Saturday, June 30, 2018

Hot Days with A.C., etc.

Regarding yesterday's posting, which cataloged some similar-seeming and mysterious observations...I hoped it would all lead somewhere more interesting than to a picking-apart of my observations. But you've always got to question assumptions before leaping to weirdo conclusions!
Lifting 150 pounds feels heavier for a strong person than lifting 50 pounds does for someone 1/3 as strong....

Before making theories about things like skeletal loads and soft tissue strain, let's look at some other phenomena....
On the contrary, I should have stuck right there with skeletal loads and soft tissue strain. That nicely explains the phenomenon. If you could train your muscles to bench press 2500 pounds - which I suppose is theoretically possible - you'd be stressing tendons and bones to the point where you'd likely do them harm. Muscles can be trained, but the other structures not so much. Hence the sensation of greater load even as training makes the hoisting easier.

The same is true for smarter people doing trickier calculations, or more creative people solving harder problems. Ease scales proportionally, yet the absolute difficulty still fully registers - and even weighs, in an undefinable way - above/beyond relative levels of capacity/ability.
A more powerful computer will solve a difficult problem more quickly, but it generates the same heat to do so, regardless of hardware power. So while a task might be accomplished with greater relative ease, the absolute difficulty remains easily measurable. While the mind's obviously not a computer, there are surely analogs - unavoidable side-effects and overheads which accompany increased neurological loads. As with the weight lifting observation (See? I knew they were related!), certain capacities scale, while others don't, and the latter account for the spidey sense re: absolute exertion.
If you're in a lot of pain and taking a lot of painkillers, and the pain even slightly exceeds the medicine, that slight marginal pain seems somehow more burdensome - even if not more quantifiably severe - than moderate pain seems without painkillers.
If you're experiencing enough pain to be on painkillers, you're surely sensitized to that particular pain, making even a mere twinge quite unpleasant.
If you have great equanimity, and something enormously irritating punctures it to just barely tick you off, the full magnitude registers despite the mild triggering.
As you develop equanimity (e.g. via meditation), you lose some stoic backbone, simply from disuse. Wafting in a state of graceful serenity, when stress does poke through, it feels more distressing than the everyday plume of strife experienced by less composed folks. So this is another matter of sensitization. See this interesting posting explaining how habitually warm people suffer when they catch a rare chill, and how highly creative/resourceful people can be paralyzed by obstruction, and how "I have no facility whatsoever for operating talentlessly in realms in which I'm talented."
The heat of a 95 degree day in a 70 degree air conditioned environment is more onerous than the heat of a 80 degree day without air conditioning.
The air conditioning itself - yielding unnatural humidity and recirculated staleness - probably accounts for this.

Well, the whole thing didn't exactly crumble to nothing. There were still a couple interesting insights to be gained...

Friday, June 29, 2018

Why Do Hot Days in Air-Conditioned Buildings Feel Different?

I'm pretty sure the the following observations are true, and related, but I can't connect them, much less explain them. There's no logic to any of this; at least I don't think so. In any case, this is seriously half-baked stuff, even by Slog standards, but here goes...

Lifting 150 pounds feels heavier for a strong person than lifting 50 pounds does for someone 1/3 as strong. It doesn't require more muscular or caloric exertion, of course. So the expected proportionality is indeed there, and the laws of physics work. Yet increasingly heavy weight does feel obviously heavier, independent of exertion. For example, someone who can bench press 400 lbs can lift 200 with ease, yet the load doesn't feel trivial, the way a 50 lb load might for someone who can press 100. More weight feels heavier, even though exertion is the same (you moan not from exertion but from burden; a different class of moan!). But if exertion's the same, relatively, why should the absolute weight make any difference? It should feel the same, as you adjust for strength.

Before making theories about things like skeletal loads and soft tissue strain, let's look at some other phenomena....

The same is true for smarter people doing trickier calculations, or more creative people solving harder problems. Ease scales proportionally, yet the absolute difficulty still fully registers - and even weighs, in an undefinable way - above/beyond relative levels of capacity/ability.

If you're in a lot of pain and taking a lot of painkillers, and the pain even slightly exceeds the medicine, that slight marginal pain seems somehow more burdensome - even if not more quantifiably severe - than moderate pain seems without painkillers. Similarly, if you have great equanimity, and something enormously irritating punctures it to just barely tick you off, the full magnitude registers despite the mild triggering.

The heat of a 95 degree day in a 70 degree air conditioned environment is more onerous than the heat of a 80 degree day without air conditioning. The 70 degree cooled air won't leave you sweaty or flushed, and you'll experience the expected subjective feeling of coolness, yet can you deny that an August day in a 70 degree office is an entirely different sensation (and leaves you in an entirely different condition) than an April day at the same indoor temperature? Even if you don't go outside all day?

These things make no sense. They're unexplainable, yet undeniable. I can't say how it works. In each case, the relative proportionality is there as expected - easier feels easier, cooler feels cooler, etc. - yet a deeper-baked faculty paradoxically detects - and is affected by - the absolute via means unknown.

I'm honestly unsure whether I've uncovered something interesting, or if I'm making a big deal about nothing. If the latter, it wouldn't be the first time! But my suspicion is that this may be akin to stuff like bird flock synchronization - mundane-seeming phenomena which, upon examination, present deep mysteries not easily solved.

Follow-up here.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Prediction re: SCOTUS Pick

I feel like I'm stating the obvious, but I don't hear anyone out there saying it (that deserves an acronym...I guess "IFSOBDHASI"?):

There's a widely-discussed short list of Supreme Court candidates, who pundits are busily describing and contrasting. And that's all utterly beside the point in terms of who will be selected.

Trump will pay zero heed to positions on abortion or immigration. He won't even factor in base appeal. He'll nominate a conservative, hoping that covers the required points, but the one and only qualification is some prior decision or writing demonstrating executive privilege maximalism. And he won't be content with private assurance (though he'll surely demand it); there will need to be a solid position statement already out there, preferably unsubtle and flagrant. That way he knows he can count on it.

So disregard the circus. The only thing that matters to our president is the upcoming Mueller report, and the scant ratty avenues he might turn to when it all hits. That is 100% what this will be about.

The World Isn't Ending

If you're a liberal, it takes forbearance to consider a Centrist's view right now. I post this not to provoke, but in the hope it might calm some people down from the roiling, cataclysmic Sturm und Drang. In complacent times, we need to hear edgy alarms, but amid melodrama it helps to listen to moderation.

First: a reminder that while Donald Trump is an authoritarian, vulgarian, thief, and traitor, he's also an incompetent clown who's his own worst enemy, and those are not the ones who destroy societies.

They can, however, enact the agenda of the party that elected them. And implementing conservative policies and appointing conservative judges is not tantamount to societal destruction, though you'd never know it from the lamentations of the Left as a Republican president prepares to flip the Supreme Court for a couple decades, after a half-century run of surprisingly liberal decisions remade America into something half the country absolutely hates.

I happen to support a number of those progressive decisions. But I also like to see people who don't think like me in this diverse society have a turn at the wheel. Remember how painful the Obama administration was for so many? They weren't all racists. Most were decent people with different values and inclinations, and the neighborly thing to do is to give them their time at the reins, feel happy for them while holding our noses, and plot strategy for the next election (opposing the worst until then). That's how democracy works.

Liberals love pluralism, tolerance, democracy, and encouraging all voices to contribute - just as long as those awful fucking people never get their way with their awful fucking policies. There's their progressive agenda - which is all that is Right and Just - and then there's the beyond-the-pale shit pile of doom. Democracy's when we all join hands in diverse and tolerant harmony to choose the Right and Just. See? Isn't that nice? And best for everyone? And completely reasonable? Why should we even entertain other views?

One of the problems right now is that two things are conflating. Trump's outrageous inclinations and utterances, which most often have all the real-world power of firecrackers and roman candles (before you start hollering at me, know that Obama deported tons), arrive in tandem with the enactment of policies, and appointment of judges, that half the country favors. One's mostly fizz, and the second is simply democracy - i.e. sharing power. The two together do not constitute the end of civilization as we know it.

I watched a lot of MSNBC yesterday, and hosts were railing about how abortion will most likely become more difficult to obtain. Consider my case for why abortion - like gun sales - maybe ought not to be as convenient as buying canned pineapple. It's a viewpoint (if you'll actually read the article) I suspect the vast majority of the population might agree with, even if it's not a stance they'd ever publicly express. And this, as of now, anyway, seems to be the primary screeching peril: something a reasonable, non-spittle-ejecting guy like me could get behind and you could probably live with (unfortunately, the inconvenience would disproportionally affect lower-income women, and that's a genuine problem, but not remotely in the same league with something I saw an otherwise hinged person screaming on Twitter yesterday about how our daughters and granddaughters will never know what it means to have control of their own bodies).

Finally, the so-called McConnell Rule about not appointing SCOTUS judges in election years - which was a cynical abomination and no kind of genuine point of civics - obviously referred to presidential election years, duh. The Democratic leaders hollering about how this, too, is an election year - like that's just the cleverest and most persuasive tack - are demonstrating more of the feeble lameness that lost Hillary the presidency. Er, guys, every year has elections. So why don't we forget the so-called McConnell Rule, which was never anything beyond transparently expedient pretext, and just go ahead and do like McConnell himself, and find smart ways to battle a foundational move from the Other Side. Maybe even try to intelligently strategize the process, rather than mouthily and ineffectively flail and rage (Jesus; a pox on both these parties!).

One last note. Per my frequent predictions, radical left-wing politicians are being embraced by the Left at a time when we really need to be reasserting norms and solidity. Consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic Democratic Socialist bartender who won a congressional primary in the Bronx:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

AAPL Caution, Sugar Highs, and Wile E Coyote, Genius Investor

As I've written several times, I love buying Apple stock on downturns because while the price has its ups and downs, the company is unlikely to face existential crisis. So I can confidently buy on pessimistic downturns without fearing a runaway elevator ride to the basement.

Yet one must guard against smug over-confidence.

For example, China's a huge market for Apple. And Chinese countermeasures against Trump tariffs might well have begun with Apple. Trade wars are so lunkheaded and regressive that it's been easy to discount the possibility, yet here we are. If Apple were targeted, that would be deeply and enduringly consequential for their stock price. And that, I think, is why it's dropped some recently (though only a bit; it'd have sunk further, but investors are uniformly certain Trump's only bluffing the trade war as a negotiating tactic).

It looks - phew! - like Trump is pulling back from some of the brinksmanship, so Apple is looking a bit safer. But, in the big picture, the current market might come to be seen as having been a "sugar high", in denial re: the danger/stupidity/insanity of this administration. I'm part of that problem, myself. While I rue the gloom/doom, I nonetheless remain invested in this reckless, sky-high market, making me a hypocrite. Most scary of all, my mounting self-realization - picture Wile E. Coyote's horror as it dawns on him that he's stepped off a cliff - is surely being felt by more and more people. The fear will be sufficient to cause a market crash even if Trump completely avoids tariffs (or war, or whatever other unspeakably dumb and malevolent caprice).

Be careful out there!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Spanish, Hispanic, and Latino

People may have been confused by my self description as being 10% Latino, 10% Mexican, and 10% Spanish/Catalan. Wouldn't it be the same to say I'm 30% "Spanish"? All these groups speak the same language, so they're variations on the same general culture, no?

No. But since many people are fuzzy on this, and I'm unusually steeped in all three, I'll try to sketch it all out. If you're already hip to these cultures, stick around for a few higher-level insights sprinkled in.


If you're going to describe a person (rather than a language) as "Spanish", that can only mean you're talking about someone from Spain. Period. And the culture there is Mediterranean, so Spaniards are culturally far closer to Italians or Greeks than to Dominicans or Mexicans. For a sense of the chasm, consider that Spaniards use the word "tacos" to refer to "cuss words", and are only starting to recognize that it's also a food term.

So if you're talking about the cultures of New World Spanish-speakers, the supposed "mother country" is really more like another planet.

Hispanic vs Latino

Even experts - including natives from Down There, who may be even less familiar with other Spanish-speaking cultures than your average Pennsylvanian is - are confused by this distinction. Here's how I parse it:

Latinos are Caribbean Spanish-speakers, or culturally influenced by them. Ancestry is mostly European and African (the Caribbean Indians were slaughtered many centuries ago). African influence brings syncopation to the music and diverse, snazzy flavorings to the food.

Hispanics are from Mexico and Central America (or culturally influenced by them) and may not even speak Spanish. Ancestry is either European/Indian or else pure Indian, and the Indian influence brings groundedness - square meals (sturdy stuff like beans and maize) and square music. Family values, etc. 

Among the two gazillion exceptions: there is really deep Hispanic/Indian music with a devilish syncopation of its own (as the sole gringo musician in the long history of the municipal band of Teotitlán del Valle, I'm particularly aware of this)...but it's very different than the sort of syncopation you hear out of Africa and African-descending cultures.

Garlic is Latino; chili sauce is Hispanic. Bongos are Latino; tubas are Hispanic. Whirling gracefully is Latino, pounding tortillas is Hispanic...though, per the disclaimer above, lots of great Hispanic chefs use lots of garlic, plenty of Latinos love chili, Mexico is full of bongo players and NYC's top tuba player is Puerto Rican. Etc., ad infinitum. Difference is not destiny!

Cuban musicians, accustomed to deeply syncopated, sizzlingly brash stylings, have trouble relating to Mexican music, with its dowdy roots in polka and Germanic brass bands (though the Germanic-ness of Mexican brass bands is in the process of being utterly deconstructed by Indians, making it a particular delight to listen to - check out the "Todo Banda" compilation as a starter). Once again, exceptions abound, including me. I've played lots of fiery Latino music, yet I also love the Hispanic stuff. But the two feel like entirely different worlds, which is the entire point.


Colombia is a fascination. Adjacent to Hispanic zones to the north and south, it should be (and is) Hispanic. But lying a stone's throw across the Caribbean Sea from Cuba, it should also be (and is) Latino. Colombia spans multitudes! Depending on where in Colombia you are - the Caribbean coast to the north or the Pacific coast to the west or the mountains in the interior - you will see very different people with very different cultures. Colombia, alone, spans the whole divide. Per my Eat Anywhere smart phone app:
Colombia straddles the divide between earthy Hispanic culture and the syncopated complexity of Caribbean culture. Imagine a blend of Cuba and Mexico. And its cuisine extends to both extremes. Gussying up tamales with cumin is a move Mexican grandmas would scarcely imagine. Same goes for Colombia's fancy soups and garlicky yuca preparations. But an arepa - the corncake that nearly defines the nation - is kissing cousin to earthy Mexican gorditas, and the fascination with simple grilled meats is something any Mexican cowboy could relate to.
Venezuela's a mixture, too, but geography makes it lean much more Latino.

Peru's a major melting pot just generally, so these are just two more elements in the mix. But in the macro, urban coastal Peruvians love salsa and garlic, and Latino influence runs high, but the soul of the nation is the underlying earthy Hispanic beauty that is Mayan culture. As with Colombia (and, to some extent, Ecuador), it's the classic contrast of coastal vs mountain cultures.


Argentina (and, to lesser degrees, Uruguay and Paraguay) is a whole other thing. As they say down there, an Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish, thinks he’s French, and would secretly like to be British. They and the Chileans are removed from the Latino/Hispanic distinction.

I've probably over-emphasized the exceptions (because 1. I find them interesting, and 2. it's my Slog and I'll digress if I wanna), but, anyway, there you have it. Riddled with paradox, as it must be, yet hopefully still useful. Despite copious blending and exceptions, Hispanic (Indian/European) cultures could not possibly be more different from Latino (African/European) cultures, and both are also super distinct from Spain itself. Aside from language - which doesn't really affect things either way - we might as well be contrasting Switzerland, Cambodia, and New Zealand.

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Ethnicity

If you know a culture's food and their music, you know the culture. I've milked a lot of mileage out of that truism. I've gone broad, but I also tried to go deep. Most food writers are aloofly inflexible types who behave the same and approach their meal the same wherever they go. They're anthropological astronauts landing, ingesting, and blasting back out again; immutable gaping mouths accepting a range of comestibles neatly taxonimized in their mental database. The Chewmaster 3000.

Even though I'm an influence for some of them, I can't relate at all, having started out as a musician whose manner, mindset, and performance were unrecognizable from gig to gig. My whole thing was always about fitting in like a chameleon, so I'd rather die than stride into a Ghanaian restaurant with the mindset of Whitey McWhitedude. Ecuadorian sopa de camarones isn't just Another Ethnic Soup for me. It's an utterly unique entity redolent of unimaginable joy, poverty and nostalgia. You need to really feel that, and bring it to the experience. You need some frickin' empathy (my smartphone app, Eat Everywhere, can help).

I mean, I am what I am, and I'm neither deluded nor patronizing, so, no, I'm not the asshole who strides into Jamaican places with a rasta hat bellowing "Yah, man!" But if I'm eating Jamaican, that's more than just "ethnic food" to me. It's important. I'm there to nourish my inner Jamaican and to merge. We all contain the cultural stem cells to be anything, and I live to channel this latent potential in every possible direction. I don't even care if anyone notices. I'm not putting on a show, I'm just doing what I need to do.

I've already written about this (see here). Now I want to expand on the idea by noting that there are many levels of blending in, of immersion, of identification with a given slice of the human cultural pie. Sure, I can put on a blazer and eat Crêpes Suzette with good posture (or play chamber music with uptight prigs for a frosty audience) and make it work. I can "pass" in lots of places and in lots of ways. But that's not the very deepest level.

There are a few cultures I identify so strongly with that I feel that I legitimately belong. Here's where I think I stand:

15% African American
10% Latino
10% Mexican
10% Spanish/Catalan
5% Indian
2% Japanese
.1% Newfoundlander

I may not talk or look or act like any of these groups. I may not dress like them or celebrate their holidays. That stuff's all external, and I grew bored with external diversity years ago. I'm interested in the deeper stuff. The mind frame; the perspective; the flavor. I think like them. I dream like them. My speech may not bear the accent, but my silent breath certainly does.

I know I'm really part of a culture (and vice versa) when I can play the music like a native, without the slightest accent. But the post-grad test is to make natives laugh. If I can hit their resonance points, making them laugh - not at universal observations but from their own unique native skew - then I know I'm there. And I can. I can crack up even the most sheltered, provincial person in any of those groups. Of course, the other groups I belong to would respond impassively to those same words, but that's natural. Different stem cells serve different contexts!

In case you missed it, here is the discombobulating tale of a cultural homecoming of my own not long ago.

A curious fact I don't understand, though something tells me it's related: I've had many loved - and liked - ones pass away. I was sorry to see them go, and wish they'd had more time, and remember them fondly, but, for varying reasons, I don't particularly miss the vast majority. I wouldn't use up a genie wish for one last dinner. All the dead people I sorely miss are, for some reason, black. Rest in peace - and come back soon - Walter Perkins, Gwen Cleveland (a bonus!), Major Holley, and Johnny Grimes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hard-Working Menders and the Radicalization of the Center

I had an interesting talk this morning with a finance guy who's been working on revitalizing his home town, Detroit. The thing is, if you delve into tough municipal/civic issues - in a practical way rather than in the academic/theoretical way - you will unavoidably find yourself squarely confronting certain taboo issues.

There are truths that must never be expressed, according to leftist Thought Leaders. But in trying to actually fix stuff, one faces realities that aren't "nice". And you can't just paint over them with sparkly glitter. That's for the idle commentariat, not for the hard-working menders.

He outlined the complexities - including some ugly realities that local black leaders would privately acknowledge, but never in front of a wider audience - and did so with a defiantly spiteful tone. "I could be crucified for saying this, but..." was a frequent refrain. And, yep, a few things he said did ping my sensibilities, but I reminded myself that this is a guy who's actually trying to fix something. When you're renovating a deteriorating house you don't tip toe around rotting frameworks. You need to see it all clearly for what it is.

Once he'd finished his tour of the multithreaded problems facing Detroit, including some reflections that would get him banned by Rachel Maddow, he was bashful. "I know; I'm a real right-winger", he confessed. "I've been a solid Republican for years. Of course, I don't like where the party is going now, but real Republicans like me are still out there."

I think he's correct about lots of things....but not about what he truly is. So after some consideration, I sent him this email:
Your positions are all moderate. You are as close to a centrist as anyone. For example:

"Work ethic is the most important thing” : Totally moderate.

“Handouts and entitlements are a poor solution, but, all things equal, always choose the disadvantaged or minority person”: Totally moderate.

“Black people have legitimate grievances, but activists go too far when they insist black people never deserve blame, and when they offer silly justifications for bad behavior”: Totally moderate.

That’s all just common sense. These are moderate positions, not “right-wing”. You are correct that there are people who would crucify you for saying these things out loud, but those people are left wing extremists. They are 20% of the population, and they are as irrational and ignorant as right-wing extremists.

To an extremist, moderates seem extreme. That doesn’t mean you really are extreme! You shouldn’t allow extremists to reciprocally define you. It’s not binary!

Not all left-leaning people disagree with you. Just the 20% true believers. And those true believers have irritated you into finding common cause with extremists on right (just because they share your irritation) and even into finding some common cause with a monster like Trump, who also eschews left-wing extremism.

The problem isn’t liberal extremism, but extremism, period. We’ve got 20% stupid, irrational extremists on each side, and 60% moderates who are more alike than they realize, but who are locked into savagely opposing whichever extremism happens to most irritate them. I’m guessing you don’t love the fascist/racist awful shit coming out of the MAGA garbage pits, either. But that's not what you’re most zeroed in on.

Left-ish moderates, viewing the fire-breathing racist thugs on the extreme right, buy into lots of stuff that they ordinarily wouldn’t (their natural inclination would NOT be to crucify people who state the truths above). Same for moderates on the right. They’re not racists or fascists, they’re just extra reactive to liberal extremism. But they rarely buy into the whole package, because they’re reacting from the center, not the opposite extreme.

We are not truly a divided country, because we are not truly a binary country. We are a country where moderates don’t realize they’re moderates, because they’re so focused on their irritation with one extreme or the other.

The salvation - our only hope for restoring rationality - is for moderates to recognize that they are, above all, moderates, and to band together against not one extreme or the other, but against extremism, period. Human beings naturally come to feel highly oppositional to their triggers. That’s why it's hard to find a middle, even when it's our actual position!

The first step would be to take a bit less joy in bluntly, harshly stating obvious truths which offend extreme liberal sensitivities. None of what you are saying is really so transgressive; it doesn’t make you a Brave Fighter For Truth, because the force you’re opposing, from your position in the center, isn't actually massive. You’ve overestimated it, and therefore you overreact. That’s why you call yourself “a real right-winger”, when you’re clearly not. At least not in my opinion, fwiw!


Monday, June 18, 2018

"Cornered Rat" Report #25

Monday, June 18, 2018: The phrase "cornered rat" finds 96,600 Google search results, 11% less than the 108,000 found two weeks ago.

All "Cornered Rat" postings in reverse chronological order

I'd like to chart these results, adding new data weekly. Any suggestions re: an easy, free online service that will spit out such a chart without my needing to do a lot of fussy setup?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Four Things to Bear in Mind in the Age of Trump

1. Until a few decades ago, when things got a notch or two warmer/fuzzier, most of our presidents were narcissistic racist pompous blowhards. The greats were standouts who (mostly) transcended that. That's why they were great! But the rest were varyingly ignorant, vain, blustering, unself-aware bossy boss predators who'd clawed their way to power. You know, like the asshole managing your workplace. Things have been that way since the dawn of time, yet we survived. In fact, we thrived.

2. History is full of odd footnote characters - aberrational dolts who squeaked into power and did unbelievably crazy shit. Such characters were infuriating to live under, and required diligent cleanup from their successors, but they are not the ones who destroy societies. Societal destroyers are different from boobish footnotes. The destroyers are smart enough and competent enough to execute their awful ideas. Remember Leff's Four Scenarios of Authority. In declining order of preference:
1. Smart ideas, good execution

2. Dumb ideas, bad execution

3. Smart ideas, bad execution

4. Dumb ideas, good execution
Trump's actually the second best possible scenario. Infuriating to live under, and messy to clean up, but never forget that societies are destroyed by #4 (and terminally demoralized by #3).

3. When you hear people complaining about how Trump isn't "normal", you're hearing hypocrisy. Back in 2015, when it looked like the 2016 race would be yet another Clinton versus yet another Bush, most of us groaned in exasperation. We prayed for someone different - someone iconoclastic - and, alas, our prayers were answered. The left, god help them, got Bernie, and the right, god help us all, got Trump. But while we all wanted a fresh start, only the Trumpers have remained steadfast while the rest of us flip-flopped (lord, what I wouldn't give for some boredom and normalcy) and even conjured up mass amnesia re: ever having wished it!

So while I condemn Trump's bigotry, his ignorance, his corruption, his narcissism, his authoritarianism, and his treason, I am not hypocrite enough to whine about his abnormality. (Everyday abnormality, anyway - the breached decorum, the Twitter decrees, the unfilled positions, etc. When abnormality is harmful - not merely surprising or distasteful - I call out the harmfulness....but never the divergence, per se.)

4. We hear constant kvelling re: Trump's lack of discipline and expertise; his unwillingness to read and to inform and prepare himself. His unshakeable confidence in his own gut instinct elevates willful ignorance to a point of pride. When Michael Bloomberg suggested he hire advisors smarter than him, Trump's inevitable reply was that nobody fit that bill.

Disgusting, no? Yes, I think so. But I'm gobsmacked by the hand-wringing. Most 21st century Americans are exactly the same. Right, left, and center, this is an American norm. We exhibit little mental curiosity or elasticity. There's virtually no interest in exploring diverse opinion; even intelligent people mindlessly ape talking points. And there's no humility whatsoever to be found. Everyone harbors delusions of superiority, deeming their guts the keenest possible arbiters of truth. We're a nation of self-regarded "stable geniuses".

While Trump's sentiments, inclinations, and tone are hopelessly outdated (his ascension marks The Un-Self-Aware Assholes’ Last Hurrah), his willful ignorance, hubris, and penchant for "winging it" perfectly mirror how Americans roll right now. It's flabbergasting that so few see themselves in him.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Canadian Appreciation Day

In treasonous support of our sworn enemy to the north, aka "The Maple Peril", I'm speaking all day today in a Canadian accent, eh. My doctor asked me three times to repeat my request to "take my stitches oowt".

Bill Burr

Man, I love Bill Burr. If you don't know him, he's got a bunch of comedy specials on Netflix and he does a podcast.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Turkey Penne

I struck upon an interesting recipe today:

1. Roughly but finely chop a few slices of turkey with a butter knife. Don't cut cleanly; be sloppy.

Use real roast turkey, not cold cuts. I like the "Simply" Sliced Roast Turkey Breast at Trader Joe's, which is also great in panini.

As for the sloppy cut, two reasons: a smooth cut emphasizes turkey's slightly slimy texture...and a more shredded cut absorbs more oil and flavors.

2. Cut several garlic cloves as thinly as possible.

3. Cook pasta (fwiw I used small penne rigate, i.e. the ridged kind).

4. In a hot wok or sauce pan lightly coated with oil, add turkey and garlic and stir rapidly for just a few seconds.

5. Add fresh spinach, a handful or two of chopped firm tomatoes (I used mini San Marzanos from Trader Joe's, cut once lengthwise and four times crosswise), and leftover zucchini (recipe below). Don't let anything actually cook, you just want to wilt the spinach and heat and combine the ingredients. Once spinach is soft and your kitchen smells of something other than garlic, it's done.

Don't worry, the tomatoes will work well even if they don't have time to soften much, but a variation would be to start them before the turkey, with garlic and perhaps some chopped onion.

6. Kill the heat.

7. Drain pasta and return it to pot. Add one or two TBS of quality extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup or more of grated cheese (parmigiano, normally, but gouda works well, too) and stir rapidly and violently.

8. Add the turkey mixture, continuing violent stirring (I turn up the heat for this part, but you need to have a feel for the timing....trial and error!).

9. Serve.

See if you agree that the turkey - garlicky, which is unusual - doesn't pick up some of the substantive meatiness of ground beef.

Here's how I do the zucchini:

1. Wash zucchini, don't peel.

2. Slice once lengthwise, then make 1/4" crosswise cuts.

3. Heat skillet on medium high with a light coating of olive oil.

4. Add zucchini slices in one single layer and leave them alone until light golden brown (around 3 mins).

5. Add chopped garlic and chili powder (as always, I like Penzey's Aleppo Pepper), and immediately start stirring.

6. Stirring constantly, cook another 3-4 minutes, until zucchini just starts to soften. Salt and pepper (plenty of pepper, despite the Aleppo pepper) after cooking.

Make a lot (I do several consecutive batches, wiping out the pan each time), so there are leftovers for accompanying future entries, or to add to leftover stews or soup.

All recipes in reverse chronological order

Lorraine Gordon

I eagerly greet hurricanes on the infrequent occasions when they manage to reach New York. You're supposed to stay indoors, I know, but I always go outside to sniff the air, which I know will carry the evocative scent of the Caribbean. Lesser weather systems arrive from that zone, as well, but only a hurricane - a tightly-wound and highly self-contained system - preserves that essence.

With similar trepidation, and in similarly low doses, I enjoyed Lorraine Gordon, legendary proprietress of the legendary Village Vanguard. Lorraine would freely acknowledge that she was a brassy lady, a character, a loudmouth, a real ball buster. If those terms seem antiquated, well, so was she. When I knew her, a bit, in her 50s and 60s, she seemed like a character straight from an Ernst Lubitsch film. You could smell the 1940s on her. Not a sad, moldering vestige, but the living sizzle of the era. As a tightly-wound and highly self-contained system of her own, Lorraine preserved that essence.

I played at the Vanguard a number of times in the late 1980s with Illinois Jacquet (here's an anecdote about one such night), and Lorraine would always chase me around the club with scissors, trying to tame my "crazy haircut". Maybe she had a point (here I was in a relatively groomed got way bigger):

Not long after, I found myself running to Spain a few times per year to play gigs under my own name; high pressure engagements in well-known venues. On one such tour, students of mine asked me to make an appearance with their semi-professional dixieland band way the hell out of town, in the boonies, playing for farmers. We'd begin at 10am, and I'd be playing the night before until 3, so the 8am pickup would be a crusher (they'd offered more pay than I could possibly refuse). There was no time to shower or shave (at that age, it could be chalked up to bohemianism), I was deathly hungover, and I didn't bother to warm up. When the music started I simply slammed horn to face and proceeded to phone it in. It was more than good enough for the circumstance, but I was far from my best.

In my boredom, I scanned the crowd - from the stage crowded with a motley crew of well-meaning but really-not-even-close-to-competent musicians - taking in the non-comprehending stares of Catalan villagers who'd never heard a note of jazz in their lives. There were a few dozen of them standing outdoors in the morning heat, plus - wait, what? - Lorraine Gordon. Who I later learned had a brother who lived in this village. This stupid village. Because of course he did, and of course she happened to be visiting at that moment, and of course I'd just taken perhaps the worst solo of my life on some humiliatingly cornball washboard-and-spoons Dixieland anthem, looking like a wino.

Lorraine either didn't recognize me (I'd cut my hair by then) or politely pretended not to. I'm still not sure which. Not that I, in my abject mortification, let myself get anywhere near her. I looked nowhere but down at the floor for the subsequent two hours, and I never ever "phoned it in" again. Ever. A lot of what I write in this Slog about commitment stems from that Catalan Mortification (Mortificació Catalana), a pivotal event that haunted me for years.

Lorraine took this story with her to the grave yesterday, at age 95, and, finally detached enough to fully own that ghastly experience, I thank her for being party to a life-altering moment. I'm also thankful for her less-than-nimble athletic skills (in spite of her sensible shoes). She never managed to shear a solitary lock. I thank her for the visceral whiff of 1945 that I never experienced from any other human being, and I tip my hat to the tight-woundedness that preserved it. And, not incidentally, I thank her for doing as much as anyone in the past half century to preserve the heart and soul of a great art form.

For more on Lorraine, check out Ted Panken's terrific interview here. Definitely also read this link, starting from "On a frigid afternoon in January" (and you can stop when it moves on to other topics), wherein Ted magically evokes the evocative flavor pouring out of Lorraine!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Surprisingly Uplifting Examination of Suicide

I was 23 and had been quite depressed for some time. Returning to my bad apartment in my bad car from a bad gig in a bad venue with bad musicians for bad money, I'd hit a new emotional low and couldn't muster the will to keep driving. Pulling my car onto the shoulder, I experienced a roaring, overpowering urge to finally end it all.

But as a curious and introspective fellow, I was compelled, even amid all my angst, to question the phrase.

"End what, exactly?" I asked my empty car. I knew the next step from movies and TV shows, of course. The character in this situation slits his wrists, or carbon monoxides himself or whatever. But like (I suspect) everyone who's ever declared an urge to "end it all", I noticed a weird impasse. I had no desire at all to do harm to my body. There was no connection there. When I'm thirsty, I don't choke a squirrel or sing the national anthem. By the same token, my yearning to "end it all" didn't impel me toward bodily harm. It seemed like the most ridiculous non sequitur. If I were in a better mood, I might have even giggled.

So what, precisely, needs to end?

The answer blurted furiously from my ground zero: I yearned to end the painful, tedious, hopeless dreariness of worldly existence. The heaviness of it all. The burden. I desperately wanted out of all that. Not to relieve it or lessen it, but to totally die out from it. Now. Check, please.

I had no quarrel with my body, but everything else had to die, so I did it. I exhaled and gave up. Totally. Utterly. From the depths of my soul. I even moaned it out loud, "I give up!", accompanied by hot tears and shaking. Whatever I'd been fighting, whatever I'd been resisting, whatever I'd been fearing - come and get me, maul me, consume me. I'm yours. It's over. The universe wins.

The sense of burden lifted instantly, and my perspective, long frozen on negativity, felt luxuriously free. I was free, and always had been. I could do anything. And nothing really matters all that much. This world is entirely for our rich immersion and entertainment. I'd just gotten stuck, that's all! And at my point of ultimate desperation, an inner faculty had pushed me toward a reboot. Many people feel that same urge and, tragically and unnecessarily, resort to a meme, proceeding with self-harm, oddly disconnected though that feels. But that's not what this urge actually urges!

I've gotten re-stuck a few times since then (because I get bored with simplicity and freedom and choose to indulge the urge to obsess over what's missing). And I've re-experienced that overpowering compulsion to "end it all". But I no longer even begin to associate that phrase with guns or cliffs or bridges. Instead, I recognize - and respect - the urge for what it really is: a powerful and benign wake up call reminding me to let go. To wear it all more lightly, and to bear in mind that the only problem is my own frozen perspective.

Further reading:
Depression Resuscitation Kit
A Unique Perspective on Depression
The Evolution of a Perspective
Framing as Hilarious or as Catastrophe
Previous writings on depression
Letting go feels great, but watch out for this pitfall.

Anthony Bourdain

A lot of people don't know that Anthony Bourdain was a Chowhound regular back in the late 90s, just before his first book came out. He showed up blasting with self-promotion. We politely asked him to stop, and he politely agreed to knock it off...and did. No problem. He eventually split, along with a small circle of malcontents who felt I was too uptight in how I ran the community (everyone loves a moderated discussion but nobody likes to be moderated; it's like smokers requesting no-smoking hotel rooms - 'cuz they smell better - and then smoking in them).

I didn't hear from him until years later, when I was invited to appear on his "No Reservations" show. I declined, and was glad I had when I discovered that it was an episode about "food bloggers" (I'd written/cowritten nine books and columns for Newsweek, Newsday, and many more), where I'd have appeared in a roundtable discussion with those very same malcontents. Shudder.

In the early 2000s, I was recruited by a publishing legend who wanted to pluck me from my Chowhound mire, rescue me from the insanely awful (but lucrative) music gigs I'd resorted to to keep my lights on, and make me a national sensation. If I'd say the word, I'd have a multi-book contract and frequent mass media appearances. I turned it down, as I wasn't prepared to close or neglect Chowhound. Very shortly afterward, the same fellow signed Bourdain.

Not exactly treasured memories. But through it all, Bourdain himself was always nice to me. I was snarled at by a lot of people back in the day while I killed myself throwing a great free party for a million strangers on zero budget via my indefatigable adrenal glands. But in every exchange I've ever had with him - sometimes telling him things he didn't particularly want to hear - he was unfailingly polite, and respected the fact that I - a near stranger - was a human being with feelings. That doesn't sound like much, but when you've managed a million people on the Internet you really notice when someone acts surprisingly.

That guy you saw on the screen, who was sarcastic and brashly negative, was apparently almost incapable of disrespect. You might have picked this up from his programs, perhaps not realizing he was the same even with cameras packed away. To be sure, he could hurl criticism and bile-filled invective. Ask his nemeses like Rachel Ray! But that's a different thing. Amid the slow grind of the day to day, as he interacted in his various circles, a person was always a full person to him.

That's rare. I myself didn't grow up in an environment where folks behaved like that. I've since been reforming myself, but it's a work in progress, and it's hard. The usual technique is to tamp down one's disrespectfulness beneath a veneer of corporate politesse, but that's the ultimate dehumanization; forcing interlocutors to engage with you as if with a voice mail prompt. But Bourdain was genuine and respectful with everyone, even when he reached a position where he sure as hell didn't need to be.

This isn't something I've seen pointed out about him, and, to me, it was even more impressive than his fast wit. And it was especially remarkable considering that he was a person who was so admittedly unhappy, and so full of oft-confessed demons. That sort of internal landscape isn't normally a springboard for deeply-committed humanism. It is with utmost respect that I observe that Anthony Bourdain played his best possible hand with the cards he was dealt.

"A Surprisingly Uplifting Examination of Suicide"

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Inviting Kim Jong-un for a Friendly Visit

According to a new press report:
President Trump says he would "certainly" invite North Korea's Kim Jong Un to visit the United States if summit negotiations in Singapore go well.
Trump says he'd probably favor the White House over his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, as a venue for hosting Kim, saying: "Maybe we'll start with the White House."

While I've seen no pundit say it out loud, there can't be the slightest doubt what the plan is. Sham negotiations and sham agreements, hands warmly shaken and smiling photos snapped. Promises made, perhaps even some aid money changing hands. Then we kill the fat little motherfucker the moment he sets foot on our soil.

It would be unprecedented in modern diplomacy. It would set an unimaginably terrible precedent. It would be barbaric and sharply at odds with American values - heck, with over three centuries of Enlightenment values. But while I'm a peaceful, conciliatory type, I can't say I'm necessarily opposed in this one extreme case.

Leave aside Kim Jong-un's death camps, his bellicosity, his support for terrorism, his great many knives pointed at the throat of South Korea, Samoa and Japan. Forget for a moment his nukes and ICBM development. Putin's Russia does most of these things - and points those missiles right at us - yet no sane parties would propose murdering Putin (not that it would make a big difference, anyway; Putin's built a personality cult but it's not anything like North Korea's). North Korea does all those things while making nonstop credible threats against the United States and demonstrating unrestrained brutality and a visceral relish for blackmail. In fact, those things are their brand. This is a unique predicament which will soon erupt into an existential threat.

On the other hand, the North Koreans are not fools. KJU won't set foot in the United States without first showing the world the complicated set of "dead man switches" he's set up. Millions of Seoul residents would be at risk of incineration, and we'd need to worry about Japan as well. Interestingly, the Japanese Prime Minister is in Washington right at this very moment.

But it looks like Bolton, Pompeo, and Trump are wagering that, even factoring that in the less-than-certain odds that a decapitated North Korea would not slaughter millions, immediately triggering massive punishment, with no Great Leader to rally around, these are the best odds we'll ever get.

If this happens, and it works, Trump supporters (not so much the chuckle-headed MAGA bigots, but the ones who voted for Trump seeing him as an uncouth vicious asshole who'd be on our side) would get the last laugh. They've been saying all along that we needed a shake up and new thinking - more audacious, less politely occupied with norms and protocol. In this one situation, where a decades-long stalemate is about to come to a perilous head with no conceivable happy outcome, history might remember that we needed a rash, shameless jackal like Trump - execrable though he is - to get this one task done.

Only Trump could make this stick. His wildly hyperbolic and unpredictable turnarounds - nobody's "in" for long or "out" for long, it's all a wild ride of impetuous relationship shifts - make it credible that he'd go from ridiculing "Rocket Man" to forging a peace alliance in less than a year. Noble Prizes, ego, glory, etc..

Why, then, did Bolton make those Libya references (background: Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program and we invaded and slaughtered him)? And why was Giuliani antagonizing KJU this week (KJU "got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in")? Because they're undisciplined idiots. It's as simple as that.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Crux of Creativity

A couple of years ago I came tantalizingly close to explaining the crux of creativity. I'll reprint the whole posting:
I'm watching the DNC, and every politician is giving The Speech.

Not a speech. It's always the same speech. The same cadences. The same tone. The same pacing. You don't need to speak English to get the full idea. Even with the sound turned off, you know The Speech. I don't know why I'm watching this. I know every single thing before it happens. Why is this worth my time?

Whenever I point my phone's camera, I need to resist the impulse to take The Photo. Just as we're taught through sheer blinding repetition about The Speech, we all know what The Photo is. I don't want to take The Photo! I want something spontaneous and true!

So it drives me batty that people are so happy to give The Speech and take The Photo. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who minds!

It's why I travel. In New York City, everyone is making The Lasagna or The Salad or The Rolls. There are variations, sure, but there's a certain glue. Only minute surprise is possible. But in Cincinnati, the glue's totally different. A different stultifying sameness can feel fresh for a moment. I have a chance of being surprised.

The speech everyone is giving - the original egg to all these chickens - is based on some archetypal speech in our collective memories that never actually happened. It's a subconscious blurry memory composed of bits and snatches and memes. It's like an early childhood memory you can no longer truly remember because you remember only the remembering. We've come to agree that that's The Speech via the same mechanism that helps birds flock.

It's a soul-killer, and it's dauntingly unavoidable, in the end. Even the most creative people feel this tug (we actually feel it worse; it's one of the reasons we drink so much, do drugs, etc..).

But I have one question: for god's sake, do we really need to relish it so much? Do singers need to feel like they're just nailing it every time they execute one of the soulful-ish vocal tricks we've all heard a gazillion times? Do they need to feel like they've gone super extra deep when they take the exact same-lengthed pause everybody takes when they want to seem like they're going super extra deep? You know...The Pause?

Can't we push back at this just a little? Even if we can't invent and innovate our way around it, even if we're trapped - cursed to be 99.99% unsurprising - can't we at least recognize this phenomenon for the cage that it is? Can we stop dreaming of giving The Speech, or taking The Photo, or singing The Soulful Vocal Trick, or making The Pause ourselves, as the crowning glory of our deepest fantasies?

Can surprisingness at least be appreciated, if not strenuously pursued and fully embraced?
I've been trying boil it down further, but I can't express the point any more directly. It would be great if I could, because this is, bizarrely, a huge problem that's no problem at all for the vast majority of humanity - which rarely notices, much less minds. Rather, everybody dreams of being on stage and singing The Note, or of being elected to high office and giving The Speech.

We chase that image, and the specific details hardly matter. You know how Donald Trump loves the trappings of office but has no interest in the actual work of a president, doesn't think about issues, and skates through by winging it? He's far from unique. Human society is almost entirely about people clawing their way to a position where they can be The Guy and do The Thing....and, once there, hastily fill in with canned fodder and expedient sketches. The actual substance is mere afterthought.

While I can't distill this point any further, I can cite a favorite pithy observation for the umpteenth time:
Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing.
Politicians don't give The Speech out of a desire to inspire and lead. It's the antithesis: they become politicians because they want to be the guy giving The Speech. If they were devoted to acting authentically and sincerely, rather than peering at themselves on their mental movie screen, they'd speak in order to say things, rather than vice versa. It's flabbergastingly rare that people give speeches to earnestly say things, even though that's the only way to draw a visceral response. If you're the least bit earnest - if you care about the doing and not just the posing, you might find yourself offering something fresh and spontaneous; something optimized for that unique moment. You may even change the nature of The Speech for all who come after (once it's stale, having been imitated to death and fully merged into society's unconscious).

In another posting, I wrote:
Billions of people yearn for greatness. Millions of people do things they hope will make them great. Thousands of people do great things with nary a thought about where it will leave them.
Millions and billions dream of being That Guy at the Podium Giving That Speech, while mere thousands genuinely have something to say above beyond the image of it all. The thousands aren't trying to personify their dreams. They're here to do stuff.

Apart from those measly few dissenters, however, earthlings chase images, period. That's why our world is rife with canned dialog, canned emotion, canned art. Even our personalities are most often canned. You've surely met people who are exact clones of a certain type; i.e. you've met hundreds just like them. They've cast themselves in a role and committed themselves to the performance. Their authentic selves become smothered by the dramatic scene-playing and posing.

This may surprise you: I believe the personality part is actually fine. Better than fine, even! I myself get it wrong. I fit awkwardly into this world, not being any recognizable type. Unique presentation makes me an outcast and provokes fearful misapprehension. I'd do much better if I chose a role and stuck to it. So while I've missed that train, I see nothing wrong with posing as a matter of style in the day-to-day. But the problem is when posing makes its way into matters of real substance, and of art. Every shower singer yearns to pull off The Note, an expedient sketch dredged from collective memory. But when (supposedly) creative people do likewise on actual stages, that's art-imitating-life-imitating-art, and the result will never be affecting. Do you want to pose as a Singer or do you want to really sing, from your authentic self?

A crusty few of us choose to bake fresh every time. We seem obtuse, and irritatingly slippery; extreme nonconformists in a world where The Speech and The Pause and The Note and The Photo are all that is great and good. Everyone worships the very things we strain to avoid.

Yet sometimes we crusty holdouts become recognized as trail blazers, having found a fresh avenue and struck a chord. A magic trick! We appear to be the lead car, forging into the unknown. From our perspective, though, we're stuck at the tail of it all, flinching at the shallow pretension and struggling to resist the overwhelming preference for canned expedient skating over Truth.

It doesn't help that this issue is perennially framed as imitation vs originality. That's not a helpful way to think of it; in fact, it's dangerously counterproductive. Many a promising artist has been ruined by angling to be "original". Originality is just another pose! It makes for results that are shticky, contrived, and/or affected.

It's hard - seemingly impossible for most people - to simply produce something entirely for the sake of the thing itself, without presenting yourself as The Person Who Simply Produces Something Entirely For The Sake Of The Thing Itself. Without that narcissistic loop-back. Human beings live to abstract raw experience and turn it into self-referential narrative, but self-conscious posing is not how you create substance or beauty.

Here's the secret: don't sing - or speak, or write, or dance, or act, or lead, or snap the photograph - unless you feel spontaneously moved in the moment to express. The most beautiful choice any artist or thinker can make is to hold back until the muses have sorted themselves. Never resort to canned fodder in dry moments in the rote compulsion to fill gaps. Be more careful!

As I wrote in a posting titled "The Beauty of Water, of Whiteness, and of Silence":
If you're about to play or compose music, try holding back until you have a note to offer that can improve upon the perfection of silence (if you haven't yet fallen deeply in love with silence, you have no business making music). If you're about to paint, try holding back until you have a brushstroke to offer that can improve upon the perfection of the white canvass. And if you're creating some sort of drink, try holding back until you can improve upon the perfection of water. With this perspective, you can't fail.

It's only after realizing that everything's perfect, as-is, that one is in a position to make a contribution that contributes.
The problem is when we pose as Expressers and then hastily scramble for output, like a toddler who draws attention after emphatically demanding it, and is embarrassed to have nothing to actually say. Your output is not mere fodder. Output is your wake; it's literally all that matters!

I once wrote the following about my cousin Libby's transcendent yellow rice, which first inflamed my passion for food, thus inspiring Chowhound, everyone attracted to Chowhound, and everyone affected by everyone attracted to Chowhound:
If Libby had tried to change the world, she'd surely have failed. Pond ripples don't amplify into oceanic tides via the desire to be an oceanic tide causer. Such aspirations yield oppressively selfish ripples rather than inspiringly generous ones. If you simply sweat the small stuff, sans self-consciousness or aspiration (just "because!"), angels will sing.

The care, the love, the discipline and thoughtfulness we invest in our most prosaic actions change absolutely everything. That's how the future is perpetually created.

"Cornered Rat" Report #24

Monday, June 4, 2018: The phrase "cornered rat" finds 108,000 Google search results, just like last week.

All "Cornered Rat" postings in reverse chronological order

I'd like to chart these results, adding new data weekly. Any suggestions re: an easy, free online service that will spit out such a chart without my needing to do a lot of fussy setup?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Every Watson Believes He's the Sherlock

All the actors who've played Watson have done it wrong. They've all portrayed him as dopey, flustered, and vastly outclassed. But that's completely wrong.

Watson thinks he's the star. The tales are written from his perspective, and in his voice. He's a doctor - a solidly substantial fellow of professional dignity. And he's made an important discovery: this curious, eccentric, amusing, and curiously talented little dope fiend who he's benevolently brought to public light.

The condescension is not explicit, but neither is there the least evident subservience. As with Calvin Trillin and his dancing chicken, the storyteller may delight in enumerating the wonders of his subject, but that by no means places them on the same level.

Never forget that Salieri won.

Clue: I'm not talking about acting. I'm not even talking about Sherlock Holmes.

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