Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I know the way we live now, what with living it and all.

Who cares if the NYT loves Jonathan Franzen?
A few years ago an independent study was done showing that a book review in the New York Times spikes sales for the book that was reviewed for just about twenty-four hours and then the sales drop right back down to where they were before. That’s true regardless of whether it was a good or bad review. I’ve had my work featured in the New York Times before. ... As far as I can tell my sales weren’t affected one way or another by the attention.

But when I got into Cosmopolitan, that was a different story...

My first review in Cosmo was exactly two sentences long. They said that Sex, Murder And A Double Latte was a “red-hot-read” and packed “more jolt than a Venti Frappucino at Starbucks.” That’s it. Two sentences next to a tiny picture of my book. Shorter than the paragraph the Times gave me.

On the day that Cosmo issue was released my sales rank on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon went from somewhere in the 5000 range to being the 18th bestselling book on their site/stores. Within days I was officially on Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Bestseller list and it wasn’t long before regional talk shows and radio shows were requesting interviews. When Cosmo actually printed a two page excerpt of my book Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights in their June issue a year later it got enough attention to piss off the religious right who said in an article circulated on the Christian Wire News Service that my sex scene was leading America’s youth into temptation. I was less surprised by the criticism than I was by the fact that the religious right was reading Cosmo because I’m pretty sure they’re not reading the New York Times.

But then again, of course they’re reading Cosmo because they know that Cosmo’s readers respect that magazine’s opinion enough to actually buy the books they tell them to buy just as Cosmo respects its readers’ tastes enough to review books that they might want to read. The Times doesn’t seem to care what their readers want from a book. In their effort to only review books that they think are deep and influential they themselves have ceased to be influential at all. So at this point I’m happy to let them review exclusively white male authors. It simply doesn’t make much of a difference.

Their loss, not mine.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Recipe: Easy Red Posole

This can be made with only a couple of non-pantry ingredients and thus is good for times when you've not been shopping in a while. My usual posole recipe requires a giant slab of pork and is fairly labor intensive. Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

Easy Red Posole

1 large can hominy (get the Goya, not the southern-looking stuff, which tends to be gummed together)
4 cubes tomato bouillon (could also use broth + tomato paste)
3 dried guajillo or other large chiles, stems removed
1 small white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
fresh cilantro

Red Sauce:

generous dollop of oil
2 tablespoons finely diced white onion
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup / 2 oz / 50g ground red chile (not chili powder---I used ground arbol chiles)
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lime

Put 3 1/2 quarts/liters of water, hominy, onion, garlic, peppers, and oregano in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer. You can use some of the water, once it's boiling, to reconstitute your bouillon cubes in a small cup and then add them back.

While the big pot simmers, combine the chile powder with 2.5 cups water in a small bowl, gradually adding the water to get from a paste to a uniformly consistent slurry. Fry your minced onion and additional garlic and oregano in a small saucepan until golden. Add flour and cook until light brown, then add cumin. Then add the chile slurry and stir constantly until the mixture is combined and simmering. Simmer for fifteen more minutes, then add this sauce, a spoon at a time, to the soup pot, stirring well and tasting between spoonfuls. Once soup is at desired heat level, serve with fresh cilantro. Leftover chile sauce can be used for a faster version of the soup another day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And your Birkin too!

I am as prone to seeing the misogynistic side of pop culture artifacts and unsympathetic to the lament of the Nice GuyTM as much as the next grouchy feminist, but this condemnation of "Fuck You" is just out of hand. This is not a song about denying women's agency or some moral obligation to date broke guys or about shaming women for having standards. It is at best a song about a values conflict and at worst a song about making excuses for yourself.

Although all the facts are presented through singer-narrator's perspective and thus are not definitively true, what do we know about the characters in "Fuck You"?"

- Cee-Lo previously dated Girl. Cee-Lo, then as now, lacked substantial material resources and was forced to "to borrow, beg and steal and lie and cheat" in order to keep Girl. ("Trying to keep ya, trying to please ya/'Cause being in love with you ass ain't cheap.") Cee-Lo feels that Girl would have continued to date him if he'd had "been richer."

- However, it's not clear that Girl actually made these expenditures a condition of continuing to date Girl---it may have been that Cee-Lo felt pressured to provide these experiences or presents to Girl due to outside influences.

- Girl now appears to be dating Rich Boy, who owns a car, possibly a Ferrari, in which he drives her around town. Said driving includes trips through or to areas in which the impoverished Cee-Lo can see Girl with Rich Guy.

- Even though Cee-Lo thinks Girl plays games in an unfair way in relationships, he still loves her. He simultaneously wishes her the best and tries to dismiss her from his mind with a punchy insult.

Crucially, we do not have any certainty about why Girl broke up with Cee-Lo. The mere correlation between the financial position of her past and present paramours does not prove causation. But do we have affirmative reason to doubt Cee-Lo's narrative? If Girl does in fact value the Rich Boy's ability to buy fancy status objects more than Cee-Lo's love, is this not a value choice that we too might wish to condemn? Perhaps, if we are not obsessed with civility, even by telling her "fuck you"?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

I am crazy about being drunk,” he wrote. “I like it like Patton liked war.

Apparently Deliverance is a good movie. Who knew?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

For my bowling buddies

a poem written by a bear

let me go eat some salmon
why are there coke cans in the river
what if i wore a bullet proof vest during hunting season
i’m a bear; i walk in the forest and look at the river and the river is cold
i saw campers today and they ran away and i was alone and i destroyed their tent
let me go scratch my paw on a tree
let me go eat a salmon
last night i cried onto my salmon
the salmon was sad but it still wanted to live
it wanted to swim and be sad and i ate it under moonlight
i saw a moose scream the other day
it screamed quietly under a tree
i felt embarrassed and sad and i thought, ‘oh, no; oh god, oh my god’
sometimes i climb a tree and sit there and sing very quietly
sometimes i want to go to a shopping mall and chase the humans and claw them
i’ll ride the moose into the shopping mall and ram the humans
the moose and i will ride the escalator and i will hug the moose and the moose and i will cry
i will eat the moose
i don’t care
i will scream and throw the bubblegum machine from the second floor to the first floor
i felt compassion for the salmon and now i don’t care anymore
i’ll walk into a parking lot and chase a large human and hug the human and cry
i’ll walk into a house at night and push the humans off the bed
i’ll stare at the bed and i’ll feel fake

By the same author: The Levels of Greatness a Fiction Writer Can Achieve in America

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This article on electronic monitoring to replace incarceration sounds like a deficit hawk's dream. But it gets a little alarmist at times:
But the real purpose of any form of Panopticon justice—that is, the certainty of discovery and punishment—is to force the criminal to monitor himself. The Panopticon effectively outsources the role of prison guard to the prisoners themselves. And to be constantly on watch may wear at the psyche in ways difficult to predict.
I monitor myself all the time. It's called being an adult, or having a conscience. Eventually it becomes habit, and subconscious. And isn't that what we want? For people to have a habit of being law* abiding?

* Blah blah many laws are bad laws etc. I'd rather be monitored as punishment for breaking a bad law than go to prison.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: The Passage

I saw that my friend Alyssa was reading The Passage, and figured that a vampire novel she liked must be pretty good. I enjoyed it (although the ending! dammit!), but I can't quite figure out who to recommend it to. It's not really for the same vamp-loving audience that eats up Twilight* and True Blood, since the vamps are not intelligent or seductive. It's not a romance, and it fails as a hard SF novel (contra Alyssa, I found the invocations of magic poor, hand-waving cover for plot holes). What it seems like is nothing so much as World War Z + The Stand.

In fact, the vampires, which are never described in a really satisfying way, are really more like particularly cohesive versions of the recently popular "fast zombies" than they are typical blood-drinkers. Moreover, the parallels with King's opus were so common as to be distracting.** But it's still an unputdownable read, and left me panting eagerly for the next two books, if only to resolve the many dropped threads. Recommended.

* I refused to see that Scott Pilgrim movie, mostly out of curmudgeonliness, but feel vindicated upon hearing that it is Twilight for Boys.

** The military destroys the world through inadvertent release of an engineered virus. People are strangely drawn to a religious old black woman in Colorado. Others coher around a darker community near Las Vegas. Sara is a sort of Frannie proxy (and Theo for Nadine, perhaps?). Each has an old badass (the Judge/the Colonel) who flings himself into death. Anyway, I didn't see the point in hewing so closely to the prior work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why do I subscribe to Broadsheet again?

How is this not a completely obvious decision? At the end of the summer you can either 1) immediately start having sex, or 2) go on a diet. Which is more appealing? It's not like a summer without sex has much potential to be carried forward like weight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Via Jared:

"Claremont McKenna College is the 9th best college in the country, ahead of Yale and Columbia, but most importantly, Pomona."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Most Dangerous LARP

This article on the most powerful group of prison gangs in South Africa is utterly engrossing.
And so the three camps were formed, each with their self-made philosophies of banditry and their collectively assigned roles. The 26s were to accumulate wealth, which was to be distributed among all three camps, and acquired through cunning and trickery, never through violence.
The 28s, in turn, were to fight on behalf of all three camps for better conditions for inmates. They would also be permitted to have sex, in their own ritualised manner, among themselves. They were never to touch a 26.

As for the 27s, they were the guarantor of gang law; they were to keep the peace between the three camps. They would learn and retain the laws of all three gangs, as well as the laws of the relationships between gangs. And they would right wrongs by exacting revenge: when blood was spilled, they would spill blood in turn.
The shared mythology, invisible uniforms, and detailed roles each group and subgroup within the gangs play are amazingly complex and complete. They even have their equivalent of boffers: Knives carefully wrapped to allow only a wounding length of blade to enter the body. I couldn't help but think that D&D would be a naturally popular and more enjoyable pastime.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

This lack of subtlety does not bode well for her fiction.

Is Ayelet Waldman writing a(nother) novel? Because I thought I heard her say she is writing a novel. When will this masterpiece be released? The European theater in World War II is such unexplored territory; I can't wait to see what she's doing with it. Apparently there will be efficient yet evil Nazis!