Bloody Burger

HamburgerWhen it comes to a steak, cooking directions are clear. Rare, a steak is warm but uncooked in the center. Medium, it is pink in the middle. And well-done, a steak has no pink whatsoever. The reason it is safe to eat a rare steak is that disease is primarily limited to the surface, so as long as the outside is cooked, all is well.

The same does not apply to hamburger. Since hamburger is ground up steak, it is essentially all surface. As a result, hamburger should never be served or eaten rare (or medium—whatever that means for hamburger). Because hamburger is all surface, it has no middle.

When I first saw the movie Pulp Fiction, I was struck by the scene when Vincent takes Mia out to dinner at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Mia orders a hamburger and their waiter, Buddy Holly (Steve Buscemi), asks, “How would you like that? Burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell?”[1] This was the first time I had ever heard someone ask how a patron wanted a hamburger cooked. Since then, it has been a common occurrence.

It happened to me today. I had lunch with my father and we got hamburgers. I ordered mine well-done, after bristling over the question; my father ordered his medium. When they arrived, they were identical: burnt to a crisp, which is probably for the best. Many times, I have seen companions who ordered medium or rare burgers get just what they asked for: a bad tasting, potentially deadly uncooked sandwich.

I like my steaks cooked very rare. As I tear into my partly cooked meat, I am reminded of the feeding of the big cats at the San Francisco Zoo. There is something primal about it—in addition to delicious. Hamburgers are another thing altogether. There is really only one way to cook them: enough to be safe and tasty, not enough to be dry and tasteless.

Unfortunately, I think the reason there has been this rise in the popularity of the bloody burger is that people think it is cool to eat meat rare. Certainly I think of people who order well-done (or even medium) steaks as clueless dolts who don’t properly appreciate beef. But there are plenty of people who eat their steaks rare not because they like it but because they think they should. Perhaps this is even most people. It is not surprising then that they would ignorantly take cooking directions designed for steaks and apply them to hamburger. It is, however, surprising that restaurants would go along.

Death to the bloody burger!

[1] This is not exactly right. Buddy Holly asks this of Vincent. When it comes to Mia, I believe she orders her hamburger and then adds, “Bloody.” But had she not said that, I feel sure that Buddy would have asked her.

Kiss Me

Sixpence None the Richer had a huge hit in the late 90s called Kiss Me. And why not? It is a sweet song, well executed. But I have a hard time believing that the success of the song was not, at least in part, due to the wonderfully romantic video (no doubt indicative of the whole marketing campaign once the song got a little traction) that went along with it. Take a look at this horrible (sorry) copy:

What is most remarkable about this video to me is how much they managed to change the look of Leigh Nash. When the song was released, she did not look like this. Here is what she looked like:

<%image(20110730-KissMe.jpg|300|299|Kiss Me Cover)%>

I doubt it is just me who thinks this is a modern “in your face” gal! This is the kind of woman with the intelligence and drive to get to the top of the music business. That girl (and I do mean “girl”) in the video is a marketing department creation intended to make men feel warm and protective. This works perfectly with the fragility of the song’s production. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But there is little doubt that if she and the rest of the band got past their anemic Christian “good boys and girls” mentality, they might be able to produce engaging adult music, and not just the occasional well-produced cover.

The Truth About the Economy in 2 Minutes and 15 Seconds

It has been hard for me over the past couple of weeks to write much of anything because of my anxiety regarding the debt limit. More and more, I think it is all just hopeless. As it is, even the supposedly good guys are offering only bad solutions. It all means that soon I should be back to doing what I was born to do: write about obscure things few people are interested in. But I’m not there yet. Until I am, here is an exceptional short video by the great Robert Reich.

One for the That’s Just Wrong files…

No ReligionBreast Milk Baby — a doll for children with breast-feeding-zealot mothers or, possibly, adults with fetishes that really shouldn’t be indulged.

This isn’t the first baby doll to cause offense. Back in the 1970s the Archie Bunker’s Grandson Joey doll protruded his way outside of the box, being a cute little bundle of vinyl with an itty-bitty penis. Many people at the time were horrified and disgusted. I suspect the doll was purchased more for its novelty than the intention of letting little girls actually play with it. It seemed freakish somehow (in the junk-free world of dolls) to have a gender-specific baby doll. It’s much easier to make them all girls (implied by their clothing, not their privates). Today, compared to Breast Milk Baby, little Joey seems almost appropriate.

Paul Broun Weeps for the Rich

One of the most dangerous myths in the United States is the belief that governing is something anyone can do, and worse yet, something that only the ignorant can do. Thus we get people like Paul Broun who introduced a bill into Congress that would reduce the debt ceiling. But Broun has other things on his mind like the reduced consumption of luxury goods:

When someone is overextended and broke they don’t continue paying for expensive automobiles, they sell the expensive automobiles and buy a cheaper one. They don’t continue paying for country club dues, they drop out of the country club.

Who voted this guy into office? I’ll give you a hint: it was not people with expensive cars and country club memberships; there aren’t enough of them.

Jesus: God or Nut?

I have heard from many sources that Jewish scholars think that Jesus was a great man and profit, but not the messiah—not a god. This is very strange to me, because if Jesus was not the savior of the Jews—the son of God—he was at best highly deluded.

The issue is very clear, because Jesus made a point of telling people that he was a deity. If one is a god, it is perfectly acceptable—although admittedly arrogant—to tell people about it. Of course, in Jesus’ case, there is something childish about it. Much of what he said could be said by a boastful ten-year-old, “My father’s God and when I die, I’m gonna sit right next to him in heaven and I will be the ruler of everyone!” But if you accept Jesus is who he claimed to be, this is a minor point.

On the other hand, if Jesus was not God or the son of God or whatever (Christian theology is very complicated), he was what we charitably refer to as bat-shit crazy.

It isn’t as though there weren’t always indications of Jesus’ instability. He is highly inconsistent. I think everyone knows Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” and all that stuff about turning the other cheek. But he contradicted this statement, most notably in Luke 19:27:

But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.

I know that there have been 2000 years of apologists who have worked to smooth over all of the problems with the Bible and its numerous contradictions. This is perfectly understandable and legitimate if one accepts that Jesus is a deity. But for those who do not accept this, it makes no sense to hold Jesus in high regard. He might have been an inspired theologian. He might have been a great moral teacher. None of this matters, however. If he wasn’t God, he was a nut.

Update (21 July 2013 3:43 pm)

A good response to this is that Jesus didn’t specifically say that he was the messiah. By this theory, those are all bad translations when he answered in the affirmative as to the question of his divinity. Plus: maybe Jesus just meant that we are all God’s children. That more or less invalidates all of Christianity. It becomes, “There was this prophet and we got the idea that he might be the son of God.” That is a fair characterization, but it seems the whole purpose of the Gospels is to portray him as the son of God without making him look too arrogant. I guess that Jesus could have been something other than a god or a nut; he could have been a charlatan.

Eric Alterman Nails It

Eric Alterman often annoys me, but I think he is dead on today.

I admit that perusing the back-and-forth news accounts below can make for a somewhat depressing read—they only serve to highlight how little progress liberals have made in shifting the debate on this issue in the last decade and a half. But the political lessons learned in the trenches of the 1995-96 debt limit skirmish are worth revisiting. The public, as my very last example demonstrates, respects and ultimately rewards those political leaders willing to stand up and fight to protect and preserve the promises made to them by their government. Willingly negotiating those social compact promises away in the interest of seeking some ephemeral ‘grand bargain,’ however, not only makes this a less vibrant and just nation for its citizens, it’s a risky (if not fatal) proposition come Election Day. So, here’s hoping that, in this last case, the current occupant of the White House understands both the real-world and political value of history repeating itself.

Unfortunately, I think Obama is addicted to seeing himself as “reasonable” and thus will continue to cut his own throat—and ours along with it.

Not Rocket Science

Robert Reich wrote an excellent article that sums up what everyone should know about the current economy. As he says, this isn’t rocket science.

The only way out of the vicious economic cycle is for government to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy—spending more in the short term in order to make up for the shortfall in consumer demand. This would create jobs, which will put money in peoples’ pockets, which they’d then spend, thereby persuading employers to do more hiring. The consequential job growth will also help reduce the long-term ratio of debt to GDP. It’s a win-win.

It is frustrating to watch as those in power repeat all of the mistakes of the Great Depression. I used to think that we would never have another because of what was learned; the Great Depression was kind of like Christianity: my grandparents suffered so that I would not have to. How naive I was.

Quelle Surprise!

Today, on his blog, Paul Krugman wrote:

And quelle surprise, as Yves Smith would say, the economy is sputtering.

When I first read this, I thought he meant to write, “quell surprise,” as an ironic, “Stop the surprise!” But this was not what he meant. The first thing I did was to see if there was some kind of strange spelling for “quell,” given that my spelling is at best poor. There was not. This lead me to think that “quelle” was a foreign word, and it is, but that isn’t the whole story. It would have been quite easy if Krugman had just typeset the sentence properly:

And quelle surprise, as Yves Smith would say, the economy is sputtering.

The italics make all the difference in the world. They alert the reader to the fact that the words are foreign. “Quelle surprise” is French for, “What a surprise!” It also sounds nothing like “quell surprise,” and sounds more like, “queue sue preez.”

In general, it is not a good idea to use foreign phrases in English writing—especially when they look to the ignorant like a reasonable English equivalent. But if one is to use them, they must be highlighted as such, and this normally means italics.

Pirates and Beavers and Priests! Oh my!

Earlier today, I decided—after much procrastinating—to see the movie The Beaver. You may be thinking, “But Frank, why would you procrastinate about seeing a film that’s primary appeal was that it had a puppet?” The answer is its secondary appeal: Mel Gibson. Nothing quite takes the gloss off puppetry like combining it with a sadomasochistic asshole. But went I did, and discovered I did—it being Friday—the films playing at the theater had changed and The Beaver was no longer playing. My options were pretty much reduced to reading the big scary science book I just got or going to see the film that had replaced The Beaver: The Priest. Given that I figured that The Beaver was going to be dreck, the fact that I held the same opinion of The Priest did not really enter into my decision. I went to see The Priest.

This was my second time going to the “$3 for all shows” 3rd Street Cinema in Santa Rosa. The first time was to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, only yesterday. Let me only say of it, quickly, that I thought it was probably the best of the bunch. But I will have to see it at least one more time. There are obvious advantages to it: out goes Orlando Bloom, in comes Ian McShane; there was more Jack Sparrow than in any of the other films; and okay, I liked the bit between the Christer and the mermaid! More to the point, however: the 3rd Street Cinema put Pirates in its best theater. It even had THX sound, although after getting used to the Roxy Stadium 14’s sound system, it sounded pretty puny and pathetic. The Priest, on the other hand, was probably put in their worst theater. It had no THX. No Dolby. And it showed, if you will forgive me: even sitting at the front of the theater, I could make out a maximum of 70% of the dialog, and it was probably closer to 50%.

I actually had a rather good time watching The Priest because it was like a mystery. I kept trying to figure out if the filmmakers meant to make such a funny movie. I learned the answer about an hour into this just short of hour and a half opus.[1] That is the point at which the character “Black Hat”[2] pretends to conduct the vampire raid on Jericho. That was clearly meant to be funny—and it was. But it also meant that the rest of it was not meant to be funny. I suppose I should have know: I was the only one in the theater laughing.

I was not laughing because it was bad. It is just that the film is so unrelentingly serious about a subject that is just plain silly. But The Priest is not alone in this. Just about any post-apocalyptic film is. At first, it reminded me of Judge Dredd (also based on a comic). But Judge Dredd, despite its art direction, does have a sense of humor. It didn’t take long before I found a better match: Warrior of the Lost World. Or perhaps Mad Max.[3] I appreciate an artist’s commitment to his material, but that’s the thing about it: if it doesn’t work, people will laugh. And this film pulled out all the stops. I was in a good mood, so I felt entertained rather than assaulted. But it could easily have been the opposite.

But who can really complain for three bucks? Three bucks?! The 3rd Street Cinema in Santa Rosa. I can forgive a whole lot—and get a hot dog—for that price. Oh my!

[1] I kept thinking about the director’s cut of the film Kate & Leopold. At the beginning, Kate defends here profession of “market research” by saying, among other things, “We make bad films shorter!” The irony of this scene being cut from the film is priceless. In fact, the irony that the whole film was savagely cut is priceless, even though I would say the director’s cut is better (not saying a lot). Anyway, it is clear that The Priest was meant to be about a half-hour longer.

[2] This film is bad about character names. Another major character was named “Salesman” because, you know, he was a salesman. And the title character is named “Priest” because, you know, he’s a priest. Ditto for the priestess. I guess it is because this film is based on a comic book. It must be a kids’ thing. But this kids’ thing attracted a lot of talent: “Salesman” was played by Brad Dourif.

[3] This brings us full circle to Mel “cut off your arm with this hacksaw” Gibson. This makes me think that the reason I didn’t laugh all the way through Mad Max is the psychopath at its center. I am obviously not talking about George Miller—for God’s sake, the man went on to make Babe: Pig in the City. No, I am talking about that Mad Max guy: you could tell that the actor had more than an actor’s interest in the part. For the record, Mad Max is a dreadful film—just not one I would laugh at.

Drop the I Word

I just heard Monica Novoa of the Drop the I Word campaign on FAIR’s CounterSpin. The idea of the campaign is to get people to stop using the adjective “illegal” to modify human beings, as in, “He’s an illegal immigrant.” Frankly, I thought everyone had long ago given up that construction, if for no other reason than that it isn’t accurate: people aren’t illegal, acts are. Thus, we don’t refer to people who have been convicted of crimes as “illegals.” Thus, when speaking of non-citizens working in this country without authorization, we use the term “undocumented.” Here is what the website has to say on the issue:

Pervasive systems like media and government normalize their use and make it easier to deny people basic human rights through our written and unwritten rules. Use of the i-word ignores the fact that our laws are unjustly applied. Immigrants without documents are regularly hired as cheap, exploited labor. No one else who benefits from the set up, including the employers who recruit and hire these migrants, is labeled this way. No one should ever be labeled this way. No human being is illegal.

There were two things that I was surprised about in this matter. The first was that even non-right-wing news organizations continue to use the word “illegal” in this way. The second was that the original usage of the I word was explicitly created by anti-immigration activists. Even the infamous Frank Luntz has been part of this. So just in case you were still doing it: stop calling people illegal. When you do so, you are not only speaking inaccurately, you are taking part in political theater.