Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dreaming of a pawn revolution

The feeling of despair that follows private contemplation of the world’s condition and apparent trajectory is not something new to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wake up each morning in a fog of gloom – I consider myself inherently lucky and fortunate and about as free as a human being can be. What does get me upset from time to time is the view that we appear to be heading toward peak corruption, a situation where Governments and their corporate puppet masters control every aspect of our lives and listen into and watch every move we make.

Again, this sense of profound dread and paranoia is not foreign to me. Anyone with intelligence greater than an almond should be aware that, particularly since the latter part of 2001, passing legislation that curtails an individual’s right to privacy and free speech has become both easy and commonplace.

Because terrorism. 

Politicians think they can justify outrageous acts of torture, murder, imprisonment without trial, invasion of privacy and the denial of human rights – all because of this never-ending, ambiguous, vague and borderless ‘war on terror’.

It is an obvious truth that, as the human race has become more technologically advanced, the tools with which we can be controlled and persecuted have multiplied enormously. I think it’s a fair observation that religion was and is used as a tool to control the masses. But in a  world where faithlessness is growing and the threat of a fiery hell is becoming less of a deterrent, the prospect of being spied on, arrested on ‘suspicion’ and thrown into a gulag in some remote part of nowhere for an indeterminate period is a very effective alternative. I may not believe in a divine creator but I certainly believe in the power of the almighty US Government.

Apart from the compulsion to use an electronic banking system, and all the exposure to risk that involves, in our quest to have easier access to information and to interact with friends, real or imaginary, we have enslaved ourselves in a virtual structure that can ascertain at any point in time, where we are, what we are looking at, who we are communicating with, and to take a guess at what we are thinking. Whether you think you have something to hide is irrelevant when the people spying on you can change the rules or make shit up whenever they feel like it. Contemplate, if you can, a future world where researching the best fertilizer in which to grow your tulips is now reasonable grounds for 'suspicion' - which now makes you a candidate for indefinite detention in a non-disclosed location. Denial is futile and it serves you right for being so clearly a terrorist.

The scenario is probably a poor one, but it doesn't really matter. My point is, that what might be perfectly harmless and innocent now - once they have decided they can move the goalposts and justify it in the name of 'keeping you safe', there is no way of predicting what they will consider unlawful next. 

What triggered this latest bout of introspection was Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour. I watched it a few days ago and I’m still not sure what upsets me more - that the US Government and their allies have gotten away with it for so long or that there are humans who truly believe Edward Snowden is traitorous scum. Sure, we all suspected that our privacy was fast approaching myth status, but now we have proof and we’re calling the messenger a criminal? Someone who risked his life to expose the truth? That blows my mind.
More David Pope here
While it was not elaborated on in the film, I have no doubt my Government has allowed this behaviour to go on within our borders. Snowden implied that the UK Government were among the worst when it came to protecting their peoples’ privacy, however a casual glance at our Government’s behaviour over the last 20+ years would suggest they’re in the same or possibly worse category. 

My country’s leaders did not object when its citizens were locked away in Guantanamo Bay, they currently believe that locking children away in immigration detention centres is perfectly acceptable, they mock our Human Rights Commission and they are hell bent on introducing laws that allow it to spy on our online activity. To have faith in a lying, cheating and morally bankrupt bunch of scumbags would be tantamount to insanity.

I am many things but I am not insane.
not worth the paper it is written on
Whether you believe that whistle blowers like Snowden deserve condemnation and punishment is missing a larger and more important point. We have a growing list of data that indicts the world’s Governments, fairly convincingly, with illegal and immoral activities – so what are we going to do about it? Are we going to get angry or are we going to simply take it and consider it inevitable and for the greater good? Will the mega-rich stand up on Oscars night, award Citizenfour a statue and then return to spending millions on superhero films?

I feel silly saying this, but we don’t need more super humans in tights. We need real people with influence and tenacity to take action - mass action and sustained resistance that cannot be ignored.

Assuming for a minute that we do put down our smart phones for the time it takes to stand up for ourselves, what next? Even if we do succeed in snatching the reigns of our own destiny, how do you dismantle the enormous web of corruption and who do you put in charge to carry it out? I freely admit that I have no clue, but I’m willing to propose that the aftermath should be of lesser importance than the initial uprising.

When despair and melancholy hit me and I have an overwhelming sense of helplessness, it is the land of dreams that I visit. Yes, that’s right – while a courageous leader would rise up and rally support, I meekly retreat into my private consciousness. I am a sad, frozen pawn. While my mind acknowledges the improbability of this world that I retreat into, it is willing to indulge in fantasy, if only to dull the pain and shame of being that powerless pawn.

In my fantasy land there are no global corporations or armies, personal debt is wiped clean, social media and television is dead and authority is given only to those who do not seek it. Obtaining knowledge and truth is seen as more admirable and important than wealth or social status. Success is considered to be achieving true happiness and helping others achieve the same.

While my land may look like a communist hippy commune to some, I think the attributes are less important than the ones that are not present. Greed and bigotry, for example – are they truly in our nature or are they merely the result of the system we have built over centuries that keeps the poor downtrodden and the rich untouchable?

More and more I wonder what a pawn revolution would look like and whether anarchy would follow. And if it did, whether anarchy would be any worse than what we have now. I know it’s extremely optimistic, but I like to think that humans would inherently know what to do once the titles and power had been stripped from those that have abused them.Be nice to each other. Share. Respect other’s privacy and the right to be happy and free. Don’t be a prick.

I would hope that an uprising would be fairly peaceful and bloodless, but considering how firmly those in power hold on to and value that power, that is unlikely. 

While that future reality might be scary and unpredictable, if we leave it much longer, we may never get the chance to find out. It is clear that the financial system is broken. It is clear to me that our political and social systems are dysfunctional and in dire need of a rebuild. The power to attempt a fix is currently in the hands of a minuscule group of insanely wealthy people with very little motivation to change anything and with a long history of fucking things up and making them worse.

They need to hand it over to the 7 billion pawns. Voluntarily or by force - I don't care which.

After calming down and spending time with my kids, I was going to scrap this post. Life certainly seems good when you're with people you love and you're well fed and comfortable.

But then I thought - no, fuck it. That's exactly the kind of apathy that has led us to where we are today. I am just one insignificant pawn, but I will vent my rage if I damn well want to. I don't really care that the spymasters are probably the only ones listening.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Forget fat and sugar taxes, introduce a stupidity tax

There's already one on cigarettes, why not food?

You can see lots of amusing, bemusing and very sad things when wandering 'round a supermarket. Besides the customers, I mean.

This made me laugh on a recent trip through the meat section:
Decisions decisions

Almost identical racks of lamb, they'd simply trimmed the fat from one of them and charged $18 more per kilo for it.

Surely you should pay more for the nutrient dense version? Or is this a new stupidity tax that I'm not aware of? 

I s'pose it may have been in place for a while now considering how much those plant sterol margarines and the "heart smart" cuts of meat cost. 

No, that's just way too smart for the powers that be. It must be, that in this case, the shop manager  forgot to mark down the price of the "extra trim" one - the fattier ones being on sale for the week. 

But even considering that oversight - that they think it necessary to go to the trouble of marketing the lean version is concerning.

I s'pose it doesn't matter if you're not subject to this kind of stupidity tax. Two of the cheap ones made for delicious dinner. My wife an I almost made it through one each. Almost.
Almost cooked - just some fat rendering to do.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Cereal Killers 2 - first impressions

I watched Cereal Killers last year and was quite impressed. Not overly hysterical about the benefits of carbohydrate restriction, it portrayed a fairly level-headed explanation of the science involved. 

So when I became aware of the Kickstarter campaign for a sequel, I was happy enough to make a small donation. I didn't expect to be offered an advance (screener) copy of the film, but that is what happened the other day - a downloadable HD quality version - woo hoo! I love nice surprises.

Cereal Killers 2 - Run on Fat (CK2) focuses on high performance athletes and argues that high fat nutrition may have certain benefits over the traditional carb-loading approach. Not surprisingly, Steve Phinney gets a fair bit of air time - which was good because, regardless of what you think of his research, he speaks well and provides his opinion in a calm, easy to listen to manner.

The 1 hour doco follows (for the most part) the charismatic entrepreneur/iron man Sami Inkinen and his wife Meredith as they attempt a casual rowing trip from California to Hawaii with a diet of 76% fat, 15% protein and 9% carbs - roughly 8,000 calories a day for him and 5,000 for Meredith. Sami is one of those overachiever types that make me feel tired just watching him, but that accent of his is hard not to like.

I won't explain any more about the film because it is due for public release next month, but I can safely recommend you buy a copy when it comes out. Yes, there may be some or a lot of information that you know already, but it is presented in a way, using many examples from high performance athletes, that held my attention for the entire duration.

I have no doubt that some people will hate this documentary with a passion. There will be foaming at the mouth and accusations of bias and propaganda, I guarantee it. I know for certain there will be potatoes thrown at TVs when Phinney mentions certain indigenous peoples of North America.

If you think the message is nonsense or doesn't apply to you because you're not an athlete, that's fine, but taking into consideration the producer's budget and target audience, I think they did a very good job at putting their argument across.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bovinae spinalis dorsi...let me count the ways

There is no doubting that cows are delicious, 
Haters be insane or at least highly suspicious.
They have a muscle that is ideal, 
For almost any spectacular meal.  
Worth cooking, that is,
Not some vegan crap or that tofu biz.
Chuck, shin or cheek are for stews and curries,
Ribs need no explainin' man, grill 'em, no worries.
Bones and off-cuts make for great stock,
Rump is so lean, you better fry in a wok.
Eye fillet is overrated, also know as the loin,
Sure it's tender, but costs plenty of coin.
There's tartare, Wellington or beef Stroganoff, 
But if you're looking for simplicity, you're much better off,
Grilling the tastiest, tenderest, muscle of the lot,
The spinalis dorsi is glorious, I'm kidding you not.
Spinalis, spinalis,
There is nothing good that rhymes with spinalis.
Maybe there is,
But this is getting tedious.

Yes, I know that was awful but the thought of beautiful animal flesh tends to turn me into a giddy schoolboy. I've never really been one for poetry - reading it and obviously not writing it. I figure if you've got something to say, just say it and dispense with the bullshit and flowery words.

Spinalis dorsi, also know as the rib eye cap, is without any doubt in my mind, the tastiest bit of the cow. Running down the spine of the animal, it doesn't do a lot of heavy lifting, so is beautifully tender, but also has great fat marbling, and therefore has outstanding flavour.

Boneless rib eye is called 'scotch fillet' in this part of the world. I don't know why, it just is. Only if it has a bone attached to it, is it called ribeye. Scotch is the only steak I'll bother with, either at home or eating out. While the larger eye fillet section is nice and tender, the outer rim that is the spinalis is riddled with fantasticness. 
Scotch fillet
separating the spinalis from the eye fillet
Sure, you can keep the two sections together, but I personally prefer cooking the spinalis a bit longer than the eye. Medium rare in both is ideal but that is tricky to achieve while they are connected. At least is is for me.

Kids usually get the fillet anyway - adults who earn the money to buy the spinalis dorsi, get to eat it.
ready for action
I'm a Heston fanboy, so I like to cook steak in a hot pan of fat, turning every 20 seconds or so - prodding with silicon tongs until the meat rebounds and tells me it is medium rarish. If I was expecting the Queen for dinner I might use a temperature probe, but she rarely visits these days.  

Of course resting the meat for at least 5 minutes after cooking is compulsory.
hot pan, careful not to crowd it.

yes, I do eat green stuff from time to time
Or rather, certain family members make me feel obliged to provide some green stuff. Fried in cow fat and topped with a dob of butter, of course.
the eye and spinalis meeting again to watch the golden sunset over the forest canopy