Friday, December 29

Food Miles

The New York Times has their annual list of the year's buzzwords. Here are a few of my favorites:
Hummer House: an overly large single-family residence. Synonyms from earlier years are starter castle, faux chateau and McMansion.
[I'm so happy to have other ways of saying McMansion! - Johnny]

Internet courage: boldness of character that comes from the anonymity and distance inherent in Internet communication.

Katrina brain: forgetfulness, lack of concentration and failure to follow through on activities, characteristic of the post-traumatic stress of Hurricane Katrina.
[It's interesting that this, which is everyone's favorite excuse down here, has made it up to the New York Times...]

: a size of clothing smaller than zero, same as size 00.

vice mail: voice-mail messages disguised as confidential stock tips left on the wrong answering machine, a form of the pump-and-dump scam. More info.
[I'd never heard of this, but holy shit what a great and evil idea.]

: a fear of career-planning. Coined by John Krumboltz, a Stanford University professor.
[What? What?]


One last shameful note: until reading that article, I hadn't realized that one of the reasons everyone cracked up about Bush calling himself "the decider" was that it isn't actually a word. How embarrassing for me.

Exposing Shallowness

Exposing Shallowness, by Theodore Dalrymple.

This article, an attack on the phenomenon of middle-class tattoos, has some very good, very incisive points. Unfortunately, the author comes across like a right-wing libertarian dickhead. No surprise: it ran in the New Criterion.

It is also no accident that some members of the middle classes should have adopted a typically proletarian form of bodily adornment as a badge not only of independence, but also of liberal virtue. A tattoo establishes them as tolerant, open-minded, and sympathetic towards those below them in the social scale: the highest virtues of which they can conceive. The tattoo thus appeals to the kind of modern bourgeois who believes that foulness of language is a token of purity of heart, or at least of sincerity. The tattoo, like the constant resort to the swearword, is an attack on bourgeois propriety, and as such a demonstration of largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

Of course, this antinomianism (itself so tiresomely bourgeois) has a tinny ring. ... The fate of all people who imitate others to achieve authenticity is to live a lie.

Gender Constancy

Peggy Orenstein's NY Times story on modern girlhood, What's Wrong With Cinderella, is actually rather dull and obvious. But here are two interesting (and off-topic) tidbits from the article:

According to theories of gender constancy, until they're about 6 or 7, children don't realize that the sex they were born with is immutable. They believe that they have a choice: they can grow up to be either a mommy or a daddy.
Girls' obsession with [pink] may seem like something they're born with, like the ability to breathe or talk on the phone for hours on end. But according to Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, it ain't so. When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split. Perhaps that's why so many early Disney heroines — Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Wendy, Alice-in-Wonderland — are swathed in varying shades of azure.

Jewish Family Christmas

The rest of the article is only so-so, but the first paragraph of Jennifer Gilmore's Jewish Family Christmas (one of about 50 articles on the exact same topic to run in the Times in the last week) is priceless:

My father, who is 100 percent Jewish, has always been obsessed with Christmas. He grew up in Minneapolis, in an unobservant household, and he considers it part of his childhood. "I remember the lights, the trees," he used to say to my little sister and me. "It was magical." He decorates the mantel with Christmas cards and tapes mistletoe to the doorways, and one year he even tried to get my mother, also Jewish, with a much more observant upbringing, to allow an evergreen wreath on our front door. "I can't live with that," she said. "I just can't. Nothing on the outside of this house. We're Jews, for Christ's sake."

Jasmine Rice And Atheist Philanthropists

I just got back from visiting my family for a week, and one of my vacation rituals is finally having the free time to read the Sunday New York Times. Life's just too hectic to get involved with a five dollar paper every single week. The posts below are some of the things that caught my eye as I read the last two weeks of Sunday papers.


What Should A Billionaire Give...And What Should You?

This article on charity has already disappeared into the Times pay archives, but here's the part I found really interesting. Emphasis mine:

Interestingly, neither Gates nor Buffett seems motivated by the possibility of being rewarded in heaven for his good deeds on earth. Gates told a Time interviewer, "There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning" than going to church. Put them together with Andrew Carnegie, famous for his freethinking, and three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics. (The exception is John D. Rockefeller.) In a country in which 96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being, that's a striking fact. It means that in one sense, Gates and Buffett are probably less self-interested in their charity than someone like Mother Teresa, who as a pious Roman Catholic believed in reward and punishment in the afterlife.


Also, a recipe!

Jasmine-Tea Rice

2 ½ tablespoons jasmine-tea pearls
1 ½ cups jasmine white rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt.

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Place the tea in a heatproof bowl. Cover with the hot water and steep for 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve set over the saucepan and cool.

2. In a large bowl, rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain and add to the cooled tea. Stir in the salt and let sit for 30 minutes.

3. Cover the saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 17 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Serves 6. Adapted from Daniel Patterson.

Thursday, December 7

From The Backyard To The Bedroom To The Drawing Room

From The India Times:

Despite the slowly changing openness towards sexuality, the field of sexual medicine has remained neglected in the land of Kamasutra. And this despite the fact that sexual dysfunction is a common problem — an ongoing study, for instance, has found that one out of every ten Indian women suffer from Early Orgasm Response, a condition wherein females reach orgasm during foreplay. [full article]

Sure, it's easy to laugh, but keep in mind that EOR is more common than you might think.
Pretty much every girlfriend I've ever had has been afflicted with it...

Wednesday, December 6

A Recent Email Exchange

From: Julie [not her real name]
November 26

what do you do for new years?

From: Johnny
November 27

Charter a jet with a few friends and circle the globe, ringing in the New Year in all 24 time zones. Why?

From: Julie
November 28


From: Johnny
December 1

Yeah, but the whole "charter a jet and fly around the world" thing is a bit more complicated than I let on. You see, there are five of us in the so-called "Caroline Society," each of us members of the secretive Club Priapus, and all of us world-renowned for our fluency in the languages of love:

Sir Charles Mortdecai, a British art dealer who's worth is estimated in the billions of pounds sterling...but who once, to settle a wager, seduced a female member of Parliament while disguised as a common street tramp.

Pierre Des Esseintes, a legendary gourmand who killed his own brother in a duel, can make any woman fall in love with him with merely a glance.

Alejandro Martín DeLeon, the former Spanish Formula 1 racer, whose spectacular crash seven years ago left him with a limp and a faint scar that has--like all flaws in a thing otherwise perfectly beautiful--left him only that much more irresistible to the women of High Society.

Faustina Madalena Girolamo, the famous lesbian libertine, rumored cause of many of today's most scandalous divorces, who wears only shades of black in mourning for a tragedy she's never revealed.

Also: me.

Every year, we meet in the Republic of Kiribati, a small archipelago in the South Pacific. Kiribati's easternmost island, the uninhabited Caroline Atoll, is situated directly on the International Date Line and is therefore the first place on the planet to receive the New Year. That evening, after each member of our informal Society arrives at the small tattered airport, we take a water taxi to a yacht anchored just off the cost of the Caroline Atoll, where we enjoy a delicious feast with none other than Manchester Victorian, our mysterious benefactor.

Sea Holly salad
Bread served with dawamesk
Oysters sprinkled with the dust of rhinoceroses horn
Turtle eggs served raw with salt and lime juice
Pastilles Richelieu

Our meal finished, Manchester Victorian rises from his seat at the head of the table and offers us a toast: "Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes, let there come a tempest of provocation..." The words resonate heavily behind the chromed Cupid face mask he wears at all times.

For 24 hours straight, we travel to every time zone and celebrate the New Year two dozen times. Across all cultures and nations, there is one global tradition that unites humanity: kissing someone at midnight on New Year's Eve. The goal of the Caroline Society is simple...we must find the most attractive woman possible to kiss at the stroke of midnight, as our picture is secretly taken by one of our footmen, disguised as fellow partygoers.

The day of seduction completed, we gather at the false London storefront that hides the opulent Club Priapus, each of us falling into an exhausted sleep in one of the many boudoirs of the Club. Then, on the evening of January 2, the other 22 members of the Club arrive for a raucous meal. (Though the explanation is too lengthy to get into here, there are always only 27 members of the Club, or three to the third power.)

Manchester Victorian, via a large video screen, introduces the evening's main entertainment: the judging of the photographs. Time zone by time zone, photographs of whom each of us kissed on our around-the-world journey is presented to the club. One point is scored for each time zone we win, and the one with the most points at the end of the presentation is of course the winner of that year's contest.

The victor receives a small golden tie tack in the shape of a Cantharide, the right to be served first at all Club functions, and a personal note of congratulations from Victorian himself. These are all nice, of course, but the most important prize can't be named or held...namely, the respect and esteem of the legendary Club Priapus!

89 Gangs

There were dozens of gangs referenced in the original screenplay of THE WARRIORS, but most didn't make it to the screen. This is the official list of gangs from the original script:

The Alleycats
The Amsterdam All-Stars
The Baseball Furies
The Black Hands
The Blackjacks
The Big Trains
The Boppers
The Boyle Avenue Runners
The Charlemagnes
The Colt 45's
The Dealers
The Delaney Rovers
The Dingos
The E Street Shufflers
The East Harlem Hurricanes
The Easy Aces
The Electric Eliminators
The Eighth Avenue Apaches
The Fastballs
The Fifth Street Bombers
The Filmores
The Firetasters
The Five Points
The Gerrards
The Gladiators
The Go Hards
The Gun Hill Dancers
The Gramercy Riffs
The Harlem Boppers
The Hi-Hats
The High Rollers
The Homeboys
The Hoplites
The Howitzers
The Huks
The Hurricanes
The Imps
The Jesters
The Jones Street Boys
The Judas Bunch
The Jupiters
The Knockdowns
The Knuckles
The Lizzies
The Locos
The Magicians
The Meatpackers
The Metropolitans
The Moonrunners
The Napoleons
The Nickel Steaks
The Nightriders
The Ninth Avenue Razors
The Orphans
The Panzers
The Phillies
The Plainsmen
The Predatoz
The Punks
The Queen's Bridge Mutilators
The Real Boys
The Red Hook Shooters
The Roadmasters
The Rogues
The Romans
The Runaways
The Saracens
The Saratogas
The Satan's Mothers
The Savage Huns
The Shanghai Sultans
The SouThern Cross
The Speedwagons
The Stevedores
The Stilletos
The Stonebreakers
The Terriers
The Turks
The Turnbull AC's
The Van Cortlandt Rangers
The Whispers
The Warriors
The Xenophones
The Xylophones
The Yo-Yo's
The Youngbloods
The Zodiacs
The Zulus