I was out for a drink with a young lady recently. Very pretty, but pretty dumb in a way that only pretty people can afford to be. She had that heady mixture of coquettish beauty, naiveté and pure evil. The type that says things like, “All my closest friends are guys, girls just seem to be jealous of me”, as you pay for her fourth cocktail and find yourself agreeing to help her move house.
Aside from trying to figure out whether or not her physical attractiveness trumped the fact that she was probably one of the worst people I’ve ever met, I was struck by something that has been increasingly freaking me out: this girl’s attachment to her phone was disturbingly symbiotic.
I’m not really a “Hey mom – look at me!” type that needs constant attention and reassurance to validate my existence, but after a good hour of playing second fiddle to a host of invisible spectres on the other end of her phone I began to question my sanity. I had a book in my bag, would it have been acceptable to open it every few minutes and start casually reading a chapter, now and again raising my head from the text when she said something that peaked my interest?
I’d love to say that it is a generational thing, with me pushing thirty and this girl being a good few years younger, but I don’t think that is the case. I have had the exact same experiences with people of all ages and sexes. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but when I’m talking to someone, I like to give them my full undivided attention, whether it be a friend, the guy delivering my pizza at four in the morning, or the woman behind the till at Morrisons. It’s good manners, right?
Gah, I’m getting away from my original point. Technology is fantastic. I love the internet, but at times I feel that we as a culture are accelerating at such an exponential rate that we aren’t stopping to ask the pertinent questions about how all this technological advancement is actually affecting the way we live and interact with each other.
I’m no luddite, but I genuinely fear for the emotional and physical wellbeing of the generation growing up with all the inherent pressures of social networking. The idea that not only can your bullies kick the crap out of you behind the science labs, but can then follow you home and continue the nightmare on Facebook, Twitter, or if you’re lucky an entire blog dedicated to what a piece of shit you are, is a grim portent of what is happening right now and will continue to happen until we figure out how to control and regulate these demons we have conjured but seem unable to control.
I was up late recently watching one of those BBC News 24 programmes about what’s happening in the world of technology. A journalist enthusiastically introduced a report from Japan showing a terrifying piece of footage: a robot playing the violin and then hugging a child. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat and felt physically nauseous. Have these lunatics never seen The Matrix or The Terminator? Have they never read Harlan Ellison’s ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream’? If not they should. Even worse, a happy looking scientist in a white coat boasted that one of the key advantages of manufacturing these robots was that they can be used to look after the elderly. Let me repeat that. They are going to use robots to look after the elderly. NO! The minute we abdicate our moral responsibility towards the vulnerable in society to FUCKING ROBOTS is the first and final step we take towards dismantling the very society we have strived to create.
I took a long gulp of my pint after trying to explain all that to the girl. She looked up from her phone, her beautiful face a picture of blank eyed confusion.
“You think about things too much”, she said.
Here’s a recipe to get things back to basics. A big hearty bowl of pasta with a rich tomato sauce. Best prepared slowly with a drink in your hand whilst having an actual conversation with another human being.
CONCHIGLIE WITH TOMATO
1 Celery Stalk
½ Yellow Pepper
2 Large Garlic Cloves
1 Glass White Wine
1 Can Plum Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
Sugar / Black Pepper
Chop the celery and pepper into very fine little pieces and add them to a nice deep pan on a low heat with a generous glug of olive oil. The longer you cook the celery and pepper for the better the dish will be. Keep your eye on it but ten minutes should be long enough to reduce the veg to a delightful pulp.
Crush your garlic with some salt and add it to the pan. When you do this the celery and pepper will combine with the garlic like three old friends bumping into each other at an airport bar. It will smell so good that you’ll want to rush through the next few steps. Pour yourself another drink and avoid doing this, the longer you cook it the better it will be!
When the garlic is appropriately sweated, translucent but not browned, deglaze the pan with the white wine. I like to add a pinch of sugar and a crack of black of black pepper now too. Turn up the heat and let the alcohol cook off. When you’re left with a gorgeous sizzling mixture add the plumb tomatoes and the tomato puree. The tomatoes should break up by themselves but I like to give them a helping hand with the back of a fork and hoke out the hard pip bits I really hate.
You can turn down the heat at this point whilst you get the pasta on.
Get a big pot of well salted water up to a rolling boil before adding the conchiglie. Follow the instructions but I honestly think the best way to judge if the pasta is cooked is to just keep tasting it to see if it is to your liking. Drain it a minute or so before you think it’s quite ready as it will continue to cook in the colander. Also retain about a mugs worth of the lovely starchy water the pasta has been cooking in. This can be used to liven up the sauce if it has become a little thick and dry whilst bubbling away.
Add the conchiglie to the pan with the tomato sauce, using as much of the excess water as needed. Make sure it’s thoroughly mixed before serving in a nice big dish with a fresh baguette torn into pieces on the side. If you’re veggie like me I would recommend Gran Moravia to sprinkle liberally on top. Some basil leaf won’t go amiss either but isn’t essential.
Season with black pepper.
Eat whilst gazing wistfully at a beautiful sunset and listening to John Coltrane playing ‘Summertime’.
Michael Sterrett is a Leeds-based stand-up comedian. You can follow him on Twitter (@MJSterrett), and check out the HOWL website HERE.
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