October 31, 2012
And wishing everyone in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath a safe and speedy recovery!
October 29, 2012
Playwright Doug Wright posted a Facebook status the other day that went:
I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’ It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.
I had been thinking along those very same lines myself, with regards to the alarming pattern of statements minimizing rape and its consequences, and advocating depriving women of the option of legal abortion even in cases of rape and abuse, on the part of Republican candidates lately.
That frankly, every time I hear someone defend their Republican votes, despite that party’s deplorable stances on women’s and LGBT rights (among a host of other issues), saying “I only vote on economic issues,” what I hear is, “Your rights as a citizen and presumed equality as a human being with control over your own life and body are disposable to me, and here is exactly the amount of the tax break or economic advantage for which I would sell them. Your worth and dignity, your rights to medical care and privacy, are for sale to the highest bidder as far as I’m concerned.”
But rationally, I know that it’s not exactly a fair accusation, because people are neither that simple nor that consistent nor that self-reflective, and really, really talented at double-think.
That people are, in fact, somehow capable of seeing absolutely no conflict between believing that they love and respect their wives, daughters, sisters, and their gay, lesbian or transgender children, friends, and coworkers–and voting for candidates whose policies directly threaten our well-being and civil rights.
I don’t understand this, but I know that it’s true.
My more vexing question for these voters is, “What on God’s green earth makes you feel safe at the hands of these people?”
Because let me tell you something: They are not only threatening me. They are not only threatening women, gay people, trans people, religious minorities, poor people, illegal immigrants, various demographic groups whose voting patterns they don’t like, and the societal resources that make all of our lives richer and more stable.
They are threatening you. And they are telling you that they are. And you keep voting for them.
How many times have we heard children who didn’t want to be bullies, but who witnessed their “friends” or ring-leaders bullying others and did nothing, talk about why they didn’t? Because they were afraid that their “friends” would turn the ugliness on them if they stepped out of line. And indeed, many teenage bullying victims report that this is exactly what happened. That they were part of the clique, part of the in-group, one of the right people, until they weren’t.
When someone will do something horrible to other people, ostensibly for your sake, what they are telling you is not that they so vehemently have your best interests in mind. What they are telling you is not that they will go to whatever practical lengths necessary, however hard-hearted they seem, to uphold the beliefs you both share.
What they are telling you is that they will do horrible things to other people. They are telling you exactly who they are and how they treat people.
And if they will do terrible things to other people for your approval, then know exactly what they will do to you when they decide they need someone else’s approval.
I used to listen to Dr. Laura. I was young and thought I was a conservative. But, as a broken clock is still right twice a day, I think she said about two things that are utterly true and brilliant, and one of them was:
If they will do it with you, they will do it to you.
And when these guys talk about what they think or what they want to take away from the poor, jobless, disabled, and marginalized…and you think that doesn’t apply to you? Ask yourself just how confident you are that you will never be one of the poor, jobless, disabled or marginalized. (And before you decide, recall that a lot of people who thought they’d done everything right were pretty confident of this before 2008.)
This is one of those things that I grew up instinctively understanding, and am mystified by people who don’t, who I guess have just never been in a situation in which you had to know this. I have always had to know this.
When someone threatens any vulnerable person or group of people, they are threatening me. They are coming for me next. They are broadcasting that this is what they do to the wrong kind of people. (In my heart, I’ve always been one of the wrong kind of people.) It doesn’t matter that it’s not you right now. It’s going to be whoever they need it to be.
They’re telling you what they will do to people. They’re telling you, on the basis of their authoritarian religious beliefs, and with no economic reasoning whatsoever, what they want to be able to do to us.
They are threatening to take away access to health care.
They are threatening to take away our rights to control over our own bodies, and to privacy of our reproductive and medical decisions.
They are threatening to invalidate marriages and families. They are threatening to take away from children the securities intrinsic to having legally married parents. They are threatening to turn back the clock on the progression of equal rights under the law no matter the sex of the person you love.
Even if you don’t give a damn that this is being done to women and gays, try looking out for yourself and your own self-determination for a minute.
They consider themselves uniquely justified in imposing their religious beliefs on other people’s lives. Why do you imagine you’ll be exempt?
Why do you think you’ll be safe?
Do you seriously think that they’re just morally bankrupt enough to do this to me and the people I care about, but not to you and the people you care about?
October 19, 2012
The end of actual summer tends to be slightly preceded every year by me getting literally bored of eating summer fruits and vegetables, falling into a malaise in which I can’t even figure out what to eat, and then developing a craving for large, serious squash.
I was inspired to try this for the first time last year, when I was in a similar mood and craving a hot, thick soup, and thought first that I’d try my hand at potato soup or potato chowder. I can’t say where the inspiration came from to make it pumpkin instead, but I thought of Barbara Kingsolver’s lamentation in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that in most recipes involving pumpkin these days, the recipe will call for one 15-ounce can of pumpkin. No one knows how to hack up a large vegetable to eat rather than use for decoration anymore.
I asked advice of a couple friends, followed some of it, and setting forth without recipe, hacked up a pumpkin.
We’ve been enjoying a crisp, lovely fall in NYC, and so I made this for the second time last week, refining my technique slightly from my first experience. (Protip: using the food processor for this is not worth it.)
You will need:
A large stock pot
One smallish cooking pumpkin
One or two large onions, sliced
One large white potato, or 3 or 4 small red potatoes, diced
About 4 cups chicken stock (I make a batch from the leftovers every time I roast a chicken, so I always have some in the freezer and don’t have to buy it.)
Half a stick or so of butter. Or more. Usually more, in my case.
A couple tablespoons olive oil
A couple tablespoons flour
About half a pint of half and half or heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 400. With a sharp, sturdy knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds, and cut the halves in half again.
I always forget how long that part takes.
2. Put the quartered pumpkin sections on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil.
And put into the oven. Roast till tender and starting to caramelize, probably around an hour.
3. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skins and shred well with a fork. It should be soft enough that this is fairly easy. (This is where I discarded advice to use a food processor, which I tried my first time through, and made a mess.)
5. In the stock pot, melt the butter, and sauté about half the onions until tender. Move the onions off to one side, add the flour to the butter, and whisk until it’s incorporated. This creates a roux that will help the soup thicken later.
6. Now add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add the diced potatoes and cook till those are tender.
And now start adding the pumpkin, in small amounts at a time, cooking till each addition is incorporated. It’ll disintegrate a good bit as it cooks, but I like it to keep some of its rough, shredded texture. I’ve wound up only using about half the cooked pumpkin in the chowder, and saving the other half for use in other delicious baked things.
Add the rest of the sliced onions, and cook till tender. Add salt to taste.
7. Turn the heat down so the pumpkin-y broth at this point is just simmering, and slowly add and stir in the cream. Cook on low heat–don’t boil–until the chowder is heated through. More salt and pepper to taste.
And I garnished mine with fresh thyme.
It’s fabulous with some toasted crusty bread and glass of white wine, and presidential debates or Doctor Who on television.
October 14, 2012
I always bring my journal for hanging out and whiskey-drinking with my friend Maya, because we always wind up thinking brilliant things when we do this. Last night was a beautifully cold, late fall night for it.
Lester approves of this activity.
October 6, 2012
Some people have a thing against writing in books; I don’t. I love a book best that is obviously well-loved and well-marked. It’s one of those things that I thought would irk my romantic self about the Kindle, even as my practical self couldn’t really argue against free books that take up no space.
In this manner I came to be reading Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi on my Kindle…somewhat bittersweetly. It’s largely about the heartbreak of the loss of the entire occupation of steamboating–its skill set, way of life, and all of its romanticism–to superior and more cost-effective technology–the railroads–in a stunningly short amount of time.
But lo and behold, the Kindle preserves at least some of the functionality, if not the rough beauty, of other readers’ notes and underlinings. This is probably not news to very many people but me, but I’m still figuring this thing out…but you can not only make your own underlinings and clippings of text, but see how many other readers underlined a passage for saving. And reading backstage one night, I found that five other readers, at least of this digital edition of Life on the Mississippi, had underlined the following:
De Soto, the first white man who ever saw the Mississippi River, saw it in 1542.
Disappointment for my fellow readers swelled, for the paragraph from which at least FIVE of them had extracted that fragment as the vital piece of information actually reads:
To say that De Soto, the first white man who ever saw the Mississippi River, saw it in 1542, is a remark which states a fact without interpreting it: it is something like giving the dimensions of a sunset by astronomical measurements, and cataloguing the colors by their scientific names;–as a result, you get the bald fact of the sunset, but you don’t see the sunset. It would have been better to paint a picture of it.
Teh irony it hurtz sometimes. I wanted to smack my forehead on something in frustration, the way you would with a normal book, but I was afraid of hurting the Kindle.
Twain attempted to convey the sheer insufficiency of factoid to describe the age and majesty of the river when compared to the ridiculously small amount of time for which European settlers had been taking it for granted, and the significance that all of my fellow book underliners took from it…was the barest factoid, without context, that could be extracted from Twain’s vivid warning simile, in his long love song to a thing incomprehensibly old and powerful when compared to human civilization and understanding.
I seem to recall Twain having sardonic things to say about human intellectual density. I could nearly hear him sighing from his grave.