Print Story Knowing Is Fun!
Diary
By toxicfur (Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:19:42 AM EST) (all tags)
I sit in my favorite sushi/Korean restaurant in Chinatown, compulsively re-reading the "Sushi 411" place mat. "Knowing is fun!" it assures me, presenting pictures and descriptions of various popular pieces of sushi.

One of these baffles me, though: "Albacore," it says, followed by "Shiromaguro is white tuna... Literally." I'm not sure I know what that means. Does the word shiromaguro literally mean "white tuna"? Am I supposed to think about the little cans of chunk white tuna in the grocery store, even though the slice of fish on the rice looks nothing like the cartoon fish selling itself? Language has, I think, failed to fully represent the experience of shiromaguro.



I don't know of many things more tedious and painful than hearing about a person's general psychic malaise. This sort of conversation is different from hearing about grief caused by a loss - the narrative of loss provides the listener with a frame of reference through which to engage. Empathy can be offered. Parallel stories can be shared. When the ache is non-specific, most listeners (unless they're paid professionals) do what they can to offer platitudes and try to extract themselves from the conversation as soon as is polite.

The miso soup is salty and rich, and I muse about the biological basis of flavor and umami. How did we escape knowing about a fifth flavor for so long?

I could, perhaps, create a list of past, present and future loss. I could attempt to justify my current obsession with mortality. I could, alternatively, bury myself in socio-psychological research and write an article about existential angst and the effects of the recognition of life as a temporary state on the self-imposed emotional isolation of many Westerners.

None of these options would prevent the inevitable glazing of my listeners' eyes or have any positive effect on me, the speaker.

The couple sitting next to me at the sushi bar share a pile of eda mame, and I guiltily picture the bag of it in my freezer, forsaken and pushed aside for more than a year.

I picture you - each of you - shuffling uncomfortably on your bar stools, fiddling with the labels on your beer bottles, as I describe how my life becomes circumscribed from time to time, my muscles seizing in mute panic as I contemplate leaving my nest on the couch. I watch myself earnestly trying to describe psychophysiological pain, and I shake my head with pity and disgust.

The salad is crisp and covered in ginger dressing. I first tried this particular type of dressing on my 16th birthday, when my mom took my brothers and me to a Japanese steakhouse. It was the most exotic thing I'd ever tasted, and my mom was giddy at being able to buy us that experience.

There are parts of myself I don't talk about - can't talk about when I'm aching, at least with any directness. Not even with my partner, the most significant person in my current life. We lie in bed, curled together, the lights out, and I am safer than I have any right to be. I try to put words together: Subject+Verb+Object, the signifier and the signified as close as they can be. The words evaporate before they leave my left frontal lobe and, instead, I talk around the signified, straining for analogies that are only meaningful to me. I find I am unable to translate even concrete grief - both old and new - into language. In my frustration, I blame minor deities for my linguistic ineptitude.

The wasabi hits my tongue followed by the tang of pickled ginger and the soft, cool slice of fish. My nose runs and my mouth is happy.

For now, this is enough.

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Knowing Is Fun! | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
No by jimgon (4.00 / 2) #1 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:21:26 AM EST
Knowing is half the battle.




---------------
Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
it sure is ... by BlueOregon (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 11:16:06 AM EST

Who wants a body massage?

[ Parent ]
But then... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:23:10 AM EST
what is the battle for? Or against? Many days I wake up and have no idea....
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM
pop up Alice in Wonderland by iGrrrl (4.00 / 3) #3 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:41:17 AM EST
I have one on my desk.  The children are not allowed to play with it.  On the first page there's an accordion of paper tht you pull up and look through to see Alice as she falls.

The book is fun, though edited down.  Movie versions of the story always fall flat because the language drives the book more than the events.  I grew up listening to a recording of the story read, with the songs sung, and hear that cultured voice in my head, using it as I read to my own children. I have the viny recordsl, long warped, kept as a fetish and a monstrance.  I remember taking the record player out to the front porch, and playing them.  My childhood was fun, when edited down.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

I will tell you why I 4'd this ... by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 04:06:36 PM EST
some other time.

--
Do not misuse.
[ Parent ]
Not sure by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #24 Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 01:18:02 AM EST
where it came from.  I had something to say, but I didn't know what it was.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
I love how your words by moonvine (4.00 / 3) #4 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:54:35 AM EST
pan seamlessly from the public and private face.



Thank you. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 11:01:23 AM EST

--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM
[ Parent ]
No fiddling. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 3) #5 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:58:23 AM EST
I don't fiddle with the labels on beer bottles. I was told once by a devastatingly beautiful woman whom I was hoping would either love me forever or utterly destroy me (the line between passion and emotional devastation was thinner when I was younger and stupider) that fidgeting with beer bottle labels was a sign of sexual frustration. This is, I now believe, a complete crock of crap. However, this hasn't prevented me from obsessively preserving my beer labels in a lame attempt to broadcast my total contentment and functionality RE: all things carnal.

The plus is that I rarely look as if I'm uncomfortably fidgeting while others are talking. The downside is that I'm rarely listening because all I'm thinking about is, "Don't peel off your beer label, don't peel off your beer label, don't peel off your beer label, don't peel off your beer label, don't peel off your beer label, don't peel off your beer label . . ."

I mention this simply because you should, when you picture all of us, picture me not picking at the label on my beer bottle, but kind of absently staring in your general direction. Then picture me saying something that reveals I was only half aware of the conversation. Something like: "Yeah, year old veggies. You should probably throw those out. Right?"

I was told the same thing... by toxicfur (4.00 / 3) #7 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 11:06:04 AM EST
I think when I was in college. And I'm pretty sure a woman I had a serious crush on told me as I was compulsively trying to remove the entire label without destroying it. I was also told crunching ice was a sign of sexual frustration. I've since come to believe that the vast majority of people in the world are, as a matter of fact, sexually frustrated, and therefore, that fiddling with beer labels, crunching ice, or just sitting and staring into space are all pretty good signifiers.

So now, as we're sitting at that bar and I'm boring everyone to tears while you're making vaguely irrelevant comments, I'll be forced to think about the state of your sexual frustration. Um. Thanks a lot.
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM

[ Parent ]
So is that why by ad hoc (4.00 / 4) #9 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 11:27:59 AM EST
you drink whisky?

Plus, you have a devious 'come hither' stare so I don't think you have anything to be concerned about on that score.
--
Close friendships and a private room can offer most of the things love does.

[ Parent ]
That's my perfectly honest 'come hither' stare. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #10 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 11:50:52 AM EST
Nothing devious about it. I use it when I want people hither.

[ Parent ]
my analytical side demands label peeling by MM (4.00 / 3) #14 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 02:06:43 PM EST
the analytical brain fragment says approximately: this trying to get laid stuff is really boring. Peel that label and fold me a paper crane or I'll make you start talking about semiconductors. Luckily the wanting-to-procreate brain stem wins out at least some of the time.

[ Parent ]
semi conductors are pretty cool. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:58:41 PM EST
not so much in front of girls though.



[ Parent ]
Yes, literally. by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #11 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 12:02:41 PM EST
Shiro(i) (白い) is white, maguro (鮪) is tuna, and no, it has nothing to do with the cooked tuna in cans. The raw flesh of the fish is white rather than the pink to deep red of most tuna.

The problem with umami is that it isn't a taste in the way sweet, sour, bitter and salty are, but a general feeling of richness/savoury. It's a taste sensation, but not really a flavour in and of itself.

Edamame: boil in water that's at least twice as salty as seawater. Sprinkle with flaked or kosher salt when serving. Now I'm jonesing for a bowl of edamame

woof.

OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

I love edamame. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 01:14:10 PM EST
Though I've never cooked it myself, and so I've been a bit intimidated by the bag of frozen stuff in my fridge. I was really excited about finding it in a grocery store, so I snagged it a long time ago, but somehow never got around to cooking it.
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM
[ Parent ]
A year is pushing it. by BadDoggie (4.00 / 2) #13 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 01:28:44 PM EST
Freezer burn.

Take edamame out of freezer. They don't have to thaw but they don't need to be rock-solid and frosty.

Big-ass pot of water, at least 3qt, preferably 6. Much salt: use about 1/4c per gallon. Once boiling, dump in edamame. Let cook about 5-6 minutes. If you see the pods starting to split get the buggers out fast. Shock them in regular tap water (no ice necessary). Strain and put in bowl. Sprinkle liberally with flaked salt. Serve with extra bowl for shells.

Proper way to eat: Hold pod to mouth, squeeze to pop beans directly into mouth. Suck salt off pod, fingers.

woof.

OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

[ Parent ]
friendship by aphrael (4.00 / 5) #15 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 02:22:52 PM EST
The essence of friendship, in my book, is the willingness to (and comfort in) listen to one another discuss one's psychic malaises. Not to solve it, not to offfer quick fixes; but to listen, and to feel the echoes in one's soul.

It can be hard, to speak from the heart, about things which hurt; but not doing so denies the people you love the true richness of your soul ... and that denial should be avoided, when possible.

It can also be hard to listen to people speaking from the heart about things which hurt; because if you care, you want to make the hurt go away, and you cannot, and you know not what to do, and feel listless and defeated. But ... how can you not listen? How can you not bear witness, and stand by, and hold them? Is that not the most you can offer to one in pain?

Shiromaguro is simply not as good as maguro, in any event.

If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

Thanks for this comment. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 03:06:04 PM EST
It is hard, from both sides. And ultimately worth it.

Is maguro yellowtail? That's my favorite sushi tuna, I think.
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM

[ Parent ]
You know what you need? by MissTrish (4.00 / 3) #17 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 03:37:27 PM EST
Ampheta---wait, no, hugs. You need hugs. There is a general hug deficiency in this world and I am strongly opposed to it. As I am positive ana is doing hir part to rectify the deiciency, I appoint the first random stranger you see who doesn't smell too wretchedly as my proxy. You might just shock them into hugging back. Or make them scream bloody murder. Interesting, either way, I suppose.

I adore edamame. We have gone through many a freezer bag of them. Some consider it sacriligious, but misslake and I both soak our edamame in soy sauce before sucking out the tasty tasty insides. Does the restaurant serve kimchi? Cause that generally burns out the sad for a good couple of minutes. Also good for sinus infections.


ypu're a chair
Hugs are always welcome. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #19 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 04:05:14 PM EST
Except from those smelly random strangers. And I must say that ana does do hir part to make sure I'm hugged well and often.

The sushi place does have kimchi. In fact, they have this kimchi pancake - the size of a large pizza - that I quite literally dream about. Unfortunately, it's large to the point of needing at least two dining companions to share. Should you ever find yourself in Boston, we'll round up a couple of people and eat kimchi.
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM

[ Parent ]
I droolingly accept by MissTrish (4.00 / 2) #22 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 05:31:14 PM EST
Although I have to admit to a mild fear of America. The authorities don't like my kind 'round those parts, and barely tolerate me 'round these parts.

ypu're a chair
[ Parent ]
Ah, but, this is MAia. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #25 Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 02:04:56 AM EST
Which is not nearly as scary as the rest of America. People aren't so crazy about the likes of me either, in, say, my home state in the South. We may have corrupt politicians and collapsing tunnels, but we also have same-sex marriage and a generally open-minded populace (especially by USian standards).
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM
[ Parent ]
language fails by Kellnerin (4.00 / 2) #18 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 03:56:47 PM EST
It does all the time. People talk about the difficulties of translation, and it's not so much that different languages map imprecisely to each other, but more because every language maps imprecisely to what we really want to convey. It's shouting into a well trying to make the right sound that will create the echo you want to hear.

There's this bridge in Newton, over the Charles, called Echo Bridge. As you can guess, if you stand under it on one shore, and say something, it echoes back to you. People find this fascinating but they can never come up with anything good to say. Usually it's "Hello!" (ello, llo, lo ...) or "Echo" (echo, 'cho, 'cho ...). They'll stand there for minutes doing this.

I think that often what people are looking for, when they communicate with each other, is an echo. Just: "I hear you; I'm here too." The bridge provides an approximation of that. This comment, too, is a clumsy attempt at it, a tangential meditation on a theme from your beautiful diary.

From years of reading sushi placemats, I have learned that yellowtail is hamachi.

--
Do not misuse.

Thanks for the echo. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #21 Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 04:08:13 PM EST
And you've summed it up nicely.

ana apparently also took a notebook to lunch and reported back that the only thing written was something to the effect of "I don't seem to have any words in my head today."

"Not to worry," I said. "I wrote 600+ words on not having words in my head."

Language fails, but it's better than most anything else we have, and I'll keep shouting at the bridge until something comes back that I like.
--
Continue to lean until you feel gravity threatening to discipline you for being stupid. - CRwM

[ Parent ]
Knowing Is Fun! | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback