20.10.14

first obpressions.

So, still trying to read the three "morbid self-attention" books I got from the library a couple weeks ago: Didion, Barnes, and the DFW biography. Didion's "Blue Lights" and the DFW bio are....maybe "light" isn't the right word, but they're easy to both start and stop reading. Didion: although she's said a few things that have really resonated so far, page 16 for example:

Time passes.
Yes, agreed, a banality, of course time passes.
Then why do I say it, why have I already said it more than once?
Have I been saying it the same way I say I have lived most of my life in California?
Have I been saying it without hearing what I say?
Could it be that I heard it more this way: Time passes, but not so aggressively that anyone notices? Or even: Time passes, but not for me? Could it be that I did not figure in either the general nature or the permanence of the slowing, the irreversible changes in mind and body, the way in which you wake one summer morning less resilient than you were and by Christmas find your ability to mobilize gone, atrophied, no longer extant?
[...]
Could it be that I never believed it?
Did I believe that the blue nights could last forever?

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The "blue nights", they're not what you think they are, they're this.

Anyway, though I'm mostly "with her", there's a little something about her tone (and all these one-sentence paragraphs) that's rubbing me slightly wrong. I know it seems churlish and insubordinate to complain about someone's technique when they're writing a book about their prematurely dead daughter and that death's effect on one's own view of mortality....but this is why I don't finish many books. I can't just "read past" someone's delivery or vocabulary or any of the things that go into writing. This is also why I don't seriously "write": I'd have to get past myself as a reader first.

The DFW bio is, well, something that I imagine would have driven him to suicide were he not already dead, and I say this knowing him just as well as his biographer knew him, that is to say not at all. I would love to see Mr. Wallace's annotations/footnotes on this book. It's, yes, stuff that rings 7,000 bells for me (auto)biographically: problems being comfortable socially; a brain whose unstoppableness becomes more and more of a liability whenever it's not channeled towards creating something; etc etc etc. I'll quote some of that here as well when I have it in front of me....

The Barnes book is a horse of a different etc: very dense and descriptive, and very British, not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just not something I'm able to dabble in yet. REMIND ME TO RENEW THESE. I'm leaving that sentence there until I do it.

to be continued....

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18.10.14

in medias res .


















OK, everything is pointed in the right direction, motor is running, gentlemen start your etc, "it's 8:05 it's time to rock," said one of the stupidest songs ever.

First, some shots from around town: I see the below store every time I go to my job in the Pijp, and finally I had to take a picture of it. This is from a couple of weeks ago.


















Then yesterday I happened to be walking down that side of the street and they had this heartwarming sign in their window:

















Apropos, or not.

Last night I took poor Jo3n kitty to the vet because we've been playing an awful lot of "Poop or Hairball" lately. Always an adventure to try and get a deadly, deadly fanged and clawed creature into a small box where it does not want to go. On the way to the vet I had to put her down (not "put her down", but, you know, stop carrying her) for a moment and take this picture of "normal" urban Amsterdam wildlife:

















This was 8 herons (couldn't fit all of them in the shot) waiting outside of the Westerpark frites/shoarma stand for what must have become an expected nightly snack, you never seem to see more than one or two herons together unless people are feeding them. Those beaks must be perfect for stabbing fries.

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The last few days have been full of, what? Work, exercise, kitty maintenance, mostly good things. I binge-watched/listened to two amazing stories of possibly wrongly-imprisoned men, one influenced by the other (the stories/serieseses, not the men): first I listened to Serial while working, which I can only recommend doing if you have time to listen to all four episodes in a row, cause you'll want to desperately; and then I watched/listened to the thing that the people who recommended Serial mentioned during their recommendation, The Staircase.

This does all tie into The Year I Got Old and the very recent preoccupation with memoirs, at least for sure in The Staircase (we still don't know how Serial "ends"): talk about having your life turn out differently than you hoped or expected. The main character is not especially likable at all in the beginning, or indeed through much of The Staircase, but in Episode 10 he says something surprisingly quotable about time and acceptance and regret that I'll mention eventually out of context because if I were to mention it now you'd know too much about what happens, and what ultimately happens (ultimately meaning episodes 9 and 10) is, well, [redacted].

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11.10.14

hat trick.


















And you may ask yourself, "My God: what have I done?" I went to the library last night on my way to the Bimhuis. Remember that not-so-positive Paul Auster review from the New York Times? Well, therein the reviewer happened to offhandedly mention three or four recent examples of successfully-written aging-related memoirs, and so I picked up two of them: Joan Didion's "Blue Nights" and Julian Barnes' "Nothing To Be Frightened Of", the titles of which make me think that maybe one of them's figured it out and the other one hasn't, but maybe one shouldn't "read" too much into a title so to speak etc etc etc...

But seriously, I've been meaning to read Didion for a long time, so I'm "looking forward" to this. And then while I was in the small English-language biography section I happened to see the David Foster Wallace biography "Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story" and thought why the fuck not, go for the Existential Gloom Jackpot.

After the library, on the way to the BIM, I saw two unexpected things. This, as I went underneath the bridge leading to Piet Heinkade:

















Which I still don't really understand what it was, hopefully a piece of art and not the new HQ of Satan's army. Wait, no, that would be totally fine.

And then this disorienting sight:
















Which is the pretty darn sizable building I was headed to (slightly in the foreground), dwarfed by an enormous cruise ship parked right up next to it. That hotel with the red neon sign next to it is, I dunno, 20 stories high. It didn't make any visual sense at all. Nor logical: why would you put two mammoth billion-dollar structures next to each other in the water if you didn't have to?

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9.10.14

breaking the chains.


















Cleaning up my phone I found this mysterious picture: I know what it is but not why there would be a picture of it.

As a break from the wattle-gazing that's going on around here, it's convenient that this is also a food blog. It's no secret that I/we seem to be growing ever more in love with pickled things over the years, probably because our tastebuds are getting old and saggy, but whatever the cause, I found another new pickle that, while it's a lot of chopping, and a little frying, and kind of feels like a bit of work while you're doing it, and boy are these a lot of commas, etc: then it sits in the fridge for 24 hours and your aged-ass moth-eaten brain has almost entirely forgotten about the prep work by then. Suddenly you're all, "Crikey, who left this bright yellow incredibly healthy-looking Nyonya/Malaysian fish pickle in my icebox? I shall bite into it right now", etc.

It's really, realllly good. One of the more obviously restaurant-quality Asian things I can make, which is interesting (to me) because there are so few ingredients. It really is the Nyonya/Malaysian version of this, so if you do it right it's another perfect treatment for oilier fishies. The post-cooking marination does something extremely complementary (and complimentary, but more the former) to the texture of this particular fish.

Which is not the fish that the original recipe calls for, which I got from here, obviously my version is totally inauthentic, I'm using dirt-cheap (but sustainably fished!) Alaskan salmon, and I didn't technically "deep-fry" anything. And some more different colors would be a good idea (adding the green chiles for example), and then check out their sprinkle of sesame seeds, which every recipe I saw included. Tragically I didn't have any so I can't comment. I left the chile peppers cut big so I could choose spicy or non-spicy bites. And I added black pepper b/c turmeric needs it in order to be bioavailable or something scientific like that.


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nyonya fish pickle. 

500g wild salmon or mackerel
olive or coconut oil for frying

5 tbsp olive or coconut oil
20g fresh turmeric (three pinky-sized pieces), peeled and julienned
50g fresh ginger (the standard "2-inch long piece"), peeled and julienned
30g garlic (ended up being about 5 cloves), peeled and etc
2 green Holland chiles
2 red Holland chiles
5 tbsp (or slightly less) raw sugar (I used one disk of palm sugar b/c that's all I had, HOW FUCKING GOURMET AM I BITCHESSSS)
1 tsp salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
200ml white vinegar
1 tsp white sesame seed or even a drizzle of tahini, I know it sounds weird but it worked for me

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Fry the fish in as little oil as you can to be able to call it frying. I cooked my filets 3 minutes per side and, while that doesn't sound like much, and it's true they were "just cooked" when I took them off, they kept cooking while they rested, and then the very vinegar-centric soaking finished whatever needed finishing. They were pretty perfect 24 hours later.

I can't remember if I wiped the pan out here, it could've gone either way. Let's say I did. Then you add the 5 tbsp of oil and fry the turmeric until it's lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove it and then do the ginger and garlic together, which I normally wouldn't do b/c ginger always seems to take a little longer, but again it worked perfectly, about 5 minutes, don't burn your garlic. Remove the ginger and garlic and then do the chiles.

And then put the oil and whatever's in the pan into a pickling jar or sealable glass bowl and let it cool. Then add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and combine with the fish pieces and rhizomes and chiles and whatnot. Something like that, I did whatever the original recipe told me to do. Cover/seal and put in the fridge for 24 hours.

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8.10.14

signs, signs, everywhere signs.

This should save me a lot of time and effort: I think Paul Auster already wrote this book, about getting old. I just thought of that today. But I haven't read it, because I was still young when it came out, yes, all the way back in last year or something.

Put another way, or possibly just the same way again less effectively: besides me just generally being an illiterate punk who doesn't turn to non-fiction books for answers, me not having read Auster's book is the reason why it didn't occur to me sooner that I should read it.

Which is also pretty elliptical, as Vatcher would say, but what I am holy living shit trying and failing to eventually get at is: at the time Winter Whatever came out, I didn't really care at all about Paul Auster getting older, literally couldn't give a fuck (ok probably not literally but you know, discursive writing breaks rules), even though I like one of his books enough to have read it very carefully with undiminished appreciation three or four times, or more, and two others I find OK (and a few others I didn't finish. And quite a few I didn't even start, etc).

But OK, so even when I first heard about this author whose one book I really really like's new book about his own aging process, I was just still an asshole young person yawning a droll and mostly-uncaring "hmm, yes, that's not terribly exciting, is it...too bad"....I didn't even think to think "Poor Paul", which was nine-tenths (I'm counting the space but not the apostrophe, discursive writing breaks etc) of the name of a bar I used to go to in Tallahassee quite often. It might've even been spelled "Pour Paul's", in fact, which is simply unforgivable.

Anyway then I first noticed my old-person neck about three months ago, and now I can barely stop looking at it. And then today I thought of Paul Auster's book about getting old. I realize that this particular kind of bodily obsessing is what women do starting at age 21 or something, with any random part of their body, and yes ageism is a shitty thing to perpetuate even if I'm talking about my own saggy neck, but the problem with it is: it's no longer my neck there in the mirror.

What I mean is, the NYT review quotes Auster as saying, "Some memories are so strange to you, so unlikely, so outside the realm of the plausible, that you find it difficult to reconcile them with the fact that you are the person who experienced the events you are remembering.”

That's just it: fucking all of my memories are completely plausible to me right now. In my mind I'm still the same stupid kid who did every bit of it: it's my present reality that's becoming increasingly difficult to believe. What with the neck and everything.

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And then, because writing about aging is still turning out to be so fucking boring (reallly need to check out that Auster book for some tips, although that NYT review isn't so so favorable is it, maybe there's hope), here's a slightly less boring herring recipe. Actually it's pretty completely boring too, on paper. But when I first tasted it in Sweden oh so long ago, it seemed pretty genius and I just assumed it was their Abba-brand herring or Nordic light or general Swedish quietness or whatever that made it great. Something unexportable. But it's not that at all: it's simply the globally-available genius of butter and hot potatoes that make it great. See? "You're never too old to etc".

Here's where I got the instructions from.

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7.10.14

the year i got old.

The Year I Got Old, it was 2014. That number still sounds to me like it's light years into the future, but in fact it’s somehow the year that is going to be over in three months.

I have a feeling I'm going to use the word "obviously" a lot here, because, well, I'm pretty embarrassed about how obvious it all is, and how I didn't see it or believe it was really going to happen. When I say I Got Old, obviously I don’t mean my physical age…as Aaliyah knew, this is nothing but a number, and as someone else not Aaliyah knows/says…the numbers don’t lie.

Except that this is one number that always did seem to lie. These horrible clichés that some obviously old people came up with like “youth is wasted on the young” (of course an old person came up with this, b/c young people generally don’t think about old people except when their grandparents visit or die, or to exasperatedly sigh at them in traffic or in the grocery store), or “hindsight is 20/20” (same as above: it’s only old people that really understand that twist on regret. I don’t mean regret like not studying for a math test hard enough or not swinging at the right pitch during the big game or having a couple of beers too many before that concert; I mean regret like continuing to make the same mistakes for years and years and years. There’s no other way to really “get” that than to do it.

And to finish this unpunctuatably parenthetical mess: old people also know that eventually your vision literally does become a medically detectable failure, and that often this is one of the first and most banal of many unavoidable confrontations with the failing body, there, OK, close parenthesis)…

Finally picking up the beginning of this sentence again: these horrible clichés about aging are so old and boring and so true that even their explanations are clichés. The very act of suddenly being old enough to believe these clichés to be true is itself a cliché, as is the act of trying to explain that. I just never, ever thought any of it would happen to me. Which is a cliché, I know.

I’ve been feeling like this for well, at least a couple of months and trying to think about how to write about it without being totally hopeless AND boring, which is possibly the worst combo there is, and then I realized that the only way I’d know if there was a way to write about it was to start writing and to think of the whole business as "resetting my perspective". Hopefully this entry is as cliché as it gets.

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20.9.14

ba-dee-ya.

It was September. It is September. There's a temptation to think, after a spell of not writing, that you just "don't feel like writing anymore". That's a rather grand reduction, and not totally true, in reality I'm totally distracted by many things, at this moment by the current Britishness of my vocabulary, "spell", and "grand", for example, maybe it's to do (another one) with watching the rather desperately uninspiring fourth season of Downton Abbey last week. I don't know much about the mechanics of the new binge-watchable Netflixing, but it seems in this case that killing off your most relatable male character in Season 3 (spoiler alert!) has some significant dramaturgical consequences. Thus we get 4 episodes of third-tier character Moseley looking for work and Alfred trying to get into cooking school. D+.

Otherwise, the not writing bit: I just got tired of writing about medication, being on it, coming off it, living without it, etc. It's not a super rewarding subject to talk about in public b/c if you haven't suffered from any of these problems (insomnia, depression, addiction) you just don't/can't care, or you might care but you'll never really understand ("just go to sleep, you wanker", "just quit moaning and go to the gym you wanker", just have two beers then stop, you wanker"), and if you have had them you already know pretty much everything I'm saying. For me reporting obvious and well-(mis)understood facts has never really been a good enough reason to start typing.

Considering "really writing" here, but as always, that's a fleeting inspiration that almost never lasts past a first draft. Instead, I post pictures of what I've been doing: visiting Mara at work; eating extremely penile organic hotdogs from Hema (if you ever need to buy "a real American hot dog", this is what you should buy, don't bother with the bullshit at the grocery stores); reading Karl-Ove Knausgaard.








































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