Monday, March 19, 2007

Snow in Queens

Friday night, corner of 33rd and Broadway in Astoria.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And The People Rejoiced

Congratulations to Matt Weiner, who has accepted an offer from the University of Vermont! While Lubbock, Texas surely has its charms---no, I'm sorry, I won't finish that sentence.


Site Maintenance

Some changes, some desired changes.

--I've finally switched over to the Beta version of Blogger, not that I had any choice in the matter, and I figure that I might as well use the damned tag option.

--The credit for the sidebar "Recent Comments" hack appears now to lead to an extremely graphic pr0n site. I would suggest if you have a bloggerhacks link on your page to check it out. I'd be very willing to credit the bloggerhacks people for the code I'm using, but I don't link to pr0n.

--That said, my "recent comments" sidebar sometimes misses comments.

--Blogger Beta hasn't come up with an elegant solution for extendable posts, damn them. I've changed the visually awkward "mutterings continued" with "etc," but as usual, I'll indicate whether I've posted something below the fold.

--Blogger Beta has a template layout program that seems very inviting---until you realise that in order to use it, you have to revert to the standard template. Within a few minutes of switching over, I discovered that hyperlinks in the author porfile text were disallowed; switching back, I discovered that my background color had been changed. It's a trap! Avoid!

Desired changes:
--I would really like to be able to get rid of the top navigational bar again. I've tried a couple of hacks out there (which haven't worked), but am still nervous of tinkering with the page geometry to overlay it.

--I'd like to format a couple of pictures to use in the header but don't have Photoshop. Are there any good websites to help me through this?

--I hate, hate, hate most of the Profile-Dump code available in this template. If I just delete it and build the sidebar from scratch, will Blogger come after me? Okay, maybe I'm just looking for moral support as I undertake what is surely to be a stupidly self-taught exercise.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

For Kriston

And all the other bearded young men about town.
"[I]nstead of being a man afflicted by nature with a beard, and as such more to be pitied than censured, he was a deliberate putter-on of beards, a self-bearder, a fellow who, for who knew what dark reasons, carried his own private jungle around with him, so that any moment he could dive into it and defy pursuit. It was childish to suppose that such a man could be up to any good."
--P.G. Wodehouse, Big Money (1931), Penguin 1953, 55.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Burke as Politician

In the ongoing operation of trying to salvage a worthwhile conservativism out of the Bush years, Brad DeLong makes an argument about Edmund Burke that is very important.

It's very convenient to invoke a cardboard Burke, complete with easily summarised key concepts; both liberals and conservatives do so. It doesn't match up well with the messy tangle of Burke's writings, though. Far too much weight has been given to the canonical conservative Burke--the great defender of institutions and national culture!--and far too little weight has been given to the canny, inconsistant, situational Burke.

A couple of paragraphs from DeLong's post, then (I know he won't mind the cutting and pasting):
When Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France makes the argument that Britons should respect the organic political tradition of English liberty that has been inherited from the past, he whispers under his breath that the only reason we should respect the Wisdom of the Ancestors is that in this particular case Burke thinks that the Ancestors--not his personal ancestors, note--were wise.

Whenever Burke thought that the inherited political traditions were not wise, the fact that they were the inherited Wisdom of the Ancestors cut no ice with him at all. It was one of the traditions and institutions of Englishmen that they would conquer, torture, and rob wogs whenever and wherever they were strong enough to do so. That tradition cut no ice with Edmund Burke when he was trying to prosecute Warren Hastings. It was one of the traditions and institutions of Englishmen that all power flowed to Westminster. That tradition cut no ice with Burke when he was arguing for conciliation with and a devolution of power to the American colonists. It was one of the traditions and institutions of Englishmen that Ireland was to be plundered and looted for the benefit of upwardly-mobile English peers-to-be. That tradition, too, cut no ice with Burke.


What are good institutions? Burke sounds like Madison: checks-and-balances, separation of powers, rights of the subject, limitations on the state. Burke's views on what good institutions are are Enlightenment views--that branch of the Enlightenment that took people as they are and politics as a science, that is, rather than the branch that took people as Rousseau hoped they might someday be and politics as the striking of an oppositional pose. Because he finds that the English past is usable as a support for his Enlightenment-driven views, Burke makes conservative arguments in Reflections. But whenever conservative arguments lead where Burke doesn't want to go--to Richelieu or Louis XIV or the plunder of Ireland or the Star Chamber or Warren Hastings or imperial centralization--Burke doesn't make them. England's inheritance of institutions and practices is to be respected wherever it supports Burke's conception of properly-ordered liberty, and ignored wherever it does not.
Yes, I think this gets very near to what coherent political principle there is in Burke.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

View From Queens 2

Looking North along the East River.


View From Queens

The U.N. building seen through the old pier.


Won Over

It is impossible to dislike Angelina Jolie.

(All of the pictures in the slideshow, taken by Per-Anders Pettersson for Getty, are very striking.)


A Paranthetical

From Peter Schjeldahl's Jan. 29th New Yorker review of a Martín Ramírez exhibit:
"We all develop our personal styles by noticing what people like about us, and exaggerating it."


Saturday, March 10, 2007


Gary Farber collects reviews of 300, a gore-flecked action movie based on Frank Miller's comic-book vision of the Battle of Thermopylae, when Xerxes of Persia's army was (temporarily) turned away from Sparta. [Added: a preview of 300 on YouTube. Gah.]

Perhaps you remember hearing about the Cherokee nation voting to boot out its black members--those who traced their Cherokee lineage back to the freed slaves of Cherokees? No? It's a fascinating story, and the legal and historical issues involved are very poorly understood by people who don't follow Native American issues, that is, most of us. A friend of mine explains some of it in an excellent guest post at Jack Balkin's law site.

Where is former Iranian Defense Ministry official, General Asgari? Speculation is mounting after the man disappeared from a vacation in Turkey last month. The Iranian, Israeli, and American spokespeople are all blaming each other, and to date, it remains unclear whether the Asgari defected or was kidnapped. Curious mystery; I hope he's safe and being well treated, wherever he is.

And for those who didn't see it at the time, Unfogged's great Fuck You, Clown! poetry thread.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Looking Back On Shock And Awe

A number of bloggers are playing a game Jim Henley is calling "Look Through Your March 2003 Archives," the idea being to prove how good your predictions about the aftermath of the invasion were.

I was barely online at that time, and I'm not about to quote from my private emails. However, in May 2003, I did write up a weird little aesthetic analysis that I think bares bears up okay. It's rather long and embarrassingly, naively academic in style and has all kinds of weird writing errors; I had no idea who I was writing the thing for. I've put the whole thing, warts and all, below the fold.

(Before you click through--if you click through--I would like to be considered for the prize in the category "Not So Bad, Considering The Disciplinary Tools Available." Thank you.)

Why “Shock and Awe” Won’t Work The Way Military Strategists Hope

As many commentators have noticed, the military strategy of “Shock and Awe” is in many respects similar to the philosophical model of the Sublime. Both presume that the experience of overwhelming power will be sudden and terrifying, and that the end result will be some improved system. In the philosophical model, the result of the Sublime is an appreciation of God’s power or the moral imperative to act rightly with a rational understanding of universal principles. In the military model, the result of “Shock and Awe” is an American-imposed treaty or government. Both also emphasize the absolute powerlessness of the subject, arguing that this powerlessness in the face of power is the psychological instrumental by which the new system can overturn the old.

Oddly enough, both the “Shock and Awe” model of regime change and the Sublime model of overwhelming experience participate in the language of aesthetics. At a very basic level, both “Shock and Awe” and the Sublime are attempts to systematize a form of communication that would be perfect, total, and effective. Although later philosophers have tended to relegate the Sublime to the backwaters of aesthetic theory, deriding it as a model of experience predicated on a thinly-disguised transcendence, the current military model of “Shock and Awe” relies on precisely those elements of the Sublime that have been overlooked by philosophical skeptics. And perhaps only the history of aesthetics can illuminate the flaws in the American military strategy.

The treatise that explains “Shock and Awe,” like the treatises explaining the Sublime, presume that the object of their study is a total system that deploys forms to force change. Rather than opposing the prior “decisive force” strategy that has guided American military campaigns since Vietnam, the “Shock and Awe” strategy subsumes the “decisive force” strategy as a factor in its more comprehensive system guiding the exercise of power. The brute operational force to overwhelm the opponent’s army remains important to the paper’s authors, but they would like to extend this potential for dominance into other realms of warfare: they “envisage Rapid Dominance as the possible military expression, vanguard, and extension of this potential for revolutionary change” (Prologue). The treatise on “Rapid Dominance” falls into the generic category of a system, enveloping and totalizing previous investigations into strategic dominance in order to make new and more absolute applications of their lessons.

Because the treatise is organized as a master-system, absorbing all previous treatises on warfare, it is able to identify “intimidating and compelling factors” on a variety of experiential levels. They advocate the control of state information-systems and the control of individual perceptions; they advocate the domination of the war’s battlefield by the tactical deployment of overwhelming force and the domination of the war’s narrative by unstoppable speed. As Burke and Kant translate into a broad spectrum of media-stimuli the possible formal causes of the Sublime effect, so do the authors of “Rapid Dominance” survey the different techniques of proving military control of a battlefield environment. By addressing all of the factors that defeat, compel, or intimate an enemy, this treatise advocates a kind of strategy that itself would deploy systemic force.

The “Shock and Awe” technique of establishing “rapid dominance” is a strategy that seeks to control not only the material conditions of the enemy (military capacity, infrastructure) but also more importantly the psychology of the enemy. In a table in the Introduction, the purpose of the use of force in the “Shock and Awe” strategy is defined as being to “control the adversary's will, perceptions, and understanding and literally make an adversary impotent to act or react.” Without closer perusal of the paper, it would seem difficult to understand how force as conventionally understood could control the adversary’s understanding. However, the use of force is more generally defined for Ullman and his co-authors, as having “a broader spectrum of leverage points” than mere battlefield strength (Chapter Two, para 9). They aim rather at creating the kind of show of force that would, like the Sublime, induce
that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force” (Burke 101).

In the strategy of “Shock and Awe,” the irresistible force perceived by the enemy’s minds is the American military. By controlling the enemy’s environment and by shocking the enemy with “some degree of horror,” the strategists hope to rely on the enemy’s minds to create the power by which the system is changed.

Indeed, an even more important tool for this strategy is the control of information available to the enemy. If the enemy is convinced that the American military has “irresistible force,” the military doesn’t need to make nearly as many real shows of forces to prove the point. As part of a coordinated deployment of “Rapid Dominance,” manipulating information is “more than denial or deception [;] it is control in the fullest sense of the word” (Chapter Two, para 44). The authors of the paper isolate some examples of the kind of control of information that the military should seek.

One way to confound the enemy is to exaggerate the size of the American forces. They refer to how the Haitian natives misled a visiting French military contingent into thinking their army many times as large as it actually was by parading a single unit many times in front of a single viewpoint. This repetition created the impression of a vast military force and consequently dissuaded the French from opposing Haitian independence with military intervention (Chapter Two, para 28). The Haitian military carefully manipulated how the French would interpret the spectacle; the Haitians created a qualitatively different representation by repeating a single unit many times, “impress[ing] the imagination with an idea of their progress beyond their actual limits” (Burke 116), and suggesting a force of sufficient vastness to change the French opinion.

Another example they give for how the control of representations can create “Shock and Awe” is derived from an anecdote about Sun Tzu. In order to win a bet with the Emperor to transform the royal concubines into a drill team, Sun Tzu decapitated two concubines in the order of rank until the others were demoralized enough to obey. While admitting that the brutality of this tactic may fall outside the culturally accepted parameters of U.S. military strategy, Ullman and his co-authors argue that decisive action against selected symbolic or otherwise exemplary targets may more effectively persuade an enemy population to submit than would a full-scale war (Chapter Two, para 21-23). For this tactic to work, one must assume that the enemy population or military will identify or have already identified in some fashion with the attacked targets. The targets must have symbolic meaning in themselves, in that they are culturally or politically important within the current system, or the enemy individuals must be able to sympathize with them, imagine themselves dying in such a fashion, as in the popular Christian saying “there but for the grace of God go I”—except that in the “Shock and Awe” strategy, the grace of God has been replaced by the selective targeting of the American military. This tactic relies quite explicitly on the power of imagination to induce sympathetic fear.

By a rapid and confusing spectacle of absolute force, the American military will convince the enemy that resistance is futile, and moreover, that resistance is unimaginable. The enemy—-in all of its individual human components—-becomes “paralyzed” and “impotent” in the face of the American military’s exercise of domination. The enemy’s normal patterns are demolished, as the American military demonstrates its “(near) total control and signature management of the entire operational environment” (Prologue para 6). The individual humans who make up the enemy will then become convinced that their previous regime has come to an end. The main tool used to achieve this goal is massively induced shock, a condition of psychological trauma involving confusion, horror, suspension, and impotence. The desired effect is epistemological upset: all of the enemy’s previous systems will be enveloped in a new totalized confusion directed by the American military.

“Rapid Dominance” is therefore a strategy of imposing a new system on the enemy: through the obscuring fog of war, the adversary’s minds will only perceive American power. The new system of American dominance will induce, through the shock of epistemological upset, a state of “awe.” Not only will the enemy be confused and impotent, in a state of “shock,” the enemy will also be so afraid of American force that they will almost reverence it as a higher power. Previous military strategies sought to win wars; this one aims at political victories by military means. As the authors state,
“we seek to determine whether and how Shock and Awe can become sufficiently intimidating and compelling factors to force or otherwise convince an adversary to accept our will in the Clausewitzian sense, such that the strategic aims and military objectives of the campaign will achieve a political end” (Chapter Two, para 3).

At the most basic level, the strategy of “shock and awe” is a highly refined—-and violent—-technique of persuasion. The “political end” of this operation is to convince the mass of these individuals to resign themselves to, accept, or even identify with the next new system imposed by the American “will.”

In eighteenth-century terms, the American military is hoping to put each enemy soldier—and civilian—on one of Wordsworth’s mountains, and the American military is hoping that its message will be felt by these isolated individuals as a

roar of waters, torrents, streams
Innumerable, roaring with one voice
Heard over earth and sea, and in that hour,
For so it seems, felt by the starry heavens (The Prelude 14.59-63).

The “shock and awe” military strategy is designed to invade the individual sensorium and to replace the individual perception of what eighteenth-century philosophers would call “the system of Nature” with a strategic political system. But even independent of the very real ethical concerns, there are a number of logistical problems with this model of coercive communication: even Wordsworth has to come off the mountain. The eighteenth-century philosophical roots of this twenty-first-century military strategy can help to clarify some of its failings.

Even if the strategy succeeds in stunning the enemy into torpor, the effect of “shock and awe” runs into problems in the long-term. Unless the enemy individuals can be persuaded to identify with the power that has overwhelmed them, the message of that “roar” will be forgotten, diluted, or overwritten. Eighteenth-century philosophers argued that the message of the sublime experience could not be forgotten because it was good, true, and either natural or divine in origin. The writers of “Rapid Dominance” have made it clear that theirs is a strategy devoid of specific content, which, they presume, will be provided by the policy-makers and the directors of the American “will.” The psychology-based strategy of “shock and awe” promises first to dominate the enemy and then to convert it. Unless the shocking experience on the mountain provides some message that can be identified as good and true, its rhetorical power will wane over time. Unless the new American system can be perceived as moral and right, it will be rejected when the army goes home. In a military application of sublime communication, the message is necessarily inflected with artifice, political strategy, and national partisanship.

The military strategy of taking out state media networks presumes that these are the only circuits of communication, that the American message can dominate all sensory inlets, and that each individual will be isolated within the imposed rhetorical environment. The sensory experience of real human beings is not limited to the state media apparatuses. Real humans see their neighbors or webpages, smell food or blood, hear songs or rumors. An ideological invasion can try but will probably fail to control the meaning of all of these sensations.

The targeted symbols or emblems strategically destroyed by the invading army will not be the only symbols or emblems in circulation. While killing the person right next to an individual will certainly create a powerful message, and while decapitating a regime will certainly eliminate an important symbol of state, it is difficult to predict what symbols will move the “enemy” to action. Unless all preexisting symbols are destroyed or discredited, the new system proposed by the invading army will have to compete for sympathy and faith.

Any lines of communication poorly understood by the American strategists can interrupt their message. In the aftermath of “shock and awe,” local, alternative, or underground communication networks can disrupt the communicative power of the overwhelming new system. Collective identities—and particularly those which can present a moral claim—can gain tremendous default power in the confusion. Group identities, poorly understood both by American culture and by the eighteenth-century theories from which it is largely derived, can reassert themselves between the new American system and the “shocked and awed” individual.

The civilians and soldiers who make up “the enemy” are not isolated individuals on mountains. The “shock and “awe” model, like the model of the sublime, is predicated on a communication between an invading force and individual minds considered in isolation. The writers of “Rapid Dominance” predict, probably not inaccurately, that the experience of lethal power will disrupt collective identities and group loyalties. But how long will that one-way communication be able to last? How total a domination over the meaning of events can a military power hope to maintain? A show of overwhelming force can play in almost all theaters, but it is virtually impossible that it can have a total and lasting monopoly on imaginations, individual and collective. An invading force, no matter how sophisticated its manipulation of media, will likely have a difficult time sustaining itself as an absolute substitute for the Nature of eighteenth-century philosophy.

(Primary Source: Accessed April 27, 2003.)


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


A warm soul sent me this red-tailed hawk for my very own. Apparently, the Audubon Society has expanded its ornithological propaganda efforts into the youth sector with a whole series of plush bird dolls (more easily viewed at this slightly dubious-looking online retailer). The coolest part about these is that they come complete with embedded audio of the bird's calls, as recorded in the field by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. My red-tailed hawk emits two very satisfying, piercing shrieks when pressed on the back!


Monday, March 05, 2007

Ali G Interviews Posh Spice and David Beckham

For Comic Relief. It's much less heavily edited than most of the Ali G material, and it's really rather sweet. I've never seen Posh Spice smile, I realised about halfway through, and she and Beckham spend most of the ten minutes dissolved in laughter while Ali G makes fun of them.


Sunday, March 04, 2007


New Yorkers! Heads up!

The Housing Works chain has just recently held its "Spring Preview," and the leftovers from that event are EMINENTLY worth checking out. If I'd more disposable income, I would have walked out of the E. 77th shop with: 1) a crocodile Kenneth Cole bag I've coveted for a couple of years, slightly worn ($35), 2) a Calvin Klein sleeveless knit turtleneck, in gray ($30), 3) a no-name 1960s vintage sheath-dress and military-style button-up jacket, in brown and gold brocade, amazing ($80?), 4) a gorgeous Dué Per Dué black holster-neck dress with shirred waist, full skirt, and darling off-white jagged detail-work on the bottom ($45? and just slightly too big for me), 5) a below-calf-length, marvellously pleated, black Prada skirt ($30)....

Anyway, what I needed was presentable shoes. Pictured are my new-to-me Manolo Blahniks ($35). I just checked the label for the proper spelling; these are not the sort of shoes I was raised to covet. Despite all the "Sex and the City" buzz, I've heard that even the septagenerians respect teh Manolo for his well-crafted shoes. So far the shoes seem excellently stable and chic. And so cheap.


Kiarostami and Traffic

Yesterday afternoon, I saw three short films from the giant Kiarostami retrospective at the Moma.

"Toothache" (1979) is a a fairly straightforward didactic short about the importance of brushing one's teeth. There's an undercurrent of dark humor in the social ostracisation and suffering of the adorable child-protagonist. I wondered whether Kiarostami wasn't going too far at points during one prolonged scene at the dentist's office: the dentist was answering an off-camera interviewer's questions about flourine and brushing technique and sugar, while the child-protagonist bawled in the background and the dentist's drill whined... It was terribly effective, though. I've flossed my teeth four times since yesterday.

"The Chorus" (1983) This is a sweet character and technical study, and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, particularly in this program. The main character is an elderly gentleman with a hearing aid that he takes out every time noises get annoying. He runs a number of errands, then settles into his room. He had thought he had left the front door blocked open to let his granddaughter in, but his grandson knocked it closed; so when the granddaughter rings the bell, and he's taken his hearing aid out so as not to hear the jackhammer nearby, it takes a chorus of little girls chanting for him in unision to break through his deafness. Maybe it's a political allegory? If so, it's a very careful one. I was too distracted by his eating sugar cubes--doesn't he know about toothache!--to do hermeneutics.

"Orderly or Disorderly" (1981), a strange little short, self-consciously films the same scenes twice over, once in an "orderly" fashion and once in a "disorderly" fashion. The first three scenes feature children: running down a staircase, sharing water from a common cooler, boarding a bus. The kids seem to be having much more fun when they're being disorderly, but Kiarostami manages to make his point that the disorderly behavior takes more time and makes people cry. The next scenes are about traffic. And here Kiarostami can't get a shot to illustrate "orderliness"--he mutters off-camera, "hey, that guy just ran a red light! Cut!" and "can't that policeman make them obey the law just for one shot?" Which then nicely illustrates his point.

"Fellow Citizen" (1983) continues with the theme of automobile traffic. It's a crazy piece: infuriating, dull, fascinating, profound, realist... Here's the MoMA's capsule description:
A traffic cop (Kiarostami's first job in real life) attempting to prevent drivers from entering a closed-off area is treated to an infinite array of excuses. A revealing study of man's capacity for inventing stories (or "lying"), and a witty use of repetition at its most extreme. 52 min.
But here's the thing: that traffic cop had the power to grant exemptions, and grant them he did--with the result that every driver in the queue had a very real incentive to try to bullshit the traffic cop. So the cop suddenly became a kind of judge: whose paperwork is good enough? whose excuse is valid? whose child is too ill to walk to the hospital? The traffic cop is a very handsome man, who seems to be decent (he is never shown either taking or refusing a bribe), humane, and even funny, but he is in an impossible position. The policy of closing off certain streets isn't necessarily a bad one, but stationing a single cop in front of the street creates an infuriating blockade, with wheedling, lying and bullying as inevitable results.

This last film might have been an allegory as well, but I'm starting to get the sense that Kiarostami has very strong feelings about vehicular traffic as a problem in its own right. I wonder how he feels about the traffic conditions in Iran these days?


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Abbas Kiarostami

Attention, New Yorkers!

The MoMA is hosting a gigantic retrospective of the granddaddy of Iranian film this month (March 1-19), with screenings of just about everything he's ever filmed, from pre-Revolution shorts about dental care for children to more recent feature-length existential quest-narratives. Also, this month PS1 in Queens is showing an exhibit of Kiarostami's photography, which is supposed to be quite good; I'm planning on seeing it tomorrow.

A friend of mine who assisted in the curation of this exhibit remarked: "I had no idea that Iranian men were all so attractive!" I'm just passing this along so that those of you more interested in attractive men than in cinema vérité might be moved to attend.

Kiarostami himself is scheduled to speak at Bard College and Princeton U. next week sometime; unaccountably, NYU turned down his offer of a master-class.

[Update: As Scott points out, Hunter College is making out like a bandit: it's scheduled Kiarostami for a whopping nine-day master class. I'm having a hard time believing that he'll be able to be there, really be there, for the full term announced by Hunter, but it's quite a commitment, nonetheless.

Why do I doubt? Part of it has to do with the rumors that Kiarostami nearly didn't make it into the country at all. Part of it has to do with the hundreds of Iranian exiles who have some sort of claim on what time he has here. And part of it has to do with the frustrating nature of master classes.]


This Time, It Wasn't Optional

Google, in its goodness, has decided that it was high time for this here blog to switch over to the Beta version of Blogger. I'm still in the process of ironing out some things from this side, but let me know here if there are any problems from the reader side.

One thing I noticed immediately is that the switchover reinstated that annoying Blogger strip at the top of the page. Even more annoying: it displays my gmail identity, my real name, when I'm signed in. I'm sure this display only shows up on my computer--right? right?--but it doesn't make me happy to see it up there.


Chocolate Soufflé For Two

This was my first soufflé, and I'm very proud of it. It's scaled down from a recipe in the Gourmet cookbook to fit in a smaller soufflé dish, a 1-cup ramekin.

-2 1/3 tablespoons sugar. (And a little more to dust soufflé dish.)
-1 1/2-2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
-2 large eggs
-pinch of salt

Step 1: Let eggs sit at room temperature for half an hour.

Step 2: Separate eggs, and discard ONE of the yolks.

Step 3: Put a rack in the middle of the oven, preheat to 375.

Step 4: Butter soufflé dish and sprinkle in sugar, knocking out the excess.

Step 5: Melt chocolate carefully, carefully, stirring until liquid and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk.

Step 6: Beat egg whites with mixer until they "hold soft peaks." This means that the egg whites have become more frothy than foamy.

Step 7: Add the sugar a little at a time, beating all the while, then whip the hell out of the mixture until you've got "stiff peaks": something that behaves almost like a bubble bath.

Step 8: Stir about a third of this egg and sugar mixture into the chocolate, mix it well, and then gently, gently fold the rest of it in.

Step 9: Spoon the chocolate-egg-and-sugar mixture into soufflé dish. Run a fingertip around the inside lip of the dish to help soufflé rise evenly.

Step 10: Bake until puffy and crusted on top: 24-26 minutes.

Served with slightly sweetened whipped cream!

This soufflé worked like a dream, even though my oven has approximate Magic Marker lines rather than temperature markings. The only complicated part was melting the chocolate; it wanted to remain soft and solid and burn rather than liquidify, but once I added the egg yolk, it went runny all at once. Very mysterious. Next time I want to put pomegranate seeds in the whipped cream.