Saturday, January 28, 2023

Apple Announces M2 Computers. Buy M1!

Remember when I reported that computers are now fast enough? I.e. you will not notice the slightest difference between a current computer and one from 2/3/4 years ago (unless, of course, you do tons of compiling or rendering)? And that Apple's own M1 chip plays so beautifully with the operating system and with the rest of the hardware that the fahrvergnügen is off the charts?

After Apple's recent announcement of new M2 Macbook Pros and Mac Minis, Amazon has discounted M1 Macbook Pros (both sizes) by $500. Buy one. I promise you wouldn't notice the speed difference versus M2. Even though it's hefty. Because computers are fast enough (no one is reporting this, because neither computer companies nor the media covering the industry have any reason to encourage the complacency these products rightfully inspire. But anyone in the know would acknowledge it).

So if you're going to buy a laptop, buy these M1s right now. I'm typing on a bottom-of-the-line M1 MacBook Pro, and the display is dazzling, the keyboard is solid, the Fahrvergnügen is high, and the speed is adequate(1).
(1) - If you missed the reference, Rolls Royce never disclosed the horsepower for their Silver Shadow, advertising it as "adequate."
If you need a desktop computer, and own a 5K monitor, get the prev-gen M1 Mac Mini. If you don't own such a monitor (as I reported in link above, 5K has never really hit, and prices remain crazy) buy a refurbished 27" iMac 5K from Apple. The same monitor alone, sold separately by Apple, costs hundreds more! Caveat is that this iMac uses an Intel chip, not Apple silicon. You won't notice speed lag versus M1 (or even M2), but it won't feel quite as buttery.

Apple is due to refresh iMacs (and, for that matter, studio displays) soon. But I own the very same iMac (I'll sell this MacBook Pro once it arrives via slow boat), and am very happy with it. It's the best monitor, with a very fast not-quite-the-best computer, for less than the price of the monitor alone. Irresistible, and any other route will cost you more than a grand more.

Video reviews by the great Marques Brownlee (more on him), below. Bear in mind that he does a lot of video rendering, so he does need the extra speed/power. But, if you listen carefully, he's saying what I'm saying.

the new M2 MacBook Pro

M2 Pro Mac Mini

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Snobbery and Spoilage

I’ve managed to connect two thoughts together. The results are personally unflattering, but my visceral curiosity won’t let me ignore truth just because it implicates me.

Thought #1 (from here):
Every snob feels merely shy.
Thought #2: (from here):
A person can be awful, corrosive, and exasperating, but there is genuine evil in the world, so anyone who wouldn't dream of going out of their way to do deliberate harm is a “5” at worst.

A person can be nasty, selfish, derelict, uncompromising, unreasonable, willfully ignorant, and astoundingly unpleasant without scratching a nanometer toward actual evil. They can inadvertently ruin lives and knock over every worthy thing without being evil. The end result of their actions may be indistinguishable from that of genuine evil, but intentions do matter!

All non-evil people are on our team. Awful people are the worst of the best, not the worst of the worst. They are the bottom rung of acceptability, not the bottom rung of humanity by a very long shot.
I'm honestly unsure how that second one originally landed with readers. Is this obvious for everyone but me? Am I revealing my uniquely frightful (and, it goes without saying, hypocritical) intolerance for suboptimal behavior?

Sure enough, I have to confess that I run screaming from "5"s. I shun "6"s, avoid "7"s, enjoy "8"s only in careful moderation, and, when it comes to "9"s and "10"s, well, they rarely stick around because, quite frankly, I'm not so hot, myself.

I am, to put it mildly, not proud of this about me. And, yikes, sure enough, I do feel shy. Very shy. So I guess I'm a snob. A bad one. I didn't used to be. I think it creeped up on me.

But I'll tie in a third (conveniently exculpatory) strand. I wrote once that
George W Bush once seemed like a malevolent boob for many of us who presently view him as a flawed-but-menschy statesman now that we find ourselves balls deep in the Donald Trump Experience. Yet, as I recently wrote, Trump himself is perfectly typical of the sort of vulgar, vain, shallow, narcissistic, ignorant, racist men who’ve run most every institution in the world for thousands of years. He only strikes us as appalling because we've compressed the extremes. We've lost perspective.

In fact, GWB was a “7” (I'd give Obama an "8.5"), Trump’s a “5.5”, and if we ever landed ourselves a “4”, let alone a "1" or "2" or "3" (Kim's a "3"; Putin's a "4.5", with Caligula, Pol Pot, Hitler, and perhaps Mayor De Blasio swirling around the bottom of the bowl in the "1"s and "2"s), Trump would seem as mild as freezer burnt toast (and GWB would be compared to Lincoln, ‘cuz we’d be compressing the other end) - at least for a moment, while the difference was shoved in our faces.
Obviously, Putin's way lower now.

So what's the conclusion? "We're all snobs regarding presidents"? "Jim treats social acquaintances like most people treat presidents"?

No. The essential truth here is that it all compresses. Once we grow accustomed to a given portion of a spectrum, we can't descend more than a notch or two without discomfort. Even if in doing so we've still got it awfully good. Once you've rested your eyes in a dimly-lit room, a person turning on a perfectly mild desk lamp seems to be perpetrating violence. We spoil easily!

At least I do!

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Unthinkable

How many times in your life has the unthinkable happened?

How many times have you taken a stand, admonishing the heavens that "This Shall Not Pass!"...and the heavens blithely steamrolled right past your emphatic insistence?

So many times, no?

And yet here you still are. Same you. Same person. The unthinkable/unendurable has happened over and over again, yet here you are, same as ever, blinking bemusedly at the unfolding yadda yadda like always.

This is not a small observation of human foibles to chuckle over for a moment. It merits avid contemplation - the sort that's undertaken with a willingness to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Unless you've fallen deeply in love with your dread - and with the drearily exhausting and comically unnecessary mental planetary layer cake that dread has spawned - such examination leads to quite good news.

Here's what people do if they've fallen deeply in love with their dread (i.e. depressed people). In answer to the observation "here you still are, same you, same person," they'll say "NO. I HAVEN'T BEEN THE SAME PERSON SINCE VIVIAN MY HAMSTER TRAGICALLY PASSED LAST NOVEMBER." But that supposed transformation happened in a dramatic narrative they persistently plunged themselves into - by repeating the story to themselves until self-hypnotized into assuming that dramatic proposition as their entire universe.

But who's doing that storytelling? That, inarguably, is the same old them. That's where they blink bemusedly. They're working on something. A project!

The bemused blinker is who you really are. You're always grinning in bemusement at some level. Even while seeming absolutely lost in a wrenching movie scene, you're never lost all the way. At some level, you're still enjoying the movie even though DARTH VADER JUST CUT OFF YOUR ARM AND THE REBELS ARE LOSING!!!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Indeterminate Dread and False Urgency

Say you meditate two hours per day for a decade, after a lifetime of spiritual practice coming out of childhood as a meditation prodigy. What have you finally discovered about the human mind? What's the takeaway?

Once you've peeled through the mental atmosphere of noisy noise, the mental crust of agitated grasping and recoiling (and accumulated sense of burden), and the mental mantle (heh) of fake dramatic narratives hypnotically repeated 10,000 times per day, you finally reach the core.

Not the core of truth, which is described in links at bottom, but the seat of your psychology. The glowing ember fueling whatever residual drama, agitation, and noise remain after all that spiritual practice. The charge is live, albeit weakened. And it's this:

A silent sense of indeterminate dread.

Yup, that's it. Thanks for playing. Please leave the cave in the same condition in which you found it as a courtesy to the next ascetic moving in. Let us know if you took anything from the minibar.

The human mind, being intrinsically creative (it literally lives to spin up loads of Something out of nothing, aka Rich People's Problems), won't linger in indeterminacy. So it gets to work fabricating stories to account for (and, counterproductively, amplify) the silent indeterminate dread.

Those stories are obsessively repeated (mantle!), leading to agitated grasping and recoiling and accumulated burden (crust!), and the entire structure off-gasses a dense halo of exhausting mental noise (atmosphere!). Absolutely none of this is significant or useful.

Undertaking the lifelong process of peeling it all back, diving even into the indeterminate unconscious kernel of dread, I eventually pinned down its original moment of installation. It's what I posted about a few days ago: the familiar childhood icy dread-maker "This will go on your permanent record."

That was my pellet.

Upon realizing this, my impulse was to chalk it up to new car anxiety. A child doesn't want scratches on his shiny new paint job! But after a decade of gestation, I realize that's not quite it. Rather, it's the notion that there even is a permanent record. That we're living not freely. It’s all closely gauged against some absolute yardstick. There are stakes, and - sorry we forgot to inform you - the clock is already ticking. 

Playfulness is a childhood indulgence, kid! Grow up and start stockpiling stress and building out the above-described mental structure! We're not roaming. We're in lanes, vaguely delineated, and crossing a line will bring vague, undefined consequences. Do not trust your instincts! Even if you're innately kind, well-intentioned, bright and doing cool stuff, that's nowhere near good enough! It's not only insufficient, it's existentially insufficient.

The notion of a "permanent record" would never occur to a child, because it's false. It's absurd. It's a neurotic grown-up construct....but, alas, kids buy into it. The moment they hear this, it all flips, and they're fucked. They're on their way to building out a drearily exhausting and comically unnecessary mental planetary layer cake.

Yes, I realize not all kids hear that specific phrase, and not all who hear it are traumatized. But some similar virus eventually infects them from the dysfunctional adult world, implanting an enduring kernel of silent indeterminate dread. I'm not trying to account for all instances here. This isn't one of my ambitious grand integration theories. But it’s enough to provoke thought and consideration, and to justify your monthly subscription cost.

To finally come around to my point, there's a concept coming into vogue called "false urgency". I think it points at the same thing, but without all the layers of context I've had to laboriously machete my way through. Here are a couple of links to get you started in case you're curious:

Where Have You Created False Urgency?

Important and Urgent

I don't find either particularly insightful, but your mileage may vary. I think there's a category error in ignoring the cognitive layers and assuming this to be just another mental process. I believe it's far deeper. Dread/"false urgency" is tectonic; underpinning all the rest. Maybe not in all cases, but in many, and certainly in mine.

The guy pushing this, Shawn Blanc (an interesting fellow who's done lots of cool things for Mac computing), seems to be drawing other conclusions similar to mine, but in a much more stripped-down way. For instance, compare my 1600 word posting "Resting is Not Real" to his 102 word posting "Counterfeit Rest vs True Rest". I think/hope I offer nutrition along with the greater length (and fwiw I only came across that posting of his just now, while browsing his backlog), but it's good to see someone navigating similar waters with a different approach.

But in terms of his Focus Academy thingee, please don't take a course to learn to reframe. Just reframe. Knowledge requires arduous learning, while reframing is a genie blink (more). A smartphone feature you forgot you possessed.

As noted, the above wasn't an account of spirituality. It's using spiritual framing to spelunk human psychology. People normally view spirituality through a lens of psychology, but this went the other way.

The following links turn the telescope back around to contemplate who we are rather than how we think (sorry, Descartes, but they're different things):

Spirituality in 33 Words
An Epistemological Dialog on Awakening
All posts on spirituality
All Posts on Karma Yoga (here's an explanation of what that is, and here's what karma is).

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Wanna Catch a Movie?

A 20 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"Great! I get off work at 7:30. I'll run home, throw on a sweater, and meet you at the theater at 7:45!"

A 30 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"Myrna hates movies."

A 40 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"Sorry, buddy. I'm slammed"

"You know you've given that same answer the last 20 times, right?"

"Yeah, but the end is near. I just need to deliver this one crazy project!"

"Ok, but are you aware we haven't actually hung out since 2017?"

"I'll definitely have some time opening up next month!"

A 50 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"If I watch a movie, it will be from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy lounger and viewed on my state-of-the-art media center!"

A 60 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
“A movie! I can't remember the last time I saw a movie! Say, can I get back to you? I think I might be on cat duty. Also, what movie are you thinking of? Is it any good? And is there an earlier show? Also, have you heard the weather forecast? Oh, wait, I had an argument with the theater manager there last time, that asshole. Think I'll pass.”

A 70 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"I have a dentist appointment at 11, then need to do some food shopping. Can we pick a less busy day?"

An 80 year old invites a friend to an 8pm movie. The response:
"My daughter's coming for lunch the day after tomorrow. Can we pick a less busy week?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Your Permanent Record

I'm replaying this oldie-but-goodie from July, 2015:

Nothing - absolutely nothing - goes on your permanent record.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Non-Conformist's Delusion

People spend their lives conforming. Often, they strive to do so ("keeping up" is a form of conformity). Some fraction of their attention and energy constantly channels into conforming - or gauging their degree of conformity.

Much of this is subconscious, but, either way, a chunk of their sense of accomplishment and security derives from having achieved conformity.

Then some nonconformist shows up, expecting to be not just tolerated but welcomed. Respected for the irritation s/he individually and uniquely supplies, and admired for blithely disregarding the overarching process in which everyone else has a huge psychic and social stake.

This is the non-conformist's delusion, and even a lifetime of poor reaction can’t quite cure it. It’s a monumental clash of very different framings. Two movies co-projecting as incompatibly as oil and water. At best, the non-conformist will be nervously tolerated. At worst, there will be a crucifixion. 

There is, however, an exception. A loophole, breeding confusion on both sides: Non-conformists on TV are awesome. Or in movies...or stories...or on stage performing...or generally doing some eye-catching thing at a safe, well-contained remove.

In such artificial and heightened settings, non-conformists may be celebrated (especially if they conform to current "nonconformity" expectations). However, that still doesn't make them personally palatable (it's one of the uglier streams feeding the "never meet your heroes" trope).

The nation that found Paul Lynde hilarious on Hollywood Squares in the 70s would have been prone to bashing his teeth in if he ever made a saucy remark to their faces in real life. And the kings of yore kept a clown - i.e. court jester - on staff, the only one permitted to speak truth to power, at the steep expense of donning the most undignified and denatured of personas. Outcasts enjoy certain heady freedoms, but can never be embraced. It’s been a source of frustration since forever.

Minorities find themselves thrust into nonconformist status by virtue of petty and superficial visual differences (taxonomy is our shallowest faculty). Don't imagine racists wouldn’t adulate a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, though they’d scream bloody murder if either dated their daughter.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Mémé and Mimo

As promised yesterday, here is the essential cross-section shot of mémé from Pastelaria Regional Cego:

Sorry for the low-light fuzziness. Again, judgement breaks down under the brunt of great deliciousness. I'll try again soon. Maybe that's my life from here on in: endlessly failing to properly photograph mémé. I could do a lot worse!

Also, two corrections from yesterday's posting:
  1. It's called mémé, not bolo mémé.
  2. It doesn't use fresh sheep cheese, like the immortal product of Sabino Rodrigues. It's a highly specific cheese called requejão, made from boiling whey (this is the stuff that appears on top). Kind of like a slightly firmer ricotta.
Also: this one wasn't a "10" for me. More of a "9" (again, reference my rating explainer). Was it worse today? Was I in a different mood? Had the novelty worn off? Subjectivity something something?

No. It just wasn't as bright-burning for whatever reason. At this point, I trust myself. I know that sounds like pompous self-indulgence, but you should recognize by now that I'm among the most innately self-suspicious mo-fos who ever walked the planet. It's accordingly taken mountains of evidence to stoke a sense of security re: my taste (in both senses) reliability.
My first intimation was after I'd befriended veteran Long Island food writer Sylvia Carter, who confirmed that all the places I'd childishly whined my parents into bringing me to as a kid were actually really really good, though I'd always assumed my attraction was juvenile caprice. The second was the time I tasted 30 ultra-strong and palate-wrecking barleywines at a single sitting, finding I could effortlessly taste, differentiate, and judge each one clearly, even though, when I tried to get up afterwards, my legs didn't work so good.

Here's the deal with me, on matters of taste and other realms where I've got some juju: I can absolutely be wrong - sometimes hilariously/catastrophically so - but you probably shouldn't bet against me. That's what I tell girlfriends who want to know if I'm SURE the donut place I saw a photo of once, and which we're presently driving 35 miles out of our way to visit, is REALLY WORTH IT.
Perhaps some nuance failed to be brought into full focus, or the marmalade portioning was a nanogram heavy, or whatever. Still great, for sure. But, yup, this defies my whole "reliable '10'!" thesis, groundlessly proposed after a single mémé. Hey, what did I say about not making sense? Expect more of this as I 1. age, and 2. hang around with Portuguese people.

The second unique specialty at Pastelaria Regional Cego is a brother to mémé called mimo. Same crusty pastry, same eggy/candy marmelade dollop, but topped with charmingly unevenly-cut toasted almond slivers. No cheese. And it kind of needs the cheese. But mimo (which means "pamper") is more than worth a try:

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Two Perfect Tens

Reliable 10s (see my surprisingly non-ditzy system for rating food and other things on a scale of one to ten) don't happen often. They're unicorns, arising in a certain moment in a certain place. Like Patsy's Pizza in Harlem in the 90s when Jose manned the oven...AND had an especially good day (Jose, on a bad day, produced a "9", and his cohorts on a good day were good for an "8").

More elusive still is a certain food or recipe. Any formulation that could reliably "10" would cost like beluga caviar. Or white truffles. Or real Venezuelan chuao chocolate (as opposed to fake chuao). If humanity could consistently, rotely, turn out 10s independently of fickle muses, there would be a sure path to success in the food industry. McDonald's, with its infinite R&D budget, would have long ago seized upon it to turn out burgers that made you cry (good crying).

But there's one reliable, consistent "10", for about a buck, available at a small, homey, staunchly regional bakery in Azeitão - an area even Portuguese know little about, a half hour south of Lisbon.

It's called bolo mémé. I tried saying "may-may" to a local, who had no idea what I was talking about, until finally it dawned and he calmly screamed "MAY-MAY!!!" quite loudly. When I did likewise, he nodded approvingly. As far as I can tell, it's like Newfoundland.

Pastelaria Regional Cego, in the heart of the village of Azeitão, proper, appears to be the exclusive maker of bolo mémé, which is strange. Innovations normally spread quickly. All the locals know about these things, and they all love them, yet none of the other highly competitive bakeries even attempt them.

Everything is excellent at Cego, but this item (always made to order, to avoid sogging the pastry) is in another league. It's a reliable ten. Bottled lightning. I've read detailed descriptions, but the most evocative was a tourist's review on Google Maps: "Made with crumbled sheep's cheese, in a fresh, thin, and crispy crust, topped with an almond-egg-candy marmalade." Yup. That's it.

I paired it - as all local pastries are best paired - with a glass of moscatel, the proud local specialty. One of my new year's resolutions was to develop a taste for moscatel, figuring (based on prior experience) it would take effort. But I ticked this off my list upon my first sip at Cego. That said, I'm certain it's the same brand everyone pours, and which I've tried many times previous. Not needing to make sense reflects my dawning Portuguese assimilation.

Let's go to the food porn:
I forgot to shoot an essential cross section. It's hard to adequately document something like this, because, per well-established quantum theory, food this good skews observation. I'll try it again in a few days. Maybe tomorrow. Hell, check back in an hour.

Bonus "10": Sabino Rodrigues - Queijos Da Azóia produces the best fresh cheese I've ever had. It, too, is a reliable "10".

The elderly maker sells it in his obscure little shop, way the hell down in Sesimbra, but it's also served - exclusively, I believe - in fantastic A Casa do Jorge, not far from Azeitão in the village of Santana.

I wrote about A Casa do Jorge - and my first experience with Sabino Rodrigues cheese - here.

Now, if I can only get Pastelaria Regional Cego to make their bolo mémé with cheese from Sabino Rodrigues, I might enjoy something to rival the medusa gruel I reported about from Oaxaca, Mexico; the only "11" I've ever experienced.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Bad at Languages

I have at this point met 12,000 American expats (slight exaggeration) living in Portugal, some for months or years, who barely speak a word of Portuguese. And every single one of them disclaims that they're "bad at languages".

My response to that - which, of course, I keep to myself - is that, if you can't manage to say "yes", "no", and "thank you" (plus a couple dozen other easy polite words) in the society in which you've chosen to live, that's not a question of language facility, that's a question of fuck-giving.

For the most part, Americans here say "Sí" or "No", which, of course, is Spanish. In Portuguese, it's "Sim" (seem) or "Nao" (now). This may strike you as a petty difference, but only like shitting in the sink rather than in the toilet is a petty difference.

Shrugging off the distinction between Spanish and Portuguese disrespects both proud cultures. You've made them a mere blur. A "those people". A WHATEVER. By shrugging petulantly at the distinction between "sí" and "sim", you dismiss the entirety of both cultures. Understandable for tourists, but, sheesh, if you're actually living there...

But that's not the point I'm here to make. What intrigues me is the "I'm bad at languages" explanation. I once wrote that "Every snob feels merely shy." And this clearly dips from that same well.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Slamming Cape Verdean Restaurant

My chowhounding skills are not failing me in a different hemisphere. On my very first meal in Lisbon, I scored a grand slam home run.

Sometimes for kicks I vicariously survey distant restaurants on Google Maps or Yelp. There is, I've found, little difference between directing one's chow-dar toward places as they flow past car/bus/taxi windows, and surfing places on the information highway. I ignore ratings and barely delve into reviews. But the photos. The photos don't lie. Even if they're professional shiny photos commissioned by the owner. I see through them instantly.

A few months ago, I scouted out, with great excitement, a Cape Verdean restaurant in the western extremes of Lisbon. None of my Portuguese foodie friends had remotely heard of it. In fact, many Lisbonites are oddly unaware of even the city's most prominent Cape Verdean bastion, Tambarina, which I've patronized for thirty years.

Tambarina is a real joint, with grouchy service (until they get to know you, and/or if you eat with enthusiasm). Lighting, seating, decor, and pretty much every other parameter is somewhat short of snuff, aside from the food, which is superbly homey albeit uninspired.

But By Milocas, the basement cafeteria in the Centro Cultural Cabo Verde, is spic and span, comfortable, disarmingly friendly, and an obvious labor of love, lorded over by chef Milocas, who served me one of the ten best meals of my life.

Here are a couple of nice shots from photo books about Cape Verde from the center's generous - and freely browsable - collection:

The place is no shiny Epcot proposition, introducing lookie loos to "the exotic flavors of the Cape Verdean islands". And I'm not going to turn them into a lab specimen via food nerd explication of the cuisine. This isn't about a cuisine. It's about one woman's ineffable touch. It's very much a grandma proposition...only grandma's a towering genius.

The menu:

I of course started with ponche.
Cape Verdean punch is a deep and frightful thing which must be approached with cautious respect. Knock-out strong, while sneakily delicious, they'd run out of the honey version (their specialty) so I had to settle for coconut punch, which nearly made me lose consciousness - not from alcohol poisoning, but from sheer ethereal nuanced loveliness. As with every single bite or sip here, flavors are layered with unearthly skill. And you can't begin to identify those flavors, for two reasons:

1. As I explained in my surprisingly non-ditzy system for rating foods (and other things) from one to ten:
[At 9] rational thought breaks down. You don't analyze, you just want to keep enjoying, blocking out all distraction.
That's the hallmark of a "9". And everything here is a "10". So good luck figuring out what the hell's going on.

2. Milocas is a crafty devil, infusing even simple dishes with touches. So many subliminal touches. Or - Jesus, who knows - maybe not. Maybe she's cooking extremely simply, with nary a secret ingredient, but evoking such flavor and subtlety that everything tastes like myriad beautiful things. Secondary flavors and tertiary flavors. Duodenary flavors. Heptopicodenary flavors.

Moving on...
These are a bit of a linguistical puzzle. Samosas in Portugal are "chamusas". And these are half-sized, hence the diminutive "chamusinhas". They made me want to scream. Or dance. Or cry. I have no idea what I looked like as I pitched an unintentionally extravagant fit in the basement cafeteria of the Cabo Verde Cultural Center, but in my mind I was spasmodically twitching and moaning and clutching my head as if experiencing some sort of seizure. Which, in fact, I was.

Chachupa refogada is a pile of refried garbanzo beans, studded with chunks of meat so tenderly blended in that it was impossible to differentiate. I kept trying, with utter futility, to capture the bean/meat dichotomy with my phone camera:

Also: a single thin slice of the greatest chorizo I ever ate. Rubbery and tender, spicy and mild, greasy and salubrious, it united every duality. My seizure worsening, I feared someone might rush over to hold down my tongue.

Oh, moamba (MWAHM-bah), identical to the French-African root mashes known as fufu, was, alas, sold out.

Dessert is some of the best stuff:

Bolo de Banana is very similar to a Brazilian dessert I've long been fond of and which is no longer of the least interest. It seems to have been suffused with jaggery and treacle and molasses and lots of other ingredients from a Hobbit kitchen, and it all aggregates perfectly to support the flavor of the sublimely marinated and baked banana.
The tender cake (and its richly caramelized surface), I can't really remember. I wasn't supposed to be looking there, and I went with the program (as if there were a choice).
Second dessert: Pudim de Queijo. Flan, but with cheese added somewhere/somehow. I don't really understand anything about this except to say that it's flan with a fresh dimension, in the cosmological sense. From the looks of it, one would expect classic flan, which goes THIS way. But, after a moment, tectonically unexpected flavors arise, elevating you several floors. Oh, ok! We're going up THERE now!

Everyone in the place - mostly Portuguese - seemed indifferent. Making small talk, gulping down red wine, playing with their smartphones. This answers the question "Why isn't food always this great?" Because people don't notice when it is. That said, they were eating there, not somewhere else. So there was attraction on some level. Idunno.

I strained, with my rudimentary Portuguese, to offer Milocas proper appreciation. "Fantástica!", I gleamed. "Montanha fantástica", I added, miming with my hands the peak of a very high mountain. Best I could do. I also bussed my own plates. I do that, involuntarily, sometimes, when I reach this state.

Finally, I asked for a macaroon-ish coconut confection to go, which I later offered friends who'd listened politely to my account, waiting patiently while I plied my shtick, going off hotly over my latest BIG DISCOVERY and whatever. After letting me exhaust myself, they took tentative bites of the Doce Coco and fire ignited in their eyes, along with what appeared to be tears.

I began shouting, "SEE?? This is what I was SAYING! EVERYTHING'S this good!!" One friend, who really just wanted to be left alone with her remaining morsel of doce coco, which she'd unconsciously begun to stroke like a cat, managed to choke out a response:
"I don't care about 'everything.' I love THIS!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

No Insiders; No Spokesmen

No one in my life has much grasp of my inner life or true intentions. If you’ve been reading this Slog for a while, thoughtfully and sensitively, you know way more/better than anyone in my actual life. 

Little of what I write here is socially acceptable for discussion. It’s not like I’m going to lecture friends as we go out for tacos. Most people have meager internal lives…and keep that part tightly wrapped. Mine is more fertile, and I’d share it if anyone were interested, but that’s not what this world is about. So I write, here, for a sparse audience impatiently awaiting food porn. I have also written under alias from a more hardcore yogi perspective.

Friends pick up snippets and intimations over tacos, and figure they’ve really got me. It’d be lovely if they did, but they don’t. So I’m burying this clarifying note in case it’s useful later. This Slog speaks for me. No one else possibly can. Not my family, not my ex-girlfriends, and not my eating buddies. This isn’t a sigh of despondency; just a statement of truth. 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Ratner’s and Me

My moving abroad has been a surprisingly big deal for a number of people who haven't communicated with me in years or decades. They have no idea where I’ve been living. For all they know, I’m on one of Saturn’s moons. But now I'm moving out of the country. Woah!

I can't stop recalling the demise of Ratner's, a legendary Jewish dairy restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When they announced their closure, waves of angst spread throughout the city, with hordes making pilgrimages to Delancey Street to tearfully tell the owner what Ratner's meant to them. In an interview, he said he asked everyone the same question: "When was the last time you actually ate here?" The answer was always “years”. Or “decades”. 

People didn't like Ratner's. They liked the idea of Ratner's. So I guess they're going to miss the idea of me.

But then I bounce it back the other way (I always bounce things back the other way), and I have to admit that 1. I loved Ratner's, and 2. I mourn Ratner's, and 3. I hadn't eaten there in decades when it closed, but that doesn't mean there wasn't real love. I should have supported it, yes - people like me let it flounder - but you can’t say I didn’t genuinely love it. I really did.
So if any old associates out there deem it significant that I'm living There rather than Here - even though you haven't kept up on Here (i.e. I'm more notional for you than actual) - I accept, with some light confusion, your solemnity. I will strive to deem this a Very Serious Transition, though it’s really just the latest in a long string of moves, schemes, and adventures.

Next challenge: accept the narrative everyone's painting for me that "Jim's getting older, with his white beard and all, and is surely slowing down a step and deserves to fade into a nice, peaceful retirement in some seaside village."

I understand that this is the obvious movie plot to plug me in to - this is how we mentally process white-bearded dudes  - but, actually, the melanin content of my facial hair says quite little about me. In real life - if such a thing even exists for anyone - I'm geared up to do all sorts of energetic cool projects, if the world would just stop treating me like a geezer who's slowed down a step and readying himself for retirement (thanks, waiter, but I don’t need your help capturing the QR code). 

Remember, in my head I've been eleven since I was eleven. So this whole “retirement” story seems totally weird and disorienting.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Delegating Night Time Stress

I've written before about my ongoing efforts to hack sleep problems (I'm not positioned to dig up links, but here are all postings tagged "self-healing", and I think they're in there somewhere). The following is an especially useful trick. It's the heavy stuff. 

Say you've just sold your house, your car, and packed all your belongings (those remaining after radical downsizing) into a shipper's warehouse. You're homeless, and stuck because your visa has not yet come through. You're not entirely secure in your terribly clever emigration scheme, so icy realizations keep arising that you may have steered yourself into a dead end via a plan that sounded smart on paper for cartoon-character you, but which was never real-world viable. You’ve blown up your life, the weather is freezing, you've already spent a ton of dough, and you can't escape from the mental image of one of the movers - who packed everything for you, because you sprang for the full treatment - rubbing pain ointment on his arm that he found in your medicine cabinet (you're not uptight - you're happy to help a brother human in pain, but, jesusfrikkingchrist).

Ok, great! Now: lights out and happy sleeping! Enjoy your voyage to slumberland, by which I mean endless tossing/turning with a stomach that feels like it's been pumped full of fabric softener. How is sleep even possible?
I need to note that I'm actually writing this from sunny Cadiz, Spain, where I just spent New Year's Eve with friends, having consumed this totally healthful wonder…
… in an outdoor cafe wearing a t-shirt in 70 degree weather. I have my visa (though I'm still unsure I did the right thing; after two years of ceaseless work to get to this point, I'm like the dog who caught the car). So, really, don't cry for me, Argentina. But, to continue....
Here's a trick. A hack. A re-framing. A shift of perspective to cut through industrial-strength sleepnessness:

Delegate! Every problem, issue, pain point, regret, and forgotten crucial step that comes up, simply hand it off to your nighttime assistant. 

This assistant can be entirely hypothetical, but that's harder. It helps to personify it to some someone or something, however immaterial or even absurd. The ghost of your dead grandfather. The memory of a childhood pet or teddy bear. Anything that sparks a visceral feeling of connection and benevolence. It wouldn't be the worst idea to buy yourself a toy toucan, or small fern, or to paint a smiling face on a ping pong ball. Then, whenever a breath-catching, mentally captivating, gastrically-provocative mental item arises at night (perhaps because you’ve spent every waking moment vigilant for ducks out of their rows and you can’t turn off the scanner), just hand it off to the toucan or fern or teddy bear or dead grandpa. Over and over. Don't worry; toucan/fern/teddy/grandpa's got this!

You need an absolute commitment to delegate COME WHAT MAY. No exceptions. Any thought, any impulse, gets diverted. Boom, boom, boom.

Here's another route: consider your pillow a suction device for extracting and managing mental distractions. Let the pillow do its work, sucking that stuff right out of your head, trusting it to store everything for you in the morning. However you do it, that stuff is 100% off your plate. Your only job is to let go.

If this worked for me, under these conditions, it will likely work for you under less stress. You just need to earnestly trust your fern or pillow or whatever, buying totally into the conviction that absolutely everything can be shunted to your delegatee. 

Don't step back and observe this process. Do it stupidly and without self-awareness. Rote and visceral. Be like an overwhelmed exec dodging calls, letting his trusty secretary handle them, one after another.

If you’re unable to turn off your self awareness, and this move leaves you feeling/seeming/looking desperate, weak, and/or childish, consider this:
Human beings spend their lives in conflict with imaginary people: mentally rearguing old arguments, worrying about faceless attackers and detractors, reliving bygone humiliations, and generally using our imaginations to make our lives a living hell.
That's considered "normal", but using the same faculty in positive ways to help us cope seems, for some bizarre reason, childish and loopy.

Practical Application

You know all that crap I’ve been writing about framing and seeming/posing? The stuff a lot of readers found opaque and tiresome? 

It’s how you explain, for example, this.  

Also, just about everything else baffling about the human world. 

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