Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Tale of Heroism and Chili

Captain, on the quarterdeck: Well, shipmates, the time has come to tell you the full story of the recent dashing and heroic exploits that culminated, amid great throb and hubbub, in my glorious injuries last week. Sit back, for I shall recall for you such an exploit of courage and derring-do that you shall not soon regain your normal vision, probably.

Crew Member Na'eem: Oh, please, derring-don’t.

Captain: Why, it was at Isthmus Cove’s fair harbor we lay, the wind blowing strong from the fan, and all about us were the telltales of great disasters about to befall. We hove up our anchor, and she cast starboard toward the reef, The jibs rose with alacrity, and the--

Crewmember Lucia: Excuse me, Captain. Did you say we have more creamer? I couldn’t find any. I can’t even find the powdered stuff.

Captain: It’s in the galley refrigerator, the upstairs one. Look on the lower shelf. You might have to look under Captain John’s high fiber cereal.
Lucia: I’ll look again.

Captain: The jibs rose with alacrity, and perhaps also a fine powder of guano, and round she came, missing the reef by mere inches, her nose at last toward the open sea. Sail upon sail we piled upon her, with the breeze fresh on our--

Crewmember Jay: Pardon me, skipper, toilets in B are clogged again.

Captain: What? How can that be?

Jay: Dunno. Pump handle is stuck as a rod. I tried pumping it through but it got hard enough where the water starts to seep out around the hoses, like it did before it exploded on you last time, you remember?

Captain: Yes, I remember.

Crew Member Jay: So I quit that and put the sign up saying use the head in A. The head in A is getting a good workout this trip.

Captain: Well I hope not too much. That’s my favorite toilet, very peaceful in there.

Jay: I’ll keep an eye on it.

Captain: Well, so! With a fresh breeze on our quarter! Our boom was a-laying far out at port, with that breeze wafting us straight--straight, my friends--into the arms of danger! For as we exited that fair green harbor and she felt the first stirrings of the vast pacific beneath her, and the westerlies on our beam, our good ship—

First Mate Connie: Captain? The adult leaders want to land the trainees at Avalon at 5, but that’s not going to work if we want to serve dinner at 6. I figure it’ll take two hours to offload and onload the groups. Plus we don’t have nearly enough chicken salad.

Captain: What do you suggest?
Connie: Well, I’ve worked out a few possible scenarios and printed them out in full color using the printer I built from seine twine and old radio parts. Now you’ll see using the first method that we send the first group ashore right at 5, and they immediately deploy to the store for emergency chicken salad. Then they return to the boat while the second group--

Captain: Very good, very good. Do what you think is best, Connie. I cannot possibly come up with a better plan I am sure. Also I find that chicken salad is a strange and not-entirely-attractive concept to me just now. Please you take care of it and tell me what I have decided to do.

Connie: Aye aye!

Captain: And the, um, westerlies on our beam and…Oh yes, and as our fair ship felt the first stirrings of the vast Pacific beneath her keel, and there gloomed the dark, broad seas before as, and we smote the sounding furrows with our counter, then it was that--

Crewmember Eric: Captain? What do you say I mix in some chocolate with the chili we’re cooking?

Captain: Chocolate?

Eric: Chocolate deepens the meaty flavor of the chili while giving a strong base note to the peppers. They do this all the time in the south at chili-baking contests. Sometimes they--
Captain: Yes, Eric, yes, yes, yes, put whatever you like in the chili. Put in colyrium, and coriander, and tears of mastic, and unguents and fragrant balms. Throw in a couple pounds of horse radish and some vanilla extract. I know it will be delicious. Go now, Go with my blessing and we’ll meet at dinner and compare notes on our digestion.

Eric: Okay!

Captain: Smote the sounding furrows, and…and….our good ship—

Adult Leader: Captain, when do you think we’ll get back to port tomorrow? The kids want some time to go the candy store, and if there’s a chance they can sing karaoke at the Fish Market they’d like that too.

Captain: CONNIE! Please take over for me, I’m going below and not coming out until September.

Connie: Aye aye! 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday MachineThe Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis somehow tells the huge story of a collapsing mortgage market--and all the related disasters we know too well--from the perspective of the dweebs, cranks and geniuses who saw it coming, and who profited from it. You can't call it a cautionary tale, because the author, like the reader, finds it too interesting, too outlandish, to moralize over. And it will no doubt happen again, the great boom, the confident knowledge of infinite increase, and the inevitable crash, in some other guise. It's gratifying that the good guys in this story, at least in Lewis's telling, are the ones who refused to join the rush and chose to believe their own eyes. In this age of stampede and chicanery, that's something worth moralizing about.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and WarMayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

Why is it hard to read this book, especially the second half?

Is it because it describes a bloody war between previously peaceful Indians and colonists, a war that sealed apparently forever the antagonism between the two races, and relegated native Americans to outsider status in their own land?

Yes. And because of the horrendous slow-motion details Philbrick provides of this war, and the convincing case he makes that it might not have happened this way. For emphasized by the author's excellent scholarship is the unmistakeable fact that Indians and colonists lived peaceably together for more than 50 years after the Pilgrims landed. That they eventually came to fight was not foreordained, unless the Anglo Saxon greed for land and the increase of one's material wealth really does shape destiny. Well, no doubt it does.

Americans owe it to themselves, at long last, to get some corrective for the Pilgrim history they learned in high school. For many this will be their first time seeing more deeply into native American character than the textbooks allow, and that depth will surprise them.

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