Archive for February, 2014

The Curse of the Foodie generation: we are connoisseurs of taste but imbeciles of substance.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

One of my favorite folksy aphorisms, and apparently, most timely, is the culinary admonishment: “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” This simple sentence encapsulates the flawed nature of America’s relationship with food. In a spoiled culture so fixated with food, with experimental incarnations of the most mundane dishes and overextended definitions of basic recipes posing as pretentious culinary affectation, food has been elevated to heights that are embarrassing to witness in all their gluttonous self-conscious glory.

Food is not simply food. Not any more.

Food is spectacle, it’s overly civilized manifestation of a higher calling that you are free to display in the most ostentatious manners of pedagogy possible. The effusive overstated nature of food praise is a competition in itself. Who can sound like the biggest fruit while ejaculating over the wonders of a risotto dish? You are the winner!

People make a spectacle of thumbing their nose at a dish or a meal while spending nauseating amounts of time spilling lavish praise about the sensual joys of simple ingredients in measures beyond what even a simple grain of rice should ever deserve.

Most of the new foodie movement seems a like put on. A charade of overacting and overreacting.

We no longer live to eat. No…this is too simple and basic and onerous a task. The most elemental survival activity has been decorated with distorted amounts of human egomania and falsity.

I don’t care about the obesity element that is an outgrowth of foodie-ism. That’s a given. I’m sure there are many foodie types who are rather slender. No, my concern is not the health or the physiological manifestations of the foodie mentality. Rather, I wonder, why have Americans become such food worshipers. What does this connote about our culture and mentality?

What does this obsessive deconstruction and “overconstruction” of food say about our collective soul? The foodie movement is an outgrowth of disposable income and expendable time. Too much money and not enough spine. In those faint archaic days of family dinner, courtesy of mother in her apron, food was a less extravagant ideal of urbanity than it has become today. Modern people denigrate old food traditions, old recipes. When women stayed home and cooked meals and we didn’t eat out for sport, food was one-dimensional and was segregated from the egotistical demands of peer-driven glutton porn.

In fact, the plethora of food-related television programming represents true glutton porn. I enjoy Food TV. I will not lie. But glutton porn is not the cause of our foodie culture and food obsession; it is a symptom.

No one appreciates the culinary arts as much as I do. I enjoy cooking more than most men or women I know. I began tackling “The Joy Of Cooking” after I married in 1997. There is a Zen involvement and purity involved in true cooking. In patiently building a sauce, in the rhythmic circularity of constructing bases and rues. In the old days, it was a given that men didn’t enjoy cooking, but conversely, women were expected to cook.

That is history. Now that liberated women work and whine about it so much, they have finally been liberated from the kitchen. And this is the one “freedom” they have embraced most heartily. With the decline in the family dinner table and the traditional female role of home- and family-chef, food has progressed to become a social extravagance and a thorough spectacle of “keeping up with the Jones'” where one-upsmanship is defined by who has been to the newest restaurant first.

Food is no longer humble. It is not an ojbect.

It is showmanship. The most irritating thing about foodie-ism is that it is showmanship by proxy because people don’t make food. They buy it! They watch others prepare it and celebrate that. They spend hard-earned money on prepared food. They eat out constantly. Restaurants are an esoteric scene here in Los Angeles. They have askew names and build up a franchise of cultivating foodie hordes. Their lunch offerings are icing on the cake because they can count on the lazy, complacent foodies to never eat left-overs or bring lunches to work. Especially when the company buys lunch for you, as is common in much of the “Industry” in this town.

Modern urban-dwellers are lazy-asses who can’t be troubled to turn the burner on or dust off their measuring spoons and actually make a mess on their pristine HGTV-approved counter-tops.

People are so insulated from the elements of life, from living. They live in absentia. They buy prepared meals. They don’t make meals. They don’t even buy food stuffs. And as far as raising or growing food stuffs, forget it! It’s been a long decline in proximity to what we put in our mouths. What we once grew, we now buy, cooked, as it makes its dreary, lifeless appearance at the other end of the food chain.

We are lazy consumers of life, of survival. We’ll pay for it. Put it on our tab.

We are now connoisseurs of taste but imbeciles of substance.

We are foodies!

We live in the anti-Zen age. A plague of clenched minds.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Our brain is not like a muscle.

Our mind is.

Our mind is a muscle, and our mind issues from the brain, but it is not our brain. It can be argued that our brain is a muscle because it is structured of our bodily cellular mass. Our brain is physiologically tangible, an organ.

But not so, our mind. Our mind is that ethereal byproduct of neuronal firing that ricochets in the vast play land of the brain, where it is housed.

Our mind is the interplay of brain chemistry but it lacks a body. Its only existence is granted when we breathe form into it by virtue of our thoughts and behaviors and reactions. Our mind wilts and flows and bustles and blossoms. Our mind is never still, and its greatest threat comes when it defies our conscious efforts.

The sign of mental health is the ability to capture and harness one’s own mind.

This is not a strength of 21st Century man. He is so distracted and suffused with goals and social and cultural ambitions that he has become a slave to his own unrecognizable mind.

Modern man’s mind is clenched with a ferocity never known before. If the mind is a muscle, modern man is unable to unclench it of its own volition and allow it exist freely for a few placid moments.

Yesterday I thought of this while standing at a corner in Hollywood while I waited for the light to turn green. The red light at this corner is prolonged. Red lights have no reason to last this long. Eventually, several of us had gathered at the corner, waiting impatiently for the light to change, thus liberating us to move move move because this is what we do. We move move move because our impatience wrings our minds in fits of rage. Move move move, we cannot stand still. All these people waiting for the light with me had their smart phones and punched and rubbed intently while waiting for light to turn green. They could not take their eyes off the stupid little screens.

Their minds were clenched. I alone stood, the old-timer, the smart phone holdout. I stared blankly at the traffic signal, watching it, but not, allowing these few moments of peace to filter and lighten my mind, to release it from its mortal toil which everyone else seemed to pursue with the aid of their little toy.

People are unable to unclench their minds.

They are so addicted to stimulus and the perpetual rush of diversion that they are uncomfortable allowing a few moments of Zen nothing to themselves. Zen being. No one just is any more, it seems. Always on, always tied up in distraction and mental absence, always somewhere, anywhere, but the here and now.

So many minds clenched around me. At times I feel odd with my unclenched mind, like a small fish swimming lazily downstream while all the other fish struggle against the current in an onrushing lemming stampede that stares me in the face.

The first Mexican Law of El Chapo. Supply does not incite demand.

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

A little shit-storm of cross-border posturing will undoubtedly ensue after yesterday’s capture of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán in Mazatlan. In addition, it will degenerate into a tempest in a telenovela teapot with everybody involved claiming victory while few are willing to part with control.

Already the squabbling has begun with the U.S. brazenly seeking to have Guzmán extradited here to stand trial on grounds he inflicted numerous counts of heinous crimes against the American people in the way of drugs (as if anyone is putting a gun to the heads of Biffy and Buffy as they head out for tonight’s club-sized cocaine fix). A good number of Americans justify and cheer the joint capture and an American trial because they believe Guzmán will not be restrained by the notoriously inadequate and corrupt Mexican penal system, especially when tasked with containing the larger-than-life Robin Hood figure that Guzmán represents to many Mexicans. And this may very well be the case. But ultimately, there is a myopic idiocy to these mostly American claims. Most profusely there is an idiocy in the cheer-leading and black-white brushstrokes many people paint this event with and the pea-brained comprehension of effects they believe it will have on the future of the drug economy across the U.S.-Mexico divide.

There is a closed-loop that laces Mexico and the United States and it conjoins many shared and social legal aspects of both nations. The U.S. perceives itself as the higher, righteous embodiment of morality, while condescendingly resigning itself to Mexico’s status as a backwater, corrupt and inept system that floods America’s shores with refuse of every sort. And we are led to believe, as always, it is the ornery task of Americans to clean up the mess because the Mexicans can surely not do it, though in reality, the mess is a shared mutual polarity of First- and Third-World cause and effect.

America’s contribution is its egregious greed and sensual gluttony, laced with gaudy levels of conspicuous consumption; Mexico’s is its innate corruption and lavish inequality, laced with soulless opportunism. The product is then a criminal phenomena hybrid of the tenuous border the two countries share.

So when I hear that the U.S. demands that a mythic Mexican drug figure be extradited here for “crimes against our children” I just shake my head because once again, as is typical of Americans, cultural accountability goes right out the window when it comes to Mexico. Sorta like how illegal immigrants and Mexico are blamed for…immigrating, when in fact, it’s that elite class of Americans who establish and enable to shadow economy that perpetuates this human flood which harms lower American classes.

Supply does not incite demand.

Here is a snippet of something Arthur Bilek, Executive Vice President of the Chicago Crime Commission (which named Guzmán “public enemy #1” last year) said in a press conference. His statement embodies the short-sighted perspective of so many “we share no culpability” Americans.

Or perhaps Bilek was surreptitiously castigating us by pointing out the full story. If one draws a drug analogy, the gun does in fact belong to Guzmán in the respect that he once touched, maybe manufactured it, but the trigger was not pulled by him, it was pulled by every single American who spends money on drugs, thus directly enriching the Guzmán’s coffers. By extension, those who pull the trigger, the drug users, the consumers, are just as guilty, but for some intriguing reason have escaped the ruthless tendrils of the American and Mexican military. How can this be? Perhaps it could be that many Americans who belong to this drug-purchasing consumer base happen to be spoiled children of the endowed American elite who would rather not see their own children pay the stiff penalties reserved for foreign capitalists.

Furthermore, I find is disingenuous and ignorant for anyone on this side of the Rio Grande to pretend that America’s domestic drug habits will disappear magically with Guzmán’s arrest. I suspect most Americans don’t buy this charade. Still, they largely find a sense of Us vs. The Bad Guys romanticized vindication that seems peculiar to the American temperament. I don’t give a crap what happens to Guzmán. The illegal drug business is opportunistic, ruthless, coldly unsentimental and greedy. No one will step down and bow their heads to honor the sorrow of Guzmán’s arrest. There is probably jockeying going on already over his profitable void and how it will be filled, and by who. While the United States is savoring this meaningless arrest, the next generation of drug suppliers is gearing up for tomorrow’s output which the next generation of our domestic drug users are likewise gearing up to buy.

Repeat cycle.

The master spinner of irony remembers all the shitty memories and the death knell of his brief future.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

On that putrid, evil force known as Facebook, I saw a wall post that took a gruesome bite from my heart. It was a photograph someone snapped at a local restaurant they happened to be headed to for happy hour and the accompanying complementary munchie spread:

charley

They were shocked and disappointed to discover that this dependable drinking destination was closed for business. Forever!

After contributing so many wonderful years to our local alcoholic non-vibrancy.

The restaurant, Charley Brown’s, was a fixture in this area for several decades.

It sat north of the Pomona Freeway just a DUI’s safe throw from the freeway entrance. This was one of those restaurant bars that came to life during the 70s and all that the 70s entailed. Disco, sex, sex, drugs, blurry abandon, sex, drugs. I didn’t drink freely and legally until 1986. By then, the restaurant was well established and cascading into a new era of what was expected of drinking establishments, but if you looked carefully while you were eating a steak (it was first, and foremost, a steakhouse), you could see archaic remembrances of an era past, and over.

Charley Brown ‘s maintained its cloistered party, degenerate atmosphere and sitting in the bar dining area at night, one could watch the freeway’s mad dash through the windows. The pretty scenery lent an air of misplaced exclusivity to the dining and drinking atmosphere, but it was trashy as hell. It was semi-romantic if one wished (this is where me and my ex-wife had our first date). Consequently, many of the waitresses, especially in the bar, were throwbacks to the original Travoltian era. They wore frumpy shorts and hose and looked every day of their 60 years (even at that time). This was a heavy smoking bar until California’s nannies blew their suffocating wad over bars, forcing drinkers to go outside and smoke. The standing ashtray business boomed after California’s special legislation.

Charley Brown’s was the dependable Wednesday night watering hole that me and some friends would hit occasionally after bowling and sporting events. As I said, it was where I took my ex-wife on our first date before skipping across the freeway to watch that really bad piece of shit, “Outbreak,” with Dustin Hoffman.

Memories.

After we were married, we had dinner at the restaurant a few times with our infant son as he sat in his high chair, and still, the floor to ceiling freeway-facing smoked windows always presented us with that special View. That view that harked back to our first date, to my early drinking days. I suspect I took many dates to Charley Brown’s, including a later date with a girl who I chose to break up the very marriage that had started here.

I am the master spinner of irony!

One night, (I usually drank alone at a table because I don’t like people and I don’t like bar people), I actually was sitting at the bar. This Hispanic chick sat next to me and we began chatting, which is only possible for me when I’ve had a lot to drink. Next thing, we’re at her apartment in the seedy Union district near MacArthur Park. This is where Central Americans reign and where they kill and maim. I remember sitting in her dimly-lit kitchen with her mom or some elderly figure, drunk as shit, but still, I didn’t get laid. Rather disappointing. You don’t stray that far from a bar just to sit in a kitchen, but I did. Cause I can be a loser that way.

Speaking of loser, this is also the bar I sat at one weekday afternoon (I must have had the day off) and was on my phone for an hour, sipping martini after martini, while I made time with a strong Catholic wife (not married to me). I could have gotten places with her but I always found reasons to simper out. Cause I just wanted to drink martinis at Charley Browns. Much more important!

Charley Brown’s is a curt memory.

A fleeting memorial to an older business era that simply cannot live any longer, not in this new paradigm of no-smoking and cyber-smarts.

It was an old joint that couldn’t keep up with its dying and disabled customers.

Young people need new things, new, shiny beacons of sociability, and an antique drinking fixture from 40 or 50 years ago with dying customers doesn’t cut it.

This is a new era. I’ll be 50 this year.

My past is thrown to the curb by our commercial, youth culture. Iotas of my past dissolving, ceasing to exist. I suspect I’m not far behind.

Charley google.
A Google Earth image from July, 2012, showing how easy it was to simply drive out of the parking lot and right onto the safety of the freeway. Important when you’re shitfaced.

Trouble brewing in Manus and your buttocks are in mortal danger.

Monday, February 17th, 2014

I could not have written a better headline than this one which appeared in The Guardian’s reporting of local turmoil at a detention center in Papua New Guinea.

Manus

The word, or name, “Manus” should simply not exist. In fact, it should be expunged from the human lexicon and all locations and surnames wearing the bold “Manus” label (even gay bars in San Francisco) shall be ordered to submit a change of name immediately.

Furthermore, in the event “Manus” seeps out into public usage, it shall never be allowed to appear in conjunction with the physiological denotation of “buttock(s).”

This can not happen again!

In the meantime, these refugees need to chill the hell out. Or it could be they simply don’t like being housed in a Manus unit.

Can you blame them?