Monday, January 31, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Jewish Daughter

It has often been observed, notably by Toby Perlman (the wife of Jewish virtuoso violinist Itzhak) in this article, that the Chinese and the Jews share common values such as education, achievement, and strong ties to family. This has perhaps led to the assumption that the stereotypically Jewish mother is essentially the same thing as the stereotypically Chinese mother.

While I am quite pleased that the Jewish mother no longer solely occupies the "nutcase parent" place of honour in popular culture, this could not be further from the truth. And as I am pleased to report that I have just finished reading Amy Chua's much talked-about book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I feel perfectly equipped to discuss the differences between the two parenting styles. My understanding of "Chinese parenting" is taken from Ms. Chua's description of it.

So here are the differences:

1) Whereas the Chinese mother will not praise her child in public, the Jewish mother does nothing but praise and indeed boast about her child in public. The Jewish mother will frequently moan that she never sees her friends anymore, the reasons for which I will leave to your imagination.

2) The Chinese mother does not believe in over-the-top celebration of her child's achievements. The Jewish mother believes in over-the-top celebration of her child, never mind his achievements. I have often suspected, though of course have never been told, that non-Jews tend to raise their eyebrows at the extravagance of many Bar Mitzvah parties. While these non-Jews see the Bar Mitzvah as a flagrant celebration of the family's means, the Jewish mother sees it as a flagrant celebration of her child for which she need make no explanation or apology.

3) The Chinese mother is unconcerned with her child's happiness, assuming that it will come as a by-product of high achievement. Thus, if the Chinese child does poorly in school, his mother will berate him so that he knows better than to continue to do poorly. Conversely, the Jewish mother is obsessed with her child's happiness and actually considers herself to be his psychologist. Thus, if the Jewish child does poorly in school, his mother will ask him which girl he has a crush on and will wonder aloud whether he might fear large-scale social rejection, experience compulsions, or be inwardly suffering. Later that night, she will check the history on his computer. Obviously, he too knows better than to continue to do poorly.

Amy Chua sees herself as the quintessential Chinese mother, but I disagree. I think Ms. Chua, whose husband incidentally is Jewish, is equal parts Chinese mother and Jewish mother. Yes, she makes her daughter Sophia practice piano for hours and hours every day and threatens her if she puts up a fight, which is very Chinese mother. But then she tells you about the couture gown she bought 14-year-old Sophia for her Carnegie Hall debut, and how she rented a huge van to drive all of Sophia's classmates to watch her perform and planned an elaborate reception for them afterwards in the banquet room of a nearby hotel, and all of this is extremely Jewish mother.

But I guess both types of mothers would go to the ends of the earth for their child's well-being and feel they are experts on that subject, so perhaps the differences between them aren't that great after all.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Picking Up Girls at the Supermarket and More on Being a Pick-Up Artist

Whether or not the supermarket is a good place to pick up girls is apparently a burning question in the minds of one or two of you who have asked me to blog about it. So I would be more than happy to tell you that I do not think the supermarket is a good place to pick up girls. The best thing I can say about it is that it's better than a nightclub, but that's not saying much.

The reason I don't think the supermarket is a good place is because I don't think any place you go to once in a while that doesn't particularly lend itself to interacting with anyone is a good place. If you really want to try picking up a girl you don't know and won't be that embarrassed if she's not into it, I'm sure you don't need me to name a place. The supermarket is fine. So is the park, the library, and Starbucks. Yoga centres tend to have a lot of girls in them. You could try that.

Actually, a yoga centre is probably the place I can think of where you'd be most likely to have some success, especially if you're not a hipster douchebag. You might sort of be a breath of fresh air.

When I wrote my last post about being a pick-up artist and how the techniques described in Neil Strauss' The Game are bogus, a few of you said in your comments that the techniques could a) be helpful to guys who are afraid to approach girls, or b) be used to start off an interaction with some witty banter, which will spark a girl's initial interest. One of you said that even smart and sophisticated women go for witty banter, not just frat boy groupies.

I actually don't know what smart and sophisticated women go for. However, I can tell you what women who fear rejection big time go for, because I am one of those. Women who fear rejection big time go for someone whose interest in them is sincere. If you see a girl in the supermarket whom you think looks rather good from behind, that doesn't mean your interest in her is sincere, and she knows it. If she rejects you, it won't be any great loss to you. That's why the chances she will be receptive to you are small.

If you are afraid to "approach" women whom you don't know from a hole in the ground, it's probably because you have some sense that women aren't really receptive to random chat-ups, no matter how cocky and funny you are. So go out and actually get to know some people organically, so you can develop a sincere interest in one of them. You know what I mean. Join a club. Meet your friends' friends. Actually, my yoga suggestion was a good one. Do that but, you know, regularly and with the same bunch of people.

There's no need to worry about changing the part of yourself that doesn't like to approach random girls so that you can have the pick of the lot. Having the pick of the lot isn't the way romance works. I don't know anything about the way romance works, but I am quite an expert on the myriad of ways it doesn't work.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Being a Pick-Up Artist

I know I'm rather late with this one, since Neil Strauss' now infamous book The Game came out about a thousand years ago. Guess I better get on the Tiger Mom's book before it becomes dreadfully last year. In any case, I have finally read at least part of The Game and feel I can debunk this whole "pick-up artist" business pretty easily, so that's what I'm going to do, passé or not.

For those who don't know, The Game describes the author's experience joining a community of men who read literature and attend seminars on how to pick up women. Some of the techniques associated with this community include "negging," which is putting a girl down in front of her friends so that she feels she needs to win your approval, and being "cocky and funny," which is pretty much like it sounds. As I have just been advised, the author concludes that these techniques are not the key to happiness, but the part I read indicated that there is a fair amount of success associated with using them.

Obviously, I am in no position to test any of these practices myself. However, it seems to me that this is sort of like the male version of a 90s-era women's relationship advice book called The Rules. That book sets out tenets which, if followed, will allegedly get you the relationship of your dreams. The tenets include "don't ever approach a man first," "don't call him first and don't always return his calls," "don't accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday," and the like.

I understand why this type of advice sells. It's because it provides a seemingly easy-to-follow set of guidelines for people who have no real insight as to why their relationships don't succeed. However, here is the problem with The Rules: while there are certainly men who will aggressively pursue a woman even when they are getting nothing more than a totally passive response from her, these men are known in common parlance as "weirdos." So if you really go for weirdos, you might do well with The Rules.


Likewise, if you really go for "frat boy groupies," you might have a lot of success being a pick-up artist. Although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit jealous of how the frat boy groupie's lithe body typically belies her beer-drinking aptitude, I can at least commend myself on knowing there is never any good reason to wear a thong under sweatpants. However, if this is your taste in girls, far be it from me to question you.

If, on the other hand, you want to attract a girl who is not a frat boy groupie, you are in luck because I'm going to tell you how to do it. But be prepared, because what you have to do will probably be far, far more difficult for you than negging or being cocky and funny.



To attract a girl who is not a frat boy groupie, you have to listen to Carole King. And you have to like it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tomato Sauce from Scratch

Unless you are a fairly big-deal cook with a pasta machine, I really can't encourage you to make pasta from scratch. However, I would be pleased to encourage you to make tomato sauce from scratch, because although it sounds like a pain in the ass, it's actually both very easy and very impressive, which means you probably ought to make it.

The reason making tomato sauce from scratch sounds like a pain in the ass is because every other recipe for it that you will ever see besides this one tells you to cook the tomatoes for four hours. Now, I for one know that having tomatoes cooking on the stove while one goes about one's daily routine of abstract websurfing and frenetic checking of email is not a possibility, so I decided to see what happens if you cook the blessed things for only one hour. And you know what happens? It comes out great. I'll grant you that it doesn't look exactly like the stuff that comes out of a jar, but why on earth would you want it to when you made it from scratch?

Anyway, you will need the following:

15 tomatoes (varying sizes is fine)
3 large white onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 fat cloves garlic
1 bunch basil (to your taste)
olive oil
salt and pepper

I know 15 tomatoes is quite a lot, but I assure you that carrying them from the grocery store to wherever you have to carry them to is the very hardest part of doing this recipe. And you don't even have to worry so much about choosing good tomatoes, because slightly mushy ones are fine in tomato sauce.

So. First you're going to peel the tomatoes. Remember when I showed you here how to peel tomatoes? You don't? Good, because that's not how to do it. I started off doing it that way, but quickly realized that slicing the peel off 15 tomatoes with a knife was not going to happen. So I did some research, by which I mean I googled "peel tomatoes fast," and lo and behold, there is a much, much faster way to do it, as follows:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds:


Remove tomatoes to a bowl of cold water that you have conveniently placed in the sink:


A slotted spoon is useful for scooping the tomatoes out of the hot water, but any big spoon will do. When the tomatoes are cool enough to touch, you can peel the skin right off, easy as that. It's actually sort of fun, like peeling glue off your fingers. Actually, you can already see the peel starting to come off the biggest tomato in that picture there.

Once the tomatoes are all peeled, cut them in half and scoop the seeds out, then roughly chop the flesh, which is the part you want. You don't have to chop it up real tiny or anything, just get it into chunks.

When you've done that, chop up the onions, then put them in a big soup pot with some olive oil (twice around the pan will do). Cook the onions over medium heat for 15 minutes, until they're turning golden brown. Add the chopped tomatoes, cover the pot and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer 45 minutes. Once that's done, add the tomato paste (you can increase the quantity of this if you like your sauce a bit more sauce-y), a generous amount of salt and pepper, and the garlic. If you've got a garlic press, press the garlic into the sauce. If not, chop it up small or just toss the cloves in whole. You can add the basil at this stage like I did, or you can wait until the end and use it as garnish, which in my opinion is a bit of nonsense and not very tasty, but will make you seem a very sophisticated gourmet.

Anyway, cover the pot again and simmer another 15 minutes. And that's it! You have succeeded in making tomato sauce from scratch. This recipe makes four portions, but it's probably the perfect amount for two people to have two helpings with some left over.



With respect to serving, I think it's nice to serve the sauce simply, with pasta and some fresh mozzarella, like so:


I know that looks a bit jokes because I used macaroni, but if you were to use fettucini or penne, I think it would be rather elegant. And you really can't invite anyone over and serve them this same thing but with tomato sauce out of a jar. I mean if you do that you might as well show them your dirty underwear.

With tomato sauce from scratch, on the other hand, this is a meal fit for someone whom you think should receive very refined treatment. For example, if you are middle aged, you can make it for your mother-in-law. If you are quarter-aged like I am but have all your shit together, you can make it for a stay-at-home date with your significant other. If you are me, you can conjure up an elaborate fantasy about a stay-at-home date with a very dashing and worthy significant other, then eat all four portions yourself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Treatise on Michelle Williams' Body Fat

While we're on the topic of words, whenever people speak in admiring tones about how "real" actresses like Kate Winslet and Michelle Williams look because they have "body fat," I always feel a little annoyed, because their body fat looks like no other body fat I've ever seen. I've been trying for a really long time to think of the right word to describe what their body fat looks like, and I am feeling rather pleased with myself at this moment because I have finally come up with it.


The word is "pert." Michelle Williams' body fat is more pert than mine. Probably more pert than yours, too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The New Most Awkward Word in the English Language

I asked in my last post whether anyone could come up with a word that is more awkward than "Jewess," which is what I said was the most awkward word in the English language. And I am pleased to say that one of you has done it.

The entries were as follows:

Cool-My-Ardor-Quick Sexual Lingo
"Dangle" and "moistness" were the entries in this category. I definitely see that any authors of erotic literature should never use these words, and can also see how they could be awkward in certain other circumstances. However, I can imagine situations where the awkwardly sexual tone of these words may go unnoticed. For example, there is moistness in the Hawaiian atmosphere. That was a non sequitur but besides that, I know it didn't kill you with its awkwardness or anything. If you weren't letting your imagination wander for a lot longer than you'd have time for in an actual conversation, that is.

Unintuitive Spellings
"Weird" and "solemn" were the entries here. I agree that these words are spelled a little awkwardly, but used in conversation, I would have to say that they're not awkward.

Other Old-Fashioned Slang Racial Terminology
I see where you're going with this, but the thing is, "Jewess" isn't slang. It's a totally legitimate English word. Like "poetess" except, you know, more awkward. The particular example offered in this category was "octoroon," which apparently is a person of one-eighth African ancestry. Once I looked that up on Wikipedia, I had to agree that it would be just as awkward as Jewess if it were as commonly-known a term, but the fact that it isn't sort of detracts from its awkwardness. Know what I mean?

And the Winner
is "niggardly." I literally cannot imagine any situation where it would not be awkward to say that word, and unlike Jewess, I don't see how it could even be used ironically. That's awkward for you.

Thanks to all who participated in this enlightening challenge, and well done.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Most Awkward Word in the English Language

After much deliberation, I have concluded that it's "Jewess," which is what I am. How fitting.

But hey, if you think there's a word that's more awkward than that, leave a comment with what it is. I will be giving a prize, and by prize I mean shout-out on this blog, to anyone who definitively beats the awkwardness of Jewess.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Clubbing

As I said here, something I know about you that you may not even know about yourself is that you don't like lettuce that much. You know what else that's true about besides lettuce? Clubbing.

This may not be the case if you are in your 30s or older, because then you have hopefully reached a stage in life when you and all your friends can finally admit to each other that you don't like clubbing and never did. But if you are a twentysomething such as myself, everyone you know probably wants to go clubbing all the time, even though nobody actually likes it.

I have preemptively compiled a list of factors that some of you may mistakenly think improves the clubbing experience. Here they are:

1) You are with the right people, a.k.a. your friends.
2) The music is good.
3) You've had a few drinks.

I'll respond to these things one at a time, as follows:

1) Even if you are with your very best and most fun friends, there will be a moment that will last far, far too long during which you will be abandoned on the dance floor by said friends while they all go to get a drink at the same time but in disparate locations. When this happens, you will attempt to awkwardly dance beside the individual with whom you have been abandoned on the dance floor, who happens to be the one person who came along that actually isn't your friend and doesn't even like you very much. You can't abandon this non-friend (who won't make eye contact with you and appears to be just as disconcerted by the situation as you are) since then you'd be an asshole because it's just the two of you. This means you will just have to wait for them to be an asshole and do it first, which will surely happen eventually but could take a good five to ten minutes, during which time you will probably conclude that you shouldn't try to go find your real friends because they don't like you very much either. I'm not saying this has happened to me literally every time I've ever gone clubbing but, well, maybe it has.

2) People of all musical tastes agree with the following: Clubbing music is basically never all good. It tends to be a mix of good and bad at best.

3) If you only like something when you're drunk, that means you don't actually like it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another Year and the Ring of Perfection

I talked about the movie Rabbit Hole last week and about how it doesn't have the ring of perfection, which is what I'm calling the sensation you get, like a ring in your gut, when a movie perfectly achieves what it set out to achieve. I want to talk a little more about the ring of perfection, what it is and what it isn't. It probably isn't the feeling you get from the most entertaining movie you've ever seen, or the one that was most enjoyable to watch. I'll be the first to admit I enjoy watching a lot of movies that I know don't have this quality that I'm talking about and actually aren't even any good, and that I often enjoy watching the ones that do have the ring of perfection far less. But the ones that have the ring of perfection are the ones I'm still thinking about days later, because they captured something, some human truth, in a perfect way, and that truth is haunting. A movie has to haunt you to have the ring of perfection.

Another Year is a movie that haunts, and thus achieves the ring of perfection. It's about a happy couple in their 60s and their interactions with their friends and relations, practically all of whom are far less happy. The happy couple seem like nice people but there is something a little sinister in their tendency to befriend miserables, almost as though it is their way of quietly gloating.

Now, I have a feeling that a lot of people who see Another Year won't like it, because it is about unremarkable people and unremarkable events. Indeed, superficially, it seems that nothing happens in this movie. And yet everything happens, as the movie draws the remarkable out of the unremarkable. Is it not remarkable, after all, that some otherwise unremarkable people are happy while others are hopelessly sad? That some are able to find the right partner before they have a chance to feel lonely while others struggle for decades and never get it right? That some are perfectly fulfilled while others are filled only with longing?

There is a Canadian author named Alice Munro, whom you probably have heard of if you are Canadian and probably haven't if you're not. Something that has been said of her short stories with which I would tend to agree is that you can get the gist of a character's whole life from the little bit she tells you about him or her. That is true of all the characters in Another Year as well.

I will say only one more thing about this movie. I talked about the importance of a good ending here, and the final few moments of Another Year are ones I will never forget. We need more movies like this one. Please see it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Lettuce-Free Possibilities

To give you a sense of the infinitesimal possibilities that will open up to you when you make this lettuce-free salad, here is a picture from one time that I made it with carrots instead of orange peppers and a mix of red and yellow tomatoes. I didn't put carrots in the recipe I posted originally because you need to peel them before you put them in a salad, and believe me when I tell you that it's impossible to peel a carrot with a knife, which means you need a vegetable peeler. Since my vision for the recipes on here is kind of like if you can read the recipe and find a place where they sell yogurt and tomatoes, you can do the recipe even if you're a bachelor with a knife and a frying pan and can barely manage to find some pleasant female neighbour who will teach you how to turn on the stove, I decided I would skip the carrots.

You actually don't need to turn on the stove to make a salad, but I wanted to put that in there because it sort of sounds like a porno premise. Hope she gets there before the cleaning lady.

Anyway, please do try making this salad with carrots if you have a vegetable peeler. Hey, you can stick anything in the salad as long as it sounds good to you and you cover all the requisite colours (red, orange, yellow, green). Try cutting up two or three peaches and using them instead of the yellow pepper. That sounds like it would be nice. Or throw in a plum and some blueberries and go through the whole rainbow. Yes, you can but both fruits and vegetables in a salad. No, it's not illegal.

It appears all the tomatoes were eaten by the time this picture was taken but you get the idea. Credit for this photo goes to my lovely friend Heather of the blog She's So Lovely.


I made that salad, but that's not my house. I don't have any star-shaped biscuits such as the half-eaten one you see on the side of the plate. I also don't have any matching wineglasses.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lettuce-Free Salad

Something I know about you that you probably don't even know about yourself is that you don't really like lettuce that much. You don't hate it, because there's nothing to hate about lettuce; you just think it's kind of pointless. Yes, "pointless" is the perfect word to describe the way lettuce tastes. "Pointless" and maybe "not that great," which is actually three words but you know what I mean.

So that's why you should make this salad, which will make you like raw onions even if you think you don't. That's another thing I know about you that you don't know about yourself.

You will need the following to make enough for four or five small portions or two or three big ones:

3 large or 4 medium-sized tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
1 small white or red onion
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Whether a salad is completely amazing or totally shitty really depends on whether the vegetables you select are completely amazing or totally shitty. I'm going to make a controversial statement here and say that the tomatoes you choose should be not quite ripe yet, because if you choose tomatoes that are perfectly ripe, you will need to make this salad and eat it literally within the next three seconds. If you wait any longer they will taste like a soggy donkey's ass.

To select a slightly under-ripe tomato, choose one whose colour is just shy of true red, such as this one:


What colour would you say that is? Deep sunset coral? Just-slapped baby's ass? Whatever, that's the colour it should be.

The other vegetables aren't as sensitive as the tomato is, so I didn't take pictures of all of them, but make sure they are all firm and unbruised or everyone will hate your salad, which would be a darn shame.

So first you should chop up the onion. I said here that you should generally chop onion last because it makes everything else taste like raw onion, but in this case, you're just going to have to be careful to either wash the knife and cutting board that you're using once you're done with the onion or to use different ones, because you need the onions to sit in the dressing for a couple mins while you make the rest of the salad. So chop those onions up and put them in a bowl or container, like this:


Then pour a little splash of olive oil and a big splash of balsamic vinegar on them. The vinegar should saturate the onions and pool in the bottom of the container, like so:


Then add salt and pepper. If it seems like you're adding a bit too much salt and pepper, you're probably adding the right amount. Most people undersalt everything and it's destructive.

Okay, cover this sucker with the container top or plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. You probably don't actually need to do any of that, it just seems right to tell you to do it.

BTW you can do this whole bit, with the onions and the vinegar and stuff, up to two weeks in advance. But I know you won't, so just before you make the rest of the salad is fine. As I said, you may think you hate raw onions, but sitting in vinegar for even a few minutes takes that harsh bite right out of them. They'll still have a bite but it will be much mellower and more delicious.

Now, with a clean knife and cutting board, cut the tomatoes into eighths or sixteenths, depending on how big they are, and slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice it into those sort of half-moons, if you know what I mean. Then cut up the two peppers. No need to get all neurotic about this, but the pieces should all sort of be around the same size. This shouldn't take all that long, you don't need to make any of these things super tiny.

Toss all the veggies together in a big bowl.


The idea of using all the different-coloured things is to get people to say something like, "Wow, that looks so colourful!" If you can get people to say that, you have won the culinary grand prize. This means that if you want to substitute a yellow tomato or two for the yellow pepper, or something along those lines, you can. Actually, that's kind of a good idea, if your grocery store has yellow tomatoes. If you pull one of those out everyone will really think you are Gordon Ramsay.

Spoon the dressing with the onions over individual bowls of salad just before eating. Anyone who eats this salad will think you're a genius, know why? Because they don't know they don't really like lettuce either.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Carton of Milk

I have just purchased a new carton of milk, which is so exciting I felt I had to share it with you. Here it is:


See that? It's skim milk, but it tastes like 1%. Now there's a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Duck-Duck-Goose

I have an extremely lovely friend named Heather, and she has a lovely blog that is fittingly called She's So Lovely. If you click on that link to her blog, you will see that she has described a version of Duck-Duck-Goose that bloggers apparently play with each other, wherein a blogger lists 15 facts about him or herself and then passes on the requirement to do this to five other bloggers. And it seems that she has passed it on to me.

I like Heather a lot and she called me "fucking awesome" on her blog, which I definitely don't get called every day, so I have been persuaded to participate. However, there is absolutely no way on God's earth that I am going to list 15 things, because I can't even think of 15 facts about myself that would be interesting to me, let alone to you. So I have reduced the requirement to three things. I know that's a little lame, but lame is sort of my middle name if you know what I mean.

Here are my three things:

1) I know a fairly unbelievably large amount of information about Rococo architecture, Margaret Thatcher, and Gregorian chant because I have looked all those things up on Wikipedia FOR NO REASON!!

2) I'm really relieved that I live in the era of the cell phone, not because anyone calls me, but because when I'm around large numbers of other people, it relieves my fear of social rejection somewhat to pretend I have just received a very interesting text message.

3) I said in my post yesterday that I have nothing against Kate Middleton, but I totally lied. I actually despise her out of jealousy because I think I deserve to marry a prince too. My parents agree with me.

And here are the five bloggers I am (hopefully) passing this on to:

1) Esther from Recipe Rifle, who writes the most hysterically awesome food blog on the world wide web, in my humble opinion. A fellow who runs his own cooking school once contacted her for a cooking lesson after having read her blog, which means her blog is a far bigger deal than mine, but I'm quietly hoping she goes for this anyway.

2) Tara from The Word For Love Is, who's super awesome too and may live down the street from Iggy Pop, which she posted about here.

3) Melissa from A Good Life and A Good Life Photos. Both of her rocking blogs feature beautiful photos, so don't go thinking the second one is better than the first.

4) The amazing Jessica from Hello, My Name Is Jessica, whose post on unrealistic new year's resolutions is hilarious.

5) Lady C from Tiger Savage for a number of reasons, not least of which that she is fabulous (she uses a pseudonym, for goodness' sake). But most of which because she has all the best news. Did you know that Mel B from the Spice Girls is putting out a fitness video? Neither did I, until Lady C told me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kate Middleton Is My Poster Girl

I suggested in my post yesterday that I suspect there are women who watch sports games and pretend to like them even though they really don't and would rather be doing something else. Now I doubt Kate Middleton will ever see this blog, and even if she does, I think it would be sort of crazy if she actually thought, "What?! Jennie Morgan, specifically, is making an unfair example of me?!"

So while I have nothing against her, I feel pretty comfortable saying that my girl radar tells me she is kind of the poster girl for this very phenomenon.

Perceive the following:


I don't know what game she is watching, and you know, I have a funny feeling she doesn't either.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are You Strong Enough

I was watching a video of a song just now on YouTube, which is Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks singing a duet of Sheryl's song "Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man." Whoever owns the video has disabled bloggers from using it (rats). However, you can watch it on YouTube here.

If you watch it, you'll hear Stevie Nicks say when she introduces it that she thinks it's a great song for any women with extreme careers. So I got to wondering whether it's also a good song for any women at all, and particularly, whether it's a good song for me. And I have decided that, although I like this song a lot, it doesn't really suit me all that well. I think for it to suit me better, it would need to be called "Are You Enough of a Fucking Idiot to Be My Man" because I'll drive you nuts. What are some of the things that guys hate again? Talking about feelings? Well, I could talk anyone's ear off and feelings are my favourite subject. What else? Being needy? Please, I could out-needy your ex before you even remember my last name. So really, you'd have to be a huge fucking idiot to be my man.

I was reminded of just how much of a fucking idiot you'd have to be when I was at a comedy club recently. Now there's a certain brand of "guy humor" that has become rather fashionable in the comedy clubs. Maybe I'll talk about that some other time. Anyway, there was this fellow on the stage, who in all honesty looked like a fat slob, and he was complaining about how his girlfriend, or ex-wife, or something, would always want to "talk." And he claimed that he would say something in response to this like, "We talked yesterday when you asked me to take out the garbage, and the day before that when you asked me to wash the dishes," and his girlfriend would say that that's not really talking, and this guy is standing there on the stage in apparently genuine confusion as to how talking about the garbage or dishwashing is different than "really talking."

Then everyone in the place laughed, including all the women. This is something I've noticed as well, that women sometimes pretend to relate to things they can't actually relate to. Ordinarily, I would never express regret that the next World Cup is a long way from now, but at this moment I'm a little regretful because that is the best time to observe this phenomenon. Just attend any World Cup party or outdoor viewing and watch all the ladies there scream and cheer and generally pretend they even know what sport they're watching.

Moving on. So I'm sitting in the comedy club feeling like a complete and total party pooping asshole, because I'm actually thinking something like: "She's right, that isn't really talking." And then the guy on the stage, who is just looking like more and more of a fat slob as the night goes on, starts complaining about how the gf or ex-wife that he's talking about would make a date to have sex with him, like next Saturday or something, and he'd be like, "why does there have to be a date? why can't it just be now?" but she'd be really adamant about having the date. Then next Saturday would roll around and all of a sudden she'd be sick or on her period, so the sex wouldn't happen. And the poor guy, who I'm actually beginning to feel a little sorry for, is clearly utterly bewildered as to why this happens, and everyone in the audience is still laughing, including all the women.


And I'm feeling like just the biggest asshole ever, because I am thinking to myself, well, I do not know why it happens. However, I could posit, on a purely speculative basis, that perhaps it's because she doesn't want to disappoint you by saying she absolutely never feels like having sex with you, but the fact of the matter is, you couldn't turn this girl on if she had an actual light switch affixed to her ass.

So anyway, that's why you'd have to be a total fucking idiot to be my man.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tangy English Pancakes

I know I said here that I would give you a whole bunch of recipes that use lentils or bulgur, but you know, I can't come up with a single recipe besides this one that makes really good use of lentils. I even went so far as to try to cook the wretched things with Coca Cola, and believe it or not, it was atrocious. So if you have a lentil recipe that you truly think is fantastic, please email it to me and I will test it out. But otherwise, I will be moving on to other, more delicious things, such as tangy English pancakes, which contain yogurt and no baking powder. The yogurt makes them tangy and the lack of baking powder makes them English. You can actually leave the baking powder out of any pancake recipe if you want, and you will get English pancakes, which are denser and even more delicious than American pancakes, in my opinion.

This recipe is sort of based on the banana sour cream pancakes from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook, but I've totally changed it, so it's pretty much nothing like that recipe. Really I just told you that so I could mention how much I adore the cheery-faced Ina Garten (a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa), a Jewish girl that is more successful than me whom I don't try hard to hate, unlike Natalie Portman. I am not sure why I feel differently about Ina Garten, but I think it may be because she is ten years older than my mother.

Anyway, tangy English pancakes. This recipe is a winner. Have the ingredients for these on hand when your new significant other sleeps over for the first time, is all I can say.

You will need the following:

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 bananas, halved and sliced
Vegetable oil
Butter
100% pure maple syrup

To show you how to halve and slice a banana, I took this picture, and didn't notice until I loaded it on my computer how outrageously phallic it is.


Hopefully you can look past that and get the idea. To make the pancakes, mix all the ingredients together, except the vegetable oil, butter, and maple syrup, in a large bowl. Then pour some veg oil in a frying pan (twice around the pan is good), add about a teaspoonful of butter to the pan, and melt the butter over medium heat. This makes it harder to burn the butter, because if you use it with oil it can cook at the same high temperature as oil. Cool trick, huh? I learned it from Ina, it's how she makes green beans.

Anyway, place spoonfuls of the pancake batter into the frying pan, cook about 4 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 minutes. You'll probably need to add another teaspoon of butter, and possibly a little more veg oil, after each batch so the pan doesn't get dry. 

If you make your pancakes about this size, you will get 10 of 'em:


You can make them bigger than this, but I wouldn't recommend you go much thicker, since if you do, the outside could burn before the inside is cooked through, which is a problem.

Serve with 100% pure maple syrup. If you are not sure whether what you've got is 100% pure maple syrup, look at the bottle. It will say "100% pure maple syrup" on it if it is, in fact, 100% pure maple syrup. It will also probably have some sort of hilarious Canadiana imagery on it, like really large cartoonish maple leaves, trees with sap-collecting buckets, or possibly waltzing log-drivers. It will not say any of the following things anywhere on it:

1) "Aunt Jemima's"
2) "pancake syrup"
3) "high-fructose corn syrup"
4) "may cause an increased risk of birth defects"

Yes, you must use the real thing, or don't expect your date to think you're a class act.



Monday, January 10, 2011

Rabbit Hole and the Ring of Perfection

There's a concept I sometimes use when, you know, I'm talking to myself, that I'm going to call the "ring of perfection." It's a feeling I get (and I'm going to arrogantly assume others get too) when a movie is perfectly complete. That is to say, it perfectly achieves what it set out to do, whether that was something simple or something complex, leaving nothing wanting. I'm calling it a ring because when a movie gets this right, it does almost feel like something is ringing somewhere in my gut.

Here are a few movies that, in my view, achieve the ring of perfection:

1) Once
2) Waitress
3) Two Lovers
4) Talk to Her
5) Harold and Maude
6) Brief Encounter
7) 500 Days of Summer
8) The Savages


There are surely others, so if you have any in mind, leave a comment saying what they are so we can all appreciate the ring of perfection.

I guess it's a little weird that I described this thing before talking about Rabbit Hole, because Rabbit Hole is a movie that does not achieve the ring of perfection. It's very good; indeed, there is nothing wrong with it. Nicole Kidman gives a really brilliant performance as a mother who has lost her four-year-old son. She's typically herself, cold and restrained, but with occasional, well-timed emotional outbursts. Dianne Wiest is fantastic too as Nicole's caring but irritating mother, and this is probably the first movie ever in which I think Aaron Eckhart, who plays Nicole's husband and the father of the dead child, wasn't miscast. But no ring of perfection.

A few people have told me that, because of the subject matter, they found this movie hard to watch, but that doesn't tend to happen to me, maybe because the pain of movie characters always seems so fleeting, so utterly bearable, compared with any of my own. And a few people have also told me that they had trouble understanding why Nicole's character attempts to stalk the teenager who was driving the car that killed her son, but that didn't bother me either, because people do bizarre and inexplicable things even when they're not grieving. No, nothing about this movie bothered me. It just didn't have the ring of perfection.

That's sort of what we're looking for in our closest relationships too, isn't it? With best friends and significant others? The ring of perfection.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Giada de Laurentiis and a Massive Pet Peeve of Mine

Do you know who Giada de Laurentiis is? She's the host of Everyday Italian on the Food Network, who also happens to be a super hot chick with great cleavage. But she consistently demonstrates one of my biggest pet peeves, and this unfortunately really prevents me from liking her.

The pet peeve can be seen in the following video:



You only have to watch until second 27. If you do, you will notice that Giada speaks English with a perfectly flat American accent, and yet, when she pronounces the word "gelato" in second 26, all of a sudden, you hear a very surprisingly sudden burst of Italian accent.

I have noticed that a lot of people do this, that is, pronounce foreign words with a put-on foreign accent, apparently to show off the fact that they took French in college or went to Quebec City and stayed in a Holiday Inn once. Make it stop.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bulgur Pilaf

If you're thinking of making or have already made this lentil soup but are wondering what exactly you are supposed to do with the rest of the lentils and bulgur that you stupidly purchased, fear not. I will post a few recipes that use one or both of these ingredients over the next little while. If you see it on here, that means it's both extremely tasty and extremely easy. If you make any of the recipes from start to finish and you actually manage to fuck it up, please let me know and I bet I can figure out a way to make it easier.

Today is bulgur pilaf. To be totally honest, if someone offered me such a thing, I would probably say no, because it sounds both terrible and pretentious. But although I can't do much to alleviate the pretentiousness, I promise this isn't terrible. And bulgur is the kind of horrendous health food you know you should be eating but probably have never gone near, so try this recipe. You'll like it.

You will need the following:

2 cups bulgur
2 large or 4 small tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 large or 2 medium-sized white onions
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
3 1/2 cups water

Yes, that's it. Yes, if you already have the bulgur you can buy all these things at a convenience store that sells a few fruits and vegetables. Yes, if you have bought fruits or vegetables practically ever before, you probably have all these things already.

As I noted here, if you don't already have the bulgur, you will probably need to go to a big supermarket. But if you get one bag, you can make every bulgur recipe I post. Oh boy!

So, the first thing you will need to do is chop the vegetables. Always chop onion last, because it makes everything else taste like raw onion, which nobody likes. So chop the tomato or green pepper first.

I have some special instructions for chopping tomatoes. If you have ever attempted to cook fresh tomatoes before, you may have noticed that when cooked, they kind of taste like a soggy donkey's ass. No, I have never tasted such a thing but I do have a vivid imagination.

This horrendous taste occurs because you are probably just chopping a tomato and tossing it in the pan, when to prepare tomatoes for cooking, you actually need to peel and deseed them. I know this sounds like a total pain in the ass, but it's not that bad and you will all of a sudden realize why tomato sauce tastes good, and not like a soggy donkey's ass.

If you ask someone else whether it is necessary to peel tomatoes before cooking, that person will probably tell you they never do it. But that's because they probably don't mind the taste of soggy donkey's ass, so you should listen to me instead. Here's what to do:

Cut the tomato in quarters.


Insert your knife into one of the corners of the tomato quarters, like this.



Then lay the tomato down on one of its flat sides and slice off the rest of the peel, which will be very easy, as follows.


It really doesn't matter if you don't get every tiny bit of the peel off, so don't get all neurotic. Just try to get most of it. Repeat with the remainder of the quartered tomato. Once you're done that, scoop out the seeds with your fingers, then chop up what's left for use in cooking. You'll feel like there's not much left, but don't worry, there's still plenty and it's supposed to feel that way.

Then chop the green pepper whichever way you want (phew!) and the onion.

You are ready to proceed. Get out two small-to-medium sized pots. These were the ones I used and they worked fine:



To one pot, let's say the one on the left, add the 3 1/2 cups of water and turn the heat on high. Then melt the butter in the other pot on the right and add the chopped onion (and as I've said before, I do mean real butter). Cook until the onion is turning golden-brown, about 15 minutes, then add everything else (bulgur, chopped tomato and green pepper, and seasoning) except the water in the other pot. Be really generous with the salt. A few palmfuls should do ya. Then stir it all together for about 2 minutes.

BTW, since you put a pot of water on over high heat, it will boil eventually, probably while the onions are cooking. When that happens, turn the heat down to low and keep it at a quiet simmer. That's poetic, isn't it? Quiet simmer?

Pour the simmering water into the pot with the other ingredients, turn up the heat and bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer (quietly or not) for 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed and small holes start to appear in the surface of the bulgur. Resist the urge to stir during this stage. When it's ready, it should look like this:


Can you see that there are holes in the surface? Never mind, you'll know when it happens. When it does, take it off the heat and let stand covered for ten minutes, then mix with a fork.



You're done! How easy was that? And I know this looks like a side dish but I had a nice big bowl of it for lunch and I was full until dinner. So it kind of swings both ways, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Profound Insight and Bunny Picture

I had a rather profound if obvious insight recently as a result of watching people interact with their pets, be they dogs, cats, or bunnies. Here is a gratuitous picture of my bunny:


How can you resist that face? Anyway, when I had this profound insight, I did what any insidious hipster would do, which is to say I wrote a poem about it. It's not a very long poem, but unlike many poems nowadays, it does rhyme, so I'm sort of proud of it if only for that reason. Here it is:

We're unrestrained with our affection
when we do not fear rejection.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Barney's Version

I loved this movie a lot. Paul Giamatti, who plays the title role, is spot on. Dustin Hoffman plays his father and he's great too. Actually, he's perfect. Gap-toothed and perfect. A quotable: "Marriage is like pushing an avocado through a cheese grater. All of a sudden, it feels like you're holding a pile of shit."

As you surely know if you are Canadian and surely don't if you're not, Barney's Version is based on a book of the same name by the much-beloved Canadian author Mordecai Richler. I have absolutely no doubt that many people will tell you the book is better than the movie, since that is the sort of thing people love to say. But I will not be saying it, since the book has no pictures and apparently cannot be read in 132 minutes.

Anyway, the movie (and probably also the book) tells the story of Barney Panofsky's life in flashback. Barney Panofsky is a total fat scumbag who is a little too much of an asshole to be a loveable jerk and is thrice divorced. He has an outrageous, wildly gesticulating, sex-addicted father, and also killed a man. Or maybe not. There's the investigator's version of that alleged crime but, of course, what you are about to see is Barney's version.

There was one scene I didn't like. It's the scene where Barney first meets his third wife and great love. She tells him a little tale about the founding of Monte Cristo cigars, and how the workers used to tell the story about the count of that name to help the time pass. I'm pretty sure we are all supposed to think this is as fascinating as Barney clearly does, since he is instantly smitten. But the thing is, I too know a number of anecdotes of that approximate vintage, because I spend practically the whole day looking up random shit on Wikipedia. And I can tell you that guys don't go for anecdote-tellers. If anyone actually thinks I'm wrong about this, please let me know and I'll keep telling the one about how Sesame Street was modeled after Brooklyn Heights and in the first season, Oscar the Grouch was orange.

What I'm trying to say is that the scene isn't believable. But the rest of the movie is great, so go see it anyway.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Worst Fashion Trend on Earth

I'm talking about peep-toe boots. You know, these utterly wretched things:

Peep-toe boots


I have seen these all over every fashion magazine and in every shoe store but pretty much never on an actual person. And I know why, too. It's because open toe is for summer, and otherwise fully enclosed boot that makes your ankles sweat is for winter. So the only season during which to wear these shoes is the season of "fashion magazine" and "shoe store."

High heeled shoes in general are much featured in fashion magazines and shoe stores but not a whole lot on actual people. And yet the magazines keep featuring them and the stores keep selling them, from which I draw the inevitable conclusion that many people buy outrageously impractical shoes but then never wear them. Don't be one of those people.

If you buy flat shoes, Vogue will feature them eventually, I promise. Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi said that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lentil Soup

If you are like practically any normal person, you probably think lentil soup is sort of the food that shouldn't exist because it completely sucks. In light of that, I have some very exciting news for you. I am going to teach you how to make a lentil soup that not only doesn't suck, but is completely foolproof. No joke, I even burned the onions in the first step and it still turned out fine.

This recipe is based on one from Sarah Woodward's cookbook The Ottoman Kitchen, but I have made some changes, so this is not that exact recipe. A soup made with these ingredients is called "Turkish bride soup." I'm going to assume that's because it's given to Turkish brides, since it is not made out of them.

Anyway, you will need the following:

3 white onions, chopped
1 large or two small carrots, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup bulgur
3/4 cup red or brown lentils (DO NOT use green or yellow, they will cook to a mush)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped (to your taste but the more the better)
1 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
8 cups water
1 lemon

The only thing you may not be able to get at a really small grocery store is bulgur, but they will have it at any bigger one, so you may want to think about making this soup when you're going to the big supermarket anyway. I know how it is, I'm lazy as shit too.

Once you have procured the ingredients, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a large soup pot and add the chopped onion and carrot. Please note that when I say butter, I do mean this

and not this

or this.


Recall that the task at hand is to make lentil soup that doesn't suck. It ain't gonna happen with margarine.

Okay, moving on: cook the onion and carrot until the onion is browning, about 20 minutes. Then add all the other ingredients except the water and lemon. Don't be shy with the mint, it has a mild taste and is really nice. I used this much, stems and all, but I probably could have used even twice that:



And don't be shy with the salt and pepper; remember you're going to add 8 cups of water. Speaking of which, now add 8 cups of water. BTW, I did this once with only 6 cups because my pot was too small and it came out fine.

Cover the pot, bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Once that's done, cut the lemon in half, squeeze both halves into the soup, then stir. Now I don't mean to be an asshole, but please remember a lemon looks like this:


It does not look like a bottle. Believe me, I'm all for shortcuts, but I am telling you that bottled lemon juice is the devil. It will make your taste buds weak. You will grow to hate the taste of lemon, or what you think is the taste of lemon but is actually the taste of dishwater. Don't do it.

Now, even if you for some reason don't think this soup is as positively awesome as I do, you have to admit that it isn't total crap. Which for lentil soup is saying something.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oops

I wrote here that I wasn't going to discuss anything serious on this thing, and especially not the Middle East conflict, but unfortunately for your faith in me, I lied. Two things to talk about today, both serious with a funny side. Here they are:

1) As many of you probably know, Palestine doesn't conform to the criteria for statehood under international law. This is for numerous reasons, but here are a few:

a) It doesn't actually govern the territory it claims as its own (it demands an end to occupation)
b) The Palestinian Authority's constituting documents restrict its powers to something like local municipal government
c) It doesn't even govern half the territory that Israel has withdrawn from since Hamas kicked the P.A. out of Gaza

Palestinian spokesmen have for years been complaining about these very things, and they continue to demand that these barriers to statehood be removed, but so far, that's the story. In spite of this, lately a number of Latin American states have announced that they are going to recognize Palestine as a state anyway.

Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon's response? Recognizing Palestine as a state is like clicking "like" on Facebook. (Haaretz, December 26, 2010.)

2) I was in the bookstore today, and I happened to pick up a book called London: The Story of a Great City by Jerry White. In it is a picture of a rally in Trafalgar Square that took place on April 30, 1978, and there is one placard amongst the ralliers that pretty much says it all:

"Queer Jew-Boy Socialist Seeks a Better World."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Like many people (probably), I find the concept of new year's resolutions pretty pointless. That's not only because I know I won't actually exercise more, read more classic novels, or study harder than I've ever done before, but because in all honesty, I don't think I'd be any happier even if I did. So that got me thinking: what can I resolve to do this year that will actually make me happier? I'm pleased to report that I have come up with three things. I think the first one will be fun, while the second and third will be a lot harder than exercising, reading, or studying. Still, I'm confident that the happiness payoff will make it worthwhile.

I am aware that blogging one's New Year's resolutions is sort of a vomitudinously hipster thing to do. However, because I am arrogant enough to think that my resolutions will make you happier too, I went and did it anyway.

Resolution 1: I will invest time and energy in my friendships. I will catch up with friends individually on a regular basis so that we know what is going on in one another's lives. I will organize lunches, nights out, and coffee dates. I will not be "too busy" or "too tired" to do these things, because not doing them is what makes me feel "busy" and "tired."

Resolution 2: I will communicate clearly. If someone does something to upset me, I will say so. If I want something, I will ask for it. I will not expect anyone to read my mind.

Resolution 3: I will trust my gut. I know it will never mislead me.