22 January 2008

more mlk day fun

epilogue 1: gil-scott heron, 1972
A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.
Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey's on the moon.
I can't pay no doctor bills but Whitey's on the moon.
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still while Whitey's on the moon.

The man just upped my rent last night cause Whitey's on the moon.
No hot water, no toilets, no lights but Whitey's on the moon.
I wonder why he's uppin' me. Cause Whitey's on the moon?
I was already givin' him fifty a week but now Whitey's on the moon.

Taxes takin' my whole damn check,
The junkies makin' me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up,
And as if all that shit wasn't enough:

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.
Her face and arms began to swell but Whitey's on the moon.
Was all that money I made last year for Whitey on the moon?
How come there ain't no money here? Hmm! Whitey's on the moon.

Ya know, I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon.
I think I'll send these doctor bills
airmail special
to Whitey on the moon.

epilogue 2: twelve myths about direct action

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what was that dream about?

have you noticed this? to believe politicians and pundits and our educational system, martin luther king, jr., only ever wrote one speech, and it was only a few lines long, something about little black boys and girls holding hands with little white boys and girls, and today his dream is a reality. i'd like to draw attention to the many other things he actually wrote and said, things that aren't mentioned when our leaders are trying hard to de-fang and co-opt his leadership.

these leaders would have us forget that king's legitimacy came from the grassroots, not the government -- some in hopes of absorbing that legitimacy for themselves (cf., in chronological order: romney, mitt; obama, barack; and clinton, hillary); some trying to erase the real, revolutionary liberation he spoke of, to reduce the risk that the oppressed masses might try to envision it and get ideas in their heads; and some to paint him as a polite friend to the status quo, praising his strategy of nonviolence and implicitly, by contrast, condemning the "bad" black leaders like malcolm x or huey newton. at least this year that asshat dinesh d'souza (i link reluctantly) was more honest, admitting he preferred booker t. washington to w.e.b. dubois -- the same exhausting narrative, from a hundred years earlier.

but these people all are simultaneously missing king's point and making it for him. he spent a lot of energy calling out unfulfilled promises and empty talk. i think that's worth remembering when people want to tell us about so-called colorblindness (or its more contemporary versions, "we're all just people"/"i'm a humanist"/etc and disparagement of "identity politics"), assert that "equality" has long been achieved, or promise that the Man will make things better as long as you are patient, play nice, and don't "alienate" any "potential allies". so here's some of the rest of that speech, for starters:
America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

"i have a dream", 28 august 1963

and here's some from another:
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never."

"letter from a birmingham jail", 6 april 1963

and here's some more -- you start to notice he says a lot of things that today's agenda-setters don't like to bring up:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear.

"beyond vietnam", 4 april 1967

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.

"why i am opposed to the war in vietnam", 30 april 1967

Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America "you are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name."
We must develop a program that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income. Early in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation, as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual's ability and talents. ... Now we realize that dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will.
The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts among husbands, wives and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on the scale of dollars is eliminated.

Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth.
And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them -- make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"

"where do we go from here", 16 august 1967

general thanks for bearing with me, and sorry if i repeated stuff you already know. i just think this stuff is worth keeping around and reading from time to time, lest the de-fangers and co-opters start to regain ground.

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21 January 2008

foodblog: almost-flourless chocolate cake

ok, the recipe. i got it from a wonderful blog, Orangette, which has re-inspired my recently-flagging desire to cook and learn and cook more. so all credit is to her and those she credits, but here is the pared-down just-recipe text:

gateau fondant au chocolat, or almost-flourless chocolate cake


7 oz good dark chocolate (i used 3 oz 100% and 4 oz 60% of ghirardelli baking chocolate; it isn't valrhona, but it's not hershey's either)
7 oz. good butter (this means european/high-fat, and unsalted; i used plugra, others in this category are lurpak or i guess president)
1+1/3 cup white sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon flour (can substitute good cocoa powder to make it gluten-free and to add depth to the chocolate flavor)


this is seriously the most complicated part of this recipe, i.e. everything else is a snap. you need an 8-inch round cake pan (usually this kind of pan has a straight vertical edge, not sloped like a pie crust) and parchment paper. the parchment will keep the cake from sticking to the bottom of the pan and allow it to slide out in one piece.

preheat the oven to 375 F. butter the pan. trace a pan-sized circle in the parchment with a knife, and put this circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan. then butter that paper circle, too.


cut the butter into cubes and chop the chocolate small. melt them together in a bowl -- you can be fancy and do it in a double boiler on low heat, or not and do it in the microwave. either way, just make sure to stir frequently and don't burn it. add in the sugar, then the eggs one by one, then the flour, stirring well after each addition.


pour into the pan, bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or just a little less. take it out when the cake is barely jiggly, if at all, when you give it a shake. sit the whole thing on a rack and cool 10 minutes.


this is the second-most complicated part. put a large piece of foil across the top of the pan; then put an upside-down plate on top of that. hold pan and plate snugly together and flip the whole thing, so that the cake plops (gently) out of the pan and is sitting upside-down on the now foil-lined plate. peel off the parchment paper if it's stuck; then take a second plate and do the flipping thing over again, except this time without the foil and be careful not to smush the cake between the two plates (can use a finger between them to make some space).


orangette says to wait til it's cool or preferably til the next day, since age actually improves it; she even made them for her own wedding reception a week in advance, keeping them wrapped in the freezer til the day. anyway i and others have been nibbling at this since it came out of the oven until almost a week later, and it's been great at every stage.

it's good alone with a glass of milk, or with a dollop of heavy cream that's been whipped up with a small amount of sugar. barely sweet, mind. and though you can use a plain old fork for the entire recipe, don't bother trying it for the whipped cream. a whisk might work if you have patience, but since i expect my accompaniments to come together as easily as my main dish did, i would only bother if i had an electric beater.

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old fogey

my birthday week has been very good, for reasons both related to my birthday and not.

a) sunday i made a cake. it was easy as pie (haw), tasted difficult, and ages wonderfully. recipe to follow. i also went to the italian store and bought myself some prosciutto, sopressata, pate de campagne, and truffle mousse.

b) monday we made a charcuterie plate out of the stuff from the italian store with capers, cornichons and toasts. that was nice. also i mail-ordered myself a pair of flannel-lined pants. i've wanted some for years but they were always too expensive, and i figured i didn't live in a cold enough climate that i couldn't just tough it out for a few freezing days instead. but i caught them on sale, very sale, and i am after all in the frozen tundra of just-north-of-virginia now; so i got them and they came right away and i am feeling very self-congratulatory. the high today was 25 degrees, and i didn't need to wear three layers of pants like i used to do.

c) tuesday i had an interview downtown and it went shockingly well. details in a future post wherein i muse about service, work and stuff like that. also jennie was in town overnight for a conference and we met up for a quick dinner and drink, which was a great surprise.

d) wednesday we took advantage of "restaurant week": josh and melissa and sarah and i got a last-minute reservation at ardeo, a vaguely contempo-mediterranean, semi-fancy restaurant. the idea was 3 courses for $30. i had a deceptively boring-named "beet salad" (tiny cubes of golden beet, tiny cubes of a golden gelee of something citrusy, halved tiny tomatoes, and micro-mache i think, with balsamic vinaigrette), a veal meatloaf with wild mushroom gravy, potato puree, and wild broccoli (i'm sorry to say that i broke from my don't-buy-veal habit in order to try 'wild broccoli', but happy to report that wild broccoli is kind of awesome), and an underwhelming dessert of raspberry sorbet that tasted lipglossy but was cradled in a very competent brandy basket and (surprisingly, unseasonably) fresh blackberries and strawberries. everyone else's food was very good too, maybe better than mine -- the fish especially, it was so impossibly tender it almost didn't seem like fish but rather some kind of fish-tasting velvety substance, like the concept of microsuede.

d2) also wednesday sarah mail-ordered me a selection of goat cheeses and a bamboo cheese board. a beautiful gift. so far we've tried the classic chevre buche (mild and creamy and addictive), the chocolate mini buche (cocoa through and through, but not sweet; simultaneously intriguing and offputting, so only small bits at a time), the blueberry mini buche (only on the outside; very nice, though i think the concept works better with cranberries), and a firmer, stinkier round whose name i forget (nothing compared to a camembert, but still, very pungent for a goat cheese, and i've been averse to pungent cheese lately, mostly because of the way it lingers on the palate). three more to go, all harder types.

e) thursday josh was going to be away all day so he booked me a really long massage at the four fucking seasons. unfortunately it snowed all day and the place was in georgetown (i.e. poor public transit access) so i ended up calling a cab. didn't cost as much as i'd worried. the massage itself was amazing and left me soft and pliant, this sounds weird but i felt like i had ocean-fresh calamari between my shoulderblades instead of the guardedly tough flesh i usually keep there. the massage therapist was great too, so kind and knowledgeable, i wished we could be personal friends so he could give me massages and advice and goodbye hugs all the time. afterward i septn about 45 minutes in and out of the steam room, which was filled with eucalyptus or something, almost too much of it, and wished it didn't feel rude to go completely naked. i drank cucumber water. josh picked me up and we ate sushi that was both fresh and cheap, a rare find.

f) friday i found a new coffee shop with jim. it's small and maybe not so good for being talkative, but comfy and warm and they make the only good "chai" i've had in months, and by chai i mean the tea-spice-latte concept, which i would like if people didn't try to sneak lethal doses of sugar into it. but this one is only slightly sweet.

g) laura has been visiting us this weekend. tacos, bookstores, empanadas, a disappointing hookah bar, blueberry pancakes, the smithsonian - natural history, a lot of driving, more cheese, and getting updated on office news. each of these is a sub-topic in its own right. it's been so good to catch up / hang out with her. also, which would you give up if you had to choose between cheese or oral sex?

g2) new books: "the color of violence", eds. incite! women of color against violence; and "media control", noam chomsky. stuff that got added to my list for later getting: angela davis, more patricia hill collins, arundhati roy's nonfiction (yes! she is twice-famous now), the revolution will not be funded (also by incite!, has been on my list but they were sold out of it this time, have been thinking about it so much lately), a people's history of the u.s. THE MAP BOOK (yes of howard zinn fame - also has been on the list but rather costly), and stuff by tim wise if i can find it. the bookstore is busboys and poets (named for langston hughes, who was both), it's a pretty good place. i think this forthcoming post i mentioned will also bring up my reading list. maybe.

i'm forgetting things too, i think. the bad part of this week: worried i'd be late to get laura from the airport, i rushed onto the first southbound train that came by, which turned out to be green line and not yellow, and didn't realize the problem until well past the last chance to switch over -- not until after i'd crossed the anacostia, even. shit, embarrassing. had to go back north, switch over, then go south again. also: saw an irritating poster in the (wrong) train car that i was in. also: despite bundling up, my gloved fingers felt ready to fall off in today's windy cold. face too. but not my legs! so basically, not much to complain about.


14 January 2008

"martyr to the coalition", thinking about nonprofit work

[in reference to the altitude at the 1981 yosemite women's music festival where she was speaking:]

I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing...

That is the nature of coalition...It is not to feed you; you have to feed it. And it’s a monster. It never gets enough. It always wants more. So you better be sure you got your home someplace for you to go to so that you will not become a martyr to the coalition...None of this matters at all very much if you die tomorrow—that won’t even be cute. It only matters if you make a commitment to be around for another fifty more years.

-civil rights activist/historian/musician/etc bernice johnson reagon, via brownfemipower

trying very hard to sort out what i'm doing, where i'm going, my relation to the work i say i want to do.

had a long conversation with a bitchy patrick to complicate things. might post parts of it later, or actually try to write stuff if i'm not a lazy ass. but i'm tired and depressed again, so not just now.

12 January 2008

plagiarism, gastropods

a faffing-on-his-blog poem by tao lin (author of a book called "Eeeee Eee Eeee" and a book of poetry and some other things):

i started reading eeeee eee eeee in bed and i read 70 pages and felt appreciation for myself

some parts i thought were really funny

i felt 'impressed'

i have read those 70 pages like 400 times or something if you include reading them while editing them

reading my own thoughts

the brain processing thoughts the same brain thought

i feel like a snail trying to masturbate but unable to touch itself

like it's moving muscles inside of itself to somehow masturbate

like a pile of hummus trying to masturbate

the end

thank you

sadly and wonderfully, i can't rid my mind's eye of those images.

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10 January 2008

lazy musings

"If the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then the State of Israel is finished." - ehud olmert, at the annapolis conference on palestinian peace in late nov / early dec (from bbc)

so i know it was a month ago, but it's like i blacked out that week and keep finding more things i gotta catch up on. so, does anybody else think that's a fucked up thing to admit -- that you're not sure how long your apartheid setup will last, and you're worried you might have to concede equal voting rights? doesn't that tell you something about the nature of your endeavor?

why haven't i slept, man. i can't, too much to read. this is gonna be a weird week.

ps memo to self, edit your blogroll tomorrow. you've been reading too many good blogs to lose track of them again.

05 January 2008

24 hours of excess, and finally foodblog 3: cider-braised pork and leeks, or "new year's braise"

new year's eve turned out fun. i went with my boyfriend and our friend melissa to an acquaintance's party, which was very civilized (we played set!), then metroed over to the fancy bar where our roommate jake works, just in time to grab more champagne, count down, and toast the new year. no, really: hustling down the block from the station we passed one bar whose door guy was shouting "three minutes til midnight! come on in!", and indeed, it was 11:58 when we made it to our bar stools.

we spent a good few hours at the bar post-midnight. the drinks were high-end and free, and they definitely caught up to me after i'd finished downing them. eventually we tried to go home but this involved a long wait in the cold, waving at cabs as they zipped past us. so we ducked in next door at a 24 hour wings-n-other-food place and got our new year's black eyed peas. then started walking home, and a few blocks in finally caught a cab. before bed we stayed up a while with jake's new lady-friend. i like her a lot, and she likes cheese a lot which makes me like her even more -- but she tried to share her fancy cheeses with us and i had to give mine back. i felt like a fraud but it just wasn't settling right after the booze. funny that the peas went down fine, though.

so yes, all in all a decent evening, complete with a pre-midnight voicemail from a friend in india, which was really nice. but i'm finally getting to the important part of this post: new year's day dinner. after christmas jake showed up with two pieces of cast iron cookware, a dutch oven and a skillet. you need two hands to pick these things up. we were both excited. so on the 30th we decided to try out his dutch oven with a technique neither of us is that familiar with: braising.

braising involves simmering something in a small amount of liquid until it's tender and fragrant. you can do it with lots of things, including fish or vegetables, on the stove or in the oven or both. dutch ovens are heavy, relatively wide pots, good for braising large pieces of meat because they hold in heat evenly and have fitted lids that prevent the steam from escaping and drying out the meat, while cast iron is good for oven use because no amount of kitchen-level heat is going to damage that shit. and a fatty, tough piece of meat is best: hours of low heat melt the fat into the meat and will break down the connective tissues. jake likes pork, and i like leeks, and we thought apple cider would go well with pork; and that's how you start building a recipe. so we decided on pork shoulder, which was cheap, too -- we went to the store on the 31st and got 8 pounds for 8 dollars, albeit bone-in. anyway, it turned out delicious and very pat-on-the-back-worthy. in case anyone's interested, here's my free-form "recipe" for how we made it:

prep: buy a large cut of pork, like pork shoulder or butt -- ours was 8 pounds of shoulder with a big bone in the middle. discard the gross packaging, rinse that pig in cold water, put it on a cutting board or big tray, pat it dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. note how one side of your pork shoulder is covered in skin and you can make out the pig's wrinkled armpit; contemplate tickling it. say a prayer for the late julia child, who on pbs once heaved a whole pig upside-down onto her counter and declared "i believe we ought to know where our food comes from". ahem. also turn two carrots into small dice, two leeks into half-rounds (rinse well after chopping!), 3 cloves of garlic into a rough mince, and one stalk from a fennel bulb into small bits too. set all these veggies aside.

macabre: with a sharp knife and a fair bit of pressure, score the skin and fat in a cross-hatch pattern. then cut slits in the muscle, slice 2-4 more cloves of garlic, and push a piece of garlic into each slit.

brown: now over medium-high heat, warm up a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, like canola or safflower, in the dutch oven -- don't use olive oil, it'll burn, even our "extra light" olive oil specially for cooking made a lot of smoke. ease the meat into the pot and brown it for about 15 minutes, turning it every few minutes so each side gets a turn in contact with the bottom of the pot. then move the meat to a plate.

sautee: turn the burner down to medium-low. toss in the aromatics -- the carrot and fennel and leeks and garlic -- that you chopped up earlier. stir and cook down for maybe 10 minutes; everything should get soft and/or translucent, golden is ok, but avoid crispy.

liquids: pour a couple bottles of hard cider (we used woodchuck "dark & dry", it was fine, i bet granny smith would've been good too) over the softened veggies -- it'll sizzle for a minute -- then raise the heat to bring everything to a boil. once that happens you can turn it back down to a simmer until you have half the liquid you started out with. then add some chicken stock (ours was homemade and frozen by yours truly several months ago) and two bay leaves. bay leaves add a nice warm flavor AND reduce the scummy stuff that floats up when you cook meat in liquid. season to taste -- we favored fresh-ground white pepper and i'm not sure what else.

oven: when the broth tastes right, put the pork back into the pot. the liquid only needs to go halfway up the meat, so if you have too much, remove some and save it for later. move the whole thing to the oven with the lid on. cook for an hour at 350. then take the lid off, baste the meat by spooning the juices over the top, and put the lid back on. turn the heat down to 275 and leave it to cook another 2-3 hours. over this time the meat will get soft and falling-apart.

more veggies: 30 minutes before you're ready to pull it out of the oven, slice the bulb of the fennel into big pieces, brown them a little in butter on medium-low, and throw them into the pot with 6 whole peeled carrots. now prepare 2-3 whole leeks: cut off all but two inches of the green leaves, slice down the middle til you're an inch from the base, fan out the layers and rinse all the grit out from between them, then push it all back together and slice off the bottom quarter-inch, including the root. throw those in with maybe 15 minutes to go (we put ours in at the same time as the carrots and fennel and they got mushy).

finish line: check to make sure everything is tender enough, and if so pull it out and turn off the oven. have your awesome roommate roast potatoes with herbs, sautee brussels sprouts with shallots and bacon, and pot together a bbq-style sauce out of pureed cooking juices and molasses and brown sugar. put out the two potholders he sets on fire. sit down to dinner with several friends. be proud of yourself.


03 January 2008

happy new year

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