Post-Apocalypse Now

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A cloud of smoke rises following an airstrike by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, northeast of Damascus, on February 5, 2015 (AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

There’s an ad I often hear on NPR featuring a film critic saying, “I can’t wait for the real post-apocalyptic dystopia to arrive so we can finally stop seeing films about it.”

Every time I hear it I think:hodgins-yes

I so often see synopses for new films or tv shows or plays that take place in this post-apocalyptic landscape, particularly written by younger, (I’m just guessing here, but…) white, male writers.

I totally get the impulse. It’s hugely dramatic after all. What do you do after the worse possible thing has happened? You fight the man and reclaim the day! Does matter how vague, contrived, or illogical the details. Hell yeah! Tune in!

But what I don’t understand is why we feel the need to create it in fantasy? Look around the world, people! Even here in America! The post-apocalyptic dystopia is now and everywhere.

Sure, maybe people aren’t fighting government sanctioned zombie drones, or the fact that all power on the Earth has been cutoff, but….no, wait a minute people are fighting government-sanctioned zombie drones and the fact that all their power has been cutoff!

That’s my point. Yes, we create stories to absorb the reality in which we live. But sometimes we create stories that have the effect of ignoring the reality in which we live. And that’s no use to anybody.

Especially when the phrase “post-apocalyptic dystopia” becomes an over-used catchall for “things that will probably never happen, but wouldn’t it be cool if?”

It does happen. It isn’t cool if. Maybe ask the people who live it.

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Blood and debris following air strikes by government forces in Douma, Syria on February 5, 2015 (AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

How to Hard Boil an Egg. (Seriously).

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Who has time to cook at home these days??

Me. That’s who. (And you probably do, too – although you might think you don’t.)

Regardless – for those of us who know the joys of cooking at home (i.e. delicious-ness, financial-badass-ness), these 16 Kitchen Skills Every Home Chef Must Know is a great list of reminders and tips.

My favorite: the Soft-to-Hard-Boiled Egg Timer Chart. I’m always a mess when it comes to hard boiling eggs. (Rookie confession: I always start them in cold water and slowly heat. #busted).

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Here’s my addition to the list:

Make Your Spice Mix First
When spicing chicken, pork, etc., I always found myself peppering the meat, flipping the meat, washing my hands, and then re-peppering the meat, and then moving the meat to the heat, washing my hands, etc.

Better to put your salt, pepper, spices, etc, into a small bowl first. Then use one hand to handle the meat, and the other (clean) hand to dip in and out of the spices – even if it’s just salt and pepper!

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What’s your Must-Know tip?

Oh, The Farmer’s Market and the CSA Can be Friends

(Ten points if you get the reference in the title…)

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My fiancee and I recently bought a house in a new neighborhood. It’s been an exciting transition, but one of the things that we lost was easy access to a weekly farmer’s market.

I used to love going to the market every Sunday morning. It wasn’t a very big market, and so you were able to get to know the vendors and farmers on a personal level. It taught me to plan meals for the week, and buy accordingly. It was an amazing ritual.

Fortunately by chance, just as were preparing to move, a guy knocked on our door and offered us the opportunity to receive a CSA box from Farm Fresh to You. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and basically means that you as an individual get to support a local farm by buying products directly from them.

Now, every other week we get a box full of fresh, local(ish), organic food mailed to our doorstep, and it only costs me about $35/every two weeks. Not bad!

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But I DO miss my farmer’s market. Which is why this article from The Kitchn hit home. Which is better? The Farmer’s Market or the CSA? Knowing both worlds, I find them both to have great advantages and, frankly, very few setbacks.

Farmer’s Market Fans say: It’s a more manageable amount of food, You’re definitely keeping it more local, and you get to choose!

CSA Advocates say: It teaches you about more unexpected ingredients, and you have a better sense of exactly where the food is coming from.

I think the biggest factor for me is the right ratio of choice and chance. The initial box they suggest is my starting point, and then I can add and subtract for my own comfort level.

Maitake Mushrooms? Sure!
Tarragon? Why not!
More Nantes Carrots?? Um…maybe next time.

So tell me – where’s your favorite produce spot?

Does This Sound Out of Tune to You?

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I remember in college walking down the hallways of UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall and hearing the ethnomusicology majors practicing their bizarre semi-tones. These “notes in between the notes” left me fascinated and a little unsettled. I preferred my more easily digested 12-tone scales, based comfortably around middle-A being tuned to the frequency of 440hz.

But according to an interesting article in The Daily Beast, it turns out that’s a relatively recent standardization of Western music, and – according to musical conspiracy theories (yes, there really is such a thing) – was propagated by the Nazis in order to move people towards “greater aggression, psycho social agitation, and emotional distress predisposing people to physical illness.”

Whaaaaa!?

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“According to true believers, music would generate positive healing energy if A were tuned to 432 Hz. This tuning, they claim, is more aligned with the cosmos and the natural world. ‘The number 432 is also reflected in ratios of the Sun, Earth, and the moon as well as the precession of the equinoxes, the Great Pyramid of Egypt, Stonehenge, the Sri Yantra among many other sacred sites,’ explains author Elina St-Onge.”

Okay, so that’s a little out there.

But I do love thinking that sound, pitch, and music has such a profound power over our moods, thoughts, and physical well-being. It makes sense after all as this episode of Radiolab points out.  Pitch is just a wave traveling through the air, bouncing against our molecules, which are primarily made of water.

There are even famous stories of how when Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was first performed and when Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring premiered they caused riots in the street!

So now comes the true test. Take a listen to two samples. One tuned to A=432hz and the other tuned to A=440hz.

Which one do you prefer?

The “Jane Austen Writers Group” Buzzfeed Parody

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This wonderful buzzfeed “What If” created by contributor Shannon Reed is a hilarious read and hits a lot of great points.

The first, and most obvious, is the frequently useless critiques that writer’s groups provide. Between batches of patting one another on the back, there’s a tacet “I’m smarter than you” subtext that pervades their friendly notes.

And then there’s the endless harping on “Why.” Yes – we must understand the motivations of a character. But sometimes the motivations of a character are implicit in the actions themselves. We relate to their actions and thus we understand “why.” We do not need to be told, and not everything needs to be explained away.

But I think I’m most fascinated, on my subsequent reads of this article, at the (perhaps-not-so) subtle sexism. The labeling of “chick lit;” the constant comparisons to “superior” works by men (Chaucer, Shakespeare); the sexualization of Kitty; the criticizing of having too many women in the piece; and the suggestion that the active protagonists should be three men who discuss war, while Mrs. Bennet “lies unconscious in the background, holding a ribbon.”

Well parodied, Ms. Reed.

In more re-affirming news: Check out this article on new plays empowering young, Latina women!

Human Fact in Science Fiction

Love this Film 4 interview from the team behind Ex Machina. I’ve always been a fan of Sci-Fi storytelling for its ability to be a more obvious mirror for the human condition and the challenges of our current times.

Star Domhnall Gleeson sums it up perfectly in this quotation at the end of the clip [9:06]: “My favorite films are elevated genre-films. So they’re genre-films…that use the genre to tell us something about being human, to ask really important questions.”