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October 17, 2014

when we talk about chicken wings we are talking about bufallo wings

It was a bit of a surprise to see a trend piece in Sam Sifton's NYT Dining section concerning the popularity of chicken wings — I had no idea!  I've had the Chongqing chicken wings at Mission Chinese and (on multiple occasions) the fish sauce wings at Pok Pok, both of which are delicious, but I didn't know that they were popping up on menus like kale salads did two years ago.

So hurray for all that.  Chicken wings are on of the most effective vehicles to deliver flavor in the form of sauce/seasoning, given the amount of surface area as compared to the amount of protein.  Basically every bite is an explosion, without copious amounts of meat to chew through.  Plus also eating with your fingers zooms you back to childhood.  It's just fun, no mystery to that.

However!  I feel that the article did omit a very crucial fact about chicken wings: they are a relatively recent invention.  Time was, in America, they were either served with the whole bird or discarded.  And the mythological birthplace of the chicken wing is the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, where a cook there in the 60s was mistakenly shipped chicken wings instead of chicken backs and necks for soup, and then decided to fry them as a handout to the bar regulars.

So I say that you can't talk about chicken wings without talking about Buffalo wings.

And, as maybe a point for future research, check out (while the archives are still free) this 1980 Calvin Trillin piece from the New Yorker, which hints that maybe the Anchor Bar story is possibly apocryphal at worst or exaggerated at best.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM

October 16, 2014

we all must write about gamergate at least once

So #GamerGate, as it is known, made the front page of the NYT.  Well then.

The controversy is, as usual, really complicated and insignificant in many ways — this is a good explainer, as is the NYT piece — but what it boils down to is a bunch of privileged dudes being unforgivably monstrous to woman, using the anonymity of the Internet as a shield.  As usual.

But in the case it's not the bros being dicks, or even the Silicon V/Alley Objectivists, but rather nerds.  And this is personally troubling to me (i.e., even more troubling than usual) because I myself was born and raised a nerd.  Dad is a hunter and was hoping for a little buddy to go out and sit in a treestand with him, but nope!  He got a bookish fool who was generally picked on for his first thirteen years.  Programming in Basic?  D&D?  Monty Python?  Check, check, check.  And of course my pals were the same way.  And we eventually coalesced into whatever sorts of grown-ups we turned into, whatever, but you know what we never ever did?  Anonymously threaten a woman to the point of her going into hiding.

Excuse me.

Well there's a lot out there that's been written and an awful lot of it is really good, so I just want to isolate this one little thing, possibly the proximate cause.  So some fellow, presumably a self-identified gamer, wrote was is intended as a sort of a please stop the madness piece, an exhortation to fellow travelers to stop being fucking sexist assholes.  A commendable intention.  But, in the same breath, there's this section:

Over the last decade, that's changed. Comic book adaptations are the safest bet in Hollywood. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have made fantasy something anyone can enjoy without embarrassment. Perhaps most importantly, nerds now have money, power, and status. The biggest, fastest-growing companies in the world are run and staffed by us, and mainstream culture has shifted from mocking us to respecting us.

Startups are sexy. We've won.

Actually, commendable young man, this is not only not the case, but this is the root of the problem.  Life?  Not a game.  There was no one oppressing you.  And this paranoid fantasy that our world is some sort of race between you and your affinity group and the jocks or the bros (dare I say girls?) or whoever else it was that you were terrified/jealous of, and the attendant triumphalism because holy shit you have a job is what enables the sad embarrassments that are your pals to criminally harass women and threaten mass murder in the name of fucking ethics.

The world is not the problem.  Your self-regard is the problem.  Startups are irrelevant.

You've lost.

Right then!  And if you loyal readers wanna get really thinky about the whole thing, I recommend this by Kyle Wagner.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:30 AM

October 15, 2014

ebola and competence

From the start, let me be clear that I am referring to American and European efforts to combat the creeping menace of Ebola, and not Western Africa — Western Africa is an entirely different situation, from the horrorshow of Sierra Leone, where they've basically given up, to Nigeria, which has largely contained the outbreak.

But what I'm taking away from the slow march of this story across the front page (other than our paranoid morbid ability to freak out) is that it's not the Ebola that's so scary, but rather our collective incompetence.

By my count, there have been three infections outside of Africa: one in Spain, and (now) two in Dallas.  And the really really alarming thing is that all three infections are health care professionals that were treating Ebola patients who contracted the virus in western Africa.  This is not to say that Ebola is some supervillain virus that outsmarted the authorities.  No.  This is to say that the authorities, very specifically Texas Presbyterian in Dallas, are clumsy oafs who mucked this up pretty well.  I mean, fer crying out loud, the most recent infection was on a freaking commercial flight the day before they were diagnosed.  Technically they were not symptomatic on the flight so there should be little concern, but are there grown-ups in charge at Texas Presbyterian (which also sent the first victim home the first time he tried to admit himself.

And it's not just poor performance on the job that's making Ebola (which really should not be scaring us at all) more and more of an actual threat each day.  More complicating is that we as a people are so freaking stupid that we will hamper any response to Ebola with superstition and fear and plain old American ignorance.  Take this paragraph from a story on hospital preparations referring to what Emory University Hospital had to deal with when the first two patients were transported back in August:

As doctors and nurses there worked to keep desperately ill patients alive in August, the county threatened to disconnect Emory from sewer lines if Ebola wastes went down the drain. The company that hauled medical trash to the incinerator refused to take anything used on an Ebola patient unless it was sterilized first. Couriers would not drive the patients' blood samples a few blocks away for testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And pizza places would not deliver to staff members in any part of the hospital.

I'm personally not frightened by Ebola, don't think it's going to be a long-term problem here in the States, etc., but I'm very concerned about our abilities in the event an actual pandemic did hit here.

We've met the enemy and it is us.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

October 13, 2014

baron ambrosia goes to new jersey

Here is your diversion for this sorta kinda holiday morning, and one that most of us are spending at work — the Bronx's leading cultural ambassador, the estimable Baron Ambrosia takes his promotional skills to New Jersey.  In order to bring attention to the efforts of the people of Camden, NJ, the Baron (a/k/a Justin Fornal), along with his pop and La Bruja, swam the Cooper River, a tributary to the Delaware.
In his own fashion, Mr. Fornal was taking no chances: To protect his skin, he had covered himself in coconut oil; to protect his gut, he took Pepto-Bismol tablets for a few days before the swim. Afterward, he gargled with hydrogen peroxide. It was not an athletic-caliber act. "I'm not an endurance swimmer," Mr. Fornal said, a fact borne out when he stopped, midroute, for shots of whiskey. But he did have a trainer, in the form of Melle Mel, the Bronx hip-hop pioneer. They did calisthenics, once a week, in the park by Yankee Stadium. The coaching was mostly "just keeping him mentally focused," Melle Mel said, especially on surviving mysterious waters. Though he did not prescribe it, "a couple shots of whiskey would do wonders for your physical and mental endurance, I can tell you that by experience," he added.

First off, good looking out for the Baron.  It's good that we have this gentlemen cheerleading parts of the world that resemble the Brooklyn part of Brooklyn not at all.

And second, dude, how lucky would you be to get assigned to write about the Baron?  Dang.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM