Archive for July, 2012

Leftovers

Posted: July 31, 2012 in cooking, marriage
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Note: this post may offend the hungry. In my defense, everything that involves food on this blog represents my anti-hunger stance. Also, I’m talking about leftovers, okay? Also, I don’t do that phony liberal conscience stuff.

On Sundays, The Wife and I stock the fridge. To make room, I sometimes throw food at a pot and see what happens. Last Sunday, this happened:

It’s as good as it looks.

Here’s what I used:

1lb andouille sausage (you could and probably should use Italian sausage)

1 cup of chopped green peppers

1 cup of chopped onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

4 cut mushrooms

13 cherry tomatoes (if you’re making it straight, you might use diced tomatoes)

1 tbsp. oregano

1 cup tomato sauce

2/3 cup heavy cream

On medium heat, saute onions and peppers for three minutes. Add the garlic and oregano. In a minute, deglaze with white wine. Add the sausage. Cook, stirring regularly for six minutes. Add mushrooms. Stir, man! Cook till mushrooms are nice and soft. Add cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce. When the sauce is hot, add the cream, and stir as though God or your version of The Wife waited at the table. She is not impatient, so don’t go crazy. Just stir with love till the cream and sauce are mixed and warm. If you like, sprinkle some parmesan cheese over it. I set the cheese on the table, because the wife likes to add it herself.

Do I have to tell you to serve over pasta? I mean, do I?

Recent talk about sentence construction has led me back to an old master. Beckett’s Malone Dies might not be his most discussed novel, but it’s worthy of at least a second look. A lot of folks might feel compelled to analyze, deconstruct, and comment upon his work, but I just want to present a few diamonds.

“My eyes, I shall open my eyes, look at the little heap of my possessions, give my body the old orders I know it cannot obey, turn to my spirit gone to rack and ruin, spoil my agony the better to live it out, for already from the world that parts at last its labia and lets me go.”

“It was the season when the labours of the peasants reach their paroxysm and the long bright days are too short for all there is to do.”

“But silence was in the heart of the dark, the silence of dust and the things that would never stir, if left alone.”

“But between him and those grave and sober men, first bearded, then moustached, there was this difference, that his semen had never done harm to anyone.”

“And but for the company of these little objects which I picked up here and there, when out walking, and which sometimes gave me the impression that they too needed me, I might have been reduced to the society of nice people or to the consolations of some religion or other, but I think not.”

Killer.

ImageSlayer’s Decade of Aggression (Disc One) makes me remember parts of high school. The results are weird.

Hell Awaits—At 16, I was 5.2 feet tall and weighed 110 pounds with a loaded backpack. It was never loaded. White Jew midget in the heavy metal shirt, orange shorts, and Scotty’s Hardware cap, feeling something like Ellison’s Invisible Man. I wasn’t, of course. I suffered neither racism nor anti-Semitism.  No one wanted to be my mentor for purposes shady or otherwise. When I grew up, I wanted to be dead or a poet. The grinding riff and drum which opens this song made me feel like the baddest, meanest kid in school.

The Anti-Christ—So much of metal involved and involves Satan, though maybe 1% of metalheads have ever thought seriously about the worship of any Dark Lord. On occasion, they’ve dreamed of punching cool kids and bosses, but who hasn’t? We love dogs and rock. This song rocks.

War Ensemble—This song was released either right before or at the start of the First Gulf War. I remember absolutely no one giving even the tiniest shit, even a fartlet, about the prospect of a war, even though it was the first war named a war of our lives, and if it went on long and the country started a draft… Anyway, there was no draft and that was awhile ago. My point is that no one cared. It set the stage for a lot of the nonsense now. Anyway, the only musicians who took up the war subject were heavy metal bands and hardcore rappers. Among thrash metal war songs, this tune is tied with about a hundred other tunes for third place, behind Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and way behind Megadeth’s Holy Wars.

South of Heaven—If you’re a metal band of any stripe, you better get to the apocalyptic future song sooner or later. “South of Heaven” is Slayer’s best version. The phrase “South of Heaven” sounds obvious, but only after you hear it. Always interesting to hear these songs twenty-something years down the line. This particular described future hasn’t arrived, yet its retained the power to stun.

Raining Blood—Slayer’s most recognizable opening notes. Even people who haven’t heard much of Slayer beyond the name kind of know this song. I’m thinking we have a communal memory that works something like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or whatever that game is. Anyway, we might know the song, but we know enough about the song. What else? This tune is quintessential Slayer: mean, speedy doom.

Altar of Sacrifice—In senior year, I took “Intro to Psychology” with a stoner named Mr. Edwards, who cared about teaching about as much as I care about Katy Perry. People basically talked to each other all period while I sat in the dead center of class listening to tunes on the Walkman as loud as I could. Two of my principle awful moments of high school occurred in that class. This fat kid who wanted to be cool reached over and turned down my Walkman and put his finger over his mouth, and I did nothing. Another legit cool kid who wore his Polo shirt tucked into his Garth Brooks tight jeans pressed “Stop” on my Walkman, and asked what was wrong with me, and I did nothing. Is it wrong to still kind of wish I could put them on an Altar of Sacrifice? I mean, I wouldn’t, but the visual is sometimes nice and pleasing psycho.

Jesus Saves—Another staple: the anti-Christian deal. Now that I’m older, this is probably the silliest of the staples. Also, this is my least favorite song on the disc. This is a good spot to say that, in retrospect, this was the last great American thrash metal album. Basically, ’91 was both the highpoint and end of this brand of music. Shortly afterward, Metallica would release the Black album, and its disease didn’t infect the other bands (no love song epidemic ensued), but it stunted their growth. That Black album was a signal, like the first sacking of Rome, that the game might go on, but it was basically up.

Dead Skin Mask—They really do hit all the staples. The song’s based on the career of Ed Gein. The title implies the particular weirdness of this serial killer. He used to lure kids into the basement and, well, you know. On the studio album, a girl’s talking to him, begging him to let her go. Pretty haunting tune.

Seasons in the Abyss—The slow opening’s got this Egyptian desert vibe going down. You know it’s going to get faster, way faster, but you don’t know how it’s going to get there. Then you get there and you say to yourself, I didn’t even know I was moving, but you were, obviously, and it’s kind of like growing up, and, yes, in this sentence the act of growing up has basically been compared to a song about sadistic torture, which is about the truest thing you and I have ever read.

Mandatory Suicide—Another war song, not as good as “War Ensemble,” but cool, especially at the end, when Tom Araya is ranting in rhymes over a nice thick riff and guitar-bomb effects. When I was 16, I had that entire rant memorized. I’ve only got this one scream left: “Bloodshed is everywheeeerrrreee!” Memory’s a tricky bitch: you can see the shape of the past, but as you approach, you realize it’s the shape of a fragment which you’ve mistaken for the whole.

Angel of Death—How often I wanted to be the angel of death, not Dr. Mengele as described in the song, but feared and powerful. What days, dusted over and replaced by a new wardrobe of fitting shorts and plain t’s. I used to air guitar this song, dreaming of a life onstage with thousands of people wanting to be like me, just as I wanted to be like Kerry King, making those guitars bomb. Those dreams and days are over, and I am still alive.

In the Year of Weakest Beats, we denied mathematics, torched the family car, and felt new warmth. The upshot was that me we never discovered another body in the trunk. The downsie was that the androids sent the police, and though we’d maintained the property by means of garden shears and smiles, we never learned the peace of cop love. We were disciplined by law. Father was taken for either days or months, the time doesn’t matter, truly, and when he returned he was blank and mean. His left shoulder wasn’t right. Kanye West made a comeback. Mother lit candles for him, Father, but their cinammon scents gave us no light. She passed a note under the bathroom door. It read: “Count these days.”

Great literature’s great value springs from its ability to capture a thought or object in a sentence of clean beauty. The value neither rests nor lies in this ability. It must spring or have some like verb suggesting an emergence of life. Vigor might be dreamed of, in connection to these thoughts. If you require more v-words, you might sell vibrancy. But synonyms are for chumps, thesauri, and chumps with thesauri.

I speak of the sentence’s value as a way of returning to near-to-last comments upon Mr. Lutz’s short book. I was not happy with his made-up words. I did not write about his alliteration, but I could have. These characteristics displeased me. They smacked of cleverness in the service of something other than clean beauty. A sentence ideally does two things at once: it conveys information in precise language and it is written in beautiful language. Both of these qualities imply other qualities, like the lovely arrangement of the sentence as a sentence and a sentence in the midst of other sentences. Writers may lean toward the first or second quality, though they try for both. Lutz clearly leans toward the second quality. That’s fine, so long as the language is beautiful, but his is only sometimes beautiful, and where it is not beautiful it sounds like a kitten with a psycho’s thumb pressed to its sad, doomed throat.

America is now overpopulated with avid sentence writers. I count myself among this number. Each of these superfluous wannabes knows who are fine craftsmen and who are the hacks, though that knowledge is quite subjective. You could do worse than name Gary Lutz among the craftsmen. He is a craftsman, though I find his technique less-than-consistently stellar. But you could do much worse than Padgett Powell*. If I want to write sentences like any living writer, I want to write sentences like this:

“If a man is running a ninety-degree grinder and it catches his pants and torques into him and he sees blood coming through his jeans at the crotch and he says “Hmmm,” and puts the grinder down and sits on the bumper of his truck and lights a cigarette before investigating what is wrong in his pants, and before heading to the ER, is he, would you say, wasting time or not?”

The question describes an idiotic reticence to move that is like patience but is not (I suppose the man is wasting time). The sentence itself is written—and delivered—with a real patience. The reader is given a specific description of the scene. This is overtopped by the kind of artificial objectivity I dig. Two senses of “artificial” apply here: a) the pretension that the narrator/writer is providing a description sans bias and b) the sentence as a pleasure-making contrivance. Both qualities are made possibile by the painstaking precision of the prose, which draws out the full hilarity of both portrait and question without wasting a word. In a single sentence, Powell captures this man and pays him and his situation in full respect. He places you too. He sees it in this way and no other. So do we.

I note briefly that he resorts to no games with words. Their function and form make games unnecessary. This sentence and the hundreds of sentences in Powell’s work attest to his commitment to the value with which I began and end.

*It’s true that this man blurbed my book. That’s not why I’ve written this post.**

**It’s true that I’ve used my disclaimer to link to my book. Hate me, but please buy my book.

I’m trying to imagine how I’d respond if my boss came to me and said he knew for a fact that I was slipping pennies into the Xerox machine. He knew it was me. He’d heard it from several people. That was why the Department of English had to continually repair the Xerox machine. I was screwing everybody over with my callow, destructive foolishness.

What if I said, “Who have you heard it from?” What if he said, “I can’t tell you. I have to protect their anonymity.”

What if I said, “Do you have any other evidence?” What if he said, “We’ve found staples in your office. It’s true that some of these staples may have been used for positive stapling purposes, but we’ve found identical staples in the copy machine.”

What if everybody in the department, upon hearing the Chair had confronted me, decided I was guilty? What if everybody on campus believed him, no matter what I said? Should I accept this level of proof?

This is what has happened to the New Orleans Saints. I want you to consider in particular the case of Anthony Hargrove. He is not a major star. He had one good year in New Orleans, the Super Bowl year of 2009. He’s been suspended eight games this season. At first the league presented what seemed compelling evidence. The league said he’d confessed. Then it became clear that this so-called confession had been mischaracterized. The league said it had video of Hargrove asking to collect a bounty on Brett Favre during the Saints’ playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Now that voice analysis has concluded that Hargrove’s voice is not on the video, the league has retracted its statement about that video, but not its overall conclusion that Hargrove is guilty of active participation.

Keep in mind that this is the evidence the league has released. You might assume the league would release clearly damning evidence while retaining the lesser, supportive stuff.

At this point, George Bush still has more definitive proof that Iraq had WMD.

Yet a large majority of football fans still believe the Saints are guilty of holding a bounty program. There are two reasons for this, I think. The first is that the media is deep in the tank for the league in much the way the political media is in the tank for politicians who feed them quotes. Most members of the media need access to NFL officials both in league offices and with teams. Most of your well-known national media members work for TV stations with NFL contracts (ESPN, NBC, CBS, and Fox ((keep in mind that ESPN is part of ABC)). Other national media members work for the NFL network. They all have $ reasons to take the league’s word.

The second is our continual national or maybe global need to trust some institutional authority. A large number of male Americans have grown up with the NFL. It’s always been good to us. For years on end, every fall Sunday, the NFL has provided awesome hours of sanctioned violence. It’s given exactly what it has promised. Why would they lie?

The answers are both cynical and simple.

Power. The NFL is still a business and it still has a boss. Every now and then, the boss has to show he’s boss. In the immediate aftermath of a labor dispute in which players and union leaders talked about the boss in less-than-flattering terms and in which they eventually gave that boss total judgment of legal matters, he’s letting them have it.

Power 2. Divide-and-conquer is an old strategy. What better way to hurt the players than to suggest one group of players intentionally wants to hurt the rest of you? These guys aren’t with you; they’re against you. I, Roger Goodell, we, the league, want to protect you from these guys. Part of you might not be sold on the league’s evidence, but there’s another part that wonders if it’s true, making it difficult for the players to unite behind the Saints on a matter of procedure and justice.

Pending Legal Battles. Roger Goodell has made no secret of this: he wants to at least be perceived as a commissioner who has player safety first and foremost in mind. Never mind the obviousness of the lie. The league is facing a serious legal battle over player safety from former veterans. Goodell needs some way to appear publicly proactive in the player safety department. His actions do appear proactive. They also imply that safety problems in the league have less to do with the league than rogue players. His actions against James Harrison and other individual players were opening plays in this game. With the Saints, he’s gone all in.

But you might ask, “Why would he single out the Saints?”

This is much simpler. The Saints are a low-risk-high-visibility target. That’s because the Saints are a winning team at the present time, but, from the league’s perspective, they are a historically unimportant small market team with a reticent owner who’s been granted a lot of favorable treatment by the league. The league can’t target the Jacksonville Jaguars because they’ll look like a weak target. They can’t target the Cowboys either, because they’re one of the league’s biggest fish and Jerry Jones has the stones and mouth to contest everything all the way through. Some suspended players have relatively known names like Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, but neither of these guys will ever be confused with, say, Ray Lewis.

So what? You ask. So fucking what?

So, if you have a boss, you should believe without fail that he is your fucking boss and by the very fact he’s got you by the balls (these may be proverbial, ladies).* We’re trained more and more to not only respect our boss but to love our boss, be grateful to our boss, depend on our boss and so forth. He isn’t just a boss. He’s a “job creator.” This is slave training. If work experience teaches you nothing else, it’s this: you shouldn’t trust the boss’ word.

And that’s why this whole thing with the Saints stinks like fish guts cooking on the sidewalk.

*You don’t have to be that into Marx to know and believe this.

Check out my story, “Minor Repair” in the latest issue of Forge. Thanks, y’all.

Note: the actual hole in the wall in our house was about a gazillion times bigger than the one pictured above. As I’ve told the Wife, we should’ve taken a picture before we filled it in.