Thursday, June 28, 2007

Recipe: Big Fluffy Bagels of Sorrow and the Pain of Growing Alienation

For the Bagels:

2 and 1/2 cups of white flour.
1/3 cup of oat bran, ground fine.
1/2 cup of whole oats, ground fine.
1 teaspoon of salt.
1 teaspoon of yeast.

For the water:

Brown Sugar

For the Sorrow:

The news that someone you love deeply will be taken far away from you, to not only grow apart, but potentially even begin working against you. This needs to be a betrayal you are entirely powerless to prevent, yet something that is considered an inconsequential loss by society at large, so that your family and dearest friends cannot even begin to comprehend the depths of your emotions at this moment.

Suitable sorrows, ranked from highest to lowest yield:
-Delonte West, the best and greatest and most awesome basketball personality to cross the TD Banknorth Fleet O'Rama Parquet, getting traded to Seattle, which means he'll end up in Oklahoma, which means it will be hot and nobody will come to see him, and no one will care about the things he wants to do, like strip naked and drive down crowded highways in a convertible, or believe that he really did talk to Bugs Bunny one time.

-The cancellation, mid-show, of a Morrissey concert. (hi nichole! my bagels refer to you!)

-Kitten abortion.

Assemble dry ingredients, oatbran flour, oat flour, white flour, salt, and yeast, in a bowl. Add, slowly slowly, and mixing from the sides of the bowl, slightly more than one cup of warm water. After dough is mixed, dump into a slightly greased bowl, cover, and set aside for two or three hours.

During those two hours, mope as necessary.

Turn dough out onto floured board, and work until dough is somewhat elastic and oblong. Cut into eight hunks. Shape hunks into bagels, by poking your thumb through, and in a wringing motion, as if you're ringing out unshed tears, form the bagel with your fingers. Set each bagel on surface, cover, and leave to double in bulk.

After dough has nearly doubled, take out your biggest pot, and fill nearly all the way with water. Add salt (again, think tears) and sugar to the water (bittersweet, such is the nature of loss. Also doughy.) Put on high heat and bring to a really, really rapid boil.

Drop bagels two by two into the boiling water. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes each side, and set on dish towel or pile of paper towels to drain. As you're nearly halfway done, preheat the oven to 425. When all bagels have been boiled, allow the last batch to drain for at least five minutes, then place on waxed paper on cookie sheet, and bake for 30 minutes.

Bagels, sorrow, unfathomable loss - good with peanut butter.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dear Sandwich:

It seems like a cliche, but can I just say that I never thought it could be like this?
I didn't.
I ordered you on a whim, I admit, because I'd seen others enjoy you. And I'll admit, there'd been many, many sandwiches to pass through my life: club sandwiches, cuban sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches.
I had, in times past, even eaten margarine on graham crackers and called that a sandwich.

For a while, I'd considered sandwich toppings to be the cutting edge of sandwich consumption; that all that could be done with sandwich fillings, the meat of the sandwich, was to coordinate what kind of bread it was on, and what vegetables, sauces, and cheeses it was paired with.

Little did I know that a sandwich of nothing but meat on a soft roll could be so much.
Then I ordered you, sandwich. You, the Burnt Ends Sandwich from Blue Ribbon Barbecue in Arlington.

Just one bite and I closed my eyes and I was sitting in front of every campfire I'd ever seen. The smoke, the meat, the soft roll- it was like childhood and summertime- but I'd never had barbecue as a child.

Until I was twenty-three years old all I knew of brisket was boiled corned beef on Saint Patrick's Day. How can a sandwich make me feel nostalgia when it evokes nothing I've ever experienced before?

The cole slaw wasn't so bad, either.


P.S. Sorry about digesting you and everything, but you understand.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

In defense of Paris Hilton.

I think I've mentioned before that I feel a certain...warmth towards Britney Spears, the more she falters in life, insofar as I feel anything at all towards her. People who express surprise and shock about her "antics," I think, aren't really thinking. What did people think would happen when a girl from a lower-middle class background in the south is taken out of school, given millions of dollars, and called a sex symbol from the age of 16 on? Without the millions of dollars, she's just like any other girl from Florida - except she's had no formal education, no friends, and no experience with normal life. Of course she's a train wreck. Millions of dollars don't stop the train wreck; they just make it more sparkly. People make disdainful faces about her now; they furrow their brows, flipping through magazines at the check out counter,

"Well, before, it was all in good fun...but now she's brought a child into it."

The kid's going to be fine. When you have millions of dollars, it doesn't matter how together your mom is, as long as she can find a way to buy you a doting nanny with a good handle on child development. And even if not, it's not as if Britney Spears minus money and fame would be any better of a parent (or less likely to be a parent) than she is now. She's just more visible, and, as I said, much more sparkly to look at.

Paris Hilton I don't find as charming. I bet she actually is nearly everything she's accused of: vapid, talentless, shallow, ignorant. I doubt she is, as some seem to think, a harbinger of the apocalypse or a destroyer of the integrity of a generation...but really, believe what you want. But allow me to pose a question: What would you rather she be? Who else could she be?

Lauren Bush? Lauren Bush, Ralph Lauren model from the age of thirteen, from the same family that produced George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush, and George W. Bush...could have very easily been Paris Hilton. Instead, she's gone to college. She received a prestigious fellowship, to travel around the world and visit children in orphanages. She was recently interviewed about this travel in Marie Claire. It was a two-page interview, followed by an opportunity to purchase a T-Shirt, designed by the young Ms. Bush, to support children in orphanages in impoverished countries.

Ms. Bush is ambitious. She contemplates a career in human service. She mentions in this interview that she did not get this fellowship because of her celebrity status; she had just applied, and she got it. Oh, Ms. Bush. I believe you, precious. I believe that you believe that. Because, otherwise, you wouldn't be able to live with yourself.

Think about Lauren Bush. She will have a fabulous education, followed by a wonderful career in whatever she chooses, which will provide her with money she will not need, some of which she will donate to people who do, most of which will go to buy trinkets and stocks and ridiculous luxuries, made guilt-less by her orphan safari and other ventures. And each opportunity she gets, like the fellowship- is one that she takes away from someone else.

Her college admission. Her future internships. Her career. Every thing she does, which she is RICH ENOUGH NOT TO NEED TO DO, is going to be another opportunity lost to someone who may have achieved it through merit and hard work (I'm not saying Ms. Bush has no merit, or has never worked hard; only that when one is that privileged, and that connected, it is impossible to suss out what has come from what source).

I prefer Ms. Hilton. She will never need a job. She will never need an education. Thus, she declined to get one. Even her ridiculous television programs took nothing away from anyone. No one could star in The Simple Life, except for a vapid and useless socialite. She is the embodiment, the open and naked result of privilege and nepotism, un-shrouded in virtue or charity or stylish concerns...The only thing she has ever done that was actually, literally, destructive to society was drive drunk. And, arguably, by sparking a debate and outrage over her preferential treatment in prison, perhaps some good will come from it. If people grow outraged enough, perhaps some change will happen. Maybe public support for prisoner's rights will grow, as stories about young men dying in prison from neglected absesses and apendicitis while Paris gets a pass because she can't get her lithium.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In which the Hobo says she prefers mental retardation to tort reform.

Actually, that's not the essence of my argument.

I don't prefer mental retardation to tort reform; I prefer mental retardation to death. Unfortunately, I'm not HoboDeathStudent, and I like to pretend sometimes that I care about issues relating to my future career. (Actually, I do. But no one wants to debate the intersection of contract law and social policy with me. So I will continue to mostly write about things I cook)

So there is a massive, massive lawsuit in the works. If you're unfamiliar with the thimoseral/autism thing, here's a summary: In the past fifteen or twenty years, autism has been being diagnosed far more often than it had been previously. This increase cannot be explained by an increase in the population, although it is theorized, that, among many possible factors, it may be related to the aging of the population. There are a great many people, and very many parents of autistic children, who believe that a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines, thimoseral, is the cause of some cases of autism.

The proposed mechanism of action is inconsistent; some people believe it is the mercury in the thimoseral which causes brain damage, which causes autism, in certain very vulnerable children. Others believe that it is the combination of vaccines now given, which overwhelm the immune system in some children, and cause an auto-immune reaction, which causes autism.

The science isn't good; and the law isn't any better. For many reasons, it would be hard to make this case out in regular court. First, unlike, say, DES, which caused a characteristic type of cancer, (clear cell adenoma)at an unusual age; there is nothing distinct about autism potentially caused by a vaccine and other cases of autism. Any potential plaintiff may have contracted autism anyway (factual causation problem, for tort students).

Plaintiffs have, however, killed their legal and scientific problems by bringing suit in "Vaccine Court", which, as far as I can tell, has lowered their burdens of proof in order to create a more streamlined process for people injured by vaccines. All settlements in vaccine court come out of a general pool; mumps vaccine makes your balls fall off, flu vaccine gives you a seizure - it all comes from the same account. That way, no one has to identify the manufacturer or distributor of their particular dose of vaccine.

I could go on legally, but I won't.

Before I go into my next argument, let me just say: I have tremendous respect for parents of autistic children and all people who work with them. If I had the balls and the strength of character, not to mention the patience and internal reserves, to be in a nurturing profession like that...I wouldn't be going up to my eyelashes in debt to be able to sit in a room with papers all day.

But basically, if you're a parent, what these parents are saying, with their lawsuit is "Fuck your kids."

Vaccines aren't fun; they're not a government plot. They're not a pharmaceutical plot. They're dangerous tools of the medical profession, yes. But they're necessary. And the reason they're necessary is because if we did not vaccinate children, we'd be back to the era of birthing four to raise three. Mumps, measles, rubella, polio. All these things didn't just hurt kids, or make their lives difficult, lonely, unpleasant, frustrating, undignified- they killed them. If thimoseral causes autism (and I have seen nothing to convince me it does), it's still worth vaccinating every child.

Autism doesn't kill you. Polio might.

So what these parents are saying is "I would prefer that my child be normal, and two children I do not know be dead." It's a fair thing to feel. If we didn't want to save kin over strangers, especially unseen strangers, we'd have run out of ourselves, long ago. It's not a fair thing, however, to enact. If vaccines become too much of a liability for companies to produce, they'll stop. And when they stop, people will start to die. Mostly children.

I've been thinking about the outcry against increased genetic testing for down syndrome. Parents of children with downs syndrome are concerned that if people find out that they're having a child with downs syndrome, they will abort it. They feel that if these parents knew what living with a child with downs is like, they'd keep the baby. People are concerned about the ethics of ending a pregnancy, to spare a family from having a mentally disabled child, or to spare a child from having to live with a mental disability - when we have a whole lobby of people who openly prefer the painful deaths of other children, to the possibility that their child may not be perfect.

By the way, kids: The vaccine court is a form of tort reform. A limited pool of compensation. Specific rules for specific injuries. Streamlined process. Tort reform ain't the answer.