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Returning nothing of value.

The Christmas Shoes and the theology of narcissism
You folks ever heard that song "The Christmas Shoes"? Contemporary Christian light rock song from 2000, by some group called "NewSong", that I only know about from an episode of the Nostalgia Chick. And while I like the Nostalgia Chick, I almost think I was happier not knowing about this song.

In case you haven't heard this song, or heard of it... It's an "inspirational" contemporary Christian song about a man who is doing his Christmas shopping, not feeling the spirit of the season, when he spies a little boy ahead of him in line, trying to buy some pretty women's shoes. The boy doesn't have quite enough, and he starts crying and says he wants to buy the shoes for his dying mother, so she can feel pretty before she dies. And the singer buys the shoes for the boy, who then runs home, while the guy sings that "God must have sent that little boy to remind me what Christmas is all about."

Sounds like regular Christmasy glurge, but if you look deeper, you get into some really dark and awful ideas. Truth be told, I have nothing but contemptuous rage for the sort of theology that this song espouses. Without the last bit, it'd just be a bit of "I did what I could to help someone in pain, and it reminded me that I was losing sight of the true meaning blah blah blah," and that'd be fine. Saccharine, but fine.

But the last verse is where I go from "oh, come on already" to "GRAAAAAAH RAGEFLIP A TABLE!" Seriously, what it's saying is, "God sent this little boy with his horrible, traumatic parental death and his sad, pathetic attempt at a materialistic token of affection, to remind ME, yes, ME, what Christmas is all about. God put suffering in this child's life to teach ME a lesson!"

Seriously, dude thinks that God, the purported CREATOR of the FUCKING UNIVERSE, who apparently is all good and all loving and all knowing, chose to deliberately send horror into the life of this innocent child just so he, the beardy guy warbling this song, could learn a valuable lesson?! Never mind that any god which did so would be an EVIL god, unworthy of human worship, but who the FUCK are you, Mr NewSong Lead Singer Guy? What about YOU warrants the personal attention of the Creator of All Things, especially to teach you the sort of lesson you could get off any Hallmark card, and ESPECIALLY especially when the means of teaching you is killing an innocent woman, leaving this boy without his mother?!


*ahem* So, yeah. Doesn't please me very much.

Nostalgia Chick's review is funny, though:


11/11/11: For their honor
Today, I want to say thank you to our nation's vets. All of you.

Because of your hard work and sacrifice, all of our cats, dogs, hamster, gerbils, mice, rats, birds, and farm animals are healthier, happier, and safer.

Yes, whether it be vaccinating my cats against rabies and other diseases, or performing surgery to fix a horse's broken leg, all of our domestic animals and the humans who love them owe our vets a debt of gratitude...hang on...

*mumble whisper*

...wait...VETERANS Day?!

Oh. That's very different.

Tags: ,

Moral hazard and the "rules are rules" crowd.
So, foreclosures. They're happening a lot, a lot more than they should, and for bad reasons. We all know this.

I came upon this story here, in which a group of Occupy Atlanta people set up camp on the lawn of a police officer whose home is being foreclosed upon, to try and block the eviction. I applaud this move and any like it. But, it seems, the commenters were not all of the same mind.

I noted a number of posters complaining about this as somehow immoral, allowing people to "live in homes they haven't paid for" or something like that. Two things I have to say in response.

First, we know that the banks have been engaging in widespread fraudulent foreclosures. We know that the banks have engaged in fraudulent mortgage lending, and fraudulent securitizing of known high-risk mortgages. Given this fact, ANY foreclosure in today's economic and regulatory circumstances is highly suspect. So, why do they want to blame the victims, instead of the perpetrators? I suspect the "just world" fallacy, but I can't entirely rule out less savory mindsets.

Second, it is in society's best interests to keep people in their homes. Foreclosure should be a last resort, not a routine action, and loan modification, restructuring, payment assistance, even forgiveness of debt in extreme hardship are all preferable and very supportable actions by the banks, or by the government. Kicking people out of their homes and disrupting their lives is bad for society at large, and constitutes a much greater moral hazard than "letting" people "get away with" not repaying the full mortgage, if they are truly unable.

So, in closing, I say that this moralizing about "rules are rules" and "how dare someone get away with this" is entirely misguided. Contracts are not the highest moral law, and in fact, it is often necessary to abrogate them, and to forgive debts, when the social and economic landscape has become too unbalanced. The mentality that those less fortunate who need help are "getting away with" anything is highly immoral.

Gun-toting treason and plot?
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November...the day Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Paraliament and replace British democracy with a theocratic dictatorship.

Who in current American politics is like him, now? Hmm...who goes around brandishing guns and screaming about overthrowing the government because they don't like that their religious beliefs are the law of the land...?

I had to.
Dubbug: *watches csi* >.<
Flewellyn: You like that show?
Dubbug: soso
Dubbug: I used to watch it muchs
Flewellyn: I don't know.
Flewellyn: I just thought...
Flewellyn: *puts on sunglasses*
Flewellyn: ...it might bug you.

October 4, 2011
I just found out my good friend Lynn, who I've known for 14 years, and who mentored me in cooking, died this evening at 6:30 PM.

We both knew she would die soon, her liver was failing. But I didn't think it would be this fast.

I'm not sure what else to say right now.

Cooking With Flew: Mysteriously Mediterranean Marinara
Here at Cooking With Flew, we stand by the motto "Always Avoid Alliteration"!

So I had a wild hair* to make a homemade spaghetti sauce. Y'know, scratch marinara. As with most of my recent experiments, this started out with me looking up recipes, comparing and contrasting, and then deciding on some fundamentals. And then, of course, modifying wildly.

I used as a base a recipe I found on Cooks.com, which I followed almost as directed. When I tasted the results, my reaction was: "You're kidding, right?" It was seriously underspiced, and bland. Not good. So, I went to work modifying. Here, then, is the revised recipe!

  • 1 large onion. I used a large vidalia.

  • 4 cloves garlic. In a marinara, you can always use more garlic.

  • 4-6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. The original recipe called for 1-2, but why skimp on it?

  • 28 oz can tomato puree.

  • 18 oz can tomato paste.

  • 46 oz of water. This is the "fill the cans with water after you empty them of puree or paste" trick. If you want to make the sauce thicker, consider a bit less water, or just simmer it for longer.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar.

  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine. A red might have worked better, but I didn't have that handy.

  • At least two TABLESPOONS, not teaspoons, of basil. (Seriously, 1 teaspoon? SERIOUSLY?) Add more if you think it needs it, which it probably does. Be liberal.

  • At least a tablespoon of oregano. Again, be very liberal. It's hard to overdo the oregano (or basil) in a marinara, especially with this volume of sauce to work with.

  • Two teaspoons of salt. I used kosher salt.

  • A teaspoon or so of black pepper. Well, a number of turns of the grinder, at any rate. Do this to taste.

  • A teaspoon of sugar. This will help enhance the sauce's flavor.

  • Two teaspoons of cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon! It gives the sauce a very interesting undertone.

  • Half a teaspoon of cumin. This adds an interesting body to the sauce.
And that's just the basics. If you want meat in the sauce, add some. I added a pound of ground beef (I think I will use more next time). Sausage? Go for it. Meatballs? Sure! You can also add vegetables, mushrooms, more garlic, more onion, other spices if you want. It's a marinara, they are not easy to screw up.

Equipment needs are minimal for the basic sauce: just a nice big sauce pot, spoons, a stirrer, and a separate pot for preparing the pasta. If you add other things that need cooking, like meat, you'll want a pan for those, of course.

So, basic instructions. Part of this is just cribbed from that Cooks.com recipe, so I will quote that here:

Dice onion and garlic. Sauté onion in the bottom of a large pot in the olive oil. When onion is clear, add the garlic and cook until very lightly colored.

Stir in the can of tomato puree. Fill the empty can with water and add to pot. Add can of tomato paste, fill can with water, stirring with a spoon to mix all remaining paste into the water; add to pot. Add oregano and vinegar or wine.

Bring sauce to a boil, stirring continuously. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook over lowest heat until ready to serve...

This neglects to instruct you to add the basil, so I would do that at the same time as the oregano. Stir it all in, and then taste it. If it needs more basil or oregano, and it probably does, by all means add some. Add the sugar, the salt, and the pepper at this point.

If you're going to add a ground meat, brown it in a pan at this point, while the sauce is simmering. Add the meat with any fat from it right in there, there won't be enough to really make the sauce greasy, but it will add some body. Meatballs, you should cook in a pan first, and then add. Sausage, well, you can probably just chop that up and drop it in.

Vegetables could possibly go in raw, or steamed or lightly pan fried, depending on the veggies. Mushrooms I would definitely sautee in a bit of olive oil and garlic first.

Spices can be added while it simmers, of course. I used cinnamon and cumin, but other good choices would be ginger, allspice, maybe some cloves, a bit of turmeric. You could try coriander or cardamom, if you want. Don't go TOO overboard here, you probably still want this to taste like a marinara, not a chili sauce. (If you DO want it to taste more like a chili sauce, do not think I intend to stop you.)

Once it's simmered for awhile, which should probably be at least half an hour, serve it over al dente pasta. With a marinara, pretty much any pasta that is larger than couscous or orzo is a good choice: I used linguine, but fettucine, rigatoni, tortellini, ravioli, farfalle, rotini**, tagliatelle, and of course spaghetti will do great. This could possibly make a good sauce base for lasagna, as well.

Be advised: you are going to have a lot of sauce! I recommend being ready to save some. It keeps very well in the fridge, or in the freezer. Or in jars or cans, if you're into that.

That's it for this edition of Cooking With Flew, and remember: less time cooking means more time eating!

* As opposed to a wild hare, who is not appearing in this picture.
** Also known as "Jawa pasta": ROTINI!

Stop me if you've heard this one before
"We don't allow faster than light neutrinos in here," said the bartender.

So, this neutrino walked into a bar.

I still think this is cheating.
Dubbug: *peek*
Flewellyn: *sneak up on Gubbie*
Dubbug: *looks around*
Dubbug: hum
Dubbug: must be my imagination
Dubbug: *eat food*
Flewellyn: Shhh! Be vewwy vewwy qwiet.
Flewellyn: Ah'm huntin' Gubbies! Heahahahahahaha.
Dubbug: hmm? oh, oki! *whisper*
Dubbug: ooo!!!
Dubbug: I wanna hunt gubbies tooo!!!
Dubbug: I heard they eat bananas!
Flewellyn: ...wait, you are Gubbie.
Dubbug: so?
Dubbug: are you being a meanie and not letting me join you in your hunting!?
Flewellyn: So how would you hunt yourself?
Dubbug: I'm talented
Flewellyn: Ahhh, okay.
Flewellyn: Well, sure you can.
Flewellyn: Aha, there's one! *POUNCE*
Dubbug: *OMPH*!
Flewellyn: Oops, sorry.
Dubbug: no fair!! you distracted meeee! (whine)
Flewellyn: *picks up gubbie*
Flewellyn: Here you go.
Dubbug: *catch*
Dubbug: ah HAH! *I* caught it!
Flewellyn: You caught...yourself?
Dubbug: yesh

"I fell in to the burning pants of fire..."
The wildfires spreading through Texas were apparently started by a dry piece of brush that caught when Rick Perry walked past.

He'd just given a press conference, and his pants were still on fire.