And yuzu, grandmother heuristic, imperial commands
I had a minor-minor medical procedure the other day and was prescribed an optional Valium (5 mg). Of course I exercised the option. The only Valiums I'd taken before were the kind you buy over-the-counter in Mexico alongside toothpaste and bug spray. Based on the disparity between THAT high and THIS high, I can only conclude that the Mexican version is somehow ersatz or inferior. (Pharmacists, sound off in my email inbox.)
40 minutes after swallowing the heavenly American Valium I felt as though every muscle in my body were being effleuraged by butterfly wings. Thank god these adorable yellow circles are beyond my reach as a law-abiding citizen; otherwise I'd eat them like vitamins (infrequently but with gusto).
In May I was in Charlottesville, a city with a peculiar density of vanity license plates—among other qualities, I’m sure, but I wasn’t there long enough to luxuriate in observation. Charlottesville is where my charming six-year-old niece lives, so I was able to spend a day viewing her art portfolio and learning about her personal cosmology and enjoying a great deal of song-inventing/nuzzling/impish leaping/ice cream. A pure fantasy reel of childhood. After dinner it was time to go and there were fifty hugs and as I headed for the car my niece yelped “THINK OF ME ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!”—and I wondered: how many adults mean exactly this sentiment when they say "Bye," but do not (for rational reasons) articulate it?
I've been trying hard to marry the ingredients of yuzu and black sesame but have not succeeded. In my head they harmonize perfectly but in execution the flavors are recriminatory. Every intervention has failed (add sea salt; candy the yuzu peel, cut the black sesame with butter, etc).
The ingredients work so beautifully in theory that I refuse to give up, because giving up would only be an indictment of my imagination and resourcefulness. But the food-waste is starting to weigh on me. The last try was black sesame pâte sablée filled with yuzu curd. It tasted like soil with pee in it…
DEPARTMENT OF LUDOLOGY
My beloved Kate has created a Substack of her theme puzzles. They are diabolical. I've only solved 30% and one of those required a hint. Go punish yourself.
A few years ago I profiled the actor/comedian Nick Kroll for the New York Times Magazine. I wanted to write about him because I loved "The Kroll Show," which was a sketch comedy series about reality TV. Specifically about the hellishly recursive nature of the genre, and how everyone onscreen is mimicking some other person they’ve seen on reality TV who themselves is mimicking a yet earlier person they’ve seen on reality TV, ad infinitum. More media scholarship should take the form of comedy sketch shows, is my opinion.
All of this is unrelated preamble to a peripheral comment Kroll made. He was remembering a time when he visited his grandmother after putting on a noticeable amount of weight. His grandmother said, "Why Nick, you're looking very prosperous."
There's no reason a quote like this would go in a magazine profile, and it didn't, but it lodged in my mind because of the pleasant maxim it suggested—"Judge your body not by the standards of Culture, but by those of an adoring grandmother."
1) AIM GUN AT FOOT; 2) FIRE IT
The tech supply closet at work refused to give me a charging cable. They'd provided a laptop but no way to empower it, and all of my sweet-talking / badgering / explaining the illogic of the situation was worth nothing to the guy who hoarded tech treasures on the 12th floor.
So I commuted with a charger from home, seething, for a bit until I realized that my misfortune was actually and obviously a gift. Without a work-sanctioned charger, I could blamelessly allow my computer to die, and then I would finally achieve freedom. Wasn't that what I'd always wanted? To be impervious and unreachable, with a pencil and a dream? There’s a line in Mission Impossible 7: Dead Reckoning: Part I where a character says, “I have to go offline, to a place where The Entity can’t find me.” It would be like that.
The laptop died and was dead for a few days and no one noticed. Got mountains of work done. Then I ran into one of the tech supply gatekeepers in the lobby, who asked why I hadn't come to pick up the charger that I'd made such a huge fuss about. "We've had it since Monday. Did you not see the updated ticket?" Straight into the maw of the gift horse...
I reread Herman Melville's novella Billy Budd a few months ago and had the rare and desirable experience of being infected by a text. It is part sea-adventure, part psychological case study, part aesthetic theory. Melville died before completing the book so it is possible he would have "picked a lane" from the above during revisions, but I think equally plausible he would have doubled the number of lanes and turned it into a Moby-Dick-esque superhighway.
E.M. Forster, Eric Crozier and Benjamin Britten turned Billy Budd into an opera that is on YouTube. I admire the opera more than I enjoy it.
Here are two pieces I've written recently for other places.