This recipe for horiatiki is simple. It’s a small set of fresh ingredients that are easy to remember and the non-fresh ingredients are things I’m likely to already have on hand.

The salad is:

  • 1 large english cucumber
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 8 ounce feta cheese
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives

The dressing is:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Fresh ground pepper

Other additions to try:

  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped mint leaves or fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion

In a sealed container, it lasts for me up to three days. 

This is taken from the recipe here: https://www.aspicyperspective.com/horiatiki-greek-village-salad/


I knew Portishead was a band. But no one told me it was a place. In fact, it’s a “friendly progressive town that fuses characterful history with modern contemporary.”

Time and Distance

Some time between 1993 and 1994, my friend Andy Steward 1 said, I may never forget it, that:

In America, 200 years is a long time but 200 miles isn’t a long distance. In England, 200 years isn’t a long time, but is a long distance.

Place influences time, and time influences place.

There You Are

“Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s a hokey aphorism, but as I listened to Jarvis Cocker discuss fame on Adam Buxton’s podcast, it seemed a lot less hokey.

Earlier in his life, he expected fame to be almost heaven-like. “Getting famous,” he says, “is a common thing people want to do.” He speculates that it might be a holdover from the “olden days” when people thought:

… live a good life and you’ll go to heaven. So, things may be shit, but be good and you’re gonna have this fantastic life afterwards. And I think people think of becoming famous, it’s the same order of thing it’s like ok, I’m fed up, but if I was famous. If I was Prince, people would just open every door for me, my every wish would be their command and all this. So I got that, I went to heaven, but I wasn’t dead. And so that was the problem. If I’d been dead it would’ve been ok, that’s what heaven is supposed to be, another dimension. But here it was happening to me in reality and it was hard to square the expectation of it [fame] with the fact that I still was Jarvis with all his hang-ups that I thought were magically gonna dissolve as soon as we got a record in the top ten. I would never have a problem again. Well, that’s not happens, is it? You’re always stuck with yourself. No matter where or what you do.

I’m about 110% certain my desire to acquire stuff is my equivalent of this desire for fame. New glasses, new shoes, the perfect jacket… it’ll all be better. But, spoiler alert: I’m still the one wearing it all.

The truthiness of the phrase led me to wonder which self-help book said it first. Some googling led me to Garson O’Toole’s website, the Quote Investigator. The first instance of the phrase, he writes, likely “appeared in the devotional book ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas à Kempis published in Latin in the 1400s.” I thought the very earliest would have been the 1950s, not the 1400s.

The O’Toole’s citation led me to W. H. Hutchings 1881 translation. While useful, I wanted a plain text version that’d be easier to scan. I found the Catholic Archive’s translation in plain text. And give a mouse I cookie, I also wanted the text in the original Latin. The Latin Library had it: Thomas à Kempis: De Imitatione Christi Liber Secundus. But why stop there? A facsimile of the original would be ever better. And there’s several.

The earliest printed version available online is 1486 in the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. Kempis likely wrote it much earlier, around 1420 and the first publication maybe have been as early as 1471. The 1486 version is the Internet Archive. Here’s a screenshot:

Here are the lines in particular, spanning both verso and recto.


I recently read Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound for the first time. It was good, like, very good in a way I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting bad, but it was moving in a way that reading, for example, Hesiod isn’t. But I also don’t know if Hesiod was setting out to wow an audience with The Theogeny in the same way Aeschylus was with his play. 🤷

Whatever the case, I came here to quote from the introduction of Prometheus Bound. Regarding the play as something that was for the Greek mind representing history, Philip Vellacott, the translator, wrote:

The transition from the primitive to the civilized world, from the life of nomadic tribes and village settlements to that of walled cities and organized states, was doubtless a gradual and barely perceptible process spread over several centuries and large expanses of land. Individuals who noted such change, however, must generally have associated it with sudden and memorable event—an invasion, a siege, a massacre, a migration. So this stage in the development of Greek social order had its mythical counterpart in the story of a violent dynastic change among the gods.

Prometheus stealing fire and delivering of it to humans results in nothing less than civilization itself. This, though, is a direct challenge to and undermining of Zeus’s authority. And so in “a wilderness without a footprint” he’s nailed to a rock in the “unyielding grip of adamantine chains.” And he won’t be released from the “blacksmith’s masterpiece” until he will “accept the sovereignty of Zeus / And cease acting as champion of the human race.”


But, to return to the translator’s quote. this was a different way to understand myth making as an explanation for a technical advance that might seem unexplainable. It’s not an overstatement to say that understanding the control of fire by early humans is an entire field unto itself. Fire matters. A lot. So it’s easy to imagine someone without that historical knowledge wondering: how’d we end up mastering something so crucial that it’s arguably one of the things that may have enabled human evolution itself?

The Greeks didn’t know that “intact sediments at the site of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa, provide unambiguous evidence—in the form of burned bone and ashed plant remains—that burning took place in the cave during the early Acheulean occupation.” So in the absence of that information, they figured: it had to be someone really, really awesome. And that for them meant someone who prolly wasn’t human.

And Prometheus is super awesome. He lists all he’s done for humankind—from gifting us with reason, numbers, writing, animal domestication, medicine, etc—and claims: “All human skill and science was Prometheus’ gift.” On top of that, he can see the future. His name means, as another character sarcastically quips as he’s being chained to the rock, “Wise-before-the-event.” Other translations include “Forethinker” and “forethought.” The taunting implication is, “Looks like Mr. Forethought didn’t see this coming.” He knew the theft would anger Zeus, but he confesses he didn’t think it’d be this bad: “I did not expect such punishment as this.” He knew he had to take one for the team, but not that he’d end up “the miserable sport of every wind” with his torments a joy, as he says, to his enemies.

Having forethought means that ultimately he’s prepared to suffer, tells us. The chorus, tho, doesn’t agree. They encourage him to dwell on the present and instead “think of some deliverance.” They believe in the power of positive thinking. Prometheus, though, doesn’t appreciate the injunction:

Oh, it is easy for the one who stands outside The prison-wall of pain to exhort and teach the one Who suffers. All you have said to me I always knew.

This resonated with me. In the midst of a tough time, when someone trots out advice like, keep your head up, etc., it can ring hollow. Yes, thinking positive thoughts is part of the solution, but in some cases circumstances are such that just thinking your way out isn’t sufficient. As Portia says in The Merchant of Venice:

If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.

Advice, Prometheus and Portia agree, is easier to dole out than it is to follow.

Conk a Dook

I “finished” the 600+ pages of Finnegans Wake on May 16th. I read it in fits and starts over roughly 4 months. Why the scare quotes? I didn’t finish so much as I gave up and skimmed the last 3/8 of the book.

The reading experience was difficult—infuriatingly so at times—and fun, but not quite in equal measure.

“This Kind of Thing”

After seven years of work and ten years before the book was published, friends who’d read the work in progress knew it wasn’t going to be an easy read and felt the need to defend it publicly. In 1929, Sylvia Beach published a collection including essays by Samuel Beckett and William Carlos Williams titled Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress. One contributor named Robert Sage had this hot take:

Joyce has disregarded the limited time and intelligence of common men. He has drawn from an erudition that can be communicated in its entirety to only a few scholars, especially as his interests are so diversified.

Sage, it’s worth noting, liked it but he was skeptical anyone would get it: “Whether or not a public can ever be trained to absorb this kind of thing seems to me extremely doubtful.”

Sage is doubtful for good reason. Reading the book can be hard. It’s a non-stop ride of erudite but also bawdy neologisms tangled up with obscure literary and biblical allusions, all telling a tale whose narrative strands only surface after multiple re-reads. My capsule synopsis on what it’s about is an oversimplification but I stand by it: Ireland, the bible, and sex.

Common interpretation claims it’s written according to dream logic, which is not exactly logical, but Joyce himself said the book represents, “A nocturnal state, lunar.” A state he represented via a method he called logical and objective:

That is what I wanted to convey: what goes on in a dream, during a dream. Not what is left over afterward, in the memory. Afterward, nothing is left. …It is I who could draw up the best indictment against my work. Isn’t it arbitrary to pretend to express the nocturnal life by means of conscious work, or through children’s games?… Isn’t it arbitrary of me to make use, as I do, of forty tongues I don’t know in order to express the dream state? Isn’t it contradictory of me to make two men speak in Chinese and Japanese in a pub in Phoenix Park, Dublin? Nevertheless, that is a logical and objective method of expressing a deep conflict, an irreducible antagonism. … This book has to do with the ideal suffering caused by an ideal insomnia.

Here’s an example of how he manifested that deep conflict in language:

The spearspid of dawnfire totouches ain the tablestoane ath the centre of the great circle of the macroliths of Helusbelus in the boshiman brush on this our peneplain by Fargaluvu Bight whence the horned cairns erge, stanserstanded, to foran frohn, idols of isthmians. Overwhere. Gaunt grey ghostly gossips growing grubber in the glow. Past now pulls.

Nothing in that quote is misspelled. Even if there were misspellings, Joyce wouldn’t really mind. A story whose source I forget even said that if he liked a typist’s typo, he’d leave it in.

While it’s hard to make sense of the passage above, it still has a sense to it. Potentially, it’s describing a dawn landscape. There’s a large stone circle with a flat, table-like stone at its center and the setting feels haunted and historically significant. The scene is unclear, the words non-sensical, but for the viewer it’s clearly moving.

Here’s a very different set of sentences:

Conk a dook he’ll doo. Svap. So let him slap, the sap!

Reading it aloud the passage becomes:

Cock-a-doodle-doo. Snap [of fingers]. So let him sleep, the sap!

Seems simple enough. But here’s the problem: there’s likely even more packed into the small sentences.

And so we arrive how following the infuriating difficult turns of phrases can be fun. Taking a small phrase that on first read seems like insignificant onomatopoeia we learn as kids, taking that, unpacking it, and finding the potential meaning is, for me, fun. It’s interpretation, but it can also lead to what Umberto Eco called overinterpretation.

Eco knows that some texts—and includes Finnegans Wake in that list of texts—have as their aim to show that “interpretation can be infinite.” Joyce said every syllable could be justified and I’m confident a person could spend a lifetime digging into each and every one of those syllables. But that takes time. Getting caught up in the linguistic fun as I was meant I was running up against what Sage called “limited time.” Put another way, I was taking too long to read the book.

“Conk a dook he’ll doo”

The turns of phrase in FW can be hilarious and it’s pretty clear Joyce thought they were, too.

For example, to me, to “conk a dook” sounds a lot like… dropping the kids off at the pool.1 Of course, I doubt he had that particular interpretation in mind, but Anthony Burgess did find the book to be, “a great comic vision, one of the few books of the world that can make us laugh on nearly every page.” So even if it is a stretch I like to think Joyce would chuckle.

The humor was highlighted for me by reading the book with a friend (who is, as if today, June 5 still going). There’s an overabundance of literature regarding the social function of humor, but it’s probably sufficient to make the uncontroversial claim: laughing is fun and it’s even more fun with a friend. I doubt I have read the book at all and definitely wouldn’t have found it half as funny as I did if I hadn’t read it with someone who also appreciated euphemizing “conk a dook.”

Reading with someone else also foregrounded how my usual way of reading wasn’t sustainable. The difficulty in the reading was partly my fault. I tend to read slowly, carefully, pausing to make sense of what doesn’t make sense. But with a book where virtually every sentence no matter how small or non-sensical is like poem that sends you down not just rabbit holes but black holes… you can’t do that and expect to finish the book in your lifetime.

As I thought about how I read, I realized my friend’s reading style, at least for this book, was different. He read like a cat and I was reading like a dog. He was slinking along with interested disinterest, enjoying how the language worked. He was, while reading, “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

As an example, here’s a sentence that I overinterpreted:

If old Herod with the Cormwell’s eczema was to go for me like he does Snuffler whatever about his blue canaries I’d do nine months for his beaver beard.

I walked him through my reading, starting with the potential bawdy meaning of “beaver.”2And yes the phrase meant then what you might be thinking it sometimes means now.3 When I was done, he said: “There’s no way I can read it like this. I’d never get through it.”

He added:

At the end of the day, you’re stuck with the manner in which JJ writes. Why would he make it this way if the meaning behind it was so important? In other words, why not write the decoded line rather than the crazy line he went with? That’s why every way of looking at this writing leads me back to his manipulation of language as the point of it all.

It remind me of what Amittai Aviram said at MLA conference in 1997: “a poem is not a message. …The language of a poem is not communicative discourse.” My friend was able to let go, and not play fetch with every word in the way I did. He was reading like a cat, and I was reading like a dog.

A Lone A Last A Long the Riverrun

The book famously ends where it began. It begins mid-sentence of the ending sentence.

A way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Even the title hints at the recirculation. Finnegan: “Finn” (French for “end”) “egan” (”again”).

This recircling, though, can feel like turning around in a dead end. Werner Herzog said the book is “clearly a cul-de-sac.” He’s pretty harsh on Joyce: “I’ve never been a fan.” The problem? Herzog says we can see how Joyce is writing. In Ulysses, he says, “The tools of the craft are being exposed, and he is trying to show you how new his form of writing is. I have the same problem with actors. I do not like actors—and some of them are considered great actors—when I can see how they are acting.”

In other words, for Herzog, writing that foregrounds itself as writing isn’t great writing. He contrasts Joyce with a poet he likes: Emily Dickinson. You read her, he says, and, “You know it instantly: yes, there’s a great poet.”

I wouldn’t say Joyce isn’t a great writer, as Herzog implied, but as an impatient reader with “limited time,” as Sage said, I wonder if I’d like the reading experience more if it there’d been less of it. Or, put another way: is the length justified? 600+ pages of greatness is so much greatness that it’s maybe too great. And so, I ended up skimming. The near infinite and awe-inspiring inventiveness never lets up. The dog-and-pony show of amazing-ness never lets up. It’s not modernist shock: “what have I endured!” My response was more what Frederic Jameson said laid at the heart of how we respond to some postmodern art: “I have to endure this for how long?!”

In that way, I thought of what my friend says is the greatest American film: Warhol’s Empire. It’s eight hours and five minutes of slow motion footage of the Empire State Building. Eight hours and five minutes. Would it be as great if it was only the five minutes? Maybe. Maybe, like every justified syllable of Finnegans Wake, every second of Empire matters.

Whatever the case, what mattered most in the end, “a last,” for me was remembering that reading is fundamentally more fun as a social act—running along the riverrun is better when not alone.

How I Cook a Pork Chop

Here’s how I cook a pork chop. It’s a mix of methods I’ve collected over time. The basic outline is:

  • Use good meat
  • Salt and wait
  • Sear, roast, and rest


It’s a cliché, but you really do need to start with good meat. Most often I walk down the hill and get bone-in loin rib chops at Rain Shadow Meats. Another good butcher, but one not in walking distance, is Beast & Cleaver.

Salt and Wait

Following the advice of Samin Nosrat in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I salt the meat the day before with kosher salt. I then put it in the fridge on a wire rack atop a 1/4 sheet pan. If I can’t do 24 hours before, I try to salt it at least an hour before cooking.

Sear, Roast, and Rest

I take the chop out of the fridge an hour before I plan to cook it. I also preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

As much as the meat matters, so does the pan in which you do the searing and roasting. I use either a cast iron pan or a carbon steel pan. Both are ones that you can put into the oven.

Once the oven is preheated, I render some fat in which to cook the chop by searing it on its side, the fatty edge down, over medium heat. I keep it upright using tongs. Once some fat is rendered, I sear both sides for roughly 3 minutes per side. I then put the pan in the oven and cook about 3 more minutes per side.

The searing and oven cooking times may need to vary depending on the thickness of the chop (mine are at least an inch to one and half-inches thick, much thinner than typical grocery chops).

You’re aiming to reach, per the USDA, 145 degrees. Once it’s at that temperature, take it out and let it rest under a small aluminum foil tent for 5 minutes so the juices settle.

The sear and roast method is one I adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’ve been contemplating a reverse-sear method, but I’ve not tried it yet.

In Praise of “In Praise of Shadows”


Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows (陰翳礼讃, 1933) is a book I wish I’d read before visiting Japan in 2017. Something I didn’t understand until reading Tanizaki’s book is that empty rooms weren’t empty.

On entering the interiors of some ancient temple buildings I recall thinking the rooms were bare, stark, even unsettlingly empty in a way that did not feel like absence. There were no ghosts of things removed. It was as if no one had ever intended things to inhabit the spaces. Rooms just didn’t have stuff in them and what else is a room if not a place for stuff?

I don’t have any photos that’d help explain what I felt, and that I don’t have the photos speaks to the problem Tanizaka’s book helped me understand. For example, reviewing photos from the trip, the ones that stand out document Kyoto’s blazing red-orange surge of fall colors and Shinjuku’s bright lighted signs standing out sharp against a night sky. I never turned attention to the bare interiors because the stark rooms were, at the time, unremarkable. I’d poke a head into one of these austere rooms and think: nope, nothing.

But something was there: shadows that I consistently mistranslated as nothing.

A Japanese room might be likened to an inkwash painting, the paper paneled shoji being the expanse where the ink is thinnest, and the alcove where it is darkest. Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into it forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway. The “mysterious Orient” of which Westerners speak probably refers to the uncanny silence of these dark places. And even we as children would feel an inexpressible chill as we peered into the depths of an alcove to which the sunlight had never penetrated. Where lies the key to this mystery? Ultimately it is the magic of shadows.

Tanizaki’s essay, published as a book, is small and gives a wide range of objects and experiences deep attention. Like toilets:

Every time I am shown to an old, dimly lit, and, I would add, impeccably clean toilet in a Nara or Kyoto temple, I am impressed with the singular virtues of Japanese architecture. The parlor may have its charms, but the Japanese toilet truly is a place of spiritual repose. It always stands apart from the main building, at the end of a corridor, in a grove fragrant with leaves and moss. No words can describe that sensation as one sits in the dim light, basking in the faint glow reflected from the shoji, lost in meditation or gazing out at the garden. The novelist Natsume Sōseki counted his morning trips to the toilet a great pleasure, “a physiological delight’ he called it. And surely there could be no better place to savor this pleasure than a Japanese toilet where, surrounded by tranquil walls and finely grained wood, one looks out upon blue skies and green leaves… I love to listen from such a toilet to the sound of softly falling rain, especially if it is a toilet of the Kanto region, with its long, narrow windows at floor level; there one can listen with such a sense of intimacy to the raindrops falling from the eaves and the trees, seeping into the earth as they wash over the base of a stone lantern and freshen the moss about the stepping stones. And the toilet is the perfect place to listen to the chirping of insects or the song of the birds, to view the moon, or to enjoy any of those poignant moments that mark the change of the seasons. Here, I suspect, is where haiku poets over the ages have come by a great many of their ideas. Indeed one could with some justice claim that of all the elements of Japanese architecture, the toilet is the most aesthetic.

Here he is on dinnerware. I’d just bought white plates vs black lacquerware. I had just bought white plates before reading this :

Ceramics are by no means inadequate as tableware, but they lack the shadows, the depth of lacquerware. Ceramics are heavy and cold to the touch; they clatter and clink, and being efficient conductors of heat are not the best containers for hot foods. But lacquerware is light and soft to the touch, and gives off hardly a sound. I know few greater pleasures than holding a lacquer soup bowl in my hands, feeling upon my palms the weight of the liquid and its mild warmth. The sensation is something like that of holding a plump new born baby. There are good reasons why lacquer soup bowls are still used, qualities which ceramic bowls simply do not possess. Remove the lid from a ceramic bowl, and there lies the soup, every nuance of its sub stance and color revealed. With lacquerware there is a beauty in that moment between removing the lid and lifting the bowl to the mouth when one gazes at the still, silent liquid in the dark depths of the bowl, its color hardly differing from that of the bowl itself. What lies within the darkness one cannot distinguish, but the palm senses the gentle movements of the liquid, vapor rises from within forming droplets on the rim. and the fragrance carried upon the vapor brings a deli cate anticipation. What a world of difference there is between this moment and the moment when soup is served Western style, in a pale, shallow bowl. A moment of mystery, it might almost be called, a moment of trance.

This passage on miso soup and rice is, to me, unforgettable:

In the cuisine of any country efforts no doubt are made to have the food harmonize with the tableware and the walls; but with Japanese food, a brightly lighted room and shining tableware cut the appetite in half. The dark miso soup that we eat every morning is one dish from the dimly lit houses of the past. I was once invited to a tea ceremony where miso was served and when I saw the muddy, claylike color, quiet in a black lacquer bowl beneath the faint light of a candle this soup that I usually take without a second thought seemed somehow to acquire a real depth, and to be come infinitely more appetizing as well. Much the same may be said of soy sauce. In the Kyoto-Osaka region a particularly thick variety of soy is served with raw fish, pickles, and greens; and how rich in shadows is the viscous sheen of the liquid, how beautifully it blends with the darkness. Then the lid is briskly lifted, and this pure white freshly boiled food, heaped in its black container, each and every grain gleaming like a pearl, sends forth billows of warm steam—here is a sight no Japanese can fail to be moved by. Our cooking depends upon shadows and is inseparable from darkness.

I do not own anything made of jade but now I want to:

That strange lump of stone with its faintly muddy light, like the crystallized air of the centuries, melting dimly, dully back, deeper and deeper–are not we Orientals the only ones who know its charms? We cannot say ourselves what it is that we find in this stone. It quite lacks the brightness of a ruby or an emerald or the glitter of a diamond. But this much we can say: when we see that shadowy surface, we think how Chinese it is, we seem to find in its cloudiness the accumulation of the long Chinese past, we think how appropriate it is that the Chinese should admire that surface and that shadow… We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity.

His essay helped flex rigid expectations that seemed self-evident: bathrooms should gleam with tile, plates should be a glossy white background, rooms need things.

To end, here’s a detour on sushi. No joke, I plan to make this recipe:

Not long ago a newspaper reporter came to interview me on the subject of unusual foods, and I described to him the persimmon-leaf sushi made by the people who live deep in the mountains of Yoshino and which I shall take the opportunity to introduce to you here. To every ten parts of rice one part of saké is added just when the water comes to a boil. When the rice is done it should be cooled thoroughly, after which salt is applied to the hands and the rice molded into bite-size pieces. At this stage the hands must be absolutely free of moisture, the secret being that only salt should touch the rice. Thin slices of lightly salted salmon are placed on the rice, and each piece is wrapped in a persimmon leaf, the surface of the leaf facing inward. Both the persimmon leaves and the salmon should be wiped with a dry cloth to remove any moisture. Then in a rice tub or sushi box, the interior of which is perfectly dry, the pieces are packed standing on end so that no space remains between them, and the lid is put in place and weighted with a heavy stone, as in making pickles. Prepared in the evening, the sushi should be ready to eat the next morning. Though the taste is best on the first day, it remains edible for two or three days. A slight bit of vinegar is sprinkled over each piece with a sprig of bitter nettle just before eating.

I just need a sushi box. It’s gonna be really good.