He's 51; she's 12. Look at the way she's looking at him.
I want to kick him in the teeth.
I have a fast Q & A with my old pal Brendan Mullen, who'll be reading this Friday at Powell's Burnside,
7:30, from Live at the Masque, Nightmare in Punk Alley, the punk club he started in LA back in 1977. The book --his latest; others include and We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs -- has hundreds of photos, including on the cover one of Trudie
, who I, having arrived in LA in 1986, knew as a pal of my friend Jane's and also as a mom; we used to babysit each other's kids. But here she is in all her glory, the LA punk chick, so much so that songs were written for her and posters made of her and the intro says it was worth going to the Masque every night just to see what Trudie and Exene were wearing. My daughter also used to play with Exene's son, and there's Charlie from the Plugz; we were best friends when our kids were little, and Robert Newman, who I know from the parking lot at grade school but here with a glammy pink poodle 'do and a camel-toe, and there's my bro DH from the DK's, who lived in a school bus in my yard back in the day, and Nickey "Beat" Alexander, who I seem to have known since the dawn of man and who was just visiting with us a few months ago. Young punks do die; old ones have kids and carry on.
Speaking of kids, here's a snip from the interview:
My teenage daughter’s friends have a real veneration for original punk. Why so beloved? You don’t see kids forming the next Sha Na Na or Flock of Seagulls.
To steal a line from Layla Gibbon at Maximum R&R, “Live at the Masque is a great document of a period in music and cultural history that might not be possible in this post-message board-Myspace-overblogged world.”
Kids in newbie teen punk bands these days live at home while learning to play while they do the punk thing. Some have even remarked there’s an alarming amount of “punk stage parents” out there pushing their kids into it. Teen punk bands have great equipment, many play their asses off—technically; some have wonderful air-conditioned practice spaces (the family garage converted with all the best gear). You can have a whole successful career in punk rock these days without even having to be “anti-establishment” or authority. It’s a creative pastime for the very young. Recently at an all-ages kiddie-punk show [a mom] told me, “Thank God for punk rock. It’s creative, and at least we know where they are.” [She was] hiding in the family SUV in the parking lot, like the other moms pushed out of sight by kids who don’t wanna be seen anywhere near ’em.
Photo by Michael Yampolsky
From my buddy Kevin Allman -- about whom I wrote to Hillary this morning, "He's scrupulously honest, very dry, very intolerant of media bullshit, and like a scout sitting on top of the hill, sees it coming from far off and starts banging the drum" -- three posts about the continuing diminution of print media:
2. Publishers Weekly cuts reviewers rates to $25! PW editor offers the following semi-flailing "buck-up, little campers!" to said reviewers:
I hope that PW reviewers, like one of the people who posted here, see the pay as an honorarium rather than a salary, and will continue to review because they love books and believe in PW as much as we believe in them....
Human beings love stories and a magazine, at its best, is where a writer can take the time to sit down and tell a good story: I went off on an adventure and here's what I saw and heard and how it felt and what I think it means. Newspapers sometimes do this, too, of course, but not as often as they used to, alas. Most magazines don't do it very often or very well but some do -- Esquire, Harper's, Smithsonian, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Texas Monthly, National Geographic, and, of course, the best of them all, the New Yorker.
As I've recently written, it's an honorable job and an honor to do it, despite our little life raft getting smaller and tattier, bodies slipping over the sides, nothing to do here but get another boat. Or better, a rocket.
Here's a launching off point, and a quibble with Carlson's contention about the New Yorker, whose articles and criticism I trust and adore, but whose fiction has started to bug me. One of the few mainstream mags that still runs short fiction, the New Yorker tends to run the same authors over and over and over. I understand some of this: reliability, marketing, a way for stalwart NYer readers to read those they are familiar with, like eating the same strawberry jam every Sunday; it's just so comforting. But it can also be hoary and insular. While amongst the seventy or so pieces of short fiction the New Yorker runs each year you will find the wondrous and disturbing and genuinely new, you will also find pieces like this week's, "East Wind" by Julian Barnes, which had it been submitted by Nancy Nobody rather than Barnes, I can assure you would not have slipped into the pages.
Barnes begins his story, a middle-aged romance that has at its core "a secret," well enough; he can certainly pack a graph with what we need to know, and entertainingly so:
"The thing was, he’d never been much good at flirting—never quite said the right thing. And since the divorce he’d got worse at it, if that was possible, because his heart wasn’t in it. Where was his heart? Question for another day. Today’s subject: flirting. He knew all too well the look in a woman’s eye when you didn’t get it right. Where’s he coming from, the look said. Anyway, it took two to flirt. And maybe he was getting too old for it. Thirty-seven, father of two, Gary, eight, and Melanie, five. That’s how the papers would put it if he was washed up on the coast some morning."
Not that it's the job of fiction to entertain. Anyway, Barnes then asks us to believe a certain amount of burrowing curiosity on the part of the protagonist because he can't quite figure out his new lover, a woman who corrects his pronunciation (" 'Oorals,' she repeated") and seems indifferent to him touching her nipples. Said protagonist's method of discovery is to snoop through her drawers. I can imagine such a scene being as full of suspense and regret and guilt and giddiness as it might were I to actually snoop through someone's drawers. And imagine it I must, because here it's a bore, but ah! a bore with a hint, a photo, of four young girl swimmers...
Spoiler alert: Barnes may have watched the same PBS documentary I did, about the East German state-sponsored doping system for athletes, a program that had my husband, daughter and me gaping at the television, it was shocking and moving, the callousness with which the state churned up the bodies of the young. Thus I understand the impact it may have made on Barnes, or perhaps he knows one of these women, or perhaps whatever. But what he does with the information, in the last six or seven graphs, belies an imagination that just went flat; the protagonist strings together some facts he reads on Google ("They doped the girls because it worked. East German swimmers won gold medals everywhere, the women especially.") and conjectures what must have happened to his lover:
"Muscles grew, but tendons didn’t, so tendons snapped. There were sudden bursts of acne, a deepening of the voice, an increase of hair on the face and body; sometimes the pubic hair grew up over the stomach, even above the navel. There was retarded growth and problems with fertility. Vernon had to look up terms like 'virilization' and 'clitoris hypertrophy,' then wished he hadn’t. He didn’t need to look up heart disease, liver disease, ovarian cysts, deformed children, blind children."
This graph reminds me of one of those movies where the denouement involves a villain holding a gun on the hero, but before he shoots, giving a long explanation as to why he's going to shoot, long enough that the hero has a chance to get away, which the ending of "East Wind" does, in a metaphor about burned-down beach huts that I think is supposed to say, just when you think middle-aged can't get worse, it does, but does not.
I tried to just now read the Times Sunday Magazine cover story by Emily Gould, late of Gawker, entitled, Blog-Post Confidential: What I Gained - and Lost - by Revealing my Intimate Life on the Web, but [sigh] I simply could not stay with it. This could be because I am too solipsistic to read about Gould's solipsism [or not], but I choose to think it might be an age thing, my being nearly 20 years older, whereas, I know, because he and I were in the same grade school class for eight years, I am exactly the same age as Daniel Bergner, who wrote the feature that follows, The Sergeant [Lost] Within, about the traumatic brain injury suffered and infinitesimal yet sure recovery by Sgt. Shurvon Phillips, a piece that combines humanity and politics and science and the dedication of several remarkable people, led by Shuvron's indefatigable mother Gail, who describes what it was like to see her son, post the explosion beneath his Humvee in Anbar Province, for the first time.
In the explosion’s aftermath, Shurvon was airlifted to the American military’s hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and then to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where Gail saw him for the first time since he was sent to war a few months before. By that point a portion of the left side of his skull had been cut away to relieve the pressure of the casing of bone against his swelling brain. “His head,” she told me, “looked like a ball with the air half out of it.” She was confronted, too, with a CT scan taken by the hospital. “I didn’t do much biology, but I’m thinking, That’s not a brain I’m looking at,” she said, describing her reaction. “Everyone has a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere, but this didn’t look like that. Do you remember Play-Doh? When children play with Play-Doh” — she slammed her palms together to demonstrate — “it’s just a gray blob. That was Shurvon’s brain.”
This is a remarkable and honest piece of work, one I truly wish I'd written. Bravo, Danny.
Someone as deeply brilliant and considered as Samantha Power calls Clinton "a monster" and is excoriated, resigns her post with the Obama campaign; agonizes and apologizes if (to my mind) too many times, and gets on with the work of doing what, imo, is trenchant writing on extremely difficult subjects.
Then there's FOX talking head Liz Trotta. Please discuss, as words currently fail me.
When pitched the softball opportunity, Trotta (cough) apologizes.
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Williams, recently back from a year in Korea and about to be redeployed to Iraq, explains what it's like to leave, and return to, and get ready to leave again, her three-year-old daughter.
"When I came home, she seemed to be in shock. She ran to me, but she just kept staring at me like she couldn't believe it. And [she] kept looking at everyone like, 'She's supposed to be in the computer.' "...
Williams says that as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, military women have developed an unofficial support network, swapping tips for helping their young children.
For example, some women have suggested she regularly wear a specific perfume or scented lotion "so that they connect that smell with you."
"And if you leave it at home, when they get really lonesome, they smell it and it makes them feel better," she says.
Then Williams brings up the unthinkable: If something happens in Iraq and she doesn't make it home, she says that fragrance will leave her little girl Reilly with a tangible memory of her mom.
Peggy Noonon in the WSJ, on Hillary's contention she's being kneecapped by sexism. [Deep sigh.] A big snip:
It is insulting, because it asserts that those who supported someone else this year were driven by low prejudice and mindless bias.
It is manipulative, because it asserts that if you want to be understood, both within the community and in the larger brotherhood of man, to be wholly without bias and prejudice, you must support Mrs. Clinton...
It is blame-gaming, whining, a way of not taking responsibility, of not seeing your flaws and addressing them. You want to say "Girl, butch up, you are playing in the leagues, they get bruised in the leagues, they break each other's bones, they like to hit you low and hear the crack, it's like that for the boys and for the girls.
And because the charge of sexism is all of the above, it is, ultimately, undermining of the position of women. Or rather it would be if its source were not someone broadly understood by friend and foe alike to be willing to say anything to gain advantage.
Nice to know that, on the same day, we get a bit of an antidote.
I've been referencing the below cartoon all week, but I do think the RFK assassination comment is it for Hillary Clinton. It's gotta be.
Earlier this week, I was explaining to Tafv, who was asking what superdelegates were and why Clinton thought she'd get their votes, that while Clinton might believe she and her husband have a whole lotta collateral in that bank, they also have a lot of enemies, and both because they are so very adept at playing politics. In that arena, they are American superstars. But for the life of me, I cannot understand how she can use the specter of assassination to support her decision to stay in the race. As one of my baristas said this morning, "She's essentially dusting off the possibility -- why would she do this?" Why, indeed. I read the following aloud to the both girls on shift, from this morning's Times:
Still, [Clinton's] comments touched on one of the most sensitive aspects of the current presidential campaign — concern for Mr. Obama’s safety. And they come as Democrats have been talking increasingly of an Obama/Clinton ticket, with friends of the Clintons saying that Bill Clinton is musing about the possibility that the vice presidency might be his wife’s best path to the presidency if she loses the nomination.
As I did, I heard the girls gasp in unison, and when I looked up, their eyes were wide and they were shaking their heads, which made me reread the paragraph.
The Times, which months ago threw their endorsement to Clinton, came out today saying, "We have no idea what, exactly, Hillary Clinton was thinking when she referred to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in explaining her decision to keep on campaigning" and went on to cite her later "apology" as:
[O]ne of those tedious non-apology apologies in which it sounds like the person who is being offended is somehow at fault: “I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.”
The editorial goes on to call Clinton's words "inexcusable." Times readers are calling for the paper to rescind their endorsement. I'll give the last word on this to my barista, Pamela. "Okay, so you have a few sickos in this country who would actual entertain the idea of assassination, and why in the world would she, with all the power she has on this giant stage, start inserting this idea into the conversation? It's unconscionable."
"Langewiesche does the kind of old-fashioned, in-depth reporting that is rare today — supported, of course, by the kind of old-fashioned magazine expense account that is even rarer. His work is proof that if you fund excellent journalists well, allow them to write high-quality, lengthy work, it will win awards and sell magazines."
Langewiesche does what he does incredibly well (for more on how, see last year's Mediabistro interview here.) His timing is also dead-on. When he and I met last year, he was on his way to China. Can you think of a better place to currently be reporting from?
Kate Coe paid me a large compliment, also on Mediabistro, a few months ago when she wrote, "Nancy Rommelmann, who really is where she should be all the time." More recently, Michael Totten and I met with a 22-year-old writer who wants to report from the Middle East, and so we told him, "Go." Without an assignment, he wondered? Yeah, yeah, yeah, just go; we'll hook you up, but it was more important that he be on the ground. He had to put himself in the position to work, and to know what the hell he was writing about, and why.
I recall walking up Broadway with Langewiesche last May, and him asking, why did I not report more often from abroad? What was stopping me? Nothing, I said, except mothering; I could leave for a week or two, but essentially, the gig of raising my kid was mine, at which he put his hand on his heart and nodded; of course.
Last week I was told I won an SPJ award for "Sacrificing Rebecca," a story that ran locally. That's fine. But my daughter just got her driver's license. I bought her a car. She starts college in the fall. I'm off. Here's to the funds keeping tandem.
How's that for an ecumenical hede? Last, first: for reasons that do not bear going into, I don't often go out to the movies and thus usually see films pretty late, most recently in the, ahem, new home theater/den Din built for us in the basement. Last night, we watched There Will Be Blood. I'd been told about Daniel Day Lewis's performance, but, my god. We should all attack what it is we do with the ferocity with which he took on this role. It's gotten under my skin, the hatred but also, what he did with the silences, what you knew he was thinking and rethinking. I can never be sure whether this is intentional; whether the director and actor thought, now, if the audience is paying attention, they will know that this pause is indicating he's wondering why he hasn't let Eli lay hands upon the boy. But it doesn't matter, does it?
My buddy Michael Totten has been in Kosovo. I've been working on a novel and editing someone else's book, and have been incredibly remiss in catching up with him via his award-winning blog. Thankfully, I'm on his list (you can be, too) and now know about two new pieces he has, one in Commentary magazine, a short piece on what he calls "Lebanon's grim future," and a longer review in City Journal on fellow Mideast blogger Michael's Yon's Moment of Truth in Iraq.
Barack Obama opened his stop today here in Portland with the words, "Wow. Wow. Wow," and went on to say, he's been campaigning for fifteen months; seen hundreds of thousands of people, but nothing quite like the size of, and in such a beautiful setting as, today's rally. I thought it was political rhetoric. Apparently not.
If I tried hard, I could probably find my daughter and myself in this photo. We weren't that far back, and when Obama finished his speech -- content (imo): 55%; impact on crowd: 85% -- we pushed up in order that she might shake his hand. She recently turned 18, it's her first time voting in a presidential election, and she is completely devoted to Obama; has said to me, more than once, "Mom, do you realize what an historic election this is?" I don't rain on her parade. I tell her my opinions and let her have hers. It's actually a gas to watch and listen to her, regardless of how much or little I believe in the process.
With a primary that falls on May 20, I remember the foregone disappointment a year ago from the locals, knowing they'd have no real say in said such historic primary. That they will have a perhaps pivotal say no doubt contributed to today's numbers.
In the past month, I've had four young writers contact me about their work, how to get started, how to write better. I've answered them all, and nearly to a person, they've impressed me in how focused they are; how with just a little guidance, they can get themselves going in the right directions. This, though I tell them there are no secrets: do the best work you can; get it in on time, be brave enough to tell the truth as you've found it, this includes when you're writing fiction. Always assume the reader is smarter than you. And don't betray or short change your characters because you're weak or selfish or tired or because you're in love with the sound of your own voice. If you don't care about your characters, you're not going to be able to able to write about them very well. For a shining example of a writer who knows who to do it right, and who was also gracious enough to send me an email when he found out how crazy I am about his work, is Don Pollack's and his book of stories, Knockemstiff.
Then there's James Frey, about whom I said what I thought were fairly nice things in the previous post. I'd like to take them nearly all back. I might get rather excited here as to why, but it's only 7:30 in the morning and already 92 degrees outside, so why waste the energy, when he can just tell you himself, when describing what he sees as his legacy:
"The enduring myth of the American memoir as a precise form is bullshit and needed to go away," he says. "...If I started the process of ending that myth, I'm perfectly fine with it."
Putting this all in context, and brilliantly, is Adam Kirsch, in James Frey's Cosmopolis of Lies.
"Who made that noise?"
"It was Nancy."
The above conversation between two baristas at Ristretto, after I'd given a gleeful little yip, seeing that the entire top half of yesterday's Arts page in the Times was taken up with a photo of James Frey, which let me know that nice things were about to be written about his new novel, Bright Shiny Morning.
I have not, in the past, been kind to Frey; I once wrote a blog post about his A Million Little Pieces debacle that, I believe, contained the word "pussy." In the title. I watched Oprah for the second and last time the day he was grilled, and considered it some of the most riveting television I'd seen. Did this man take his lumps? Boy, did he.
As it turns out, and as was always known, Frey had a whole lot of help passing AMLP off as a memoir rather than the novel he'd written; even more help than we knew. Though what got in my craw about the whole affair was that I thought the book was bad, it was just bad writing. It pissed me off that yet another not-very-good-book was being ululated over by the mid-lit crowd.
Bright Shiny Morning is, according to Times reviewer Janet Maslin (whom I trust, because her sense of smell is a whole lot better than Kakutani's), a sprawling, tender, bloody, real book about Los Angeles, one in which the author is more concerned with the redemption of his characters than himself, as it must be. Here's the kicker:
So the Bright Shiny Morning guy did it differently. He let the little vignette play out against a big, gaudy, dangerous Southern California backdrop, full of drug-dealing gang-bangers, full of schemers, phonies, rich with a history of robber barons, all of it listed here, all of it stacking the deck against any generosity of spirit. The son steals the maid’s virtue? Been there, read that. They plot against the old lady? Been there too. This novelist wanted something else for Esperanza: he wanted to honor her, fall in love with her, do it with startling sincerity. He wanted to save her.
And it worked.
That’s how James Frey saved himself.
I really commend this guy. He stood up, got back in the ring, and apparently, has knocked us out.
Though apparently not all of us: David Ulin at the LA Times writes that BSM is "a terrible book. One of the worst I've ever read and HarperCollins' ponying up 1.5 million for it, "yet another symbol of a book industry in crisis, with publishers grasping at whatever straws they can to manufacture buzz."
Fascinating. And on that note I'll mention, if a bit prematurely, my novel about Los Angeles, for which HarperCollins did not pay me $1.5 million, and which will be available soon.
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there, and to your moms. We don't make a big deal out of this stuff in our house, but am I touched to see the spider orchids and card from my darling daughter awaiting me on my desk? I am. Was I happy to chat with my own mom just now? Of course. And was it sweet to today receive five mother's day emails from friends new and old, one addressed to "Nancy Mommelmann"? Yes, it was.
Mostly, I was moved today by what I read from a stranger, or rather, a colleague whom I find myself admiring more and more as the years go by. Caitlin Flanagan's Dial M for Mother, an Op-Ed in today's Times, had me both tearing up and laughing out loud at the same time. Here's a snip:
You spend your entire adolescence and much of your adulthood trying to shake her, trying to be a grown-up, a smooth operator, but you keep blowing it, and the person you call out for — like a toddler shrieking in a playpen, or a soldier dying in a ditch — is Mom. She co-signs your car notes and wires you cash, she takes in the dog you should never have adopted, pays for your wedding and then keeps up your spirits during the divorce.
Your vision of your adult life with your mother is one of spoiling her, of being so successful in your endeavors that you are able to cradle her in comfort and luxury, and that your visits will be demonstrations of largess and tenderness, the car trunk opening to reveal some expensive new kitchen appliance or extravagant winter coat. Instead, you get some frightening news from a doctor, and the first person you call — because making her weep with fear and grief seems like the one thing that might cheer you up — is Mom.
True, true; all true. Flanagan also bangs it home with one of the most succinct and crushing last lines ever. I thank her for it.
Images: Mary Cassatt, "Breakfast in Bed."
Martine Franck / Magnum Photos - for more mom photos, click here.
I ran into the NY Times' Frank Rich at an event about a month ago, and while I only exchanged pleasantries with him, I did spend a nice amount of time chatting with his wife, columnist Alex Witchel. It was a charged conversation, with the usual journo complaints, a bit of name-gaming; the startling realization that one of her and Rich's dearest friends, a former NY Timesman who'd moved some years earlier to the LA Times, was near-universally loathed in the West Coast newsroom, a position from which he'd just been fired. We seemed also to have opposing opinions about Laura Albert, someone I'd recently written a long feature about, and with whom a year earlier Rich's son had conducted an in-depth if decidedly softer Q & A. I left the conversation thinking, I'm glad to be in the same arena with these people, even when our opinions radically differ.
In this week's New York Review of Books, Rich has a spectacular piece, one in deep alignment with what I believe is the job of a journalist, or rather, the sort of journalism I trust and hope I write, "by injecting strong subjective voices, self-reflection, opinion, and most of all, good writing that animate[s] current events and the characters who populate them."
The article, How to Cover an Election, is about Norman Mailer's covering of the 1968 Democratic and Republication conventions for Harper's magazine. Here's a long clip from Rich's piece:
As a narrative of the summer's actual political events it is both compactly comprehensive and dead-on, often hilariously so. And not just when serving up Richard Nixon. Mailer's Dickensian portraiture revivifies even the half-remembered. Eugene McCarthy seemed less a presidential prospect than "the dean of the finest English department in the land." John Connally boasted "a thin-lipped Texas grin, a confident grin—it spoke of teeth which knew how far they could bite into every bone, pie, nipple or tit." Hubert Humphrey employed "a formal slovenliness of syntax which enabled him to shunt phrases back and forth like a switchman who locates a freight car by moving everything in the yard." Mayor Richard Daley looked at his worst "like a vastly robust peasant woman with a dirty gray silk wig" and at his best "respectable enough to be coach of the Chicago Bears."
By taking the time to look, and think, Rich notes that Mailer also had the ability to see, including where the parties were going:
"We will be fighting for forty years," [Mailer] suggests. Perhaps he thought that was hyperbole at the time, but we now know it was portent.
Mailer also knew where journalism was headed. The politicians, he noticed, "rushed forward to TV men, and shouldered note-pads aside." When he misses an exciting night on the convention floor, he consoles himself "with the sad knowledge that he could cover it better on television than if he had been there." He predicts that "soon they would hold conventions in TV studios."
Rich concludes that this sort of coverage has shrunk to the size of a peanut; that "occasionally a fresh voice breaks through—Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone
in 2008—but much of what passes for political reportage now in print,
whether on paper or on a Web site, succumbs to the same kind of
small-bore pack mentality that Mailer set out to vanquish."
I agree with everything Rich writes here. The liberty to get paid to publish not merely this kind of writing but this kind of thinking, shrinks by the day, at least in the dead-tree publications. At a magazine for which I recently wrote, the editors sang a choral ode to my wonderful "voice," then -- through edit and top-edit and copy-edit -- denuded the piece of anything five degrees east or west of center, and then, just to make sure no one in the known or unknown universe could take offense or become confused, rolled the whole in the editorial equivalent of confectioner's sugar. I have a choice, and won't write for them again. But what about the choice in what we read?
In the comments, please tell me where you read trenchant, well-written, topical work. I'll start it off: Reason magazine and the Atlantic.
Here's my version of what's become the anthem of Portland chefs: "Sustainable, Sustainable, Local, Organic, Sustainable." Now, taking it to operatic levels, is alpha-chef Gordon Ramsay, who's proposed fining chefs who use out-of-season produce. This, despite his restaurants serving whatever the damn well they want in any season. It's really disgusting, and proves to me, for the 800 billionth time, what a fetish people really have, how they really just love the taste of the jackboot.
You want to grow locally and use it? I think that's fantastic. I love a beautiful red ripe strawberry in July, full of sweetness and juice. But you know what? If I want to eat one in January, grown somewhere in the Southern hemisphere, and some chef wants to serve it to me, then you better just get the hell out of my way.
Jay Rayner in the Observer makes a good point about the laziness of chefs that don't even bother to consider the seasons' bounties, a point I for the most part agree with: nature gives you a certain palette, and a chef worth his or her salt is going to explore the ways it can be used. But legislating which ingredients he or she uses? This is called fascism, and Rayner points out that the last time this was actually put into effect was in the Soviet Union, which "introduced a state cook book and anybody who, like me, has had the misfortune to eat in Moscow recently will know exactly what lasting damage that did to the progress of gastronomy. You can have whatever you like there as long as it's a dumpling or a pickled cucumber."
To Ramsay and his ilk I say, get the hell out of my mouth. As for his contentions that legislating what we eat is good for our souls and the Earth, as well as a righteous and uplifting step toward helping the world's farmers -- we might cue up some Bono here -- I'll give Rayner the last word:
The sudden rise of a food Taliban insisting that the door should now be slammed shut serves no one. I would also be curious to know who will be volunteering to pop over to see the farmers of Kenya, hard-working people who have been able to make a good living supplying us with out-of-season mangetout, green beans and, yes, strawberries and tell them the party is over because the British middle classes have concluded it's so awfully not the done thing?
I realize about 30 million people have already viewed this video, but in case you're not amongst them. In addition to the nearly jaw-dropping action of water buffalo v. lion v. crocodile v. more water buffaloes, you get the Pythonesque commentary in the bg. Really cool.
I'm pretty cynical, in general, about all politics. I find them interesting, certainly, but I believe nearly none of what I hear, tending instead to see how what the party or person is saying fits into the picture we don't see. I am surely not alone in this.
Last night, my 18-year-old daughter -- a huge Obama fan who will be voting in her first presidential primary this month -- and I visited my 72-year-old father, in his new condo here in Portland. I was hooking up his internet for him, she was showing him how to retrieve his cell phone messages, while on the flat-screen TV my husband had set up, came Obama, giving his victory speech on North Carolina. One by one -- my daughter first, then my father, then me -- stopped what we were doing to watch the speech, and damn if at one point I did not have tears in my eyes, which shocks me but does not shame me. I think what it was, besides his real gift as an orator, was his grace, and his talk about how politics plays on fear, plays on division, and sure, this seems expedient to those who perpetrate it, but it's bullshit. I've heard a lot of speeches, but I have never heard one quite like this.