Friday, July 10, 2020

Criterion Collection Films 50% off at Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble's biannual 50% off sale on all Criterion blu rays and dvds starts today (it's the most wonderful time of the year), and will last for several weeks. In celebration, I'm republishing this posting from 2017. I haven't updated the links to blu ray decks on Amazon, but they're easy enough to search for.

Note: Blu ray is much better quality than streaming, and streaming doesn't give you extras, booklets, and commentary tracks. And if you never care about any of that stuff, then you probably don't love any movie enough to want its Criterion edition.

Barnes and Noble (online and stores, both) is running their biannual Criterion Collection sale, with everything (including box sets) 50% off.

The Criterion Collection is the Rolls Royce of film distributors. They only carry great films, using the best available prints, and they take considerable trouble to improve image and sound when necessary. Their releases include copious extras (usually a printed booklet, too). Their release is the last word on any great film.

A lot of people lose their minds during these biannual sales, because every film is so damn attractive. I've been gaming them for a few years now, and have a few tips to share:

1. Don't buy on the basis of how good the film is (they're all great). You can often get much better deals on non-Criterion releases, or find ways to stream. And unless you're some fussy nerd, you generally won't need the very best print, so don't factor that in at all (unless you've got your sights on some lost film of the 1930s where the standard release is raggedy/terrible). Buy Criterion when you really want lots of extras. So: either favorite films (which you'll periodically rewatch) or else difficult, landmark films which you'll want to "chew on" - films by profound, challenging directors like Bergman or Tarkovsky. In both cases, you'll probably enjoy deep dives into special features and essays. If you'll just watch a film and put it back, Criterion is a waste of money.

2. Check price of used Criterion releases at Amazon Marketplace,, and eBay. They may be even cheaper than 50% off new.

3. The new Criterion release everyone's most excited about is Tarkovsky's "Stalker".

4. There's great discussion in Amazon reviews, and, especially, in user comments on the individual film pages at Criterion's web site (Here, for example, is the page for "Stalker"). Also: Criterion Forum

5. There's no reason to still be using a DVD player. Blu-ray decks are cheap, and they play DVDs, so you won't obsolete your previous disks. This one costs just $46, and this one, for $139, will play DVDs and Blu-Rays from any region (note that some constricted players can be made all-region by entering certain codes with the remote. Google your model number for more info). This one, for $549, is the cheapest great/expensive one with lots of bells/whistles (the manufacturer sometimes has refurb units cheap - email them for more info).

6. Bear in mind that Criterions can go out of print. When that happens, their price may shoot up. So you may want to move quickly (keeping tip #1 in mind) and then hold on to your films as an investment. On the other hand, I've bought $200 used copies of out-of-print Criterion films, viewed, and sold mine back again for about the same price. There's always demand for Criterions.

7. If, like me, you're a huge fan of "The Leftovers", consider "Walkabout", the Australian film which inspired this last season, and starred David Gulpilil (who played the aborigine Kevin's father tried to get the song from).

8. If you're buying "blind" a film you've never seen, be sure to check it through Movielens to make sure it's a film you'll actually like.

Criterion films I either own or am considering buying this time:

The 39 Steps Director: Alfred Hitchcock

The Battle of Algiers Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Brazil Director: Terry Gilliam

Breathless Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Burden of Dreams Director: Les Blank

Burmese Harp Director: Kon Ichikawa

Dekalog Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Don't Look Now Director: Nicolas Roeg

Eisenstein: The Sound Years Director: Dmitriy Vasilev, Sergei M. Eisenstein

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Director: Terry Gilliam

A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman ("Through a Glass Darkly," "Winter Light," "The Silence")

Grand Illusion Director: Jean Renoir

Great Adaptations Director: David Lean

Grey Gardens / The Beales of Grey Gardens Director: Albert Maysles

Hiroshima Mon Amour Director: Alain Resnais

In the Mood for Love Director: Wong Kar-Wai

Jules and Jim Director: François Truffaut

La Ronde Director: Max Ophuls

The Lady Eve Director: Preston Sturges

The Lady Vanishes Director: Alfred Hitchcock

The Leopard Director: Luchino Visconti

Mala Noche Director: Gus Van Sant

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters Director: Paul Schrader

Naked Director: Mike Leigh

Olivier's Shakespeare ((Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III) Director: Laurence Olivier

Orphic Trilogy ("The Blood of a Poet," "Orpheus," "The Testament of Orpheus") Director: Jean Cocteau

The Passion of Joan of Arc Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Paths of Glory Director: Stanley Kubrick

Picnic at Hanging Rock Director: Peter Weir

Pierrot le Fou Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Rashomon Director: Akira Kurosawa

The Rules of the Game Director: Jean Renoir

Rushmore Director: Wes Anderson

Safe Director: Todd Haynes

Scenes From a Marriage Director: Ingmar Bergman

The Seventh Seal Director: Ingmar Bergman

Solaris Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Stalker Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Tanner '88 Director: Robert Altman

This Is Spinal Tap Director: Rob Reiner

Three Colors: Blue White Red Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Throne of Blood Director: Akira Kurosawa

Videodrome Director: David Cronenberg

Walkabout Director: Nicolas Roeg

Yi Yi Director: Edward Yang

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Nazi Paradox Meets Bubba's Noose

Here's what I don't get about neo-Nazis, and have tried to grok since grade school. If I understand correctly, this is their essential rap:
The Jews are subhuman parasites who should be exterminated. And the Holocaust was a hoax. It's a slanderous lie to say the Nazis exterminated the subhuman parasites who absolutely deserve extermination.
Weird, no? They're indignant that their peeps would be accused of doing the central thing they advocate. It's like the NBA screaming bloody murder at accusations that their players dribble.

The odd thing is that in the 35 years I've been slowly grinding away at this paradox, not one speck of additional evidence has materialized. No connections have crept up, no metaphors conjured, no corollaries developed. It's just a singular puzzle, unique so far as I can tell.

Until now.

Bubba Wallace, the NASCAR driver who reported finding a noose in his garage after demanding that NASCAR drop the Confederate flag, has been accused (mostly/only by President Trump, so far as I can determine) of lying about it.

Which, hey, is possible. With a population of 328 million, anything/everything imaginable can and will happen here and there. So that's not the interesting question for me.

What draws my interest is the fact that the sort of person who'd cry "Hoax" is precisely the sort of person who'd leave a noose in the garage of someone attacking the Confederate flag. The pro-noose people are also the noose skeptics. I have trouble processing this, and, as I made the effort, it immediately associated with the other paradox.

If I understand correctly, this is the rap:
"God bless the Confederacy, and god damn the darkies, who ought to be strung up from trees, and who push the slanderous lie that there are people out there who'd string them up from trees."
I'm still confused - by the paradox, not by the hatred part, which feels completely non-mysterious.
In fact, the hatred part is, more than anything, boring. An old meme. A last gasp.

When, in 1977, the American Nazi Party marched in Skokie, a town with many concentration camp survivors - a demonstration which many of us supported as a civil liberty test case - those guys were bona fide scary, but we all laughed at the absurd goose-stepping relics, dismissed as lunatic fringe. Forty years later, a gaggle of pasty-faced citronella-bearing douchebags gather in Charlottesville, and scabby losers like Steve Bannon claim hilariously to be the master race, but the intervening decades of comparative tolerance make them seem like a titanic threat. As hatred slowly fades, remaining specks strike us as disproportionally worrisome.

As I wrote here
By the time we're down to our very last Nazi (some geezer raving and saluting from his electric scooter), we'll all be so unhinged by his presence that we'll jump in the ocean and drown en masse like lemmings.
While the hatred part of the equation strikes me as a last gasp of a fading perspective (consider the elderly demographics of the hardcore MAGAs) the other part - the paradox - continues to puzzle. But I now have two data points to consider; not just one. Thanks, President Trump.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Misfires and Bullseyes

The greatest kindness one can pay a creative person is to amiably tolerate misfires.

I don't trust people who hit all bullseyes. It means they're holding back and not giving their all. Or they're cheating somehow.

Shiny David Copperfield always nails it.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Precipice and the Virus

The fear you feel in high places isn't really about the danger. The fear's palpable even if the danger's removed; by, for example, installing a barrier. It's your own inclinations that you're afraid of.

It’s not the fear of jumping intentionally, with kamikaze exuberance. It’s the sudden gulping recognition that your error margin - your grey area of uncertainty - encompasses "death plunge". A scenario is imaginable where...whoops.

The fear stems from the unholy juxtaposition of trivial/comical "whoops" and oblivion. The two are so disparate that they can't be framed simultaneously. We must flip back and forth, like with the alternate perspectives of an optical illusion. Whoops....Oblivion. Whoops....Oblivion. The flipping is what causes the vertigo. The most daunting precipice isn't the one between current position and prospective destination. Far steeper is the distance between "Whoops" and "Oblivion". That's the truly nauseating drop-off.

I have a perennially self-defeating and neurotic older friend who hasn't left his apartment since March. Hasn't seen a human being, hasn't breathed fresh air. He will not converse through the window when I deliver his groceries. His windows remain firmly shut.

He doesn't own a mask because he's not going outside - perhaps ever. He doesn't follow the guidelines, because he's uninterested in skirting the edge between safety and danger. He'll remain far, far back, in safety, thank you very much. Even if it kills him.

At first I assumed he felt like he was being extra safe. But after consideration, that's not it.

I tried encouraging him (via phone) to put on a mask and enjoy a nice walk down his breezy, deserted suburban street. But as he ranted - citing opinions from the television (dodgy to begin with) that he'd misheard, misremembered, and misapplied, about persistent viral clouds and uncertain modes of transmission - I glimpsed the actual precipice. It wasn’t the virus he was afraid of. A perfect clarity settled in. I could envision the truth as clearly as if I were the Oracle of freaking Delphi.

If he did finally go out, he'd do so in the fraught state of shaky failure he reserves for urgent circumstances. His nose would stick out from his mask, if there were any mask at all. He'd walk, inexorably and hopelessly, toward the sneezes. He'd touch only things lots of other people had touched. And, returning home in a state of mindless agitation, he'd find a way to 1. not wash his hands, and 2. touch his face. Whoops...oblivion.

My urgings were wrong-headed. He unconsciously senses his fraught self mismanagement, and that’s what keeps him - appropriately, I suppose - indoors. His choice is to either retract to the opposite end of the universe from the danger (putting himself in converse peril), or else self-immolation. Simply going about his business is unthinkable.

I know what you're thinking. "Huh. Crazy people. What are you gonna do?" But consider this: how many of us can stand with our toes against the ledge of a 10,000 foot drop-off while remaining calmly normal?

Also factor in this scenario, if you can (it's a tale about reaching for the comically/tragically wrong tool in the face of danger).

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Biden Does it My Way

"Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself"

In May of 2016, I published a posting titled "The Smartest Thing Hillary Clinton Could Do".
Two points are inarguable:

1. No one who likes Donald Trump will have their mind changed by anything Hillary Clinton has to say.

2. No one who dislikes Hillary Clinton will have their mind changed by anything Hillary Clinton has to say.

There's nothing for her to do. It is not in her power to increase his negatives or her own positives. For those rubbed the wrong way by her love-it-or-hate-it voice, six months of Clinton grinding over what a prick Trump is will only work against the intended narrative. And in the course of those six months, she and Bill will commit many unforced errors. All while Trump trolls the bejesus out of her (America's brashest troll meets America's tightest coil).

This election is Clinton's to lose. She's got as strong a margin as she started with (and feebly squandered) against Obama and Sanders. So the smartest thing Hillary and Bill could do would be to rent a nice house in the south of France until November, and disappear. Not say a word. Let her proxies (not Bill) snipe at Trump. Let Trump be the only candidate committing unforced errors. Give him the total spotlight he craves. Let the nation experience nothing but wall-to-wall Trump for six months. Let Trump undo Trumpism.
This time around, Biden's been doing precisely that. It's debatable whether he'd have gone this route without the cover of Covid-19. But all parties seem to agree that it's helped him to give Trump - increasingly out of step with the country, as tiresome as an old meme, and incapable of adaptation - loads of room to stumble.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Rise of Pseudo-AI

I just read an article from back in 2018 that reports that much supposed AI is fake, because "it’s cheaper and easier to get humans to behave like robots than it is to get machines to behave like humans."

AI is expensive and it's hard, and in many cases (especially, though not exclusively for new start-ups), it's easier to have zillions of tiny people in your computer typing really fast to make it look like the computer's working automatic magic. Those people, more often than not, are drawn from the vast hordes working, for micropayments, within Amazon's Mechanical Turk set-up (here's the 18th(!!) century origin of the name, and here's more on Amazon's operation).
“In 2017, the business expense management app Expensify admitted that it had been using humans to transcribe at least some of the receipts it claimed to process using its “smartscan technology”. Scans of the receipts were being posted to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourced labour tool, where low-paid workers were reading and transcribing them.

"I wonder if Expensify SmartScan users know MTurk workers enter their receipts,” said Rochelle LaPlante, a “Turker” and advocate for gig economy workers on Twitter. “I’m looking at someone’s Uber receipt with their full name, pick-up and drop-off addresses.”
It used to be that people would have all sorts of highly personal conversations in front of "the servants." They were like a lower form of life, so, somehow, they didn’t count.

Now we say lots of personal stuff in front of mechanical turk workers, whether disguised as AI or not. They don't seem to fully count. Really, that’s the new servant class.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Problem With Parler: People Prefer Shitting in Clean Toilets

"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." - Battlestar Galactica

In case you haven't heard, Twitter has begun to police its hate, propaganda, and cray-cray. They're purging the worst, pasting warning labels on the marginal, and banning those who've rejected multiple warnings.

Naturally, the crazies and assholes are less than perfectly content with this, so a mass of loopy raging blowhards has begun to migrate to an alternative service called Parler, hollering predictably about FREE SPEECH (which, as sane people know, applies to congressional legislation, not to the actions of private media companies which have no obligation to allow every human to scream into their microphone).

Parler has positioned itself as a safe zone for raging lunatics. And, inevitably, people are realizing that a community composed of raging lunatics lacks a certain sheen.

There are smokers who reserve no-smoking hotel rooms, because smoking rooms smell bad, and then smoke in them. The same principle applies here. A certain type wants a civilized, intelligent discussion they can smear their feces around in. It's just not the same to do so in, like, a toilet.

The Bulwark has a hilarious new article up today about the alleged migration to Parler. The authors are skeptical it will actually happen, because, essentially, people prefer shitting in clean toilets.

As the founder of, a very early and popular online community, I have some experience with, oh, every part of this. Don't imagine that jerks are only jerky about politics. They can be delightfully versatile; able to switch over to tacos and crawfish with great aplomb.

Chowhound started off like Twitter, sincerely devoted to weaving together every last voice. Like Twitter, we came to realize that not all children play nicely, and that a loud microphone becomes an irresistible magnet for users more interested in screaming into a loud microphone than in using the service for its intended purpose.

Like Twitter, we were forced to moderate discussion in order to protect the quality of our operation against the encroaching kudzu, and were met with screams of "FREE SPEECH NAZI CENSORSHIP", because screaming ridiculous bullshit was always this element's go-to move.

Like Twitter, we reluctantly began kicking off the worst of them, and, like Parler, alternative operations cropped up to serve as safe havens for those cruelly persecuted by our FREE SPEECH NAZI CENSORSHIP. I wrote about this here.

The Bulwark is correct in predicting that a garbage can is a less alluring environment for wreaking havoc. And so these people will feel an irresistible draw back to Twitter; back to the spotlight. But let me explain what comes next.

Parler, having drawn off the scumbags, trolls, malcontents, and crazies, will come to be moderated with enormous brutality (the guards are naturally tougher on Rikers Island than the ones in elementary school). So new safe haven garbage cans will arise to welcome users they repel. As the cycle endlessly recurs, a fractal pattern of loudmouthed nightmare communities will fan out to host Twitter-like interaction "but with FREE SPEECH!"

Finally, once the worst of Parler (or whichever service becomes the established FREE SPEECH alternative) has been driven off, it will gradually accumulate a decent number of relatively well-behaved shitheads (plus some oblivious normals), and remain, for a time, the Avis to Twitter's Hertz, until the inherently belligerent management, prone to poking sticks at its usership, mismanages the operation into the ground.

And thus unfolds the heat death of the universe.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Chowhound's Reading List

I just resurrected the old Chowhound Reading List. Take a look!

I'm particularly proud of my profile of John Thorne. If you don't know, he's the food writer's food writer - by far the best of the century, if not of all time.
John Thorne thinks deeply about food. In his personal, utterly unaffected voice (which is actually a hybrid of himself and wife Matt), he ponders the minutia of meatballs, the inner meaning of rice and beaning. Aptly illuminating quotations are cited, seemingly unrelated concepts elegantly connected; Thorne's rhythms are so honest, his erudition so copious and his iconoclastic conclusions so clever that the reader never suspects the daunting legwork that goes into it all. Thorne, the hardest working man in the food writing biz, erases all traces of these labors, so his prose goes down as easily--and as deliciously--as the most soulful polenta.

When the ruminations conclude--and you've discovered historical, cultural, scientific, and spiritual depths to, say, pancakes that you'd never suspected existed--Thorne presents recipes. Not dozens of variations on a cooking theme, but a few concentrated treasures, the distillation of the preceding essay's meditations. The recipes may or may not be to your taste, but such care went into their developement that they're manifestly more than tested, more than polished...they're downright perfected.
I like to flatter myself by imagining that this was the most befitting short profile of Thorne out there. He, in turn, had reviewed my first book, and his writing had the power to teach me who I am (most people don't know and really need to be told). It wasn't the praising that dazzled me. I'd have appreciated his perspective nearly as much if it were tepid or even negative. I was affected by the insight. With Thorne, it's always the insight. The rest of us are mere pikers.

John was also the only food "authority" to grok my smart phone app, "Eat Everywhere":
Eat Everywhere is the distillation of a lifetime of adventurous eating deftly brewed into an impressively designed and wickedly ingenious app: endlessly useful, surprisingly entertaining, and highly addictive.
A snarky reader would surely view this as a disgusting display of shameless back-scratching. But it was more than that. Yes, we were providing mutual support in a world that doesn't often comprehend, much less reward, heartfelt and idiosyncratic work. But more than that, we paid each other the honor of digging deep to extract real insight, the greatest gift a writer can offer one's subject and one's readership. Thorne and I both subscribe to the old-fashioned credo of a writer giving subjects their full due. Those of us who have the audacity to encapsulate a person or their work for crowds of other people have a duty to evoke and express the authentic heart, and not just blab descriptively (here are my Slog postings tagged as "profiles")

Chowhound and I received metric tons of press, all of it useful. But hardly a drop of it was insightful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Sautéing Onions

In yesterday's posting about salmon pasta, I wrote:
Roughly chop a small onion and sauté in minimal oil. Cook it about two notches cooler and twice as long as you ordinarily would. "Gentle" is your mantra..
That's a perilous instruction for unskilled cooks. During the first 45 years of my cooking career, when I poked around in kitchens, able to rotely conjure up a handful of familiar dishes but with no real idea of what I was doing, I recall lots of time spent watching ingredients lie flaccidly in pans not doing much. Standing around waiting for stuff to boil, to sizzle, and to brown. Heat was scary, and was applied with hesitance, because I was afraid to burn stuff.

Picture a driving student, puttering hesitantly forward, afraid to press the accelerator 'cuz speed's the thing that makes you crash.

You cannot simply tell a newbie cook "C'mon, turn up the heat" any more than you can urge a driving student to hit the damned gas. First they need to be able to control the power, and that takes time. But sporadic cooks and Sunday drivers never gather enough experience to develop control. The former are perpetually not-burning, just as the latter are constantly not-crashing. Not-burning is not cooking, and not-crashing's not driving!

So my instruction to be gentle with the onion (which, by the way, applies for most onion applications, and for all garlic ones) will just further tie the hands of many home cooks, who'll spend long periods of time flustered about the onions basically just sitting there.

It was transformative for me to read, years ago, an article about a famous chef who’d been  invited over a famous food writer's house to accept the challenge of improvising dinner from leftovers in his fridge. First thing the chef did was turn up all the stove burners to high and crank the oven. When I read it, I understood that cooking is all about heat. It's kinetic. So conjure up all the heat you can, and then, if necessary, cut it down here and there. Wield all the power, but do so with control.

I eventually learned that burnt food isn't like a sore throat. It's not an inevitable bad thing that occurs from time to time. I haven't burned food in years. Burning is what happens when you don't just stop paying attention (i.e. caring), but stop paying attention brazenly and flagrantly. Car crashes are not inevitable. They only happen if you're stupendously inattentive.

I once wrote that
Amateur musicians sometimes play out of tune. This is because they're trying to play in tune. If you try to play in tune, that means that when you fail (and you will fail!), you'll be noticeably out of tune.

Professional musicians don't try to play in tune. They're preoccupied with trying to play really, really in tune. So when they fail (and they will fail), they're still reasonably in tune, though not precisely enough for their standards. They'll wince, and feel like failures, but you won't hear it.

Amateurs conclude that professionals fail less. Wrong. They fail as often as anyone, but they work within narrower tolerances. We're all failures, but pros fail well.
If you're trying not to burn, that means you'll occasionally burn. If you're watching like a hawk to spot extremely subtle degrees of doneness, you'll never burn. You'll still feel like a failure, because, being human and thus doomed to periodic failure, you'll sometimes miss the OPTIMAL point. But burning? That's not inevitable. It's not even imaginable.

So when I said to cook the onion and garlic gently, I didn't mean meekly and feebly. I didn't mean sullen chunks languishing in tepid oil. I meant that the robust inertia of kinetic heat powering your entire cooking enterprise should be confidently tempered to the lower end of the curve.

Imagine an eight year old scratchily playing a cheap plywood violin told to play a certain passage softly. She'd produce especially hesitant scratchings, some barely speaking due to all the tense restraint. Now imagine Pinchas Zukerman asked to play softly, fluently channeling every iota of his normal power and rich expression into a galvanizing whisper.

That's how you do the onions.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Salmon Pasta

I've made several dozen versions of this basic dish over the past few months. Cooking's all about iteration. Forget the recipe, forget technique, forget ingredient quality. Those vaunted X factors are dwarfed by the magical power of iteration; fine-tuning your moves (and, even more importantly, your micro-moves). The easy informality of it all, combined with absolutely full attention and deep caring, is the trick.

My guiding principle is to be as lazy as I can get away with. Not because I'm lazy, but because I want to focus, and if I'm navigating a fraught obstacle course where every single task is a demanding stressor, my attention gets diluted and I find myself acting more like a harried project manager than a deeply attentive artisan. I know where to invest my care. That's one thing the iterations show you (of course, you need to carefully analyze your results, or else the iterations won't improve on each other).

The caring part has to be way more extreme than you'd ever imagine. That's why you're lazy; to clear space for excessive caring. Not a cinematic display of furrowed brow where you tell yourself stories about your own diligence. Don't pose, but really do it. Lose yourself in it. Cook like you're saving a life.
See the religious tract I once posted about the devotional level necessary for producing a properly toasted and buttered bagel.
Ok, here goes.

Have some leftover salmon that was broiled first flesh side up and then skin side up until the skin nearly burnt. The skin won't remain crispy in the fridge, but you'll be rejuvenating it.

Heat water in a pot (use minimal water so it becomes starchy and thick and useful for adding later to make final results glisten).

Roughly chop a small onion and sauté in minimal oil. Cook it (seasoned with salt/pepper) about two notches cooler and twice as long as you ordinarily would. "Gentle" is your mantra. Stir infrequently (laziness!).

When you start the pasta, add thinly-sliced garlic to the onions (if the pan's actively sizzling, you'll brown or burn the garlic, so be sure the heat's tame before you add).

Roughly chop salmon and place atop the onion/garlic mixture. You don't want to use a ton of salmon. One full handful, roughly chopped, is sufficient per person. Don't do the ugly American move of deeming your protein the equivalent of a steak dinner. Be poor tonight.

Cut the salmon skin into small strips with paring knife, and add to sauté pan, keeping it separate from the other items.

Slice some tomatoes (I used Camparis) and place above the salmon which sits atop the onion/garlic. You don't want to cook the tomatoes to mushiness.

Drain pasta, saving water.

Hastily sauté a handful of spinach per serving in a little too much olive oil in the pasta pot (excess oil will help compose the sauce).

Critical checks before proceeding:
Salmon skin must be dry and crisp - almost starting to curl up.
Onions and garlic must be soft and golden.
Tomatoes must be relaxed but not gooey.
Spinach must be limp but still deeply green.

Remove salmon skin from pan, and keep handy on a plate.

Mix salmon, onions, and garlic.

The following should take about 30 seconds:

Add cooked pasta to pot with spinach, hoist the pot with one hand and stir aggressively and disrespectfully with the other hand, using a wooden or bamboo spoon or spatula.

Add a dab of cooking water.

Add salmon/onions/garlic/tomato (don't stop stirring!).

Add a dab of cooking water.

Stir in some seasoning (I used leftover Ecuadorian creamy hot sauce from a previous day's takeout, but sky's the limit: chili flakes, za'atar, any fresh herbs, etc.).

Add a dab of cooking water.

Add some grated Parmesan (not too much; this needs to be subliminal; cheese is great with salmon, but you don't want to flaunt the broken taboo).

Keep stirring violently until it looks like something you'd be eager to eat.

Transfer to plate.
If you're using lengthy pasta (linguini, spaghetti, etc), use tongs and give the mound a twist as you plate it. Carefully study 2'29" in this classic short video for spaghetti limone, where Frank Prisinzano makes that move look way too easy.
Arrange salmon skin atop.


Read this followup posting more closely explaining about the onions.

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