Monday, June 30, 2003

And so it begins. Here starts the list of the Top 50 Lists, beginning at number 50 and counting down through the rest of the week.

50. Maimonides' 13 Principles of Jewish Faith--Put into poetic form as the "Yigdal" and the "Ani Maamin," this distillation of the Torah is found in a commentary on the Mishnah by Maimonides, who is also known as the author of The Guide for the Perplexed.

No.1: Belief in the existence of the Creator, be He Blessed, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.

49. Friedrich List--You may think this is a joke entry, but it's not. . . at least not completely. If you think of mercantilism and Europe, you probably think of the French and men like Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Perhaps the first to take a scientific approach to political economy, he was a proponent of the German custom union, the Zollverein, which he helped design. The first man to serve as professor of economics at the University of Tübingen, this author of The National System of Political Economy was jailed in Germany and spent some time in exile in America due to his liberal politics. Opposed to classical economics, he saw political economy as lying within a framework of nations rather than within a single all-encompassing market.

No.1: n/a

48. Internet Top 100 SF/Fantasy List--A rare internet-only list, it is maintained by Tristom Cooke of the University of Adelaide and compiled with the help of voters.

No. 1: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. Martin

47. Business Ethics' 100 Best Corporate Citizens--In the Enron Age, i's nice to see that some companies aren't totally full of crap.
No. 1 General Mills

46. SportsCenter's Plays of the Week--This staple of ESPN's mainstay program has helped turn sports highlights shows into short-attention-span theater.

No 1: This week? Some diving baseball catch, probably.

45. Harold Bloom's The Western Canon--Harold Bloom crafts a reasonable reading list of books, divided into the Theocratic, Aristocratic, Democratic, and Chaotic ages. Somehow, the Qu'ran and ancient Indian works like the Mahabharata are "western." Bloom wrote an entire book on the Western canon.

No 1: Chronologically speaking, probably the Epic of Gilgamesh.

44. Mr. Blackwell's Annual Best & Worst Dressed List--Born Richard Selzer, Mr. Blackwell has made a career out of trashing celebrity apparel for over 40 years.

No.1: Anna Nicole Smith (Worst of 2002)

43. The NPR 100--Lots of lists came out of Y2K madness. One of these lists was the NPR 100, a set of pieces about the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.

No.1: n/a

42. The FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives--A PR program originating with J. Edgar Hoover, almost 500 criminals have been featured and almost 95% of them have been apprehended. The list gave John Walsh a solid TV career with Fox's America's Most Wanted. The most recent man on the list to be caught is Eric Rudolph.

No. 1: The Ten Most Wanted list is not ranked, but I'm guessing Osama bin Laden is number one in the hearts and minds of most people.
41. The Seven Deadly Sins--Pride, Envy, Anger, Avarice, Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust. Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Spacey made them famous. Listed by Pope Gregory the Great in his Moralia in Job, they originally included sadness instead of sloth and reached their current formulation in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. They are contrasted with the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy (feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead), the Spiritual Works of Mercy (teaching the ignorant, counseling the needy, chastising the sinful, comforting the sorrow, forgiving enemies, suffering tribulation, and praying fervently for all), or the Four Cardinal and Three Theological Virtues (wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance, as well as faith, hope, and charity).

No. 1: n/a, but lust and gluttony probably rank up there as the most fun

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

It's Sunday, so time for some musings on the Mass.

The homily this week was probably about 25 minutes long. The priest, a Gulf War veteran, has a wonderful booming voice that sounds authoritative. He has a tendency to meander and repeat himself. This may be because he prefers to come down to the floor and preach without referring to any notes. I've had priests who were better and worse at homilies.

This weekend, he choose to addressLawrence v. Texas. The priest started out by mentioning how he doesn't normally follow the front page news, then mentioned the decision. He stated that a nation's laws reflect its morals and ultimately ended up criticizing moral relativism.

I will not use this space to either agree or disagree with that teaching. Instead, I am curious. I know that some of the people who read this blog are Catholic. I would like to hear if the Supreme Court was discussed during homilies everywhere this weekend. Comments down there.

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Thursday, June 26, 2003

JD wrote: "Should VH-1 just give up and produce the "50 Greatest Lists of All-Time" list?"

So, starting Monday next week and continuing until Friday, this space will count down the 50 Greatest Lists. What makes a great list? A good list for this purpose usually sets aside its members. It usually ranks them, but not always. A good list has a subjective feel to it; its almost always not a list that can be compiled through objective data. Either the placement on the list or the rank on the list is the result of a value judgement.

The members for this list will for the most part be more than internet-only lists, but always. They will be chosen for current or historical importance, cultural resonance, entertainment value. Most of the lists will, by necessity, come from popular culture, but there will be representation of more "academic" interests.

The Greatest Lists List will have a lot of those qualities. You will get 50 lists ranked from top to bottom. There will be some consensus picks. There will be a few controversial picks. There will be those entries meant to highlight under-appreciated areas.

If you're someone I know whose opinion I value, you probably have my email, so feel free to drop me a line with suggestions. Or use the comment widget.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The Irgun Zvai Le'umi was an underground offshoot of the Haganah, formed out of a more aggressive militaristic mindset. It was also a terrorist organization. Its handiwork included the Black Sunday of 1937, several bombings set to explode in Arab marketplaces, the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and the events at Dayr Yasin. While publicly denounced, some of these actions were privately condoned or even coordinated by Jewish political and resistance groups. The Irgun was later assimilated into the Israel Defense Forces.

Any of this sound similar to the current situation?

In 1947 an Irgun raiding party killed 254 men, women, and children. The commander in chief of the Irgun was Menachem Begin. Yes, that dude at Camp David.

My point is not that the Irgun or Begin are bad people. I am in no way claiming that at all and I don't necessarily condemn their actions. My point is that if a Palestinian state is established (and I have my doubts about Israel's willingness to truly commit to that end), its government and military will have former terrorists. The government would almost assuredly lack authenticity, legitimacy, and popular support if it didn't. This means that even former members of Hamas (which would have to be disbanded eventually) would potentially become leaders of an independent Palestine.

The terrorist threat is pretty much the only card the Palestinians have to play in negotiations with Israel. Give it all away now and they are potentially screwed. A cease-fire and the disarming and dismantling of terrorist groups is a process that should have at least two steps in order to give Palestinians leverage to have a decent bargaining position.

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Friday, June 20, 2003

Hussein Is Probably Alive in Iraq, U.S. Experts Say (New York Times, registration required)

The search is on for Saddam-uel Goldstein. I have full faith in the U.S. military's effort to catch Hussein as quickly as they did that rat-bastard Osama. . . .
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Thursday, June 19, 2003

For those of you who hate globalization, a little tidbit from the Philippines.

Apparently, the American consumer is killing the Filipino chicken farmer. If the Philippines can be said to have a national dish, most people familiar with the nation's food culture would probably say adobo. Adobo can also be made with pork, but it is usually chicken cooked for a long time in a mix of vinegar and soy sauce. You might add some peppercorns and potatoes to that mix. The end result is a rather greasy, mostly meat dish (a description that fits most dishes in the Philippines).

I once tried to make adobo with a recipe from the internet. I cooked it for four hours as directed, making my apartment at the time reek. It turns out, with more research, that the long cooking time is for dealing with less than perfect cuts of meat, which one is more likely to encounter in the Philippines. Chicken available in the U.S. can be cooked for an hour and be okay.

Adobo is made with chicken thigh meat. You can also toss in drumsticks and wings. Filipinos prefer dark meat. Contrast that to the increasingly health-conscious American taste for breast meat. The trend for white meat has led to the breeding of chickens with disproportionately huge breasts. (I met am American ex-pat in the Philippines who suggested that artificial hormones were being used to plump up chicken breasts and that these additives were causing earlier puberty and larger breast development in American girls.)

If you've ever shopped in the meat department, you may have noticed that chicken thighs are ludicrously cheaper than chicken breasts, per pound. So much so that I often opt for thigh meat when shopping on a budget.

But Americans, by and large, don't consume anything other than the breast. The rest of the chicken gets dumped to other markets, including the Philippines. The Filipino chicken farmer, who still breeds a normally proportioned bird, is undercut by probably about 10% or so by what is more or less scrap meat in the eyes of American companies.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

For those of you who have been wondering why this blog was on hiatus, yet didn't read a few entries ago, I was in the Philippines for various reasons, none of them bad. My next few blog entries are probably going to at least tangentially relate to that trip.

I can appreciate good food. I probably eat more than I should. I watch the Food Network often. I think that I can whip up a decent meal in the kitchen using just what's there, without following a set recipe. I can actually make a white sauce.

The Philippines has a food tradition that will never be considered gourmet. According to one book I read, vinegar (usually made from coconut) is a staple food. In fact, there are basically three categories of food: meat/seafood; rice and things made from rice; and fruit and things made from fruit. I can't think of anything that doesn't fall under those categories. (Well, the preferred local bread, known as pan de sal, and other bread products perhaps). The Philippines are basically a nation of comfort food. Meat and potatoes, except they eat rice instead of potatoes.

When I go to the Philippines, I tend to load up on the seafood and fresh fruits because they are less available and/or more expensive in the United States. For example, crab or shrimp will cost less than a dollar per kilo out in the provinces and perhaps twice that in Manila. Likewise, I could buy a kilo of mangos for less than a single, smaller, lower quality mango costs in the U.S.

People eat crabs differently in the Philippines. Americans prefer Alaskan crabs, and just the legs. I don't know what happens to the bodies of the crabs. I guess that goes in the crab sticks that aren't made of imitation crab. Filipinos eat blue crabs. They have tiny legs with barely any meat. Instead, Filipinos open the body and eat the meat that is there. I used to have a problem eating that way, but now I know how to crack open the shell, remove the lungs, spoon the fatty green gunk onto my rice, and eat the meat.

Similarly, Americans prefer shrimp that is beheaded, peeled, and deveined. Ask a Filipino and he will probably say the head is the best part of a shrimp. After learning how, I find it easy to pull of the head and suck out the insides before peeling the body and eating the rest of the shrimp.

Did I mention that Filipinos often eat with their hands? Even rice. I sometimes get in the act, although I usually use my utensils. One of the few Filipino food habits I don't practice is using the fork to push food onto the spoon, which is then used to deliver food to the mouth. I still eat my rice with a fork. I picked up that habit because I hate washing dishes, and if I don't use a spoon, I don't have to wash it. I'm a lazy bastard.

Still, there are some Filipino foods I don't eat. For one, I don't eat fish. Crab, yes. Shrimp, yes. Pretty much any shellfish, yes. But fish, no. The only fish I eat is eel in sushi form.

The Filipino food that bothers a lot of people is balut. It is a duck egg. What's wrong with a duck egg, you may ask? Well, there's a duck embryo in side, pretty much full formed. You can tell it's a bird. I've never eaten it, though. Not necessarily because the idea of eating an embryo makes me sick, but because I just don't eat eggs.

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