Editor’s Note: Today is the first day of a new format here at Yesterday’s Salad. From now on, each week will have a theme, with 3-4 posts addressing the topic at hand. This should make YS slightly more coherent–but only slightly. After all, we’re all going to continue reading the topic at hand with our own unique biases with our interests intact. So expect my posts to keep talking about language, theory, transit, and movies while Notwithabang continues the AGS pursuits, the Ciceronian declaims, and so forth. That brings me to this weeks topic: Cosmopolitanism.

Lo, the inconsistency that is Cosmopolitanism! Just look at these conflicting definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary:

1) Cosmopolitan character; adherence to cosmopolitan principles (Belonging to all parts of the world; not restricted to any one country or its inhabitants)

2) Disparagement of Russian traditions and culture (equated with disloyalty)

What should we make of this antagonym? (More a feature of Semitic languages as in Hebrew where the same root means both “heresy” and “atone” or in Arabic than it is of English). Is it possible to construct an actual philosophy, humanistic or political, that belongs to all parts of the world equally, yet regularly disparages Russian traditions and culture? Or could it be that Cosmopolitanism, one of the great hopes for moving the world into a post-War, post-National era is simply a repackaged, hidden form of the Reagan Revolution? Maybe the only thing the world, even educated liberals, can agree on is “Russia bad, us good.”

Of course its unfair, even in a post-Deconstruction world to burden a word with contradictory meanings simultaneously. Though Deconstruction teaches that a word always bears all of its meanings, some meanings are, in great Soviet style, more equal than others. So even though “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” disparages Soviets, its orientalist faux archeology (naturally the best kind) disqualifies it from being Cosmopolitan. So too one does not confuse the legendary blogtrix Rootless Cosmopolitan with the cosmopolitan (oed draft entry 12/07: A cocktail made with vodka, orange-flavoured liqueur, cranberry juice, and lime juice.), even if that beverage can be variously spelled with a capital C, nor does one suspect that Cosmopolitanism is a philosophy of drunkhead (though it would, no doubt, rally more people to the cause).

Indeed, the greatest problem with Cosmopolitanism as a political philosophy is that it makes no sense as an electoral strategy. Martha Nussbaum Harvard may be a bastion of multiculturalism, but that doesn\'t do anything to help the poor drainage in the squarehas called for allegiance to humanity as a whole, while Bruce Robbins opens one of his many pieces on the topic with this terrific quote: “‘In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians; I even know, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian; but man I have never met.‘” (source) And therein lies the rub: politics is local, and appealing to internationalism rarely fixes your drainage problems.

Harvard may be a bastion of multiculturalism, but that doesn’t seem to help in a downpour.

But if there is one place where multiculturalism might work as a political philosophy, its the Cosmopolis (either the (capital) city of the world or a cosmopolitan city or community). Indeed, in such a city, politics could be both local and cosmopolitan, both inclusive and unique. Walter Benjamin famously declared Paris the capital of the 19th century, but today another city best represents global trends, better serves as an example of the cosmopolitan society. That’s right, the Elm City, New Haven, Connecticut.

Why New Haven and not its predecessor, the Atlantis/El Dorado-like lost city of Old Haven? Here are but three reasons:

1) Food. For this we turn back to that eminent scholar of Cosmopolitanism, Bruce Robbins and his sometime alter ego Mark Bittman. We live in a global world marked by flows and misflows (Yid: vegn und umvegn) of resources and culture, and nowhere is this more felt than the realm of cuisine. New Haven was not only an early adopter of fusion cuisines [citation needed], it was also the site of one of America’s first great experiments in taking something that clearly doesn’t belong to you and claiming it as your own. Such was the case with the legendary New Haven Pizza, the choice of all effete Cosmopolitans as they wrest themselves from New York or Chicago provincialism. But few know the true origins of New Haven Pizza. Read the rest of this entry »

It is a well known fact that the recent UN Bali council was sidetracked by the US and no significant progress was made to resolve the global issues at hand. It is less well known that the most divisive issue was the proper way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Nowhere is this more felt than UK-US relations, where the special relationship grows ever testier, perhaps going out not with a bang…but a whimper. Indeed, how else can we explain the discrepancy between our two countries’ responses to this momentous occasion, how else can we explain the fact that while nary an anniversary edition DVD is released in the US, the OED has decided to include two Austin Powers words in its December revisions?

The two words in question are “fembot, n” and “shagadelic, adj.” The OED defines “fembot” as “A robot resembling a woman in appearance. Also in extended use: a woman characterized as a robot,” being formed by the combination of fem and bot. The earliest reference to the word is 1976. None of the quotes are taken from Austin, a mistake given its probable influence on the spread of the term. After all, were “fembots” ever so memorable before Cindy Margolis? The “shagadelic” entry, on the other hand, does not attempt to hide its origins. The OED states clearly that it was popularized in Austin and all the quotes provided are post-Powers.

Also added to the OED this month were “armchair quarterback” and its verb form, “armchair quarterbacking.” Both were added as sub-entries of “armchair,” and neither are derived from the horse racing term, “armchair ride,” a smooth and easy victory. The best new edition, however, may be “fiend, v.” Meaning, “intr. To have a strong desire or craving for,” the word is derived from dope/sex fiend and its first quote is from Erik B and Rakim. Sadly, none of these terms were the staff featured additions. Yet more proof that Yesterday’s Salad speaks for the subaltern?

Yesterday’s Meatloaf

October 19, 2007

Considering our Saladophilia (or at least Philo-Saladism), it’s no surprise that we somehow missed National Meatloaf Appreciation Day. Still, since we seem to have been the only People of the Internet not to have come out of the woodwork extolling the myriadfold joys that are meatloaf, we will incumb (To lie down; to succumb, yield. obs, rare) to the rules of the Game and add our own vapor-of-vapors, vanities-of-vanities to the discussion. But first, lest we make the same mistake twice, please allow us to wish you both a happy Davis Square Chipotle day and, for a less provincial holiday, a happy National Evaluate Your Life Day (copyright Wellcat Holidays and Herbs). We can only hope that reading Yesterday’s Salad scores slightly higher than eating yesterday’s salad, (or reading Paul de Man).
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Picture courtesy of Erin Covert, one of the best food blogs out there.

Since I have yet to convince someone who is actually an expert in gastronomy (and not simply gluttony) to contribute to the Salad, yesterday’s meatloaf post will have to take the form of a Word of the Day. According to the lexical literature, “meatloaf” is more correctly spelled as two words, meat loaf, and is considered a sub-definition of “loaf, n1” (“loaf-n2” is US slang for the act of loafing), owing more lexically to the shape than the ingredients. The OED entry is particularly helpful for today’s hyper-correct anti-cruelty times. Consider this late-nineteenth century quote:

‘M. RONALD’ Century Cook Bk. 308 Liver loaf, or false pâté de foie gras..is better cold with salad, or used like pâté de foie gras. A loaf of any game may be made in the same way.

So those of you with meat-list (rare; meat lust) for the now banned in many areas foie gras can now serve liver loaf, that false pate, to their friends. Unless of course you’re a meatnithing (obs. a person who gives food grudgingly; from the Icelandic) who can’t be bothered to rise to the occasion…

…In a sense, someone like the OED who only just added “cowabunga” to the English language, decades after the “Howdy Doody” show, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” spread its fame. One wonders what finally put “cowabunga” over the top. Perhaps the Edmonton Journal’s use of the word in 2005 convinced the OED that the word had finally been sufficiently globalized; or perhaps they waited until such a time as they could treat it with ironic detachment, as in this qualifier in the definition, “Now freq. humorous.” And to think I always thought cowabunga was an expression of intense sadness, as in Eliot, “Cowabunga! April is the cruelest month, breeding/lilacs out of the dead land, mixing.”