I had a nice lunch out this afternoon, at the local Japanese seafood buffet nearby. It wasn’t exactly cheap — it never is there for lunch — but I sort of found myself craving sushi. And they have plenty of other, cooked selections for when fleeting sushi cravings inevitably dissipate. (I used to hate sushi altogether; that I don’t now is, perhaps, a sign of the end times.)
Over lunch, I read two pieces by Adam Gopnik in the most recent issue of The New Yorker. I particularly liked his comment on the uniqueness of snowflakes:
In a way, the passage out from Snowflake Bentley to the new snowflake stories is typical of the way our vision of nature has changed over the past century: Bentley, like Audubon, believed in the one fixed image; we believe in truths revealed over time—not what animals or snowflakes are, but how they have altered to become what they are. The sign in Starbucks should read, “Friends are like snowflakes: more different and more beautiful each time you cross their paths in our common descent.” For the final truth about snowflakes is that they become more individual as they fall—that, buffeted by wind and time, they are translated, as if by magic, into ever more strange and complex patterns, until, at last, like us, they touch earth. Then, like us, they melt.
And his longer essay on “the power of the pastry chef”:
(Though, as we walked through the White House, it did occur to me that, from the point of view of a caterer, the White House might seem less like the nerve center of the free world than like a medium-sized, slightly shabby charming resort hotel in Virginia, the kind where your best friend from college puts everyone up when he marries that horsy girl you all have doubts about.)
In those le Carré and Deighton thrillers, the things the antihero learns on the other side of the curtain tend to be brooded on stoically rather than applied with spirit. What you saw on the other side of the curtain stays there. What I learned in Barcelona was that genius can produce what it chooses—but not much of it was really applicable to the table I sit at or the kitchen I cook in. It wasn’t just that you can’t do this at home; it’s that home is the last place you were ever meant to do this. The earlier great changes in cooking were a kind of baroque template, suitable for simplification—you made haute cuisine with cream and butter, nouvelle cuisine by leaving them out—but “techno-emotional” cooking was created only for the three-star stage. It was pure performance, cabaret cooking, the table as stadium show. As often happens with the avant-gardists, by advancing the form they had only deepened the crisis. There was nothing that you could do with what I had learned, other than serve cake and ice cream while the soccer game was on, which we knew how to do already.
Then this evening, I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood, a short direct-to-video animated movie featuring the Caped Crusader. It wasn’t at all bad, but I do feel like my knowledge of DC comics continuity was too limited to really appreciate large parts of it. I mean, I was aware of the whole A Death in the Family thing — enough so that I could jokingly suggest the other week Sweeney Jason Todd as a replacement show for the new Spider-Man musical — but I’ve never read it. Nor have I read many of the other comics that clearly influenced the animated film. Reading the description of the movie online, and of the two comics on which it’s directly based, basically just served to spoil the movie’s big reveal for me.*
Ultimately, I found the movie to be kind of a weird mix of gritty realism, sci-fi actioner, and mystical fantasy. It’s set in a very real world, full of brutal violence and no small amount of blood and death, but it’s also a world of superhuman android monsters, assassins clad in robot suits, and pools of magical life-restoring waters. I guess maybe that is the DC comics universe, but it was still a little strange.
In other news, how can it possibly be the day before New Year’s Eve already?
* Although I do see now that Sweeney Jason Todd might be more than just a bad pun. Maybe someone should write that musical. I nominate @DoctorHu.