Archive | December, 2013

Friend Your Enemies

27 Dec

 Unfriending culture and the dumbing down of debate

Information technology is argued to have brought the world closer together and exposed all those who partake in its gifts to a broader range of information and opinions. This, in turn, should have increased diversity and tolerance. What I see, however, is the opposite: fragmentation and self-righteousness.

The clearest examples of it are to be found on my facebook feed and in the behaviour of my (facebook) friends. While it might be easy to think of what happens on facebook as a rather shallow and fluffy (cats) manifestation of cultural trends, it is a manifestation of cultural trends nonetheless, and what it reveals about what’s happening in culture more deeply is profoundly disturbing.

I have deliberately chosen to remain facebook friends with a number of people whose political and social views differ greatly from my own. Some of these are old high school friends whom I haven’t seen in years, some are former teachers, others are people whom I have known socially. These people often post opinions or statements with which I disagree. Occasionally I like to challenge these opinions or statements, in the hope of engaging in some kind of debate, and of having the chance to refine or even change one another’s views. This is rarely (but sometimes) the outcome. On a couple of occasions, I have been unfriended or even blocked. Thankfully this is rare. On many more occasions, I have had other friends suggest that I unfriend a person for their opinions, because I “don’t need friends like that.” On the contrary, I believe I do. I believe we all do.

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Tiramisù – booze and caffeine, what could possibly go wrong?

21 Dec

As I’ve mentioned before in my recipe posts, desserts were not a big part of my upbringing, but some events call for something a little special. One such event that has become a tradition within the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble over the last handful of years is the final official meeting of the Core Ensemble, (the major artists in the company) in any given calendar year. We come together to reflect on the year that was, to dream on the possibilities of the year to come, and to share food. It is a potluck dinner, each artist brings a plate, and over the last three years I have always contributed what is fast becoming my signature dessert – Tiramisù.

Here is my recipe, cobbled together from many different traditional and contemporary versions, but trying to remain true to the origins of the dish. No berries, no jelly, no bells or whistles. You can add those, if you must.

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Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_21917811_italian-tiramisu.html’>lsantilli / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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New Pope, New Hope?

9 Dec

I’m an atheist (and a reluctant Buddhist), but that doesn’t mean I don’t take an interest in religion –  I’m keenly interested  in human psychology especially as it relates to political and social movements. I like to kid that I was raised lapsed (Catholic), because my family went to Church twice a year, but they were very disappointed when, at age fifteen, I refused to take Confirmation. Mainly because of what the neighbours might think.

I am also a great believer in the teachings ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament gospels, and do my best to live by them. They are hard. I don’t call myself a Christian, however, because I don’t believe that Jesus, if there was such a historical person, was any more divine than you or I (take that as you will). I also don’t call myself a Christian because I have only met two or three people who identify as such who actually live in accordance with these teachings – love thine enemy, turn the other cheek, camel and needle’s eye, the sermon on the mount, and so forth.

But I still sometimes dip my fingers in the holy water and cross myself when I enter a cathedral.

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So I am really fascinated by the early days of the papacy of Francis I. He made a good start in my eyes by taking the name of my favourite Catholic Saint, and showed further that he might break with tradition when he became the first pope in 1100 years not to choose a name already chosen by a previous pope (the previous was Pope Lando in 913, who of course named himself after a character from Star Wars).

In less than a year since his election, Francis has made some extraordinary statements and undertaken strong symbolic actions which set him aside from his two immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, many critics argue that thus far, he has offered many words but not done much if anything to change the church. I would like to present the view here, gleaned largely through recent discussions with leftist atheist Italian thinkers and artists, that these critics may be mistaken – in their understanding of how both the church the papacy work.

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Green Turkey

4 Dec

I know, there are thousands of recipes for roast turkey available in books and on-line, what makes mine so special? Nothing, except that it’s green. And if you make gravy from the pan drippings, you get green gravy! It’s delicious. The coating and basting, as well as the quick temperature change at the beginning, helps to keep it dry so that both the white and dark meat cook fully without the white meat drying out. My wife, the American, loves it so much she insists that I cook the Thanksgiving turkey each year.

This recipe also avoids having to turn the turkey over, which can be dangerous. Apparently more cooking fires are started in the USA at Thanksgiving than at any other time of year.

It also belongs in the “recipes of love” section because I make it for a celebration that our family has adopted – thanksgiving. Although we live in Australia and it’s not a holiday there, and it’s generally thought of as a specifically American celebration (though it started in the UK, slightly earlier in the year), we have adopted it as a secular ritual centred around gratitude. Every year we invite a number of our closest friends to our house to feast, and engage in a ritual where each person says at least one thing from the previous year, or in their life currently, for which they are grateful. And there’s plenty of fare for the vegetarians. But here, just the turkey recipe. And you can make it for Christmas, or any other damn time you please.

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