giovedì, settembre 22, 2011

Life without kitchens

So did you know that in Singapore and Hong Kong a lot of the apartments are built without kitchens? When I was told that I was too busy scraping my woppy jaw off the floor to make rational inquiries like whether or not the classic Parisian “coin-cuisine” counted as a kitchen or not in terms of my interlocutor’s standards. Because if they don’t (and really, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t; the only person I’ve ever met who made a coin-cuisine work was Portuguese, and we all know they’re the MacGyvers of Europe) then half of urban Europe doesn’t have a kitchen either.

But then I went to Singapore and traveled elsewhere in Asia where space is expensive and labor is cheap, and understood that a life where you ate and drank everything except ramen noodles out of a shop could still potentially be a life. Not my life, mind you. There have been periods of – let’s call it “violent self-actualization” - when, if I hadn’t been cooking, I probably would have somehow left this life either literally or figuratively. When I imagine a me who doesn't cook, I just get this vertiginous vision of bobbing off into the ether like an untethered balloon. As tedious as something like, say, clementine marmalade is to make, there’s a special significance in that tedium for someone like me, who does too much living in her nerves. I hesitate to use “earthy” words because my clementine marmalade is out of this world, but there is something grounding about coaxing some raw ingredients into a marvelous symphony of deliciousness over a period of several hours or several days. You wouldn't believe what I can do with tapioca now, of all things.

But not having a kitchen could be a life – but only if you had enough Asians around. For some it’s THE life, and not only in Asia. There is a Cantonese branch to my family tree, the older members of which have a lovely big house with a lovely big kitchen in a lovely Toronto neighborhood, where they don’t cook a damn thing. Instead – and since they have the disposable income to manage it, let me make it clear this is a choice I whole-heartedly applaud – instead they eat at this place. Even better, they bring me with them. Lai Wah Heen is the first place I had lobster dim sum, and the first place I had Peking Duck. It’s the first place outside of China that I had sea cucumber. And it’s the first place I’ve been to that made darling little dim sums that looked like piggies. Their dim sum chef is specially qualified in making life-like dim sum. This restaurant is so awesome; I’m not a frightfully materially conscious human being and as stated probably wouldn’t have much of a life without cooking in it, but I think Lai Wah Heen and the possibility of eating there all the time is probably quite a good reason, in my books, for seeking to be stinking rich.

Anyhoo. If you're ever stuck in downtown Toronto with an expense account, now you know where to go.

mercoledì, settembre 21, 2011

Nobody to hide my credit cards

I have bought so many goodies in Canada and I really need to stop. This is getting ridiculous. I mean, I've mostly kept to the list, but I've been awfully enthusiastic about it, and I'm a little concerned that on going back to Australia I'm going to find a host of moral excuses to persist in this conspicuous consumption. Luckily there's little enough worth buying in rural Australia (besides houses, but oh yeah, we've already done that - Jeebus) but that's what the fucking internet is for, I suppose.

Money is on my mind not only because of the wads of it I've been spending but also because I've danced over my budget line because of an unexpected insurance charge and will nearly miss saving the normal amount of money this month. This counts as a budget disaster for me - not having cushioning. Sometimes I wonder where people manage to blow all their money and then I remember that enjoying drugs more than alcohol all my adult life, and spending years of it too fat to enjoy recreational shopping, has saved me a world of financial pain. And then I remember I'm overpaid. Well, not overpaid so much as undertaxed.

I wonder how long Australians will get by getting taxed so fucking little. Because they'll howl like apes if anybody touches their benefits and howl like louder, more annoying apes if they start having to shoulder developed-world tax burdens. I suppose the Australian political mainstream's multi-partisan determination to stop the national economy from being developed might serve some sort of purpose in that sense. Economically, that place is Saudi Arabia without the ban on usury and the cheap petrol.

lunedì, settembre 19, 2011

The Conservative Party . . . because schoolchildren and the insane can take care of themf*ckingselves

Sigh. You know . . . fuck. You know . . . gah. Alright, so I'm a bit of a raving anarcho-syndicalist pinko, right? And that's fine. Most of the people I know aren't, and that's fine too. And as I pointed out to a good friend a couple of days ago at lunch, many of the people who are quite the opposite are some of my favorite people, which is a lucky thing in a family full of fascists. It's all a question of the sort of relationship you have. I wouldn't want my aunt with the Mussolini calendars to run the country, and I wouldn't want Gough Whitlam to cook me dinner. I made my peace with that fact of life a long time ago.

But what continues to grind my gears is when people who have spent a lot of time complaining about the fuckery of the right start voting right. Retired teachers in Ontario especially, as I've been talking to a fair number of them at the moment, voting for the fucking provincial Conservative Party after the dedication with which said party fucked over educational funding when they were in power. Not to mention all the other institutions designed for the vulnerable, which in my naiviety I've always sort of believed teachers had a special affinity for, them having spent time with the vulnerable when the vulnerable were kids, and perhaps therefore believing that the vulnerable are possibly deserving of some sort of social protection . . . ah, fuck it.

I think this is at the root of the distrust I have for North American Liberals, as silly as such generalizations sound. To me there's pretty much one reason to be left-wing, and that's that you want a society where everybody has a fair shake at making it. And I think fascists and people of the so-called libertarian persuasion who are quite far to the right actually have the same ideals; they're just wrong, and they don't count immigrants, aboriginals and/or women in their visions of "everybody", and they believe that the people who don't make it don't deserve any further protection - any help that they do receive should be a charitable exercise on the part of the people who have made it, and not a social obligation. So far, so clear.

But I've met so many North American Liberals who I just can't pin down. They get pissed at people they consider right-wing right at the moment of being affected by them, but seem to be missing their sympathy chip when it comes to issues that DON'T directly effect them, and then will vote for whichever MP or local representative or mayor they like best, or whoever promises to tax them least, or whoever promises to boost property values by getting tough on hoodlums, or whatever. I don't know how many Liberals I've met from New York who goo-goo over how awesome it was that Giuliani turned the place into a police state - that's one of the more egregious examples, but there are others across Canada and the States . . . And the drunken racist comments, WELL.

Anyways. If things didn't bug me, I wouldn't be me.