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Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Forgotten Aphorisms of Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Chickenhawks

With another Republican in the White House it’s only a matter of time before America will find yet another slim excuse to enter into a foreign war. The children of politicians are never called on to fight so if you aren’t among these hallowed elite you may need another strategy for keeping safe and comfortable during the conflict. Famous Chinese philosopher and draft-dodger Sun Tzu offers a few words of wisdom.

1- Shooting your enemy in the back or while he sleeps may be cowardly but let’s face it, in a fair fight the guy would stomp a mud puddle in your chest.

2 - On the day of the great battle there is no shame in claiming you have car trouble and can’t make it.

3- Of your enemy know but one simple thing: does he have lots of cool shit you want to pillage?

4 - Sometimes the greatest warrior must position himself at a VERY comfortable distance from the fighting…and disguised as an old woman.

5 - Understand the wisdom of running away in panic…I mean retreat...understand the wisdom of an orderly retreat…orderly but fast with none of that “women and children first” bullshit.

6 - In war there is always death and someone must bring comfort to the young and beautiful widows. Try to get that job.

7- Winning great battles is what separates the great generals from the common. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look the part in shiny boots and those medals you bought at the thrift shop.

8- It is impossible to overstate the importance of being good at playing dead.

9- War is the last resort. Have you tried pleading for your miserable life?

10 - In times of war either lead, follow, or blog about it from your parents' basement.

11- Failure is not an option, but surrender most definitely should fit into your repertoire. Surrender allows you the ability to fight another day—and if you give up today you can take advantage of “Taco Tuesdays” in the POW mess hall. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Forecast for the Weekend: Rainy and Noir

We had a truly soaking weekend here in Valencia. It must have rained more in the past two days than in any good year here. I spent almost the entire weekend reading and finished three books, all of the same nature. Crime fiction isn’t really my thing, or at least that was what I thought but perhaps now it is. I think that my problem was that I didn’t like bad crime fiction—and I still don’t—but one book I read sort of turned me around on the genre.

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto is a noir pulp masterpiece. I loved this book. It's the second best book I read this year behind Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo so that's pretty good company. This was one of the few times since I’ve had my eReader that I really wanted a paperback in my hand. I’d like to have a copy of this, preferably with an old time drawing of a guy with a gun and a gal on his arm.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is wrong with most TV series and this only pertains to those that began with promise and went south at some point. I think that it is vital that the creator know from the very start just how long is needed to tell the story. You can’t expect to drag out a series to make more money and think that the story can be watered down indefinitely. I’m not the biggest fan of True Detective but I liked the fact that it had a very definite timeline. Galveston is as tight as a great short story and there is hardly a line that could be removed without taking away from the whole.

The set-up scene was better action than I’ve come across in a long time. It’s believable, frantic, and terrifying. Violence isn’t fun like you see it portrayed in most films. Violence has consequences so wipe that fucking smile off your face, for starters. No one is smiling in this scene which our narrator tells us lasted all of five seconds.

From here we have the classic getaway with a not-too-experienced prostitute. They are just getting to know each other as Roy drives into the rest of his life, wherever that may be and we think it won’t matter much anyway seeing how he’s a goner already.

She faced me and laid her knees on the seat. “It’s starting to feel like I never needed a drink as bad in my life as I do now.”

“Well, you’re young yet.”

Broken people in a squalid landscape with no way out except the only way possible in this kind of story. While most of us haven’t lived in this seedy world we’ve probably driven by it and made a point of not stopping.

She took us southwest and eventually into vine-clotted dells, past trailers scabbed with rust. Another gas station was fronted by broken foundation stones where the pumps had been ripped out, glassless windows, almost entirely overtaken by weeds and kudzu. We passed the school football field, and leaving the town proper, a black billboard posted off the road read in white letters HELL IS REAL.

OK, maybe that last bit was over-kill but I loved the “scabbed with rust” part. Roy and Rocky don’t have the faintest glimmer of hope but at least Roy sort of knows what hope means. He even considers it if not for himself perhaps for the two girls.

It was the sort of place for people with nowhere else to go, a motel where the occasional guest checked in to commit suicide, people too absorbed in their own failures to pay much attention to us.

It’s a pretty creepy joint but it’s a great place to park a reader while we wait for the shit to hit the fan, and it always does.

¡¡¡Spoiler Ahead!!!

There was only one place in the narrative where I pushed the book back and questioned the author, when Roy won’t testify against Stan to save the girl. I just thought that he would have wanted revenge more than saving the kid who was probably going to be a mess anyway. Brilliant resolution. I finished the last page in a cafĂ© near my house. I just set my eReader down on the table and I wanted to clap out loud except I felt like someone knocked the air out of my lungs.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

I was at the market and picked out a head of cauliflower and another of broccoli. In my quest to get in the best physical shape of my life (or at least the best in the last 15 years or so) I have been reshaping my diet just a bit. I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables than I ever have before although they have always been staples. I’m constantly looking for easy and satisfying ways to prepare my food. This method satisfies those two requirements and it turned out to be an amazing dish.

I used my pasta strainer that I bought a long time ago at a swap meet. I’ve never used it for pasta and don’t really see an advantage over a colander. In this recipe it worked out well because broccoli and cauliflower have different cooking times and when I say “cook” I really mean a quick blanch in salted water as I prefer them to be VERY al dente.

After removing them from the pot I tossed them with olive oil. I also had a couple of cucumbers that I halved and then sliced into thin strips with the side of my cheese grating tool. I also macerated some diced onion in cider vinegar and tossed this with everything else. For seasoning I just threw in a touch of red pepper flakes and crushed black pepper.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Morning of: Stunned but not Surprised

If I’ve learned one thing in all of this election cycle it’s that I have no idea what makes the uneducated white American tick. I can’t for the life of me understand how this demographic believes that this man will somehow speak for them when he has spent his entire life being contemptuous of anyone outside of his income level. I may never write about politics ever again. I think that liberalism in America is dead.

So be prepared for abortion to be illegal...again. Get ready for 20 million newly-insured people under the Affordable Care Act to be relegated to the emergency room if they want health care, and let's start a pool as to when we wage another foreign war. I say that we'll have troops on the ground somewhere by March of 2017.

I say fuck you to everyone out there trying to put the blame for this loss on liberals. How about putting the blame on the country bumpkins who voted for this dangerous idiot and who can't be bothered to read a newspaper article? They don't have any real idea of what they voted for as Trump talked only in vagaries about policy or he said nothing at all as regarding environmental issues. His health care is going to be great. He's going to stop terrorism very quickly. I could go on with his fucking idiotic pronouncements but we only need to wait six months to have a really good idea about how messed up this country will be and there will be no one to blame but the GOP. 

This piece in The New Yorker is worth reading.