Saturday, May 24, 2003

I'm watching a show called "Chef on a Shoestring".
Based on it, I have come up with the first installment of Clay Sail's Rules for Yuppie Cooking Shows:

1. Always use the most obscure form of vinegar you can find. Cider vinegar is out. Red Wine vinegar is out. Balsamic vinegar is last century. Use sherry vinegar. Use port vinegar. Use plum vinegar.

2. Specialty lettuce is key. Use the most unpronouncable French roadside weed possible -- you know the kind that costs more per ounce than cocaine -- shred it and serve it in a tiny ice cream scooper with 37 step homemade salad dressing. Voila. Salad.

3. Make sure that you garnish each dish with at least two pieces of jumbo shrimp. Shrimp makes all food instant gourmet. Be ware of overdoing your garnish -- two pieces is maximum for a garnish, three pieces is a meal.

4. If you are going to make something as mundane as rhubarb pudding for desert, make sure you call it "soup." Make sure it has mint leaves in it to remind your guests that "soup" does not mean "soup" like chicken soup or beef soup, but it means watery pudding.

5. When applying anything like chocolate sauce or raspberry syrup, make sure that only one or two thin stripes of it actually touch the desert: the rest should be zigzagged on the plate to simulate the wild passion of gourmet cooking.

6. Its ok for young, urban white males to be cooks. But they must act as feminine as possible. If masculinity is displayed at all, the chef must be careful that they are only fixing a dish like Carolina Bar-B-Cue (translation: fatty pork, gallons of vinegary barbecue sauce, no need for a barbecue) or beans. In either case, they must either have a cajun accent or be dark-skinned.

7. $58.00 is considered "shoestring" for a home cooked meal.

I saw Matrix Reloaded with my cousin the other day. I had an excuse: even though I am a self-indulgent, pseudo-yuppie elite who knows better, my cousin is a teenager. He was out on the East Coast on a school trip and we had a few hours to kill. He's to young to get beers and he's all "monumented out" after seeing Plymouth Rock, Bunker Hill, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Washington/Lincoln/Jefferson/FDR memorials, Iwo Jima/Vietnam/Korea memorials, Gettysburg, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress etc.

Anyway, the movie was pretty good. Sure, it wasn't as "tight" as the first one, meaning its religiosity was a bit over the top and the usual fantasy/prophecy schtick that conventional sci-fi can never seem to get away from got a bit stanky, but there were solid moments. The tension between free will and predestination based on the most logical choice is cool. I would wax about the various possibilities for the third Matrix movie coming out, but that might spoil it for you. In brief: Neo is some kind of human/machine hybrid, and there there is a matrix within the matrix. That's what I think.

There was an amazing "kiss" scene which was completely gimicky, but it was definitely sexy. Kisses in movies used to be a proxy for sex, then kisses became just an obstacle on the way to sex, which was itself a proxy for intimacy. The kiss scene in the Matrix brings kissing back in its own intimate glory: two human beings pressing their slavering, food encrusted, bacteria engorged pie-holes together and sighing.

I didn't like the kung fu fight scene against the Agent Smiths. It looked like a video game. Even if someone could justifying it by saying "well, it WAS occuring in a digital world" I would say digital animators need to relegate computers to backgrounds -- computers are not ready to replace human beings yet.

The love theme in the movie is pure cheese, too. Its straight out of the Fifth Element, which was itself derivative. Yeah, we know that love is what makes human beings different from machines. Of course, the Oracle throws that into some doubt, but...wait...I'm rambling about a geeky movie that was pretty good but not great. Sorry.

I'll go back to my cave now.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

For my next subject I was going to treat the following fun-filled subject: Why Matrix-Mania is Really Just Another Manifestation of Consumer Corporativist Fascism Targeted At Self-Indulgent Yuppie Elites Who Should Know Better.

But that pretty much says it all. Besides, there is no guarantee I won't be seeing it (and enjoying myself, irony-free). Who can resist seeing another permutation of Tron but with the superior acting ability of Keanu Reeves? Who can resist so many leather jackets and ray-ban sunglasses streaking past on motorbykes to a post-industrial heavy metal soundtrack? Why are we so fascinated with dystopian fantasy? We're children of the suburbs. We're spoiled rotten. Why, just a minute ago I went to the cupboard and found a 4.8 lb can of CASHEWS and a six pac of A&W root beer.

Am I in heaven, or what?

To my left on the table is a bottle of French Madera oddly themed after "Heart of Darkness". (If that's not a non-sequeter tie-in I don't know what it is, but hey, when the French invented the beret, they also invented the absurd)
To my left on the table are two bags of opened goldfish crackers (original and cheddar), and the remains of a giant cookie cake.
In the kitchen I find the following sundries, suitable for consumption in the very real possibility that SARS turns out to be a worldwide mega-plague:
2 cans of 7-up.
3 cans of root beer.
A pack of Twizzlers.
A giant box of Quaker chocolate chunk granola bars.
A giant box of Quaker banana nut granola bars.
Life Cereal.
A giant box of Easy Mac.
Most of an ice cream cake.
Fruit loops.
Ruffles plain potato chips.
An open bag of marshmallows.
Nabisco chocolate graham cracker cookies.
Honey Maid "Honey Sticks" graham cracker sticks.
A family pack of Bubiliscious gum (tropical fruit).
A bag of York peppermint patties.
Nutty Bars.
Bran Flakes.
Instant Oatmeal.
Starburst jelly beans.
Unshelled Peanuts.
Beef broth.
Bean and Bacon soup.
Canned Stir Fry mix.
Campbell's Super Bakes, Jumb-O size
Chocolate Jello.
Strawberry Jello.
Frozen steak in a box.
Frozen Pizza Bits.
Instant Rice.
2 cans of Vanilla coke.
Jif peanut butter.


Wow. This is quite a storehouse. The healthiest thing I've found so far is ice. This is truly the Great American Pantry. I suspect there is even more at the bottom of this giant can of cashews. Maybe I'll find Keanu Reeves, huddling out of sight of the paparazzi.

So here I am, Thursday May somethingish, with nothing to do in the midday but sing along to Mr. Rogers. I'm babysitting, see. Two 1.5 year old twins -- my nephews. Their mother is up visiting her mother (my mother in law) in the hospital. One cried for his mommy when she left so I bounced a ball off my head until he laughed. They were good and ate their green beans so they got ice cream cake. Now they're off in bed and I'm down here praying that nobody shits their pants. That includes me, of course, but I doubt it will be an issue this late in the morning.

Here's the thing about babies: sure they're cute when they're in good moods. Sure, its cool watching them figure out how to open and close their fists, how to chew with one tooth, how to drag themselves along the floor. But babies are also exceptionally demanding, often terribly boring, and extremely, utterly, insufferably *dirty*. The vast quantities of feceses, snot, drool, vomit, sebum, cradle crud, fungus, sweat, tears, blood and rotten food all stirred around and deposited on absolutely everything in sight (and often eaten) is vile. This is coming from a guy who judges the wearability of his shirts by the presence of coffee stains. This is coming from a guy whose teeth are so yellow they make Big Bird cringe. (Sorry for the Sesamie Street reference -- I *am* babysitting the younguns' right now). Anyway, back to small children:

I definitely love my nephews -- all five of them -- but I don't have that spark that makes me say "I need to have children." Truth is, kids are fine where they are: in other people's houses, doing the things they do to and with other people. I like having my space, having my life. Etc. Am I selfish for not wanting kids? Maybe. But only if you think the unborn deserve life. I think people who have kids are in greater danger of that, though. Overpopulation seems like a boorish abstraction, but check out the teeming slums of Tijuana or the vast decimation of ocean fish species and every new mouth takes on a greater significance. We here in America feel that overpopulation is a problem for people in other countries -- crowded countries. But is a new mouth in America intrinsically less destructive than a new mouth in Manila? Our wealth and ability to feed so many people allows us to keep overpopulation in the realm of things other people are responsible for, but we are equally as guilty. Overpopulation is only my problem if I decide to have kids or munch on spotted owls like popcorn.

So kids: I love 'em when they aren't mine. If I ever do have any, I'm prepared to love them as well and I know I'll learn to overlook their somewhat less endearing qualities.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Graduated Sunday.
Went to Cape May, New Jersey with the folks Monday and Tuesday.
More on that later.
At the moment I am faced with a dilema that all literate bookworms face: to throw away books in order to make room for new ones (and ease the guilt of staring at the spines of all those I never read). Here is the thing:

Do I throw away the book by Brazillian author Bras Cubas that was funny and is the only Brazillian writer whose work I currently own and the only Brazillian writer I've ever heard of and could very likely be the only one I *ever* read? Its just sitting on my shelf for...what exactly? The only other purpose it will serve on my shelf: to brag about how I've read a book by some Brazillian guy that somebody thought was great. But here's the problem:

Who am I supposed to be bragging to? Does anybody care that I got through "A Confederacy of Dunces" or Pat Barker's "The Eye in the Door"? (If you *do* care please let me know 'cuz these books are going along with Cubas, Mencken, Wharton, Barth, Faulkner, Roth and a bunch of others)

How about I try this space-saving tact:

Hey everybody, I've read a lot of great books. Furthermore, I owned a lot more that I haven't read.

There. Does that satisfy the gods of yuppie vainglory?

Can I clear off my shelf now?

Friday, May 09, 2003

Last night I was digging though some of the writing I did in college -- I intend to post some of it when I get a chance. Its typically collegiate -- i.e. a bit less refined than it should be -- but it also has a wildness and an unselfconsciousness that is refreshing. One of the choice tidbits was the following definition:

pyorrhea maniac: n. the irresistable urge to date people with infected gums.

Today, in about 5 minutes, I step away from AU for the last time. I've spent the last two weeks sleeping every other night in order to get my work done (hence no blogging). I managed to get it doen somehow. Its rainy outside and all I have are sad cds in my car. Typical. Nobody's around here to say goodbye to, so I hit the piano in the atrium one last time: the skylights rattled with rain, echoed off of empty bookshelves. I kept the mute and sustain peddles down, played only 7ths and minors in slo-time.

After a quick visit from the folks, it'll be off to job searching and whatever's next.

Signing out from AU,

Clay Sails