Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ghost Pepper Jampong for Dinner, Infinite Licorice for Dessert

Our taste sensation begins with a poem challenge during National Poetry Month for the recipe style. I was experimenting with strange blazing soup concoctions and having strange dreams as a result, anyway, so I offered this recipe. Note that the Jalokia (spelled by preference with an "a", unlike the Melinda's bottle at left), has been displaced as world's hottest by the Naga Dorset, not available in the U.S. since it is considered a crowd incapacitant and would be subject to ITAR arms regulations. It is sold in Sainsbury's in the U.K., though not to minors and not without the proper handling:

Simmered Naga Jalokia and the Party of Silence

2 cups jampong from Jackson Creek
1 T garam masala, the old jar in the back of the cupboard
2 optional fresh jalapenos, roasted over a gas-stove flame
5 fresh basil leaves, as faux fresh as one will find them in a Colorado April snow
¼ c of the stuff in the green Tupperware at the back of the refrigerator,
apparently chutney of some sort, don’t ask questions
½ t Naga Jalokia sauce, there’s a reason they call it ghost pepper

Prepare in industrial kitchen, preferably the kind with open windows so that customers may watch the sous-chef. Poets who believe in the walled-off preparatory process are not to be trusted, mistakes and spills in preparation must be visible to all. Appropriate mental state is achieved after a four-hour excruciating board meeting and a drive from Denver in an ice storm, chef must be rash in adding ingredients of uncertain genesis. Roast the jalapenos over the gas stove for promptness, rather than a proper oven sweat, so that random items in the kitchen may be set on fire to add to the show. Ignore cries from family members who say naga jalokia so close to bedtime may be dangerous to the large intestine and the subconscious.

Steam jampong over an open book describing the 1915 assault on Gallipoli. Whirl the basil as Mustafa Kemal moves up his troops for the anticipated Australian meat-grinder effect. Shrimp and soba noodles may be slurped during trench atrocities for proper emphasis. Shout “Third Ypres! Third Ypres!” because Carolyn would want it that way.

Collapse on dog-hair-saturated mattress. Dream of the cocktail party in some kind of open court, perhaps the veranda of an adobe mini-mansion, but more likely a bombed-out shell in Trebizond. Your oldest friend is there, try to catch her eye, she denies the gaze, will not speak, even though you sense no hostility. A terror more complete than dreams of zombies or trench warfare. Maybe you are not at the party, maybe you have left this life, maybe that’s why they call it ghost pepper. You search for socks in ruins of a dresser that may have suffered a direct hit by artillery shell.

For variety, final five ingredients may be added to tom yum gai instead of jampong. Lather, rinse, repeat. Return to the party and ask why.

Loring Wirbel
April 27, 2011


For dessert, we offer a treatise on infinite parallelism and the pink and white candies known as Good & Plenty. Impetus for this was the remarkable film starring Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole, which has since become my favorite release of 2010, and in my Top Ten of best films of all time. Many reviewers found it unbearably depressing, but I found it infused with hope and possibility. We watch two people with different conceptions of coping with intolerable grief, try to find ways to respect each other's expressions of grief. And we watch Nicole learn two things from the teenager indirectly responsible for the death of a family member: 1. The parallel existence of an infinite instantiation of lives helps redeem us from grief. 2. When grief becomes unbearable, turn it into a cartoon. Those are two of my mantras, hence my obsession with the film.

But wait, there's more - assuming one believes in the Hugh Everett "many worlds" theory of infinite numbers of our selves living through the infinite variety of decision points we face in our lives, I have always pictured the collapse of the wave function that Patti Smith calls "the sea of possibilities" as the bow shock that follows an object on descent from space. And because of that, lives trace out trajectories that can be modified slightly in the trick we call "free will," though are unlikely to undergo major modifications at the bow shock, because at that point, a new universe is created. But that assumes a bow shock moving at the parabolic speed of a descending rocket. What if the decision point is on board a pokey little steam engine, driven by our old friend Charlie Choo-Choo? What if he has an infinite number of Good and Plenties to represent each possible bow shock, each possible decision point? What if there is always time to throw the switch? If the train should jump the track, do you want your money back?

But wait, there's more. Statisticians love to befuddle people with the Monty Hall Paradox, named for the former host of Let's Make A Deal. It says that if you choose Door 1, and Monty opens Door 3 to show a losing choice (what Nicole might call "the sad version of us"), it is always mathematically preferable to switch your choice from Door 1 to Door 2, even though the disclosure of Door 3 gives you no information about Doors 1 or 2. There is no reason this should be true, but it is demonstrably true, time after time. It holds true for any number of doors, briefcases, or Good & Plenty candies, and hence should be used for modern games like Deal or No Deal. Even if the worst of the choices, the sad version, the loser, has been disclosed and removed from the bow shock wave front, it behooves you to switch your choice. This is a remarkably subversive notion.

Bow Shock

“Maybe this is just the sad version of us.” – Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

“The Monty Hall Paradox is a veridical paradox, in that what seems to be odd and scarcely believable, is demonstrably true.” – Marilyn vos Savant

Collapse of the wave front of possible yous
Always presented itself as a rocket’s trajectory
Child of Apollo assured by Mission Control
that a returning Gemini capsule would never implode
So your possible futures were annealed at that
exoatmospheric edge we nicknamed free will.
You adjusted that dial labeled ‘attitude control.’
Your course corrections fine-tuned Kwajalein Atoll.
But trajectory was trajectory,
Old souls intersected on re-entry
Amidst G-forces too enormous to turn
a glancing bow shock into parallel harmonics.

Nicole’s roll of a many-sided Hugh Everett die
Made me toss the rocket for the Choo-Choo Charlie.
Is there a wave front tailored for Thomas the Tank Engine?
A think-I-can escape velocity?
Consider the infinite alternating pink and white licorice,
Parallel now upon parallel now upon parallel now,
of course each box has its singular dried bad candy,
a sad version bow shock.
That is what spitting’s for.

Charlie says
conductor guides the brakeman.
Charlie says
each divergent track is yours.
Charlie says
we can replicate the horror
But the Good and Plenties reveal themselves
as Monty doors.

One minor course adjustment.
One switch to siding where little Nell is bound to track.
Always more Good and Plenties.
Let’s make a deal.

Loring Wirbel
April 30, 2011

Happy End of National Poetry Month!

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