Saturday, June 30, 2012

Here's a little housekeeping tip

How do you store green leafy vegetables in the fridge so they don't go slimy?

I love salads and have been buying some of the weird Italian salad greens I've never heard of before and some of them are really good. Trouble is, when you're buying fresh greens at the farmer's market here on Thursday mornings, they always assume you're buying for a family of ten and the veg often comes in huge bunches. It only costs 50 cents or so for an enormous bundle of incredibly tasty and fresh rughetta, but there is no way at all I'm going to be able to get through that much of it before it turns to a bag of slime in the fridge. And the farmers will be quite visibly annoyed with you if you only buy enough for one person. I can understand it; I think the plastic bag probably costs more than the produce if they sell it in such small quantities.

So, I invariably bring home more than I can possibly use and, sure enough, I always end up tossing a lot of it. Lately, I've been making compost in a bin on the balcony, so a lot of it goes there, but still...

The reason fruit and veg, especially green leaf vegetables like lettuce, spinach and rughetta goes slimy is that it all throws off a lot of moisture as it sits in the fridge. You are left with a dilemma; you have to wrap it to keep it from going limp and eventually drying out, but the plastic doesn't breathe and when the greenery starts throwing off moisture, it bounces back onto the surface and makes it go all nasty very quickly.

As soon as you bring the greens home from the market, take a little extra time to prepare them so you can store it all ready to use immediately. You want it to be prepared to the point where you can just grab it and toss it into a salad bowl. This will make you a lot more eager to eat salad (good!) because most of the prep is already done and will avoid the thought, "Oh, I'd love to eat salad tonight, but it's sooo much work."

First thing you do when you get the groceries home, especially if you've bought a bag of salad greens or spinach from the supermarket, is take it out of the sealed plastic packaging. Spinach especially is always packed way too densely in the bag and this makes it go slimy almost instantly.

Dump the lot into a clean sink full of cold water and let it soak some up. Give it about 15 minutes, and then swish it around to get any remaining soil off and drain in a colander. Go through and pick out any slimy or brown or bruised bits, then place the survivors into a clean tea towel and make a loose bag out of it and, aiming out the window or kitchen door, swing the towel/bag sharply to centrifuge out any excess water. Do this carefully without banging the greens around; you don't want to damage the cell structure because that's what makes salad greens go slimy. I find the tea towel method works much better than a salad spinner.

Then take the cleaned and dried greens and break them up into salad-size pieces. If it's lettuce just break up the head into about five parts. With spinach, only take off the stems and toss out the really torn-up pieces. BTW: never use a knife on leaf vegetables, always tear, never cut, and you want to tear as little as possible. A whole, unbruised leaf will last a lot longer than a leaf that's been taken apart. The instant the leaf has any cell damage, it starts to go nasty along the cut or tear.

When you're done cleaning and prepping the whole bag of spinach or head of lettuce, put it in a large plastic shopping bag, one that will give lots of room. Put a paper towel into the bottom of the bag, and then put a few handfuls of your greens, then another paper towel and more greens. Don't over fill the bag, make sure there's lots of room for the moisture to escape the leaves. The paper towels will absorb the moisture instead of it condensing on the sides of the bag and getting back onto the surface of the leaves. Don't seal the bag tightly around the leaves, but only roll it shut gently and place it in the bottom of the fridge well away from the back wall (where ice can form).

This paper towel trick can be done with any green veg and works on mushrooms as well. I've found it makes spinach last at least three days longer in the fridge and if you've prepped it well, it won't grow nasty slimy brown bits inside the mass of leaves.


Friday, June 29, 2012

A tasty Primal pranzo

So, I've really missed the old poached eggs n' toast breakfasts and lunches of my non-primal past. So today I invented a version of it I can eat. And mmmmm boy!

The recipe, unfortunately, presupposes that you can get frozen bags of prepared, pressed, sliced and grilled eggplant/aubergine/melanzane like you can in all the supermarkets in Italy. If you can't, I don't know what to tell you. It's really too much trouble to do it yourself.



1 packet (100g) of chopped pancetta affumicata (or "bacon bits" as we call them elsewhere)
2 eggs
two thick slices of grilled melanzane
grated fresh pecorino

Cook the pancetta in a pan on a low heat allowing the yummy grease to get all over the place. When it's cooked to your preference, place in the pan the two slices of melanzane, preferably frozen, and pile the pancetta on top. Put the lid on the pan and turn the heat down way low and allow the melanzane to thaw/cook (about 5-7 minutes).

Make a little well in the pancetta bits, arranging them on the slice to form a ring to hold in the egg. Carefully crack the egg into the well, allowing it to ooze beautifully through the pancetta. Stick the lid back on and allow the egg to cook (another 3-5 minutes).

Ladle it onto a plate and grate fresh pecorino on top to your little heart's content.


Good with a side of tomato chutney or salsa, esp. if you make these yourself with no sugar.

Mmmmmm...Italian Primal food!


There there, don't you worry your pretty little heads about it

High Fructose Corn Syrup is making your brain think you are starving, prompting it to send out more of the "You're hungry" hormones, so you keep eating until you're fat and gross, develop diabetes and die.

But it's OK, because the corn-sugar refiners' lobby lady says there's nothing whatever to worry about.

"Mother nature gave us fructose."

Doesn't that make you feel just so warm and cuddled?


Still dancing

Matt Harding: the guy whose life's work it has become to turn the whole world into a Disney musical.

Still regretting having missed him in Rome...

Oh, and Matt? Word to the wise?

Don't tease the North Korean military guard. OK?

Just don't.

~ * ~

Also, go check out his blog. In it, he does some really top-notch travel writing (I've told him when he's tired of being the dancing guy, he should seriously be a travel writer)

and shows us some of the truly weird-ass shit out there.

It's a gold vending machine. It vends gold.

Seriously: "You swipe your credit card, it spits out a slice of gold as if it was a Snickers bar."

Yes, it's in Dubai, land of the weirdly over-rich.

~ * ~
My host in Tokyo was taking me around the city and he asked me what I wanted to do.
I said show me something uniquely Tokyo-ish.
He asked if I wanted to go to a Meido coffee shop.
I said, "what's that?"
He said, "It's a cafe with girls who dress up like french maids."
"And?" I said.
"And they talk to you."
"And?" I said.
"And they play board games with you."
"And?" I said.
"That's it. Just talking and board games."
I said, "Okay, you better take me there immediately."


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The unspeakable words

Soooo looking forward to talking Catholic social teaching shop with die-hard Trads. I probably will get raked over the coals for this, but I think many in the "conservative" end of the Catholic Church are making a huge mistake with the over-focus on the moral teachings. Of course, it is hard to avoid when The World is so hell-bent on abolishing the moral law. But there's so much that is falling by the wayside because of it.

The single-minded focus on what our enemies call "the pelvic issues" has led to a loss of even awareness of the social, political and economic treachings that have been allowed to languish unattended for over 100 years. And frankly, the loss of the moral compass in the west can be traced to the loss of the pre-communist notion of what human society is for.

The left in the Church has highjacked it and has been claiming, nearly unopposed, that Catholic social teaching is more or less indistinguishable from soft-Marxism and does everything it can to make kissy-face with the secularists.

In the meantime, everything that was being developed through the 19th and early 20th century lies unregarded in dusty books at the back of the Catholic library. And anyone breathing the words "Social reign of Christ" doesn't get invited to the party again.

It is why I'm especially keen to be going to this year's Roman Forum in Gardone Riviera ...
"Although present in germ from apostolic times, Catholic political and social doctrine really emerged as a systematic body of thought together with the nineteenth century reaction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. It is regularly dismissed by our contemporaries — believers prominent among them — as everything from utopian and futile to theocratic and dangerous in character.

"But as the global pluralist order continues its attack on man’s true social and individual nature — and thereby commits itself more fully to its own self-destruction — Catholic political and social doctrine will clearly be seen for what it really is: not only supernaturally true, but the only rational and practical hope for modern man as well. Its supernatural and rational truth, the historical and current problems of its implementation, the character of valuable “fellow travelers” with whom it might work, and the nature of its enemies — many of whom all too often pose as friends — are the subject of this special twentieth anniversary Summer Symposium."

Just so y'all don't think that it's all about a chance to spend ten days lying around the pool...


Gardone 2012!!

I'm on my way to Gardone.

Ten days in Catholic Traddie/Restorationist paradise. Got invited and will be going up on Monday!!

I had to miss it last year. It started on exactly the day of my last day of the first Chemo cycle. I spent the whole time in hospital thinking, "Well, at least if I survive this, I can go to Gardone..." But when it was over, contrary to what the doctors had told me, I was so sick I couldn't make it across the apartment, let alone across the country. Every day that week, I sent emails to John saying, 'Maybe I can come up for a couple of days..." And just kept getting worse.

I kept getting emails from the people there saying how much they were missing me and that they were all following my progress on the blog. It wasn't much comfort while I lay around my apartment in pain and misery thinking about all my nice Gardone friends having fun and drinking prosecco without me.

(This was the year before last. Yes, that's me at the end of the table on the far left.)

Thank you, last-minute donor, whoever you are!!!


Using your powers for evil

I think that using Etsy to sell your paintings is a great idea. I realise it's not cool in the art world, it's supposed to be "selling out" to actually think of your work as a product to make money with, but this is the 21st century, and there's a lot of competition out there in the official art world. If you don't want to deal with all that elitist bullshit, why the heck not just do what you like and try to make an honest living out of it where you can?

But there are limits. I mean, when you've done serious art training, it's like getting a superpower. And we all know the superhero code.

Don't use your powers for evil.

I mean, really!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So, like, can you see all those leaves, like, every day?

Many of you will know that about a year and a half ago, I broke my glasses. That is, I broke the back-up pair, the wire-frames that I hardly ever wore because they sat on my nose slightly funny. I had been wearing them because I had previously broken my horn-rims, the ones I really liked, by falling asleep on them on a trans-Atlantic flight back to Rome.

I was walking home from the grocery store, it was winter, (or, as I like to call it in Italian, "winter") and it was pounding down rain like it was making up for the arid months of summer, and a gust of wind grabbed the stick of my umbrella and smacked it right into my face. The glasses I hated stayed on, but one arm was skewed in the wrong direction. I bent it back when I got home, but a few days later, the arm fell off. All my efforts with the crazy-glue bottle have come to naught, and I haven't worn glasses as a regular thing since then.

In the meantime I got cancer, had treatment, and am trying to get myself put back together, but haven't done anything about the glasses. My art teacher has bugged me the entire time to get a new pair, but bloody hell! What do people want?! I got freaking chemotherapy in a freaking foreign country where I don't speak the language well enough to ask for the right things at the hardware store!

And anyway, I have needed a new prescription for a long time. I'm deteriorating. There was a time when I could just say, "Oh, I'm near sighted" and leave it at that. But over the last five years it has become, "Well, I was near sighted, which meant I couldn't see things further away than the end of my arm, but now I seem to be also far-sighted, in that I can't see things closer than an arm's length with my glasses on." Which is way too much to say in the time slot usually allowed me at dinner table conversations.

It became annoying at Mass, when you want to look at the pretty vestments and choreography going on in the sanctuary, but need your glasses for it, but then when you glance down at your book to see where you are, you can't make out the print. Eventually, I just compromised by not paying the slightest attention to anything at Mass and just staring blankly at the big Baroque blur.

Anyway, I had fricken cancer. So who gives a damn about my eyesight?!

What some of you may not know is that I am a regular reader at, which is often amazingly hilarious and frequently very interesting and factual. I and other Cracked readers will often surprise our dinner table companions with the same obscure pieces of true-but-unknown information about a wide array of topics, thereby creating a kind of password effect. A wordless glance that says, "We can all be cool here, I won't out you if you don't out me..."

This was funny over there today about being sick and getting a diagnosis or the right medication.

And I totally remember this reaction the first time I got glasses:
You had no idea that life had better graphics available. You've been playing the 16-bit world this whole time, while everybody else was running quad-core realities hooked up to an HD screen. The only downside to this whole experience is dodging the errant punches from your friends and loved ones as you incessantly inquire as to the amount that they see this shit for the next several months:

"Did you see those leaves? What? You can always see those? No, man, I mean: Can you see that, like, a tree is made up of a billion different leaves from all the way back here? Holy shit! Look at that gravel! It's not just gravel; it's a thousand different kinds of rock! Do you see it?! No, man, do you really see it?"


Real Food

I don't know how into this whole food purity thing I am. I'm pretty behind the idea that Monsanto shouldn't be allowed to own all the food, but I'm always cautious about complaining that science is getting out of control. And honestly, we've been genetically modifying plants and foods for 10,000 years. Why do you think we have 50 different types of tomato?

And as I've said before, one of the things the lefties and hippies did was to replace genuine spirituality with a kind of food-fetish materialism that has led to a lot of this health-food craze.

But honestly, things can get a little weird these days, and with Monsanto and companies like them bullying farmers...well, that really gets my Irish up. And I'm more than convinced that eating good food, and staying away from grains, sugar and processed foods of any kind is a really good idea, particularly for people like me who have serious ongoing health issues. I am totally convinced that bad food has massive impact on health and that good, whole food: high protein, high fat, meat/poultry/fish and green veg diet with very low simple carb consumption and a big emphasis on anti-oxidants, can cure or at least treat damn near any systemic ailment you can name.

One big issue that is coming clear is that the conventional wisdom, including the government-issue dietary charts, are totally wrong. They all say you should keep fat and meat low and that you need grains, which my own experiments have shown to be utter rubbish. The other thing I've learned is that the standard recommendation of 2000 calories a day for most people - since we are nearly all sedentary these days - is WAY too much. Intermittent fasting and keeping calories down to 1200-1500 a day has been shown to contribute to longevity and much lower incidences of systemic illness.

And for those of us dealing with the dramatic and often disastrous after effects of (H-word) significantly decreasing your usual caloric intake is absolutely necessary to avoid turning into a huge, disgusting, rolling blob of greying, wrinkling goo.

I was lucky; I fell into a ferocious, crushing, face-down-on-the-carpet, screaming-into-the-pillow-every-night bout of clinical depression immediately after surgery, that fortunately has not let up since then. I'm one of the lucky ones who basically stops eating when depressed so it's been six months now and I've only put on about 5 pounds which I have since lost again. Yay!...

oh wait...


I'd be interested in finding out more about the farming practices in Italy. I suspect that they aren't so far gone into The Weird as the US farmers have. Witness the dedication of Italians to seasonal food. You really can't find carciofi in summer, and when I've asked for broccoli lately, I just get a funny look. Even spinach has disappeared.

I'm willing to believe that the Italians are a lot more into good food than the Americans and wouldn't put up with a lot of the crap the yanks do.

So, I've been kind of looking into things a bit. I'm not as big into it as Steve, who put me onto the whole Primal thing. (I'm happy to let Steve do all the work of researching and then just read his stuff about it.) But I've given up grains and sugar, focused on anti-oxidant foods, gone big into fresh fruit and veg from the local farmers' market, and feel physically a lot better than anyone expected me to be at this stage. Although it hasn't been as dramatic a change as some people get. Even though I've been doing the Primal thing pretty strictly since early March I haven't lost more than five pounds where most people are well into double digits by now. But at least I haven't started ballooning out as most people do after (H-word) and I figure I would certainly have started to do so by this time. So, in all, I guess we're doing OK with that.

I really don't get why doctors don't emphasise diet. Food is health. What you put in your mouth regulates every. single. thing. about your physical and a huge portion of your psychological self. I've been realising that a lot of the things the medical community believes (ie: the "whole grains" myth) is the exact opposite of reality.

Here's one of the websites I've been looking at lately. Food Renegade. It's sort of a combo of "Primal/Paleo Diet" stuff, with recipes, and political newsy stuff about the Forces of Evil taking over the world's food production in an effort to rule the world.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yeah yeah...

abortion's awful, blahblahblah...

But don't you think these girls have really scary-looking eyebrows?

Is that just a coincidence, do you think, or is it some kind of weird new young-person thing?



Cool video about how to spot the differences between a maiko and a geiko (geisha).

All in Japanese, but very neat.


Don't get your hopes up.

Atheist converts to Catholicism!!

...sort of...

Excuse my cynicism but on the rare occasions when we see a headline like this, the question always pops in there, "What kind of Catholicism?"

She "questions certain aspects of Catholicism, including the church’s positions on homosexuality, contraception and some aspects of religious liberty" and is "in a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults class..."

Ah, that kind. Thanks, NewChurch.

Any bets on how long it takes her to start posting about how morally and intellectually incoherent Catholicism is?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yes, it's true,

I got legs.

Here is a photo of me wearing trousers in public.

It was kind of a weird day. (That is Kevin Murphy, lately of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and current owner and chef of the Najadi hotel here in town, teaching me to open French oysters with a proper oyster knife.)

That day started badly, had a doctor's visit in the middle, but ended like this,

with an oyster party on the belvedere at the Pink Villa,

which is to say, well.

The boys are moving out of that villa this week, and taking a much cheaper and more practical flat in town "next year" (the real new year in Santa Marinella is when everyone gets back from summer vacations in the US).

We'll be sad to see the end of the Belvedere parties.

They were as good as they looked. A balm and uplift to everyone.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Breaking News! Ocean very large, filled with water

"New Labour look down on the working class and despise their voters."

Of course, it's hard to hold it against them. The "working class" in Britain has been lying around on the sofa eating crisps for 50 years.


What does Vatican II mean to you?

Go ahead, tell 'em what you really think.



baddass of them all.

Someone asked me the other day, a young person, "Who's Toshiro Mifune?"

Good grief!

Who's Clint Eastwood? Who's Cary Grant? Who's Charlton Heston? Who's Laurence Olivier?

Young people shouldn't be allowed to speak.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

This one

And this one and this one and this one, oh, and definitely this one.

The trouble with Etsy is that you really have to slog through a great deal of rubbish to find the few gems. But I spose that is the same with everything, websites, books, movies, boys...


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whither the English Rose?

It's hard to tell which country has the least attractive women, Britain or Italy.

I think the two places may not be comparable. They seem to produce equal and opposite types.

The other day I went to the spiaggia and had my first swim of the season, and there certainly was an impressive assortment of skinny, rotisserie-chicken coloured flesh on display, and it reminded me that I've been meaning to do a cautionary photo series on Italian womanhood.

But it is of course, not just being overbaked and dressed like a four-dollar streetwalker that is unappealing.

Even though they travel much more these days than in the past, the Channel is still creating enough isolation to allow British women to specialise. There is certainly something uniquely awful about the grotesque amorality of British women.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It was hot today

And hot weather means one thing.

There's a wily mosquito in my room lying in wait for me to get too tired to stay awake.

We didn't have mosquitoes where I grew up.

Have I mentioned that I really hate nature?


Friday, June 15, 2012

Sharing: for me, it was Ran.

I saw it in the theatres in Vancouver, and will never forget the sense of utter despair it invokes. It was also, almost certainly one of the greatest films ever made.

What is the most depressing film you've ever seen?

From the liner notes:

"Japan owes its music, as its culture in general, to the Chinese. Not only, however, have the Japanese actively developed this heritage, but they have also preserved many elements of older Chinese music which have been lost in its home country.
The music of the Japanese can be divided into main categories which correspond to the sacred and secular fields of Western music. In the former category we find: (a) Gagaku. This is the ancient Chinese temple music which was introduced into Japan around A.D. 600 and which marks the beginning of Japanese musical history. It is orchestral music, performed by small shawms (hichiriki), flutes (shakuhachi), mouth organs (sho), lutes (biwa), drums, and gongs. - (b) Ka(n)gura. This is the indigenous Japanese temple (Shinto) music which is used today for the most solemn worship. It originated in the 13th century when Japan became conscious of its aboriginal culture, and may well contain elements of a tradition prior to the Chinese influence.


"Embodied cognition"

The modern world always thinks it has discovered something new, something the Catholic Church hasn't known for 2000 years.

We have known this for quite a while, and have called it "sacramentality," the deep connectedness between the physical, mental and spiritual self. No, Mr. Descartes, we are not separated beings; our bodies are not just meat suitcases for carrying our souls around. A human being is an infused soul, you are your body, your body is you.

Of course, the video above is also talking about cultural influences. In this culture we ascribe certain character traits to combat soldiers, doctors and painters, and we do it so instinctively that we can be dressed up in a single garment and start unconsciously acting the part. These cultural archetypes are pan-national. They can be found in every "western" country, built into our cultural genes. It would seem that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a German would more or less come out with the same traits when dressed in either fatigues or a lab coat.

It's just more evidence that you really can't mix the cultures, not when they are radically separate. When a set of cultural paradigms are artificially imposed on top of another, equally developed set of archetypes, the message comes out pretty weird and garbled, which is what I think has been happening in Japan.

We like to joke around here that I and my Traddie buddies are racists, because we don't buy the political ideological fad for "multiculturalism," but in truth, I am a thoroughgoing culturist. I don't think that one race (whatever that is) is superior to another, but I am pretty comfortable saying that there are some cultures that are objectively and observably better than others. And I'm not talking necessarily about the superiority of my own Western European, Catholic, Christian culture to, say, pygmy tribesmen. I've never met a pygmy tribesman, so I wouldn't know.

I have met plenty of modern, deracinated, "liberal," post-Christian, Western secularists, however and I've got no hesitation about which culture is superior there.

I relate a funny little story with regard to that thing of dressing up and automatically assuming a role. When I was five, my mother and I travelled the old fashioned way to England, on a boat. We embarked in Seattle and the boat took us down the coast, through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic on the other side. It was quite memorable, though I was still only five.

During that trip, we met a new friend, a dancer and mime who was headed over to Europe to do a tour of a one-man show. He took quite a shine to me and my mother and we had lot of fun. When the ship's children's entertainment department announced that there would be a fancy dress party for the chidren under ten, he insisted on dressing me up. Out of the odds and ends and make-up he had with him, he cobbled together quite a passable geisha costume for me, complete with wig, flowered kimono and white-face make up. I absolutely loved it, and my mother was delighted when I took first prize.

What she always told me, though, was how surprised she and Adam were at how naturally and spontaneously I assumed the role of a polite, demure little miniature geisha. My mother had been interested in Japanese culture all my life and there were always books around with pictures of Japanese ladies in their traditional clothes and records of koto music. Japanese customs and culture were a frequent topic of our conversations. I think by that time, I had already been taken to see Bunraku because I remember being obsessed with the costumes and puppets. She had also studied Japanese and I think by that time was already teaching me a little to paint the characters. Later we went to see Japanese films (which I thought were painfully dull) at the university cinema and I remember being introduced to her instructors. I had always been fascinated and deeply attracted by the extreme, artful formality of it all.

I wouldn't have thought, though, that this would have been enough to create this automatic role-producing effect, but Adam, who was by then already a well-seasoned artist and popular in Japan, said I was spot on. He particularly noticed how I took tiny little steps (3:00) in that peculiar way that Japanese ladies do when wearing the full gear.

It's one of the great errors of modernity to think we are angels trapped and mired in the physical, like a butterfly caught in honey. It's one of the things making us so sad.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Yeah, I know,


I'm really just kind of ... errm... tired, I guess. Really tired.

No, I mean really, really tired.

Things are OK, if y'all are worried. (Latest test results still negative... five months and counting.)

I'm just horribly,



Saturday, June 02, 2012

Friday, June 01, 2012