Monday, April 25, 2011

Psalm 109: An Easter epiphany

A week or so ago, someone quoted Verse 8 of this psalm to Ms. Possum, suggesting it was a portent for the Bobama regime. I was asked to extract the verse in two different translations and print it out. Instead, I read the whole thing, and was blown away by both the power and bitterness of it.

I was shocked and troubled that a man chosen by God for great things could beseech his Creator for such vengeance upon anyone.

Then came the epiphany: I realized that this bit of Scripture applies to The Red Herring and his myrmidons in its entirety. It's brutal, but the Bible is not all warm-and-fuzzy, and not for the faint of heart. The actions of the irrational liberals holding forth today are perfectly described herein.

I'm very careful about wishing death upon anyone, because I think it has karmic implications. Even if someone meets the simplistic criterion that "he needs killing," a hard-line gangster leaves the family out of it. The depth of anger expressed in this psalm upsets me, and I'm a nasty bastard.

I don't wish death upon incompentent, corrupt, megalomanical politicians, no matter how nefarious they are. I want them to live to the fullness of their days, as the Bible puts it, and I want them to live every day in shame and degredation that they are failures as leaders, role models, and human beings. I think this is a worse punishment than death; once you're discorporated, it doesn't matter much anyhow.

I'm thinking of Jimmy Stewart in "Shenandoah," where he is choking the life out of a young Confederate sentry who has just killed one of Stewart's sons. As the boy's eyes are rolling back, Stewart suddenly releases his grip, and tells the gasping lad: "I want you to live to be an old man, and have many children, and when somebody comes along and kills one of them..."

There are things worse than death, and the humiliation of being a one-trick pony and the disgrace that will engulf his children because of his failures is what I wish for The Manchurian Candidate. May he live the life he has foisted upon everyone else. May he live in interesting times.

Psalm 109

Oh God of my praise, don’t stand silent and aloof while the wicked slander me and tell their lies. They have no reason to hate and fight me, yet they do! I love them, but even while I am praying for them, they are trying to destroy me. They return evil for good; and hatred for love.

Show him how it feels! Let lies be told about him, and bring him to court before an unfair judge. When his case is called for judgment, let him be pronounced guilty. Count his prayers as sins. Let his years be few and brief; let others step forward to replace him. May his children become fatherless and his wife a widow; may they be evicted from the ruins of their home. May creditors seize his entire estate and strangers take all he has earned.

Let no one be kind to him; let no one pity his fatherless children. May they die. May his family name be blotted out in a single generation. Punish the sins of his father and mother. Don’t overlook them. Think constantly about the evil things he has done, and cut off his name from the memory of man.

For he refused all kindness to others, and persecuted those in need, and hounded brokenhearted ones to death. He loved to curse others; now you curse him. Cursing is as much a part of him as his clothing, or as the water he drinks, or the rich food he eats.

Now may those curses return and cling to him like his clothing or his belt. This is the Lord’s punishment upon my enemies who tell lies about me and threaten me with death.

But as for me, Oh Lord, deal with me as your child, as one who bears your name! Because you are so kind, Oh Lord, deliver me.

I am slipping down the hill to death; I am shaken off from life as easily as a man brushes a grasshopper from his arm. My knees are weak from fasting, and I am skin and bones. I am a symbol of failure to all mankind; when they see me they shake their heads.

Help me, Oh Lord my God! Save me because you are loving and kind. Do it publicly, so all will see that you yourself have done it. Then let them curse me if they like—I won’t mind that if you are blessing me! For then all their efforts to destroy me will fail, and I shall go right on rejoicing!

Make them fail in everything they do. Clothe them with disgrace. But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord, praising him to everyone. For he stands beside the poor and hungry to save them from their enemies.

"Let his years be few and brief; let others step forward to replace him."
Verse 8

(From The Daily Walk Bible modern English translation via The Living Bible.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This took life as an e-mail, but at 1400+ words, I figured "why not?"

I do a lot of crock pot cookery, and the squash ratatouille is pretty simple.

I start with 4-6 yellow squash, a couple of zucchinis, and at least one Vidalia onion. (I love onions, so this frequently expands to 2 onions.) The squash get sliced thinner than the onions. Two cloves of garlic, at least, minced. One can of stewed tomatoes for color, or any cherry tomatoes you have left over in the fridge. A liberal dousing of white vinegar, a few shots of Worcestershire sauce, a dusting of garlic salt, and about six shakes of Tabasco™ sauce. (The cooking will kill the heat in the Tabasco. I like spicy, not hot. Tabasco sauce cooks out well in most things, and tastes great.) The onions should go in first, followed by the squash, the garlic, the salt, and the tomatoes and liquids will distribute the salt evenly.

I have two crock pots, a small one and a larger one. The small one cooks faster, so I use it for the veggies. A high setting for an hour or a low setting for two will probably get you there. Unlike my grandma, I don't believe in cooking veggies to mush, so you'll have to monitor the process and pull the plug when it reaches the desired crispness.

When you de-crock the veggies, keep the broth simmering. I always add an appropriate amount of brown rice, turn the setting to high, and check it in about and hour and a half.

I have a better recipe for rice, though. It takes some work and planning, but people beg me for my pilaf if I'll undertake it.

An experienced cook knows the expansion properties of rice, so start by setting up a kettle that will hold the amount you want: boiling water, and I use the garlic salt to hasten the process. You also want to be pre-heating the oven to 450° before you start. While the oven is heating, take a flat baking pan with sides, pour your rice in, and spread it out. Then pour a liberal quantity of liquid or melted butter over the rice, and work it into every grain by hand. (This is so sensual and tactile!) Once the butter is assimilated, make sure the rice forms a nice, even bed in the pan, and pop it into the oven. (I don't use precise measurements or exact times; I cook by feel and the seat of my pants.) In about 45 minutes, the rice should be browning on top. This means the butter has been absorbed by the grains. Take the pan out of the oven and dump it into the boiling water, which you then bring down to a low simmer. Put a top on the kettle and wait at least 45 minutes without peeking.

The oven bakes the butter into the rice. As the hot water enters the grains, it displaces the butter. What you'll have is totally un-gummy pilaf. No rice balls; every grain a delight. You just have to know when it's ready, though. This makes a great foundation for the squash ratatouille, or you can blanch some shrimp quickly and serve them on top.

Cooking a crepe on the bottom of an omelet pan is more a circus trick than anything else. You start with a basic roux of flour, eggs, milk, and salt. The consistency should be slightly thinner than what you'd use to make waffles or pancakes, but not too much so.

You need a dedicated, virgin omelet pan with a rounded bottom to pull this off. To prep the pan, dip a damp cloth into the cheapest regular salt you can find. (Morton's works fine.) Scrub the bottom and sides of the pan vigorously with the salty rag, re-dipping often. The salt scores the surface, and this will be important when the time comes. When the pan is suitably scrubbed down, rub melted butter over the bottom, and place it upside down on a burner at medium heat until the butter is crusty and beginning to smoke. (You only have to prep the pan once this way; that's why it's a dedicated utensil.) Let the pan cool, scrub the butter crust off, and repeat a couple more times. Pan prep is the key to success versus a huge mess. (Never clean the pan with hot water or detergent; wash it by hand under cold water and air-dry to preserve its integrity.)

When the pan is prepped, take a large dinner plate, a clean towel, and a sturdy rubber band. Secure the towel over the plate so you have a smooth surface on top. Using either melted or liquid butter, saturate the towel. Hint: it's kind of like fueling a Zippo lighter; you don't want the butter gooshing over the top of the towel, but you want it good and soaked.

Set the plate beside the stove, and turn a burner up halfway. Beside the plate, pour some of the roux into a flat container that'll accommodate the width of your omelette pan. Set the pan on the flame, "cooking [top] side" down, bottom up. Wait a minute, then pick the pan up. There's no way to describe it, but when you hold the bottom of the pan near the side of your face, you'll know by the heat emanating off it that the pan is hot enough.

With a swirling motion of your wrist, rub the bottom and sides of the pan on the butter-soaked towel you've set up. Quickly, as it's losing heat! Then gently glide the pan into the roux. You'll hear a sizzle as you do so. Lift the pan straight up, keeping the bottom level. A string of roux will fall off, hopefully in the exact center of the pan. Turn the pan over and put it on the burner. When the edges of the crepe show a light brown crust--1 minute is the optimum time--take the pan off, turn it over, and gently deposit your crepe onto a plate. (All that prep work you did with the salt and butter on the pan should ensure it's absorbed a lot of butter into the scoring, and will release the crepe willingly.)

Rub, dip, repeat; depending on how many crepes you want. If this is done right, you'll have the thinnest, crispiest crepes you ever ate. If it goes wrong, you'll be up to your ass in alligators, rapidly deteriorating roux, and aborted crepes floating in the dip pan. Learning this trick is really a hands-on process; there is no way to demonstrate the correct temperature of the pan, or the consistency of the roux. It's trial-and-error, but it can be done. I'm so good at it that I flip and spin the pans like drumsticks when I'm cooking, and sometimes use two or more pans and burners at the same time.

Crepes are all-purpose. Greek fishermen used to wrap ratatouille in them and take them out on the water for lunch. You can use strawberries and whipped cream as filling for an outstanding dessert. Beef chunks and baby onions in a bourginon sauce make an excellent entree, as does cubed chicken breast, broccoli, and green peppers in a white wine gravy.

The broccoli is a no-brainer. I blanch it in a chef's pot for ten minutes or less, until it has the right consistency. Then I drain it, set it on a plate, and cover it with slices of pepperjack cheese. A minute or less in the microwave melts the cheese, which is then sprinkled with finely-minced fresh garlic to taste.

Yeah, I should have a cooking show on TV, but I'll leave that to people with personalities like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen. It's been an absolute rule for nearly thirty years that if I undertake a cooking project, I am to be left absolutely alone in the kitchen. I also refuse to clean up in the aftermath.

The chef who taught me a lot of this was graduate of the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, and a crazy SOB. He always kept a pan of oily, boiling water on a back burner where he was working; not to cook with, but to toss on any unruly waiters who gave him grief, and he let that be known to all who placed food orders with him. I've seen homosexual waiters tuned up on coke, and they can be a rowdy bunch. I do the same thing with a pot of water in my kitchen before falling into the Zen trance that dedicated cooking induces. ("Not now!" usually suffices.)

Happy cooking! I ain't scared of no cholesterol, and calories, like veggies, are my buddies.

"Living well is the best revenge."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Damn Yankees!

What follows is a blog post without a “whiz-bang” ending. I wrote it Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, when the story was a headline.

I try to be lyrical when I write, but after the “damn Yankees” part, the article devolved into rhetoric.

My point is the thought that first leaped to mind when I heard the news: it’s time to start hanging some of these motorscooters. (World-wise adults can surmise the synonym for “motorscooters”; you kids can take your best guess.)

And I mean “hanging” literally. Not the dubious “honor” of a firing squad, or the nebulous “humanity” of a lethal injection. I mean the drop of a common thief, a totally dishonored waste of protoplasm that is best returned to his component elements as quickly as possible.

So, for my thoughts from last week, read on:

I’m listening to “The Concert for New York City” as I write this. The double CD set was a gift from a friend who lives in The Big Apple, and though my personal quirks preclude living in an urban area of any sort, the energy and the resilience of the audience comes through with tear-jerking, throat-clogging clarity.

As a people, we have the attention span of a salamander on a hot rock. In case anyone has forgotten, the concert for NYC was an all-star performance by luminaries like The Who, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and too many others to name. Their sole purpose was to raise morale after the 9/11 horror, and even though the three acts I’ve named are Brits, it was also their way of assuring us we’re all in this together: civilization, such as it is, against the dark heathen forces that object to us and seek to destroy us.

When I say “us,” I mean civilized people; those who follow a moral compass and don’t regard life as a cheap commodity. I have a lot of fun with my Confederate heritage; tweaking Yankees is second only to NASCAR as a favorite Southern pastime. The War of Northern Aggression, a.k.a. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in our history; like a family feud, we had some issues to settle. The hearty people of Dixie are sore losers, and we take great delight in not admitting defeat. Since we did, in fact, lose, and people from the North have been flocking here in increasing numbers ever since, it’s amusing to mess with them. My favorite hat is a gray baseball cap emblazoned with a crusty, bearded Confederate soldier, wielding a pistol and saber, standing beside a cannon. On the top of the cap are two words: “Damn Yankees.” My cap also sports an SCV [Sons of Confederate Veterans] membership pin, and a couple of other pins alluding to Vietnam. I sometimes get strange or hostile looks in public, but I have yet to pause and try to explain myself to strangers.

I like damn Yankees. The love of my life is a damn Yankee, from Detroit. I consider the family feud to be settled, and we are all one people now. I reserve the right to kick damn Yankees around by messing with their preconceptions and acting like a stereotypical redneck, but they’re my damn Yankees, and I don’t take kindly to “furriners” coming around to poach them. Somebody screws with our damn Yankees, you’ve got to fight every mother’s son in Dixie, and that’s a bar fight with bikers that you don’t want to initiate.

Somebody attacked my damn Yankees on 11 September, 2001. I’m still pissed off about it.

So, now comes the news that the nefarious bastards who didn’t die in the attack, and are in custody, will face military tribunals instead of trial by civilian juries. There has been a great deal of controversy about how to deliver justice to these mooks, and a “common tater” described the latest decision as “a total reversal for the [current] administration.”

My personal definition of justice is that people get—or should get—what they deserve. In the case of those associated with 9/11 that would entail being herded onto a jetliner and remotely nose-dived into the North African desert. (My alternative is “flying lessons” from 2000 feet above Ground Zero; one at a time from helicopters so the others can watch, and televised globally. The impacted compost can then be added to the foundation for the new “Freedom Tower” rising on the old WTC site.)

However, since we’re a nation of laws, let’s put the system to work and apply the same standards that we used for the Nazis in 1946 Nuremburg. (There wasn’t a lot of pussyfooting about crimes against humanity back then!) Bring in the big legal brains, appoint advocates for the accused, and get on with it.

I’ve heard arguments from all over the political spectrum that military tribunals, offshore detention of terrorist combatants, and any other circumvention of established law is a violation of the Constitution. I’m not a lawyer—never played one on TV—but it’s my understanding that the United States Constitution was written for the common welfare of the citizens of the United States. (I think there’s something in the preamble about “providing for the common welfare.”) Basic tenets of American law, like the presumption of innocence, a jury of one’s peers, and the confirmation of Miranda rights, apply to citizens of this country, not to enemy combatants captured in foreign countries where they originally hatched their lethal conspiracies.

I live by a simple philosophy that minimizes stress in my life. When I lay it out for others, I enjoy the wordplay of calling it “Robert’s Rule of Order.” It’s very succinct; less than a dozen words: “Don’t wave at the cops, and don’t shoot at the Army.”

The jihadist terrorists who attacked us on 11 September 2001, and continue to attack us, have violated every tenet of human decency. They have no regard for human life, and hide behind their own women and children as they seek to slaughter our own innocents. They thump holy books in the run-ups to their “missions of martyrdom”, then come to America where they swill whiskey, surf porn, and patronize prostitutes. And, breaking Robert’s Rule of Order, they shot at the Army.