally resolve this, if Clinton does not tender her handkerchief in the face of the inevitable this week. And not before time: this has been good, but it has become damaging, and we've seen multitudinous sides of her that really we'd rather not have. I'd like Oregon to bring this thing to an end, in part because it and Wisconsin are my two favourite American states I've never seen.

Joseph | 7 May 2008

Murder in the red barn

Don't get me wrong, I'm as much an admirer of the opening scene of Lost in Translation as anyone. But this, this is execrable. Its only virtue, perhaps, is that Scarlett Johansson has demonstrated for all time how to murder a Tom Waits song. No-one need ever try again.

There's a whole album of this shit.

Awesome.

Joseph | 6 May 2008

stuff & nonsense

  • Topographic viewTopographic view
     shows elements on a webpage according to how deeply nested they are. It's a bookmarklet for web development.
  • The qualifierThe qualifier
     renders controversial statements on this page harmless. Reinstate the slings and barbs by refreshing. Also a bookmarklet.

  • jjmap
    American Diary

    Two weeks with the apple and the lone star (illustrated).

all posts, ordered by month in reverse-chronological order:

In Words

In Other Words