Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sushi Success!

Tom and I have decided that it's often more fun to stay home and cook then to go out. This also helps to save money. We've had wonderful adventures with Irish food (Guinness Pie) and Hungarian (Chicken Parikash and homemade spoetzel) and two exciting experiences with sushi. We inevitably make too much and get sick just from the sheer volume of food eaten, but we are incredibly proud of ourselves. From the first adventure:

Notice the awesome tempura! We tempura fried shrimp and asparagus. Some of the shrimp ended up in rolls. We also bought fantastic tuna at the farmer's market, as well as asparagus (raw in the rolls), avocado and cucumbers, as well as sesame seeds to roll outside the rice. The real coup was the farm fresh cream cheese we bought. I never knew what a difference there was between the real deal and what you get in the grocery store. There is no comparison. And it was only $1.50 for a huge brick!

The green plates are Tom's, but the black are all mine. I finally got to break open the awesome sushi set that my Mom bought me for a Christmas long ago. The second time we made sushi, Lynn was able to join us, which was really just an excuse to make more food.

This time we did tuna and salmon. For some reason, Lynn is a freak who doesn't like shrimp. For shame, woman, for shame. Still, everything was fantastic. We've also learned a lot about how to make the rice and cut the fish, as well as some fun facts about sushi etiquette. How about an action shot?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

King Papers (and Me!) in the News

I'm actually well-quoted in this story about the King Papers and the city of Montgomery. Still waiting for a video link, but this is a transcription.

(Like always, I have jacked that photo off the Internet. Stolen from SCI Social Capital Inc., which seems to be a good organization full of well-meaning people. Seriously, they are all about improving our communities, so they probably won't sue for me taking their MLK image off their site. Holla!)

UPDATE: The video link is on the page and I look ghastly! In my defense, I rolled out of the rack and straight into my car to get to work that day. No make-up, no shower. Since I can't be pretty, at least I sound smart.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Really Georgia, really?

It snowed all day today. I had to have a stranger help me push my truck when I got stuck in Lynn's parking lot. Because driving was so crappy, I ended up walking a bunch of places and I realized that I have no clothes for this weather. I feel like everything I own (including me) is damp and cold. The snow mostly stuck, and if it's still there tomorrow morning, it means that AUC will close and I don't have to work. Snow day!

As of this writing, it looks like a lot of the snow has already melted. Yesterday, it was 64 and I had all of my windows open. I walked somewhere and had to take off my jacket because it was too hot. This is the parking lot of my apartment building. My place is actually on the right. I love it, but in this weather the parking lot is ridiculous to navigate.

This is why a truck is a pain in the ass in the snow. All it is is empty space that collects weight. That's about two inches of snow by 4 o'clock today. And I'd been out and about most of the late morning/early afternoon, so it's not as much as actually fell.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book 11: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I am having some fundamental problems with the Cannonball Read. One, I keep accidentally reading books that are under 200 pages, and therefore do not qualify. Two, I am lazy and keep not postin reviews. I have several in the queue that I will try and put up more regularly. Three, is that when I am not reading books that are under 200 pages, I am reading books that are over 500, and they take a minute to finish, especially when you read two or three of them at once.

But the hardest problem for me has been that I am an inveterate re-reader. I constantly have the overwhelming urge to reread books in between new books; it's a palate cleanser for the brain. For instance, after reading The White Tiger, I caught the last 30 minutes of The Godfather on TV and then spent four days rereading the vastly superior novel. I can't help myself. Other rereading favorites are anything by Clive Barker, Moby Dick, Chandler and Hammett, Prisco's loathed The Hellfire Club and, for an unknown reason, 9 1/2 Weeks. Sue me.

Since adding my anme to the ranks of the Cannonballers, I've reread at least 10 books, and am knee-deep in whale blubber and revenge fantasies as we speak. Luckily, the hunt for the white whale is easily left and returned too; that's one of the reasons that I love it. True story: in 10th grade I wona prize for writing a paper about homosexuality in Moby Dick. Melville didn't title a chapter "Squeezing Sperm" for nothing.

As for The White Tiger, it's fucking great. The titular character, also known as Balram Halwai and Munna, is an entrpreneur in Bangalore. After hearing that the Premier of China is coming to India to discuss industry, he feels the need to write His Excellency and tell not only the truth about his own nefarious past as well as the truth of India's present, which can be summed up in one recurring phrase, "What a fucking joke."

Balram's story is an easy one: he is born in a small, crappy town into a large, crappy family. His education, where he actually shows promise and earns the nickname "white tiger", is cut short so that he can work. When his older brother is sent to Delhi to earn enough for a wedding, Balram goes along and begs his way into driving lessons. Eventually he is hired as a driver for a wealthy and important family with roots in his own home town. Balram soon becomes the driver for one of the sons of the family, who has been Westernized by years spent in America, and even has a gauche, Christian wife. Balram loves and despises his master; he is old-school Indian and can't understand when his master rejects the fealty that Balram demonstrates, including a willingness to confess to a killing committed by his master's wife. Soon after this event, the wife leaves, the husband spirals into self-loathing, and Balram eventually murders him for money and a new chance at life in Bangalore.

Balram does this because he knows that his master and his family are corupt. They bribe government officials so that they can continue to exploit the natural resources and people of Indian. Corruption is somehting that all Indians seem to be familiar with and to accept as an everyday part of life. What separates Balram is that he questions why he should not be in the rank of the corrupt, rather than serving at their feet. He sees his chance and takes it, despite knowing that if he is caught, he will die, and that no matter what happens to him, his family will likely be tortured for information that they do not have.

Balram is pretty much a monster, but he's a funny monster. Humor is really what elevates the novel from being another poor-man-driven-to-crime story, into a scathing criticism of Indian government, society, and Hindu religion from the perspective of an equally corrupt, but imminently likeable narrator. Balram may be a bastard, but he is loveable. Passing a sign in Bangalore, he reads:


I held my hands off the wheel and held them wider than an elephant's cock.

'That big, sister-fucker!'"

Now, what's not to love?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You look so good, I raw you hoe.

As in, "What we need a rubber for?" Surely, this is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Book 10: Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss

Do not trust this man.

I can't imagine a time when people believed that Jeffrey MacDonald didn't kill his wife and children. In ealry 1970 Fort Bragg military personnel answered an emergency call at the home of Dr. MacDonald, a Green Beret surgeon. The MPs found an injured MacDonald and three corpses. His pregnant wife and two daughters, 5 and 2, had all been bludgeoned and stabbed multiple times. MacDonald's injuries were not life-threatening.

MacDonald claimed that four "hippies" had broken in, attacked him, and killed his family. "Pigs" was written in blood on the headboard of his bed. Only 6 months after the Manson family murders of Sharon Tate and her friends, MacDonald's story threw Fort Bragg and the neighboring community of Fayetville into a panic that lasted months. The investigation of the physical evidence was seriously bungled by military investigators and it took another 6 months for the team handling the case to look at MacDonald as a suspect.

Nearly a decade after their deaths MacDonald hired journalist Joe McGinniss to chronicle his murder trial, as well as his life up to that point. With complete access to MacDonald, the closed courtroom trial and all of the documents of the defense, McGinniss quickly became convinced that the well-respected doctor was guilty.

Fatal Vision is a chilling read not only because McGinniss is brilliant at building tension, but also because MacDonald is so clearly guilty. It was only about 30 pages in that I thought "That motherfucker killed them." The physical evidence is staggering, but MacDonald dug his own grave by being, in turn, cold, violent, sarcastic andso egomanical that it's hard to believe that he wasn't a suspect from Day One.

It is sobering to read an account of a crime committed before DNA testing and the explosion of forensic science in American popular culture. I cringed at the mistakes made by investigators; a single episode of CSI has taught me enough to know that 20 people should not run in and out of a crime scene, that garbage should not be taken away, and that investigative personnel should not be using the phone or the toilet inside a house full of physical evidence.

With hindsight, MacDonald's story was completely ridiculous. I do understand that it would have been a lot easier for people, especially for military personnel, to believe in roving bands of murderous hippies, in 1970. Now we know enough about the drug culutre of that era to realize that the Manson family murders owed much more the Manson's personal magnetism and control over weak minds, not to drug use. The LSD counterculture (MacDonald claimed that the assailants chanted "Acid id groovy") is practically quaint in the spectre of the heroin and crack industries.

MacDonald, serving threee life sentences, refuses to waver from his story. He has always manitained his innocence, and his continuing self-promotion is disgusting. McGinniss was a clever enough writer to let MacDonald hang himself in the book, by interspersing long passages of transcripted stories from MacDonald, with accounts of the crime and subsequent trials. MacDonald comes off as a sociopath and liar, hundreds of pages before court testimony, letters and diaries reveal that even his accounts of dating in high school are almost completely ficticious. All of MacDonald's stories reveal a sad need to always cast himself as a hero living a life full of challanges that he ably meets. He's a classic egomaniac.

MacDonald was convicted without the help of Fatal Vision; he specifically hired McGinniss to make him look good. Although McGinniss had insisted on editorial priviledge before contracting with MacDonald, he did not tell anyone on the defense that he was convinced MacDonald was guilty. He let them believe, for years, that he was working to clear MacDonald's name; he did this so that his access to the convict and all documents would be continued until the book was finished. After it's publication, MacDonald sued for fraud and after a mistrial and the threat of another law suit McGinniss settled out of court. This relationship is popularly cited as a case of journalistic malfeasance, as exploitative as Capote and Perry Smith.

Frankly, I don't care that McGinniss crossed the line with Jeffrey MacDonald. All I care about is that after years of appeals that went all the way to the Supreme Court, MacDonald remains in prison. It's clear that he committed a terrible crime out of anger, but also clear that his is a kind set to snap at any moment. We are all safer with him behind bars. As for McGinniss, his talent trumps the ethical question. We learn, as he learned, that MacDonald is a monster, and he deserves whatever life prison has to offer him.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Truck bought; Sausage adopted

Over Christmas I bought myself a new truck. Observe,

I'm not positive it was the smartest move, financially speaking, but it is so nice to walk out of my house, put a key in the ignition of a vehicle and actually have it turn over. It's been a long time since I had a car that I could rely on and it feels amazing. Of course, I branded it right way...

About a week into January, I adopted a cat from our intern, Karen. She had taken her in off of the street, but found that she couldn't take care of her long-term. They were calling her "DC" for "Damn Cat". I decided that "Dixie" was close enough.

She's mean as Hell and fat as a little sausage, but sweet too, in that way that cats have of being wonderful companions, yet total dicks at the same time. In fact, right now she is sitting next to me on the couch, watching Homicide while I update my blog. I just tried to pet her and she clawed the shit out of me. The world is normal again.