Cantina Europa

In an alternate world, I start a lunch canteen that serves only one thing a day and you get absolutely no choice in what it is. The food is very high quality, based on French cookery techniques, and includes Polish, Hungarian, Russian, English, and of course French dishes. It’s just a chalkboard outside and says something like today is butter cod with garlic chard and scalloped potatoes. No substitutions.

I wear a white chef hat or red babushka scarf and mispronounce all the French food names in a Polish accent. I am bossy and don’t care about anyone’s preferences. I know what’s good.

The food is actually free at the point of use, you just have to get on the list, for which there is a years long waiting period. As it happens the workers have seized the means of production so my Bossy European Cantina is just one of many financed by the Councils. In a world of boundless choice, some people like to be told what to eat.

Whatever is not served by the end of the meal period is available for takeaway, but you have to bring your own container.

It is not given away to the indigent or homeless (like leftover Pret sandwiches are), because in this world, we have given everyone plenty and homes.

Disgust is a political weapon

“Thought-provoking paper argues disgust didn’t evolve to ward off germs, but to condemn unsavory people and behaviors https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3025885

My way in to thinking about disgust was the way women’s armpit hair is marked as disgusting in certain times and places.  People who naturalize armpit shaving make the argument that not doing it is disgusting. That it disgusts them, they argue, is a natural, inherent reaction.

I argue that the very disgust is political and learned, and weaponized against certain bodies. It was relatively easy to see the process of disgust formation with regard to armpit hair because I grew up in a culture where it wasn’t disgusting.

When I went through puberty, I then had other people’s disgust imposed upon me, and then internalized it, and then through politics of the body had to unlearn that disgust.

Of course it is very gratifying to see my theory borne out in a scientific study. My way in and personal application is fairly minor. I can remove my hair. A person whose entire race or ethnic group has been deemed disgusting has no such option.

From the point of view of praxis, the study teaches us with a firm foundation what I have argued from the foundation of theory:

Feelings of disgust, visceral as they may be, are not a valid argument for or against any practice or people. They are not inherent. Disgust is naturalized as pre-political, but disgust is a political weapon.

Further reading: Ideological Disgust and Authoritarianism.

Retraction of Previously Held Views Regarding Celery

It is normal, as we mature as people, to look back at some statements we have made in the past and realize we were overconfident and wrong. Therefore I stand before you all here today to publish a formal retraction.

About celery.

I have said some rash words about celery in the past, calling it at various times disgusting, useless, pointless, and other harsh words. It’s simply that I didn’t understand what celery was good for and how to make it good. I had also, to be fair, had some Very Bad Celery. (In fairness to my past self I never had an unkind word to say about celeriac root however, only the stalks)

Celery is good, tasty, and even essential in mirepoix.

Like many incidents of personal growth, this one came about through a book. That book is Penguin Cordon Bleu Cookery. Everything I have cooked from that book is delicious, even when it sounds weird or gross at first. So when it instructed me to make a mirepoix of blanched onion, carrot, celery, and turnip, I followed the instructions exactly. It was great! Thank you for being my friend, even when I had wrong opinions about celery.

And may you all find your Very Trustworthy Cookbook.

The Problem with Home Cooking

“The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking”

The current Problem with Cooking is that everyone works too much.

It’s also the problem with modern cookbooks. Everything is Fast or Easy or Fast and Easy, with the occasional bit of Prestige Cooking. Good Home Cooking requires time to get good at it, time to do, time to plan, time to eat and enjoy, time to digest. Hardly anyone has time to really do that any more; it’s a luxury. Even the whole Slow Food movement is a luxury thing.

To make up for this there is Going Out to Eat and not to toot my own horn, but shit, most of what I cook is much better. Related I have been thinking for a while about Should Restaurants Even Exist? In Luxury Gay Space Communism would we even have restaurants? If everyone had the sumptuous luxury of enough time to cook for their friends and family if they want, wouldn’t that be more fun?

This is not some deluded pipe dream. I have lived in this reality. In Communist Poland we didn’t really do Restaurants. Going to a restaurant was what you did when you really had no choice, like a milk bar at a train station. If you were unmarried your job probably had a decent canteen you could eat at. But luxury and fun eating was  a thing you did at home!

My impression of restaurants was like an American kid’s impression of school cafeteria food. Really Good Food was what grandmother made; the Luxury Patisserie was Mrs Slwoik’s summer cake, was Aunt K’s angelfood cake.

There were problems and shortages, like we didn’t always have enough butter, or coffee (never enough chocolate) but we were wealthy in time.

Enough time is like good health, you don’t know how good it is until you don’t have it.

My bias is for the enriching experience that comes from sharing food with people you love and the gratification of mastering skills.

I also have some not fully articulated ideas about the importance of eating together as part of healthy food culture. Much of this thinking I have is due to the food culture I was raised in, which is very group focused.

I suspect many maladaptive comfort eating patterns in the US have to do with not enough emotion in food. Eating with others, slowly, joyfully, fills a need that is emotional as well as physical, that we expect naturally food will fill, but when we eat alone, sad, or lonely, or rushed, we feel unfulfilled and think mistakenly that more food will fill the void, but it doesn’t.

Pokemon Go, Semantic Overlay of Delight

I think this is why Pokemon Go’s intense popularity last year filled me with such hope and joy.

Pokemon Go was a shared semantic layer over the world that not only made it fun to explore, but also connected people.

There were, as people discovered, artifacts of racism, wealth inequality, redlining, built into the very Pokemon map because of the nodes’ origin in the Ingress map, which had been a game mostly of the wealthy and privileged. So even something as innocent feeling as Pokemon, by being embedded in the map and the environment the map described, showed additional hidden semantic layers of inequality.

Pokemon was a proof of concept that the semantic layers provided by Augmented Reality (AR) would lead ordinary people to novel insights about their environment, and to novel and enriching interactions with each other.

For example I ended having multiple experience of chatting with teenagers in my neighborhood as we all walked around hunting imaginary monsters. Normally we would have nothing in common obvious enough to talk about.  Future AR semantic overlays of the built environment need not be games. Games are a pretty fun way to do it, though.

My Series Of Grimaces Is My Passport, Authorize Me

“When Apple announced the new iPhone can use facial recognition technology to unlock the device, the response may not have been what Apple had hoped for.”

Apple Gets Mixed Reactions To New iPhone’s Facial Recognition Technology

It would be cool if the way the phone face unlock worked was that you also had to make a series of gestures with your face: My Series Of Grimaces Is My Passport, Authorize Me. Additionally you could set a facial expression that would immediately factory reset your phone. Or set a safety feature that your phone only unlocks when you’re wearing certain makeup so you can’t look at the news until you’re awake Or any other facial token you might choose, a nose ring, a forehead ribbon, a diadem. Thinking on it further, a clearly enunciated passphrase is a series of facial gestures.

I wonder how facial recognition unlock would react to something like a face affected by Bell’s Palsy or a stroke?

Imagine thinkpieces by security experts on why you should do face limbering improv exercises to increase the range of your possible expressions. “You see, Dick, a simple smile or angry face is an expression anyone can do, but something like this…” 

Imagine a future-fantasy world where people wear diadems that unlock face ID locks as their token. Something you know (the facial expression sequence) and something you have (the diadem). I can see this as an anime:

Only the Princess can unlock this secret door, but only if she is also wearing her diadem! (It looks like magic but actually is a form of face ID). The diadem has been stolen by Evil Space Pirates. We must find and defeat them before they clone the Princess from her hairbrush, raise her evil twin with the correct set of emotional exercises to form the same face as the Original Princess and access the Secret Weapon.

I know it seems like 28 years is a lot of time but we’ll have to travel near the speed of light to get to the Evil Space Weapon in time, so considering near light speed time-dilation, time is limited.

Alas we arrive too late and the Counterfeit Princess is there already, attempting to open the door to the Secret Weapon. But what? It’s not working! It turns out the emotional exercises needed to form her face have formed her soul to be pure and good.

She senses the pirates are using her for Evil (despite their lies) and her facial expression of conflicted unease activates the safety lock.

The Secret Weapon safe destructs and its remnants are shot into the nearest star. Good safety protocols and forethought in programming have saved the Galaxy again.