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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ryan Trecartin on the Future

“Everything we do is going to be captured and archived in an accessible form, whether you want it or not. It’s going to change all our lives. We are a species that can no longer assume privacy. It’s not an individual decision, and I feel that’s exciting to explore--or something. There’s a lot of cultural content being generated right now that sees itself as post-human, but it’s assuming the twentieth century as its audience. It leans on structures that we already understand, but that we’re moving away from. My work is about humanity, and about the time I’m making it.”

~Ryan Trecartin on the future in The New Yorker

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Perfect Diet

In America views on healthful eating seem to fall on a spectrum defined by two opposing ideologies. On one side, people like Dr. Mercola, Sally Fallon (founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation) and Professor Loren Cordain (founder of the “Paleo Diet”) recommend the consumption of high quality animal-based foods, such as grass-fed beef, wild salmon, or raw grassfed butter. This side also typically advocates abundant raw vegetables and fermented foods. Excessive fruit consumption and grains, on the other hand, are typically discouraged. (The Weston A. Price foundation advocates soaked and cooked grains.)

On the other side, people like T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn argue that animal-based products create disease, that there are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants, and that the best health-promoting diet is a low-fat, vegetable and grain-based diet--a vegan diet.

The diversity of information can be confusing.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wes Anderson's Style


On the occasion of the opening of Wes Anderson's latest, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Richard Brody, matching his subject's elegance, has written a review of the Anderson style: "The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson's Artistic Credo."

It's a great read in full, but I particularly enjoyed the following lines:

"The hotel is the embodiment of Gustave’s taste, and Gustave is the embodiment of its delights. It’s a state of affairs that matches Anderson’s own art: the virtual signature that’s present like a watermark throughout his work is also a part of his personal style, his dress and his manner, his very way of life. That’s why I’ve compared him to such high stylists as Howard Hawks and Ernest Hemingway, who similarly exhibited in person the extreme stylistic precision of their work. The artist isn’t just the creator of style but also its bearer, and the artist’s very presence is a work of art in person, creation on the wing by means of a turn of phrase, a gesture, a way of dressing, the aura of charismatic influence."

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Art of Not Eating

A few years ago, my good friend Kevin started a cleanse. He bought a cleansing kit. He took the cleansing pills and fiber for ten days. He refined his diet. For breakfast, he ate berries. For lunch, he ate salad. For dinner, he ate baked fish and steamed broccoli. More importantly (for him at least), he did not drink his micro-brews, and he did not eat his favored hard pretzels.

Kevin felt light and optimistic. He also felt insatiably hungry. So he called me.

"I need to eat more food," he said.

"So eat more food," I said.

"Like what?"

"A sweet potato?"

"But that sounds good."

"So?"

"Shouldn't I be suffering?"

Monday, February 24, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Poop: On Sterility, Dirt, and Life

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in May, 2002. I wrote about this experience last year: how, on the  day of my diagnosis, I refused my doctor's prognosis, as well as the drugs, and commenced a journey to heal—a fifteen-month experiment, absent any conventional medical guidance whatsoever, that effectively ended midway through my honeymoon, when my new wife admitted me to the ER.

For fifteen months, I devoted my life to an obsessive and fastidious investigation. Hunched over my desk, I spent day after day Googling. For a phrase like “ulcerative colitis natural cure,” I'd click twenty pages deep, reading every word on every site—every blog, every forum. Certain opportune comments led to new searches in new windows, fresh rounds of clicking. When I risked leaving the house, I’d visit Barnes & Noble, where I’d scan the indexes of books, seeking even the slightest reference to “colitis,” or “autoimmune,” or “Raynaud’s Phenomena,” or “Fibromyalgia”--my other illnesses. Inevitably, though, turning from my screen, or trudging from B&N only briefly lifted by some tidbit—“even cases of not-so-mild ulcerative colitis can respond dramatically to changes in lifestyle and outlook.”—I’d come to think of the only definitive cure: death.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Art of Eating

"Tell me what you eat," Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "and I will tell you what you are."

You might know this quote from the Japanese Iron Chef, where it appears in the opening sequence of each episode, accompanied by a solemn overture from Hans Zimmer's "The Arsonist's Waltz," which quickly cuts to the show's brash theme song, another Hans Zimmer song, "Show Me Your Firetruck."

(Special thanks to the intricately-detailed study, "The Music of Iron Chef," for leading me to the Zimmer music. Both songs originally appeared in the 1991 film, Backdraft--an odd choice for Iron Chef, if you ask me, but also complementary to the odd spirit of the show. And if you're interested, here's an a cappella version of "Show Me Your Firetruck.")

Although the quote feels apt for the show, this opening sequence, with its bravado and flaming torches, does not offer an entirely accurate association for Brillat-Savarin, let alone the tone of his masterwork, The Physiology of Taste. In fact, Brillat-Savarin's work is equal parts bravado and self-parody--a fitting combination, I think, for any discussion of food and eating. Incidentally, after the opening bombast, any viewer of the Japanese Iron Chef will quickly see that this is the tone of the show, too. The show's most famous image occurs at the end of the opening sequence, when the host, Chairman Kaga, bites a pepper. From his quizzical expression, it's hard to say, exactly, what Chairman Kaga is thinking or feeling. In any case, it's a distinctly Japanese moment: to a Westerner's sensibility, bizarre and inexplicable.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Baudelaire's "Get Drunk"

This poem has always felt like a personal anthem for me. I was reminded of the poem tonight when browsing a recent issue of Saveur, which bastardized the poem a bit to come up with the following quote: "One should always be drunk. That's the great thing...Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please. Bet get drunk."

Charles Baudelaire, looking vaguely Bill Murray

There's many different versions of this poem online, but I prefer the poets.org version, which maintains the integrity of Baudelaire's prose poem.

Get Drunk

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

~Charles Baudelaire