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Friday, July 20, 2012

One Nation Under Fire

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Our Second Amendment to the Constitution is an anachronism at the very least and an outrage at the worst.  Why can’t we just strike it down and write another, more specific amendment? It’s hilarious how conservatives will screech that gun control of any sort is ineffective in stopping these types of heinous crimes considering how this never happens in countries that make buying a firearm at least as difficult as buying a mini-bike.

Another day in America, another obscene gun-related massacre. People think of these shootings as isolated tragedies but gun violence, in one form or another, happens every day in America.  There are those who insist that it has nothing to do with the laughably easy access to guns for almost anyone in the country. Guns, the same kind of guns that this maniac used are easier to buy than a bottle of wine in the United States. People will insist that guns aren’t the reason for these slaughters. And the hand-wringing and arguing will go on until the next tragedy while our politicians are held hostage by the gun lobby.

The NRA is the most radical, extreme, and powerful lobby in our nation. There isn't a single gun law that they will accept. Not one. The NRA statement about this is interesting. They said that if even one of the victims had eventually gone on to oppose gun rights then this whole massacre may have a silver lining. OK, they didn't really say that but I'm sure a lot of NRA assholes thought it.

My brother made a brilliant point albeit totally obvious: there is nothing to talk about. We've been here dozens and dozens of times and you have those pleading for more gun laws and the others saying stupid shit like "if it's a crime to have a gun then only the criminals will have guns" and "if someone had only been carrying a weapon fewer people would have been killed." Every time something like this happens—and it happens quite a lot—the NRA crowd practically fall over each other sayings these things as if they were facts.

Why the fuck should I care? I live in Spain where this doesn't happen. I can't ever remember a gun-related crime in Valencia. And guess why they don't have gun violence? Could it have anything to do with the fact that buying a gun is very difficult? I have never seen a gun for sale here. You can buy hunting rifles here but I have no idea where you would go to actually purchase one. Guns are sold in all kinds of places in America. K-Mart used to sell guns back when I was a kid and used to buy guns and ammunition. I bought ammunition at K-Mart before I was legally able to buy bullets. It was as easy as buying candy.

Are movies and television to blame? Of course they are. The prevalence gun violence has in our popular culture is just creepy. I really notice it here in Spain where every American TV show and movie seems to have someone swinging a big gun around. A lot of action movies have a much higher body count than this most recent real-life massacre.  Does watching violent movies and television shows turn a person into a killer? Obviously not because I haven’t killed anyone yet and I’ve watched every violent movie out there.  I think that what watching violence on film does do is to lower a person’s outrage against violent acts. It’s hard to get worked up over a violent crime you read about in the newspaper after you have just watched an Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick.  I think we can at least rate violent movies as harshly as we do pornography. It seems absurd that we will let children watch the most graphic violence imaginable but they can’t watch two human beings fucking until they are 18.  

I wish that I had a nickel for every movie that I've seen showing how a gun empowers an individual.  In most movies guns and gun violence are cool. Guns solve problems, guns help the weak to vanquish evil, and guns make you look thinner. I’m not sure about that last statement. Maybe the gun has to be black to make you look thinner or perhaps you are just supposed to shoot anyone who says you look fat.
If you really care to see, first-hand, the pathetic level of discourse that rules our nation just skip over to the comments section of any online news service. You will see every loopy, moronic defense of the right of an individual to walk down the street armed to the teeth, just like this diseased piece of human shit in Colorado. People act as if our constitution is some holy document sent down from heaven instead of a working contract in need of occasional revision. If our constitution is so infallible then how did we allow slavery for almost 100 years? Obviously the Constitution is pretty fucking far from perfect and we definitely need to rewrite the whole part concerning the citizen’s right to have firearms.

The cruelest joke in all of this completely sickening culture of gun violence is when people ask, “How many more massacres must occur before people decide to do something about it?” The easy answer is at least one more because after each one we all mourn and rant and the shit flies in every direction and in the end the NRA tells us that the government (We the people) can’t take away our guns.  No, we need at least one more gun-related outrage, and after that perhaps another. Fuck it, let’s just admit that we aren’t going to do a damn thing about this. We will just live with this sick level of gun violence because we want to be "free."

Obama called on the nation to pray and reflect. You know what? Stop asking me to pray because it’s insulting to rational individuals. That’s exactly the same as asking me to blow on the dice so you can roll a lucky 7 or whatever.  If you want to pray then by all means, pray your brains out, but the reason we have a democracy is because we decided a long time ago that god just wasn't getting shit done. Praying doesn't work, it absolutely doesn't change anything and it certainly has never made our lives better, so when a politician asks me to pray then I have to wonder why he has chosen the life of an elected official.

A Life Without an Automobile

No, I’m not describing a life of deprivation and poverty but a lifestyle that few people in America could even imagine. As John Lennon said, it’s easy if you try. Imagine that instead of getting in your car to do every one of your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks—whatever they may be—instead of driving, imagine that you are near enough to every place you need to go that walking is possible. A bike would also be an integral part of your personal transportation plan if you lived where I live.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Version 2.0 of Patatas Bravas

One of the most ubiquitous dishes in all of the Iberian Peninsula is patatas bravas, generous lumps of fried potato that should be crisp on the outside and tender and soft on the inside.  One of my friends here even started a patatas bravas Facebook page to alert people to good places to find them. As common as patatas bravas are in the bars in Spain there are few places that do this dish justice.  I would have to say that, in general, the bars of Madrid do a much better job with bravas than here in Valencia.

I’ve tried making patatas bravas at home with varying degrees of success and countless degrees of utter failure.  I don’t have an oil thermometer which is essential if you are using the twice-fried method, and the twice-fried way makes the best fried potatoes. I recently experimented with a par-boiled method in which I boil the cut and peeled potatoes in salted water, making sure not to cook them very much. You are just looking to make them a bit tender because anything more and they will fall apart when you cook them again in hot oil. I never even brought the potatoes to a boil but turned off the heat as the water approached a boil and left the potatoes to sit in the covered pot. I set my timer so that I didn’t leave them too long. I can’t say exactly how long to cook them or just when I decided to drain them. After I drained them I immediately put them in the freezer to halt the cooking process. I timed this, too, so that they wouldn’t freeze. Once they had cooled completely they are ready to fry in hot sunflower seed oil.

I topped these potatoes off with my fiercely-garlicky alioli.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mi Bar

I have lots and lots of bars here in Valencia but “Mi Bar” is a very little place called Bar Casa Morrut. It’s the perfect sort of small, local place you would wish for yourself in a perfect world with a convivial host, great food, and friendly customers who treat you like a member of a club.  It’s a spot you will want to stop by every night for a quick bite to eat before you cook dinner or perhaps you can forget about your own kitchen altogether. It’s only a little out of the way when you are returning from the supermarket and well worth the detour. I never run out of excuses for going to Bar Casa Morrut.
I met the guys who have the bar next door. Great people and I just had to go inside and have a drink at their place on the way home. We talked a lot about food, especially paella and tortilla de patatas. I will write more about this place soon. I can't remember his name, but one of them took the trouble to write down the name of a bar in Valencia that he says has the best tortilla de patatas in town and then he looked up the address on the internet. I will be going to La Cevercería Alhambra on Calle Calixto llI on Monday to verify this.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Not Fit For Print

Back in my military days (USAF) my friends used to label my comments in our unit lampoon as Scheck-isms. I will be posting two of these a month in one of the magazines I contribute to.