Monday, January 25, 2010

weekend wrapup

what a weekend - ram jiggedy jammed.

friday night was so fun! B & G go way back but this was my first time hanging with S & P. it's such a small world. the dotytron went to teacher's college with S who is married to P, who attended undergrad with G, who me, the dotytron, and B went to high school with! i know the above just feels like an overly long and unnecessarily coded gossip girl post, but if you read it through, you'll get the gist.

we started things off with cocktails and i put out a little board with crackers, that mint-pea-pecorino dip, and some sliced cured sausages. i made the fennel and pomegranate salad with proscuitto:

which the dotytron thinks would be just as good (if not a little better) without the proscuitto.

i followed this up with bouillabaisse with homemade fish stock, shrimp, mussels, and chunks of tilapia, with a roasted red pepper and almond rouille on toasted homemade bread:

the bouillabaisse looks a little stiff here because i forgot to take a picture at the time and had to iwo jima one the next day.

and for dessert i made us a chocolate caramel tart with sea salt:

we drank (and by "we" i mean "they") about 4 bottles of wine over the evening and people didn't leave until close to 1am...which was SO LATE! on a weeknight??? as soon as we locked the door behind our guests, the dotytron ran around hissing, "IT'S SO LATE! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" which was pretty funny. the dinner conversation was easy and fluid and it was highly enjoyable. i love dinner conversation that's stimulating and engaging.


the next morning we high-tailed up to markham to await the arrival of my sister and the goons. we watched "united 93" while we were there. HOLY CATS, this movie is AMAZING. i had avoided it when it first came out because i thought it was going to be sentimental and exploitive (like "world trade centre"). it was anything but. it's crazy...it tracks the unfolding of the events of 9/11 in "real" time from the perspective of air traffic controllers as the first sketchy inklings of something being amiss and hijackings start to appear. it shows the immense bureaucracy and small, crucial failures of communication as the FAA coordinatres with local regional air traffic controllers, the massive, country-wide air traffic control command post, and the military. then you see the passengers of united 93 as their plane is hijacked and they make their last, desperate attempt to take the plane back. it's SO FREAKIN' good. i can't commend it enough. some of the air traffic controllers are played by the real people - including the head of national air traffic control.

the thing is...even though you know what happens...you ACTUALLY think the united 93 passengers have a chance to pull it off. and it's so awesome when they finally band together and figure out the strategy. at first i was like, "why did they wait so long? if it's a zero-sum equation and you know you're going to die, i would just go at the terrorists with everything at my disposal" my initial plan would be to take my carry on luggage and run at the hijackers with it in front of me to block the knives. my second tactic was to take the flight attendants pots of boiling water and hurl it at them. and my third tactic was to use the fire extinguisher and spray those effers in the face (all of which, i might add, get employed in the movie). but then rico informed me that 9/11 was a game changer because prior to that, the standard hijacking procedure with airplanes was to take the plane, land it, and then use the passengers as collateral. the suicide mission of the plane-as-weapon hadn't been done before...so the passengers actually were working under the previous paradigm.

it was a pretty harrowing start to the weekend - as it had me, the dotytron, and s-dawg weeping by 11am. weeping AND hating terrorists.

saturday night we went to our supper club...which is a gathering of our high school friends on a roughly monthly basis. it was at 7 numbers on the danforth, which ended up working out really well, as they do a set-menu type set-up for groups of 5 or larger. so basically, you pay $27/person (plus tax and tip) for your food and they send out platters of all their primi (so we got a platter each of calamari, a spinach salad, a panzanella - that was so-so, some beans, and some kind of italian olive-ratatouille type thing with bread) that you pass around and serve yourself from. then we get a platter of each of their three pastas (an orecchiete with ricotta, a meat lasagne, and some kind of spicy linguine) and then you pick your secondi (i got lamb rack and the dotytron got involtini). it's a pretty sweet deal and kind of perfect for large groups.

i got into a big discussion with our friend L over the value of "unconferences" and the CAMP-type structure, especially as a way of concretizing any real, tangible change. here's an article on BarCamp from wikipedia which describes the user-generated, horizontally integrated nature of these conferences. my thing with them is this: in a small organization, or for purposes of a small, attainable goal (ie. tech dudes coming together to talk about fixing google wave), or even as a method of fostering the aura of participatory democracy, then fine, i guess these things "work" in so far as there's no real measure by which you can judge the success of them (a lack of accountability that's built into the method - isn't that convenient?) my thing is this: for stuff like, "how do you envision a better toronto?" "how do you fix transportation in the megacity?" "how do we foster more culture in markham?" i'm not really INTERESTED in hearing what random mcgee has to say - it basically devolves into a town hall meeting (and we've seen how productive THOSE can be).

i believe in EXPERTS in their field. i also believe that in general, you don't really WANT to hear what the majority of people have to say about most concrete, technical issues. hearing what the majority have to say results in a g-d mess like the no big box in leslieville campaign, which meant that no, there wasn't going to be wal-mart anymore, but now it's going to be a yard for the ttc. great! but BTW, the issue has now been all but abandoned by all the urban planning jane jacobs wack jobs who want every street in the city to be sesame street. so, they take away wal-mart, and then wash their hands of the issue.

what drives me absolutely bonkers is that people who believe in this kind of participatory democracy or social engagement think that this means THE WORLD IS MADE UP OF PEOPLE LIKE THEM. it's a self-aggrandizing and reifying logic that's the worst kind of dogmatism, under the guise of a somewhat patronizing, "inclusiveness." these are people for whom toronto consists of nothing north of eglinton, west of roncesvalles and east of greenwood. forget about scarborough. forget about flemingdon park. forget about the 8 bangladeshi families sharing a 2 bedroom apartment at victoria park. forget about dufferin and lawrence. those aren't part of the community gardens and bike paths future envisioned by the people who show up at these "unconferences." if you ACTUALLY listened to the majority of residents, then much-needed infrastructure like the st. clair streetcar right-of-way wouldn't have ever happened. because you know who HATES streetcars and the lack of parking for their single-occupancy vehicles? MOST PEOPLE. lol!

it just kind of boggles my mind sometimes how profoundly ignorant people can be about the realities of managing millions of people, and who the people are that they're managing. does that make me pessimistic? probably. am i saying that you don't try? no. i'm saying that in order to effect real change, we have to elevate the nature of the discourse and realize and accept that we're dealing with PEOPLE, not idealized types. i'm not saying i'm not all for community gardens. go for it! that's amazing! but i wouldn't necessarily turn to social media "consultants" as my guides for fixing health care or what have you. crowd sourcing? are you effin' kidding me? as the oatmeal put it: "you sound like a douchebag with no real job skills" LOL!!!

obviously the above diatribe has digressed from the origins of my original discussion with L. it's all wrapped up in recent stuff that's been floating through my head about my profession and my ongoing lament for the loss of rigor, nuance, and the ability to think contextually and creatively. i also attended a webinar by the self-styled (and slavishly lauded) "guru" in the field of librarianship and information sciences. his name is stephen abram. i've heard him speak a few times and his general thrust is making sure that librarians don't render themselves obsolete by being resistant to "technology." what i find (and keep in mind, he is EMPLOYED by a company that creates strategic information systems for libraries - don't ask me what that means), is that generally, he gives you a snapshot of "where things are going" without any real analysis or critique. this talk was called "it's 2010: 20 technologies to watch and how to cope" and it was about how students are using laptops and people are distracted and we have to package information accordingly for these short attention spans and say goodbye to privacy blah blah blah. but the thing that's missing is: JUST BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING, SHOULD THAT NECESSARILY BE THE CASE? where is the space for a dialectical ENGAGEMENT with these forces? and also, where's the discussion of the fact that we're basically allowing corporations to dictate how we live/consume/think? it's not like apple is producing the iphone as an act of charity, for crissakes. it's not like google is undertaking their open book initiative as an act of altruism. C'MAAAAAN.

errr...yeah, where was i? oh yeah, basically, call me crazy or a luddite, but i still believe in experts and peer-reviewed journals. yesterday we ate an insane amount at asian legend and went back home to my family's crumbling familial estate to homer out and then my sis and rico and the kids and i went to eat at caplansky's and then they drove me home, because my sis and the outlaw bro hadn't seen the house since we got our ceilings done. and painted. and our furniture in. the kids were pretty adorable. they were super-hyper about being the experts about aunt lagerfeld's house and were buzzing around wanting to show their parents "their" room in the house. lol! it was really cute!

tonight for dinnie i made us an eggplant bharta with green beans thoren and steamed brown rice. trying to get back on the healthy train after a rather decadent weekend. now, if i can only get enough gumption together to do some yoga tonight...

anyway, that was the weekend. i recently finished the audiobook for michael chaybon's "manhood for amateurs" - full review coming up.

fin.

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