Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I've just about had it with this year. If, for some reason, you're still reading the internets, I don't know how to help you. And if you're still casting about for something to buy, fuck you. Give the money to someone who needs it. There are many worthy causes, of course, but the people starving in your own neighborhood are a good place to start. Find your local food bank and help them out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

consume: bad music

Of course, the album of the year -- metal clowns or no -- is Mastodon's Leviathan (you can watch the offending video here, unless your browser crashes).

But because of my advanced age, I will instead be talking about an album from last year, High on Fire's Blessed Black Wings. The label calls High on Fire a cross of Mötorhead and Slayer, which might be true if you were trying to listen to them from the bottom of a well. Full of Jägermeister. Their last album felt like drinking a well full of Jägermeister, then deciding to go smoke a bowl and listen to some tunes with Grendel's mom, which probably explains why it took me so long to buy the "new" one.

But this record does sound a little like Mötorhead, probably thanks to the Steve Albini production, which lifts and separates Matt Pike's trademark sludge without violating its spirit. Joe Preston (ex-Melvins) on bass helps the songs move along more than had been their wont.

I still have no idea where they got the Slayer, unless it's Pike's lyrics, lifted, as usual, straight out of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Most importantly, Blessed Black Wings features monstrous riffage, which is all that matters. Buy it for all your loved ones this holiday season.

Disclaimer: I have terrible taste in music. Do not follow my advice, unless you want to rock at all costs.


Typically, I forgot about one of the most interesting books I read this year, Julie Guthman's Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California, reviewed here. Since the book came out last year, though, I'm off the hook. Better new book ideas are to be had from Kitchen Arts and Letters. Ask them for a copy of their latest newsletter.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Regarding one of the many new "commercial" food blogs, anonymous correspondant asks "Who died and turned blogs into a way to beam press releases into our homes?"

  1. Where the fuck have you been?
  2. With the exception of the AOL offering, which is somehow even more mind-numbing than your average recipe blog, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Some excellent sites have been fulfilling this function (among others) for years.
  3. Someone has to tell us what to consume.

And it is now the season for people to tell us what books to buy. It is a sign of something, if only my tumescing irrelevance, that I do not seem to have read a single new book this year (last year, I did find two good ones). A few have potential (someone should send this to those "whole" food people), but, on the whole, meh.

So this is an excellent moment to introduce my new feature:

Old books made new

If Leite is correct that 456 fewer cooking and food books were published this year than last, you see the problem. In the entire history of the world, 456 food books worth reading have not yet been written. The laws of thermodynamics thus dictate the following axiom: the more recently a book has been published, the more likely it is to be a piece of shit.

Of course, it is still technically possible to write a good book. Ruhlman, may, for example, have finally superseded Grigson. The point is that for most of the last 36 years, the book you should have been reading was out of print. The probability is that this is true of anything you want to read about. So: buy old books.

Animal to Edible (pb still in print) is an excellent example: undoubtedly the finest anthropology of the abattoir ever written. It is true that this is because it is the only such book ever written, but that is another reason you should read it. The approach is (appropriately) a fascinating relic of pre-poststructural theory -- you turn each page expecting Levi-Straussian diagrams of offal. But this fear is a necessary companion on your voyage: unravelling the manifold symbolic operations required to transform a living animal into the object of your digestion.

Animal to Edible's origins in a thèse are obvious from its occasional repetition and aimlessleness, but it is mostly short and clear. A more conclusive conclusion would have been nice. It's not going to show you the way out of the meatrix, but it will teach you how to think about leaving.

Tune in next week for this year's must-have casettes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In my absence, I was apparently nominated for an urban food blog award. I have no idea how they found me. I guess it's because I'm so edgy. This is funny because I am monumentally suburban. Verging on Sac-ish. It would have been funnier, I admit, if anyone had voted for me.

This morning, while enjoying a pseudo-urban bus commute, I observed a crazy man talking to himself. After a while I realized that he was basically practicing a conversation. Because he was crazy, no one would talk to him, so he had to conduct his conversations with himself. This is how you write a blog -- wander around constructing "observations" in your head to later unload on your absent interlocutor, the internets. It is only because you don't do this out loud on the bus that no one notices that you are crazy.

These days, I'm not making up those conversations the way you're supposed to. A little too much real world on that last vacation, I guess. I was starting to fear my lack of content would drive away all two of my readers. Then I remembered the papers.

At this point, you'd think I'd dive eagerly into DI/DO looking for cannon fodder. Oh, it's there, don't worry. I just can't read it yet. I did, however, drag my sorry ass through another pinnacle of New Times journalism to read all about the brown fairy. Well, not all about it. Just the important stuff: no one knows what's in it; they drink it in SF (edgy! urban!); it's very indie rock. Bonus: stupefying misuse of the word Romanesque.

All right, this is my stop. I've got to go abuse myself with Jenny 8. Lee's book deal.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hello world.

Is this thing on?

The internets are always especially bewildering after a nice long vacation. What are you all talking about? Why do you care? And what is this COM-PU-TOR of which you speak? But one is always seduced, again, by the information.

Consider this rather confused article about disappearing languages (cf. more-or-less edifying discussion on Languagehat). Ties in nicely with the NPR program I heard last night. The most interesting segment of the latter was the story of what happens when an ethnologue "linguist" moves into a Zapotec village and starts translating the Bible. Although also confused, it's definitely worth a listen if you're into that kind of thing (religion, language, indigenous peoples, etc.).

Anyway, ethnologue allowed me to confirm that there are 58 dialects of Zapotec. Not to mention 69 Mayan languages. And then ethnologue reminded me of the somewhat less controversial efforts of the Centro Editorial de Literatura Indígena (Oaxacan nonprofit) and the Instituto para el Desarollo de la Cultura Maya (Yucatán state agency).

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah: I love you, internets. But I didn't miss you.

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