Not Bowdlerizing But Baudelairizing
|1000 Easy Recipes For Success
||[Nov. 15th, 2006|01:18 pm]
I'm trying to have more quiet nights in this month - my puny mortal frame and punier bank balance couldn't take another October - and last night was one of them. Our landlord, in a bid to justify an impending rent hike, has just replaced the living room carpet and moved all the furniture attractively around, so I sat on our newly east-facing couch quietly soaking up the feng shui and enjoying the company of best housemates ever kevandotorg and several_bees and everything in the world stood still awhile.|
One of the pleasures of the QNI is the chance to switch off in front of some mindless TV, and tonight it came in the form of some gastroporn involving Heston Blumenthal trying to prepare the perfect steak. In brief, this seems to involve leaving things for 24 hours a lot - I wouldn't recommend it unless you really want to devote a whole week to making a single meal. But what was really exciting about the programme was young Heston's obvious obsession with food. He just couldn't stop ladling on the superlatives at every stage of his quest, whether he was trekking all the way to a strip joint in New York to try a recommended steak or spending hours interlacing slices of butter and blue cheese so as to infuse the butter with a subtle cheesy area. He was mad about his stuff, really mad about it.
And it made me sad, because it seems to me that in this life you can always be a success if you really care about something as much as that. If you really want to write books you'll have sat down and damn well written one by now, if you really want money or have a competitive itch that you just can't scratch you'll be doing well in the city, if you love food that much you'll be quite an endearing TV cook. I don't think I've ever been that obsessed. Not with knowing things or I'd've been an academic, not with making things or I'd be a genuine creative, not with career or I wouldn't piss around in the workplace so much, not with people or I'd have worked out how to make anyone happy by now. Like a lot of people I guess I just like a little bit of everything. And you can enjoy life well enough that way, but it seems to me people will never look at you as a winner, because winners specialise, and you chose not to.
Anyway, inspired by Heston I hotfooted it to my book of 1000 Easy Recipes For Beginners and whipped up some "Pan Haggerty" for the_alchemist, which turned out to be a fried potatoey-oniony-Cheddary mess that fell to bits as soon as I tried to extricate it from the pan. I probably should have spent 24 hours over it. It was tasty though anyway.
In a vaguely similar manner, I watched Wargames on TV last night and when Falken appeared, I said to my housemate, "why can't I be obsessed with dinosaurs and have my own pterodactyl?"
You should join the Torchwood Institute! They're always looking for people like you.
So what do you know about squirmelia
that the rest of us don't - is she incompetent, an alien, prone to comedy sexual assault, congenitally incapable of thinking more than two minutes ahead, or just secretly in love with a busty cyberwoman?
A bit of each of the above. But I'm told that a gentleman would not go into the details.
Maybe he's guessed that I've never actually watched Torchwood? ;)
It's got a pet pterodactyl in it, is all!
I love Heston. I get obsessed with all kinds of things, but unfortunately they're like, the gay imagined lives of dead Russians or Julius Caesar or walking around pretending I'm someone else or cupcakes, so I'm not sure how any of those are going to pan out into a viable career for me. The thing I do love, and I know I do, I have spent a month procrastinating over, so even when you are deeply in love with something you can still lack motivation.
The one thing I would disagree with is that if you have a talent it appears and is appreciated very quickly - I don't know how old you are but you're in your 30's, right? - many, many very talented people were doing nothing at all during their 30's. Sometimes it seems to wait for the right moment, or for a certain mixture of ability and circumstance in you. And some people seem to wander into their talents randomly, without even an awareness of appreciation of what they are capable of.
I am still optimistic about ending up being a writer in one form or another before I day... many people don't start until their middle age and I think I'm right in saying that you can be in your late thirties and still be a "young author" as far as the industry is concerned.
I actually think it's a crime for people to spend their twenties closeted away in their studies working on novels. Live first, write later!
But someone who has a genuine talent can both write and live in their twenties: cf Keats, Shelley, Chatterton etc.
I would go so far as to say that someone who even considers sacrificing living their twenties for the sake of writing is probably not going to be writing anything very good.
Well, I think writing, like any endeavour, requires practice. Any talent requires practice I guess. Do you write stuff? You are doing NaNothingy right? Maybe one day you'll just write the thing that you know is it :)
was recently suitably amused at the fact she was eligible for various "Young Author" things.
I think it might have something to do with the fact that it often takes a while for an author to distill a decent style and something actually worth saying from whatever raw talent they might have.
As some critic remarked of Stephen Fry prior to his becoming an author, he was for a long time in the unenviable position of being expected
by everyone to be a brilliant writer, which created a burden of expectation that made it almost impossible to actually write
Being obsessed with walking around pretending you're someone else or cupcakes reminded me of the Francesca Lia Block story
that says near the end:
""Sabrina, your love must not depend on sad-eyed boys. You can be in love with sunflower dresses and vegan lasagna and Rice Krispie Treats and rain and skateboarding and Martha Graham and angel fountains. Then the sad-eyed boys will come. Eventually their fear will fade and they will come."
Haha I like that :) A friend of mine always told me that Francesca Lia Block was awful, so I never read anything by her for that reason.. which is silly of me.
I've never actually read any of her books, since my local library seems to be somewhat lacking in them, but I intend to one day.
Why would anyone want sad-eyed boys if they had Martha Graham and angel fountains?!
Because sad-eyed boys might make vegan lasagnes or skateboard in the rain!
I spent a lot of time earlier in my life feeling a bit ashamed for being a polymath, a jack-of-all-trades, not really an expert or exclusive enthusiast about anything. Instead I like to be enthusiastic and obsessed about *everything*, and in practise there is of course a trade-off.
Now that I'm a bit more happy in myself, I'm pleased that I'm not a specialist. There are wonderful sides to being interested in most things - there are things in life that the specialists miss.
In short, I think both are delightful ways to be. And (dare I say it) maybe if you were happier about being a polymath, you'd manage to achieve more within that anyway?
Also your Pan Haggerty sounds gorgeous, even if it did fall to bits!
I have a snacky thing that I make sometimes if I have some left-over boiled potatoes: saute them in obscene amounts of thyme, add grated cheese and let it all melt together. It's the best post-cinema snack in the world, I find.
Mmmm I feel hungry now.
How much is "obscene amounts"? As C will tell you, I become paralysed in the kitchen if I can't follow a recipe!
Hehe - you are the exact opposite of me. I'm pretty sure we'll end up fighting a duel at the end of the film. Or sleeping with each other.
I suspect that the role of such people is, if they somehow get hold of money, to be patrons of the genuinely creative; otherwise, to be their passive customers.
No need to settle for that until you've exhausted all creative avenues though! You might turn out to be obsessed with crocheting, or something.
2006-11-15 02:41 pm (UTC)
You really do trigger my pet rants sometimes, Mister Verlaine
people will never look at you as a winner, because winners specialise, and you chose not to
IMHO the way the world's going is less and less about specialisation, and more about aggregation and using what we've got in different/interesting ways. (Of course, if you're defining "winner" as "obsessively narrow expert", though, then you're completely right and I can't argue with you. That's how this sort of debate works.)
I'm also very wary of the "if you cared enough you'd be successful" argument -- the implication is that if you don't "succeed" (according to whatever criteria you're making up at the time) then you're obviously Just Not Trying. Whereas in fact I think there's almost always a lot of luck involved as well.
Having said that, I don't really see "success" as just about being at the top of one's field. If that was the case, only one person per field would ever be "a success". Personally I just want to do the things I do as well as I can. For me, being a "winner" is about being happy with where I am, achieving my potential in the areas that matter to me, not about being the world expert at anything. I do enjoy life as a dilettante, I enjoy being reasonably good at lots of things far more than (I believe) I'd be likely to enjoy being superlatively good at any one thing (there just aren't enough things I'd be willing to give up!). You're only really "a failure" if you decide that you are. Am I "a failure" at playing the violin because I'm never going to lead the London Philharmonic? I doubt if the amateur orchestra I played in (or its appreciative audiences) would agree.
Try talking to people who don't have any of the skills that you have. I'm not saying "you should be grateful for what you've got when other people are worse off" because I've never met anybody who found that any help at all; but really, success/failure is all a matter of perspective.
I've also found that it's much easier to make people happy when you're not forever telling them what a failure you are, how you never achieve anything (even as you're achieving things), and how you can't possibly make them happy (even as you are making them happy). I used to do it all the time, but I only realised quite how tedious it is when other people started doing it to me.
It was tasty though anyway.
FWIW I don't see how a tasty meal cooked for and appreciated by a friend can be counted as anything other than a success!
2006-11-15 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: You really do trigger my pet rants sometimes, Mister Verlaine
That was meant to be my (admittedly oblique) punchline - that it doesn't matter that I'm not Heston Blumenthal and I can't spend a week cooking a perfect steak, I can throw some bits and pieces into a frying pan with the wrong amount of oil and it all turns out okay in the end!
2006-11-15 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: You really do trigger my pet rants sometimes, Mister Verlaine
Och well I guess I'm a failure at getting your jokes...
Whereas in fact I think there's almost always a lot of luck involved as well.
The reason this never gets much press being that the top commentators, by virtue of being "top" at something, have already cashed in on that luck and therefore seldom perceive it as necessary.
2006-11-15 04:01 pm (UTC)
Good point. Though there's also the "The harder I work, the luckier I get" effect -- which isn't so much about creating luck as getting better at spotting opportunities. That's where the line between luck and skill really starts to blur.
Spot on! See The Luck Factor and the like; they identify that people who regard themselves as lucky are better at spotting opportunities than people who don't.
the "if you cared enough you'd be successful" argument -- the implication is that if you don't "succeed" (according to whatever criteria you're making up at the time) then you're obviously Just Not Trying
Indeed - the above is pretty much just Thatcherism, isn't it?
I adore quiet nights in. That's how I first knew I was getting old -- when I started preferring QNI to noisy nights out.
You're not the only one without an obsession. I'm positively averse to specialization -- it seems to me that obsessing about one thing means you miss out on everything else. Maybe I have an 'everything else' obsession.
I think that a lot of people who feel that passionately about things also experience the same kind of lows. In fact, many, many artists have used their passion and talent in an effort to justify the terrible lows they felt at living on this earth. I'm not trying to say everyone successful at what they love is like this, but I think that in many cases it's that need that drove artists past desire to production.
I'm liking the mental image of Heston Blumenthal smashing up his entire kitchen because a panful of onions hasn't caramelised properly, or whatnot...
I'm with j4 on this. Success is whatever the hell you feel like it being. What if success for you is a vague diletantism and an idle appreciation for a wide variety of things other people have bothered to create? I define success as enjoying myself and it sure doesn't require any special talent.
Incidentally, Heston Blumenthal's food is perhaps the best in the world - I had his tasting menu about a year ago and it was the best thing I've ever eaten, comparable only really to Simon Rogan's stuff an L'Enclume. If you ever come up with a way of scraping together so large a sum of money that you want to waste several hundred pounds on one meal, make it a meal at his Fat Duck, it's brilliant.
I'm sure his food would be awesome, based on his obvious culinary monomania. I also doubt what principles I have would ever let me spend several hundred pounds on a single meal :(
a fried potatoey-oniony-Cheddary mess
In brief, this seems to involve leaving things for 24 hours a lot
Whilst soaked or seasoned? I've never really got into watching cookery programmes.
I skimmed through this book
in Waterstones the other week. Among the gobbledigook, what it said was: declare a project complete once you get bored with it and tie the materials up in a nice bow and put them away; get a job that either lets you flit from interest to interest, or a job that's not too demanding and that you don't have to take home with you; have a separate document file and material store and even workstation for each thing you're interested in so you don't waste time when you want to switch. I don't find any of those pieces of advice all that helpful.
Indeed. My default opinion on the subject is that self-help books don't help anyone except their own authors, all the way to the bank.
Has anyone ever written a self-help book advising people to make a fortune writing self-help books? Someone should.
Pan Haggerty did that to me as well.
Who knows how to make it look like a non-mess?
2006-11-16 01:12 pm (UTC)
A Bad Workman Writes
I'm laying the blame squarely on the pan.
(Or possibly the fact that potato and onion slices don't tessellate!)