Friday, September 5, 2014

The Humping Pact, Accounting classes, Etouffee recipes, the New Yorker and a mixtape tribute to ourselves

Posted By , , , and on Fri, Sep 5, 2014 at 4:32 PM

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Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

Okay, first off NSFW. Well, maybe safe if you work at the Arkansas Times. But generally: not safe for work. Here you go.

The Humping Pact in their own words: "The Humping Pact is a project by two friends who made a pact to occupy spaces humping together." Well, maybe that's actually not the best way to introduce The Humping Pact. They also say, "A suspended act of simulated stimulation towards the environment." I liked this line from a review: "The Humping Pact shrouds itself in elaborate art-speak, but there's no getting around the fact that it's about naked men fervently humping their way through desolate environments — from abandoned coal mines to landfill sites."

So basically, the premise is:

Step 1) A large group of naked men hump the ground, walls, etc. in a public space — in nature, abandoned urban landmarks, a famous building, an ornate museum, etc.

Step 2) Art

They've exhibited all over Europe. Recommended for the frisky among you, or anyone who's ever been walking through a museum and thought, there should be more humping. — David Ramsey

I got this recipe from a Cajun girl who was our neighbor when we lived in Lafayette, Louisiana. It's not nearly as complicated or as nuanced as most of "real" etouffee recipes. Hell, I don't even know if it qualifies as an etouffee. But that's what the woman I got it from called it, so that's what I call it. It's definitely a "Tuesday" dish, because you can come home from work, get started, and it'll be on the plate in less than an hour with minimal dishes to clean up afterward. Best part is: it's surprisingly good given how little work it takes. Not awesome or anything, but hearty, filling and better than bologna on white bread.

Koon's Quick and Dirty Etouffee

1 can tomato soup
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper (green or colored), chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (or more if you like it spicy... you can also add some siracha or cayenne)
1 lb. smoked sausage, cubed
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and tails removed*
2 cups uncooked instant rice
salt and pepper to taste

In a little vegetable oil or butter, sautee the onion, bell pepper and smoked sausage until the onion is translucent (this step isn't actually necessary, as everything will cook, but I prefer the veggies to be a little more done). Thoroughly combine all ingredients (including the bell pepper, onion, sausage and still-uncooked insta-rice) in a casserole dish, and cover tightly with foil. Cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. For best results, once it comes out of the oven, allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before fluffing and serving. Leftovers are excellent on flour tortillas with a little cheese.

*NOTE: In place of shrimp, you can also substitute cooked, diced chicken or crawfish tails. — David Koon

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An improvised, barely Arkansan micro-mix for the 40th Anniversary of the Arkansas Times:

1. Dillard & Clark - "Don't Let Me Down"
2. Lee Hayes - "State of Arkansas"
3. Dipset - "We Built This City"
4. Levon & The Hawks - He Don't Love You (And He'll Break Your Heart)
5. Black Sabbath - "Changes"
6. Mac Dre - "Too Hard 4 The Radio"
7. Milton Wright - "All I Know Is That I Have You"
9. Dire Straights - "So Far Away"

—Will Stephenson 


I'm throwing down the gauntlet this week. I challenge anyone to come up with a less exciting recommendation than enrolling in the online Introduction to Financial Accounting class from Coursera. Hurry, and you can sign up too!

Hear me out. First off, it's entirely free. Second, it's taught by a professor at perhaps the best business program at any university in the world, the Wharton School at U Penn. Third, I only know that that's the case about the Wharton School because I Googled it just now — point being, I know next to nothing about business, bookkeeping or finance. After reading a NYT op-ed a few months ago titled "No Accounting Skills? No Moral Reckoning," I became convinced that that is a profound problem. We all need to know how money works, how it's harnessed for good and evil.

That goes double for those groups who are least likely to be interested in accounting. Those who don't care for numbers (or think they don't). Those who are intimidated by talk of money. Those who mistrust the market. I don't care whether your ambition is to join a derivative-swapping hedge fund or an dumpster diving anarcho-syndicalist collective, the fact is that in a world organized around the flow of capital, lacking an understanding of its mechanisms only makes you an easier mark to exploit. Whatever master you serve: join me and arm yourself for battle.

Here are a couple of further reasons. I think it'll actually be fun, because when numbers are demystified they have a way of becoming a lot more interesting. And finally, you too can join the cutting edge of higher education and experience a real, honest-to-god MOOC, or "massive open online course," which will either be the savior of higher education or its downfall, depending on who you talk to. There are also hundreds of other courses available from Coursera, everything from "Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Spain" to "Dinosaur Paleobiology." Here's the full menu.

I've taken a class from Coursera once before and it was remarkably good — although I dropped out halfway through the "semester." There's no penalty for doing so, which is why only about 10 percent of MOOC participants actually do finish whatever course they start. In fact, if you really want the authentic MOOC experience, sign up for Intro to Financial Accounting, get distracted two weeks later when less optional parts of your life come calling, feel guilty for a day or so, and then forget about the whole thing. Hell, I'll probably do exactly that. — Benjamin Hardy

The New Yorker was the second magazine subscription I purchased for myself (the Oxford American was and remains first in my heart), and my wallet, light enough on cash as it stands, is even lighter on regret. The paragon of magazine journalism, this publication has robbed me of whole afternoons spent lost in the worlds of paleo diets, T-Pain and the 12-inch-pianist (see Simon Rich’s “Guy Walks Into a Bar” from Nov. 18, 2013). And for a while yet, you can explore these annals of fine, fine reporting without paying a dime.

In July, the folks at NewYorker.com toppled their own paywall, with a promise to rebuild in October. During this golden summer of free reading, non-subscribers can digitally access every article of every issue dating back to 2007.

Right after the paywall fell, Slate Magazine published a nifty listicle of thirty New Yorker favorites from the past six or seven years – a diverse catalog that I recommend you peruse, but I’d like to add one by someone on my short list of journalist-heroes. Check out David Remnick’s “Going the Distance,” from the Jan. 27, 2014 issue. It’s a goliath profile of President Barack Obama, so long that it recalls something Stephen King once said, not about reading, in fact, but writing: “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

Be brave. The writing is unparalleled, the insights enriching, and you’ve got time enough to finish it – at least another six weeks. — Clayton Gentry

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