Fucking white people. What the shit.
Fucking white people. What the shit.
You could argue this recipe feeds four people. But you could also argue the measurements and directions in it are so vague there’s no telling how many people can eat it. And you could also argue there’s a high percentage of cases where I’ve eaten the entire thing myself, and then sat there feeling great about it.
Get a big pan. This one was quite cheap, and I found out why, because if you don’t keep stirring things it’ll start to burn on the bottom. But as risotto is all about stirring, let’s use this one anyway.
Get a load of vegan margarine and melt it in the bottom, at a heat of above half way.
What I mean is, cut up a couple of onions first, otherwise by the time you’ve done so, the bottom of your pan’s going to look a fucking nightmare regardless of how cheap you were in the department store down the road. Thanks to my years of experience, I’m pretty much faultless in starting my onion cutting so that it ends at just the right time to put them in. Except then I’ll remember there should be some garlic cloves in there as well.
On this occasion, we can see L taking on onion cutting duties. I notice the two of us have different techniques, but that’s ok as it makes for a more diverse kitchen. Click here to find out what your onion cutting style says about you. You’ll be amazed at #6.
Actually, just wait. This should definitely be done first, probably before the onions. Get some sweet potatoes, peel, and cube them. This will take longer than you expect, because they come in annoying shapes. Not as bad as ginger, but still liable to cause problems.
You can see we’re going for action shots with this one, and you can also see it’s not working out too great either. Don’t tauntingly hold the onions and garlic above the pan for eternity. Dump them in. And stir. Stir with everything you have.
Once they’re cooked up, add risotto rice, sometimes known as arborio rice. Amazing! A medium fine layer that covers everything in the pan is good. If you put too much in, it doesn’t matter.
Then, pour in just over a pint of stock. I could have told you to prepare that earlier, but I wanted it to be a surprise.
Add more than half a pint of white wine. Here, L takes time to showcase our latest acquisition, secured as ever by going into the liquor store and asking the question, “What’s the cheapest white wine in here?” I cannot stress enough how many successful meals have followed this method. Today, it’s an eight dollar bottle of ‘Screw it!’, not the nation’s favorite, nor anyone else’s. At this point in history, we know that people who drink wine with corked bottles are nothing but assholes.
Also add an amount of turmeric. Add even more if you want your dinner to look radioactive. It won’t hurt you.
Oooh, hey, yeah, this one went alright. Look at that! Woosh!
From here, you’re going to have to do the best you can with what you have. Tonight, we’ve got some sliced green beans. But lima beans work just as well. Frozen peas, also good. If you’re having a financially good month, add sliced asparagus and/or shredded sun dried tomatoes.
Did I say keep stirring? Keep stirring. Never stop stirring until the job is done.
You’ll know it’s done because two things will have happened. Firstly, the liquid has gone. Secondly, it tastes like you can eat it. If the first point happens before the second, which is likely, just add more liquid. Wine, stock, water, whatever. It doesn’t stop it being food.
Before that happens, near the end, add a chopped avocado. If you put it in too early, it cooks up and melts, and you’ve accidentally made risotto mixed with guacamole. But even if that is what you end up doing, that’s still ok.
Come up with some side dish or something. Because I bought asparagus and sun dried tomatoes once this year, I’ve chosen bread and margarine. It’s quite nice bread, though.
What a name, though. What a name! They’ll be flocking to veganism now! Running! There’ll be a world tofu shortage! We won’t be able to produce half as much magic bullshit extract of nothing elixir tablets as we’re going to need for this level of consumer onslaught. “I never realized what I was missing!” they’ll say. “Could I eat a dried crust of bread as a side dish too? Perhaps some onion rinds? Oh please say that I might.” Yeah, have whatever you want, mate. It’s World Vegan Day!
Fill a coffee mug with brown rice. Empty it into a pan. Blow on the coffee mug to clean it, then put it back in the cupboard.
Cover the rice with cold water. A lot of it. Watch as some of the rice stays clinging to the surface of the water, a symbol of struggle against ill-fated odds. Ignore it. All will perish.
As you put it on the back burner to boil on an above medium heat but not medium high heat, think about saying to your guests, “Let’s put this on the back burner”, then realize they would leave if you did, and you’re on electric anyway.
Dice two onions. If you suspect the onions are of inferior quality and likely to make you cry, give them to a friend to do instead. Laugh at your friend as their tears pump out in an unending, miserable river. As you do, pour a fucking load of oil into a larger pan, and turn it on to a medium area heat that’s just below the heat of the other one.
Finely chop at least half a bulb of garlic. Add it with the onion to the pan. Listen to it make noises for a while.
Slice one or two zucchini, however many you think there are in the above picture. Cut even smaller, depending on how much you like doing that sort of thing. Occasionally turn back to stir the onion and garlic, making a face like you know what you’re doing. Don’t you touch that rice. You leave it alone.
Put the zucchini in with the onion and garlic. Stir stuff around. You seem like you’re long past the point where you’d let the tip of a plastic implement sit and melt on the bottom of a hot pan, but maybe you need reminding.
Slice a red pepper. You could use an orange or a green or a yellow one instead if you honestly want to claim there’s some kind of difference between them. Put that in with the other stuff as well. Not the rice. Keep stirring. But not the rice. It’s probably boiling up a bit by now. Leave the rice alone.
Oh, fucking hell, though. There’s four people eating this, and that doesn’t look like enough. Can we add another onion? Just a small one. Is it too late? It can’t be thrown in with the rest of it. That won’t work. We’ll need to cook it separately. But is it worth it? I don’t know. Can you pause savory rice? Maybe. Do we have a little pan? Oh, we do. Shall we bother, though? Maybe there is enough. I’m quite hungry, are you hungry? Ok. Ok, let’s do it. But what about the brown rice? I suppose once it cooks we could drain and cover it. That’s probably alright. Yeah, fuck it.
We haven’t much time. Is there any way to do this faster? Yes.
Once that’s resolved and everything’s cooked, it’s time for cashews. A Canadian delicacy! Put in as many as you can afford without having to remortgage the apartment you’re renting.
Pour in three or four tablespoons of soy sauce. Saying this goes against everything I believe in, but you might not need to add salt to this recipe.
Add two tablespoons of dried dill. Well, you might. Not us! We’re a bunch of right fucking privileged assholes round here, because we’ve got real dill, out of a bag. That only needs one tablespoon, but put more than that in anyway. Intense.
Stir everything together, including the drained rice. Ladle it out and eat it.
Isn’t there supposed to be eggplant in this? I think I forgot to take a photo. No wonder I don’t have my own TV show.
I liked the first one. I hadn’t seen the second one, but I made the judgment it probably wasn’t going to matter if I went ahead and watched the third. And I think I was right.
Dieter Laser’s performance in the original as an extra-bad bad scientist was overblown and ridiculous enough to make the story of abducting people, surgically attaching them in a line, anus to mouth, so that when the one at the front does a shit it passes down through all of them and out the backermost end, into a surprisingly lighthearted romp. Without his overacting and unhinged rage, ‘The Human Centipede (First Sequence)’ would have been little more than the gimmick many have accused it of being. It’s not a film I’d particularly defend, except to stress how it’s more of a comedy than might be expected. A comedy of questionable taste, but still funny if that’s your thing.
So here’s the third one, existing in a world where the first and second installment are known films. Laurence R Harvey, star of part 2, teams up with Dieter Laser from part 1, now playing the respective parts of US prison accountant and warden. Eric Roberts also shows up as a Governor demanding improvements at the institution, which distracted me into thinking about his career. I hadn’t seen him in anything for ages, even though his IMDB list of roles is pretty enormous, so that was nice. Hi, Eric Roberts! How’s it going?
I’m no big fan of the industrial prison complex, but even I know there’s better reforms to be carried out than attaching all the inmates together in an enormous centipede chain. Maybe it’s true that it would be a firm deterrent against crimes being committed, but my antisocial-behavior-is-a-product-of-a-failed-society, rehabilitationist outlook makes me think we should try other avenues first.
So the tagline on the poster is ‘100% politically incorrect’, and this tells you a lot about what to expect. There’s something almost comforting about a film which just goes through a series of situations purposefully designed to be repugnant, and I find it ultimately less offensive than a work which seems unaware of how disgusting it is. ‘The Lion King’ doesn’t seem to know how horrible its politics are, and that makes it far worse. ‘The Human Centipede 3’ has a schoolchild’s list of fucking awful things its eager to check off, and does so with workmanlike persistence. And it’s that singlemindedness of purpose that made it sort of charming, in a thoroughly basic way. Waterboarding a prisoner with boiling water, sexual abuse, racial abuse, limb breaking, circumcised clitoris eating, someone getting raped in the kidney, close-up castration, the centipede surgery itself: it cycles through the lot of them. A purpose for the work had been clearly set, and then unremarkably met, in C-student fashion.
I could just erase all of these words and have the sound of me slow-clapping for a couple of minutes, and then saying ‘Fine’ in a flat tone when I’m done.
Seems like there’s a lot of things you can learn out of books, and this one taught me how metres aren’t as long as they ought to be. They started to begin existing absolutely ages back in 1792, three hundred years after America was invented. But America doesn’t even use metres. Spooky.
Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre was busy being an astronomer, and it was his job to go north to look for metres. Pierre-François-André Mechain was also getting on with being an astronomer, and he got asked to do the same, but to go south. What a race! They both left from somewhere inside France, and were allowed to go all the way to the border, and if they hadn’t worked out what metres were by then, they had to have a long hard think about what they’d done. All they knew was metres were one ten-millionth of the distance between the pole and the equator. They got given some Borda’s repeating circles, and had to promise they knew how to draw triangles all over a map. Is it any surprise their final calculations were about 0.2 millimetres short?
They spent years over it, as well. So many delays, not helped by a cultural mistrust of men with funny measuring equipment doing suspicious stuff during military actions. If your job is to go around catching metres in the wild, it’s pretty impossible to judge how big your traps should be.
Late in the game, deep down in the south, Mechain realized the whole project was in error, for reasons they hadn’t foreseen. This made him very, very, very troubled indeed. Delambre didn’t even find out until after Mechain’s death, while he was reading through his papers. And by then, there was pretty much nothing to be done, as everyone was saying how much they loved these metres they’d come up with, and they’d even made one out of platinum for them. And how do you break bad news to someone who’s made you a metre out of platinum?
This gets the author into a discussion of changes brought about in science, error theory, and not trusting everything to the brilliance of individual savants. Precision gets compared with accuracy – internal consistency or factual correctness – and it goes into how this distinction got more explicitly recognized in later times.
I think I liked this bit the best:
The savants said the new measures would be ‘natural’ because they were based on the size of the earth. For these savants, a metric unit was natural when it could be defined without reference to human interests. The meter, they said, would be independent of all social negotiation or temporal change, transcending the interests of any particular community or nation. These men invoked nature as the guarantor that all people would benefit equally because no person benefitted in particular. This spoke to the ideal of justice as blind. Indeed, the Enlightenment project has often been read as an attempt to displace personal relations as the foundation of the social order, and in their stead substitute a universal metric, imported from the natural sciences, by which the social world might be subject to dispassionate analysis – and schemes for improvement. But the people of the Ancien Régime also considered their measures ‘natural’, in that they had been built into the dimensions of the lived world and expressed their needs, their values, and the history of their shared life. Their anthropometric measures sanctified man as the measure of all things, and expressed a different notion of justice, one which governed not only the domain of productive labor, but also the realm of economic exchange.
The Ancien Régime was governed by a ‘just price’ economy, in which basic foodstuffs were sold at a customary price set by the local community at a level which most of the people in that community could afford. The just price was enforced by a moral sanction and ultimately by the threat of violence.
… In such an economy, the diversity of weights and measures greased the wheels of commerce. In an age where bakers dared not charge more than the ‘just price’ for a loaf of bread for fear of precipitating a riot, bakers who wanted to preserve their livelihood when the cost of flour rose simply baked a smaller loaf. The same ruse allowed monasteries to circumvent Christian restrictions against profits by buying wine in large barrels and then selling it (for the same price) in smaller barrels. Sometimes this could lead to accusations of fraud, as when the petitioners of Notre-Damme-de-Lisque complained in 1788 that their abbot’s tax collector had increased the measure of grain. More probably, he was simply trying to maintain his own revenue during a time of rapidly increasing prices.
… In many towns, Ancien Régime officials themselves served as the ‘fair mediators’ who interposed themselves between buyers and sellers, setting the just price for essential foodstuffs like bread, meat, wine, and beer. Indeed, superintending the economy in this way was one of the obligations of a benevolent monarch, and among the principal justifications for his rule. In setting the just price, local officials generally took market conditions into account. The price of bread, for instance, was governed by tariffs, numerical tables that translated the current market price of wheat into the just price for a four-pound loaf of bread of a specified quality (white bread, brown bread, second-class bread, and so on). In major towns, these tariffs were drawn up by aldermen and bakers, who jointly estimated the cost of milling and baking bread, and outfitting a shop, while guaranteeing a modest return for the baker. These regulated prices, however, were ‘sticky’ in the sense that bakers could not fine-tune their prices to meet daily fluctuations in the cost of wheat. Also, bakers tended to set their prices in round numbers because of a persistent shortage of small coins. Instead of adjusting prices, bakers then altered the weight of their loaves of diluted their ingredients. Such practices were illegal, but even consumers who were aware of them generally tolerated them so long as everyone could still afford a ‘pound’ of bread. Equity mattered more than efficiency. Yet in times of dearth any attempt to raise prices or to ‘short’ bread too egregiously could spark violence. Price was not the paramount variable in the Ancien Régime economy, but merely one variable among many, including quantity, quality, the cost of production, and local custom.
In short, the diversity of weights and measures, far from being irrational and unnatural, formed the backbone of the Ancien Régime economy. These measures did not simple define a distinct kind of economy, they defined a kind of human being. Today, we assume ‘the market’ consists of the aggregate of innumerable one-on-one private exchanges, the sum total of which set prices. We might call this the market principle. The Ancien Régime operated according to the idea of the market as a place, which one might imagine as a kind of bazaar or village fair in which buyers and sellers met in public to conduct exchanges under the watchful eye of a third party. That third party – typically an emissary of the king, a town alderman, the local lord, or the nearby abbot – justified the taxation of these transactions by ensuring that the needy did not go hungry and the producer got a fair return for his troubles. Thus, in addition to providing peasants and artisans with a ready guide to the value of their land and labor, the weights and measures of the Ancien Régime also provided shopkeepers and consumers with some guarantee that their marketplace transactions would be fair.
In this context, the French savants’ scheme to reform weights and measures was a revolutionary rupture, far more radical than the sort of translation involved in the switch from, say, Anglo-American units to the metric system. Indeed, the revolutionaries intended the metric system to eradicate the assumptions underlying the old just-price economy. Their goal was to make productivity the visible measure of economic progress, and to make price the paramount variable in commercial exchange. They saw the metric reform as a crucial stage in the education of modern Homo economicus.
The most unsettling horrors for me are the most domestic. Plenty of people look down on it, but I’d put ‘Paranormal Activity’ up there as one of the best. And if you’re not into that, what about BBC’s ‘Ghostwatch’?
Local TV Presenter: Do you think Mr. Pipes has come to hurt you?
Kim Early: I think he’s come to hurt everybody. I think he wants to do nasty things.
In ‘The Babadook’, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman deserve all the praise it’s possible to give for their performances as widowed mother and young son. Here’s the trailer so I don’t have to write down the set-up, and then I’ll be shoveling out more spoilers than the script’s got.
Amelia starts out as a worn-down, stressed-out single parent, and Samuel is beautifully repellent as the verbal irritant child she has mixed feelings for. The relationship between the two is ‘The Babadook’’s greatest feature, a fully believable piece of realism that meshes perfectly with its more fantastic parts. It’s rare enough to see on-screen parenthood held up as a soul-draining inconvenience, but considerable sympathy is also established for both mother and child. Samuel has been failing Charisma checks his entire life, but we understand why he is why he is. An obsessional terror of monsters and social failure to navigate adult conventions has shaped his character, and there’s enough flashes of decency shown to avoid writing him off as one would with that Damien kid.
Direction, acting, editing, and design come together to show a clearly informed understanding of what sleep deprivation and emotional stress both looks and feels like, and the same can be said all the more so for the film’s implicit representation of the horrors of sleep paralysis. Anyone who’s experienced it will see how accurately it’s shown here, which adds a further level of questioning as to what extent The Babadook is a real being, and not ‘just’ a creation of Amelia’s mental damage.
There’s more than half a chance The Babadook doesn’t have any objective existence. But there’s not much comfort in a subjective monster, as something which exists only in your experience can shit you up no less than if it’s wholly external to your mind. The Babadook could well be a manifestation of Amelia’s grief for her husband, overshadowing everything in her life and all she does – it’s in a word, and it’s in a look.
Why’s the book called ‘Mister Babadook’ and Samuel refers ‘The Babadook’? If it’s right to think of the monster as Amelia’s loss for her husband, it makes sense for marital status to be inferred in the book-Babadook, as it’s through the book she is particularly targeted. Especially so when it returns after she rips it up, to now feature her as the focus of the haunting, giving the fresh warning that ‘The more you deny me, the stronger I get’. The Babadook’s demand of Amelia to ‘bring me the boy’, at one point made through her vision of her resurrected partner in the basement, suggests a surrendering of the relationship with her son to the relationship with her dead husband. Amelia is (understandably) letting the circumstances of his death block out her love for her son, an emotionally complex story that most dramas wouldn’t go near.
The ending shows the creature confined to the basement, Amelia now finally able to relate to Samuel as a person, and not just a reminder and cause of her husband’s death. Her apparently routinized journey down the steps to feed The Babadook a bowl of earthworms, briefly pushed down by its force before getting on with her day, can be interpreted as one of loss’ recurring waves, getting weaker and less frequent over time, but never truly disappearing. The loss of a loved one will always be there. Her refusal to let Samuel into the basement shows a desire to keep him separate from these feelings, a necessary move if they’re going to move on together. But you can’t get rid of The Babadook.
This resolution moved the film away from being frightening, and The Babadook hasn’t – against my expectations – come to be one of the many cinematic creations to check in the corners for between three and four AM. The fear in the first two thirds of the story is replaced with sadness, and the need/ability to carry on despite it. The year’s best horror film might not even be a horror.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS – ALEXANDRE DUMAS
Like St. Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, this was funnier than I expected it to be. And I learned that some women are really evil, even if they look nice. But some of them are just nice all over. And those ones get poisoned by the other ones. Women, eh?
DRACULA – BRAM STOKER
Not funny at all, except for Van Helsing’s accent. And I learned that women can only truly attain purity and virtue when they’re also nice looking, and if they do have this combination of qualities you should go on about it for fucking ages. But some nice looking women also want to eat children. Are women worth the risk, I wonder?
FOUNDATION – ISAAC ASIMOV
Notably lacking in jokes of any kind. And I learned that in the future, women basically aren’t a thing, unless they’re a silent secretary or a nagging wife who loves techno-space jewelry. I’m glad that issue basically resolved itself.
Oh yeah, and it wasn’t until just then I worked out the reason they’re called musketeers is because they’ve got muskets. It seems so obvious now.