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December 20, 2009

Evidently These "Slow Motion" Films Constitute their own YouTube Genre

. . . which is pretty frikkin' awesome. YouTube -...

December 07, 2009

The historical place of sugar

Accidental Hedonist - The Historical Place of Sugar and Honey
. . . civilizations "have been built on the cultivation of a particular complex carbohydrate, such as maize or potatoes or rice or millet or wheat." The rest of a cultures food choices have evolved in such a way to make these foundation foods both interesting and varied. Think of the many ways that rice dishes are presented in East Asia, or corn dishes are offered in Mexico, and you'll have a rough idea on what Mintz is trying to say. Fruits, at least those domesticated to a point where they could be grown on a regular basis, weren't as prevalent as some of us would like to believe. Apples have been around since about 8,000 BCE and dates in 6,000 BCE, but the age of domesticated fruits truly doesn't occur until 4000 BCE with citrus, watermelons, and grapes becoming a farmed crop. That's 6,000 years into the civilized era. By this time, homo sapiens have already mastered the way of farming the carbohydrates they need to survive. Because of this "complex carbohydrates first!" trait found in many cultures, simple carbohydrates take on a unique, and at times, even relegated position in food history. Honey, which popped onto the scene at around 5,000 BCE became an exalted product. Many religions incorporated it into their rituals and undertakings, making it one of the first food stuffs to reach (literally) cult status. Sucrose (or granulated sugar, as we know it) is a recent food product, not hitting the Western World until about 700 AD (give or take) when Muslim expansion brought the sugar cane into the Southern European growing regions. Its influence was so profound upon the Europeans that finding adequate places for sugar crops and plantations was one of the driving forces of colonization into the New World, second only behind the quest for metal commodities. But while the importance of these sweeteners in food history is absolute, there's still something about them that separates them from other foods. They are less important than salt, at least from a bio-chemical point of view. But their influence seems greater than other spices in the world. . . .

December 06, 2009

Signs of cannibalism widespread in ancient Europe

Controversial Signs of Mass Cannibalism | Wired Science | Wired.com
At a settlement in what is now southern Germany, the menu turned gruesome 7,000 years ago. Over a period of perhaps a few decades, hundreds of people were butchered and eaten before parts of their bodies were thrown into oval pits, a new study suggests. Cannibalism at the village, now called Herxheim, may have occurred during ceremonies in which people from near and far brought slaves, war prisoners or other dependents for ritual sacrifice, propose anthropologist Bruno Boulestin of the University of Bordeaux 1 in France and his colleagues. A social and political crisis in central Europe at that time triggered various forms of violence, the researchers suspect. “Human sacrifice at Herxheim is a hypothesis that’s difficult to prove right now, but we have evidence that several hundred people were eaten over a brief period,” Boulestin says. Skeletal markings indicate that human bodies were butchered in the same way as animals. Herxheim offers rare evidence of cannibalism during Europe’s early Neolithic period, when farming first spread, the researchers report in the December Antiquity. Artifacts found at Herxheim come from the Linear Pottery Culture, which flourished in western and central Europe from about 7,500 to 7,000 years ago.

December 02, 2009

The lost ancient culture of the Lower Danube Valley

Culture of Old Europe Is Uncloaked in an Exhibit at N.Y.U. - NYTimes.com
Before the glory that was Greece and Rome, even before the first cities of Mesopotamia or temples along the Nile, there lived in the Lower Danube Valley and the Balkan foothills people who were ahead of their time in art, technology and long-distance trade.

November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving used to be wholesome and involve cross-dressing and insulting authority figures

Informed Comment: The Thanksgiving of the Fantasticals
A Day of Rule breaking, and Spontaneous Mirth
When we used to do Thanksgiving as cross-dressing and insulting authority. Thanksgiving was a Northeastern regional commemoration until Abraham Lincoln promulgated it as a national holiday in 1863, and it was celebrated in lots of different ways. One of those ways was for young men to dress up as women or in fantastic costumes and promenade, and mug, and make fun of authority. It was a "masculine escape" from the family, an opportunity to break rules and be outlandish. In our increasingly regimented national security state, we could do with some of that old Thanksgiving cheekiness, though we need both sexes now. Thanksgiving in the nineteenth century in some parts of the country was a combination of Eddie Izzard (cross-dressing), Lady Gaga (wild costumes and breaking conventions), and Jon Stewart (mirthful insults directed at high political authority). Some historians suggest that the homey, nuclear-family Thanksgiving meal was a reaction against all this public rowdiness. Alas, so successful a reaction that the carnivale side of the holiday has been erased from public memory . . .