Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Daily Bread Review

The documentary Our Daily Bread showcases some tough and thought-provoking issues. Rarely does one get such an intimate glimpse of the food production process. This makes such a stark presentation of the process quite shocking, and at times disturbing.

The filmmaker wants the audience to think about several things. First, he is highlighting the distance between the modern consumer and the way food is produced. Most people don’t even know how their food is made. He wants to show how mechanical, orderly, and efficient the process is. He wants us to see that there is cruelty involved in the making of animal products, and destruction in the making of plant products.

The film does have stars, depending on how you look at it. You could certainly see the workers as stars. He often focuses on them or at least includes them in most shots. Also, he shows them eating and socializing as well as doing their jobs, which makes them appear in the most contexts. On the other hand, you could see the plants and animals being made into food products as the stars, since they are what is focused on the most.

Several techniques are used to convey the film’s message. The most obvious one is the lack of any narration, and in fact the near silence of the whole thing. The only sounds are those the machines make, those the animals make, or the conversations between workers that the audience can’t hear well. The silence requires the viewer to interpret what’s being shown on their own. It also reinforces the distance that the viewer has from the methods of food production. The camera angle often shows the food product or the machinery most prominently, which puts the focus on what’s being produced, and also on the weird, almost futuristic ways it’s done. Some of the machines are really interesting and ingenious. A third technique is the juxtaposition of workers’ dirty, horrifying jobs with their break times. This affects the way the viewer sees the people in this film.

People in Our Daily Bread are workers in repetitive jobs that are often also shocking and gross to the viewer. Showing the people on their lunch breaks, on their smoke breaks, and simply interacting allows the viewer to see that although they have potentially horrifying jobs, they are used to them and it is just a job to them. Despite working in dehumanizing conditions, they are still quite human. This is also shown in the scene where the woman drops the chick and instinctively cradles it. It also shows that even when modern people are not distanced from the food production process, they must create distance for themselves in order to be alright with what they do.

The film shows that in the modern world we are much more distant from our food sources than in the ancient world. Today, getting food is automatic, guaranteed, and we don’t have to think about how it became a burger, for instance. In the ancient world, however, people were working directly off the land, and would slaughter their own animals for meat (when they ate meat). However, one can see the beginnings of specialization in the various roles for those who slaughtered animals for the sacrifice. One could see the modern way of producing food as a natural progression from ancient ways, after the implementation of our new technologies. In the ancient world, people got as much food as possible for themselves out of the land, and that is the purpose of our means of food production today.

I liked seeing many of the ways we produce food today – a lot of the technology is quite fascinating, like the machine to shake the trees to get its fruit and even the machines used in gutting the fish. As expected, the scenes involving animals were quite disturbing. I didn’t really like seeing them, but I think it should be necessary to know how we’re getting the meat products we have. I was definitely grossed out, and horrified by some of the poor conditions animals were kept in, but also definitely enlightened. This documentary is definitely worth viewing, at least as much as you can stand. Everyone today should know how their food becomes what it is, so they can have an informed opinion when it comes to issues like whether or not to eat meat.

This review was written for CLCV 412: Food and Drink in the Ancient World.

Sal's: The Best Bread in Williamsburg

Sal’s by Victor Restaurant and Pizzeria is a cozy but classy Italian restaurant located in the Williamsburg Shopping Center, which is at the intersection of Richmond Road and Monticello Avenue. It is tucked into an unassuming corner between Bloom, the grocery store ever-popular with students, and the Hallmark store. Many people, for this reason, have never noticed it. However, if they have, they speak of it with fondness.

When entering Sal’s, the first thing you will notice is the atmosphere. It’s a curious blend of loud families and couples on dates, business meetings and teens going to the prom. It can best be described as a family restaurant, but it has just a touch of class that makes it a suitable location for that slightly fancier dinner. Rarely do you see anyone dressed up, unless it’s the night of a school dance.

Immediately after you sit down you are given the menu, with its almost overwhelming amount of choice, and, soon after you get the drinks, you receive the complimentary bread and butter. The bread is heavenly; slightly warm, soft, and lightly coated with sesame seeds. Recently they have started giving out a tougher, crunchier bread in addition to the loaf of warm, fluffy bread. The butter you are given is just soft enough to spread wonderfully.

More than likely, you will have to ask the waiter for those few more minutes to decide, unless you have discovered a favorite. The menu is an exhaustive list of basically everything that Americans associate with ‘Italian’ cuisine. First, you’ll see a page-long wine list. The appetizers include antipasto, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks, bruschetta, and more. Next, the pasta dishes occupy a large part of the menu. They include ‘the usual’ American Italian restaurant fare like manicotti and lasagna, and some more interesting choices such as rigatoni with broccoli and zucchini, eggplant parmigiana, and linguini with clam sauce. Each pasta dish comes with a fairly hefty house salad. The next page is full of meat dishes like mussels marinara and veal parmigiana. After this you come to the pizza, and finally the foot-long subs. Clearly, this restaurant can serve well for a variety of food moods.

My personal favorite dish is the four-cheese tortellini. It doesn’t look like enough when it arrives at the table, but it is deceptively much more filling than it appears. It consists of large pasta pieces folded over a delicious four cheese blend served in a rich, creamy alfredo sauce. It is exquisitely flavorful and quite hearty.

If that’s not enough, Sal’s has a nice selection of desserts as well. However, on many trips there, I have never found room for dessert, though I know that they bring out a dessert tray that you can peruse.

For the convenience of the college crowd, Sal’s offers both take-out and delivery. The delivery requires a minimum amount purchased, and comes with a surcharge, however.

In conclusion, Sal’s is a delicious restaurant with a friendly atmosphere. It is reasonably priced, no more expensive than most Italian restaurants. It is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurants near campus to go to for any occasion. Go for the bread, and stay for the meals.

Note: This food review was for a class, but I still think it's worth posting.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

a quick lament

Oh, computer, why hast thou forsaken me? Thou used to worketh so well, but now, you are super-glitchy and riddled with viruses, you stupid piece of crap. I blame it all on using IE for 5 pithy minutes when Firefox decided to kill my video-watching ability. And so, I've been misunderstanding TechSpot articles for the last 3 hours in a vain attempt to pretend I know anything at all about the deeper workings of this hellspawned machine. 'Giving up and taking it to IT' is sounding like a good option, except they like to say, "we'll let you know before we reboot your hard drive" (that's their inevitable solution), then give you your computer back 3 weeks later, saying "ha, you dumb bastard, we rebooted it anyway!" And if you didn't back up your stuff, well, you're SOL. I think they thrive off of that tiny bit of power. It's sad, really.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the return of the SX100

My camera magically healed itself. Here are some results.










Tuesday, February 17, 2009

more on cheating

My friend Maya's sex column from last week was about cheating. Here is my response to it:

A further, interesting consideration is how to define cheating in the internet era. More info, from a class I took in New Zealand, is in an earlier post.

It seems that our feelings about cheating is maybe one of those things that stems back to evolutionary pressures – that’s what they told me in one of those intro psych classes, anyway. It was once important for people not to cheat, because women need someone to provide for them and their offspring, and men need to pass on their genes. It may no longer be important in a biological way, since sex doesn’t necessarily lead to pregnancy anymore. However, it’s still hardwired in our brains that cheating is wrong, it’s bad and harmful. And it is definitely emotionally harmful for most people. It’s still something a lot of people fear when in a relationship, and those kinds of things are hard to change.

But there’s another reason why cheating can be problematic, and that’s the spreading of STIs. If a partner cheats, and doesn’t use a condom, he or she may have contracted a disease. The other partner may not be concerned about STIs if it’s a monogamous relationship, so if the cheating partner doesn’t confess, the STI can be spread. Of course, this is not much different than the risk you take if you don’t know a partner’s sexual history, but you can see how it has potentially damaging consequences.

Monday, February 16, 2009

hey, this reminds me of something...

I read on BBC News today that Dutch researchers think that beta-blocker drugs, generally used as a heart medication, could affect memories. They could even potentially be used to erase bad, painful, or traumatic memories. Of course, there's a whole slew of ethical repercussions and potential unwanted side effects, but my immediate thought was: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, anyone?

So... could you really erase them fully from your memory, or just from conscious knowledge? Would there still be an emotional connection?

(PS - if you haven't, see Eternal Sunshine, it is brilliant!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

new website obsession

Cracked.com is my new favourite website of the moment. It has hilarious yet informative posts such as "6 Insane Discoveries that Science Can't Explain." It also posts hilarious videos such as "The Terrifying Truth behind Valentine's Day." And there are non-listy blog posts that will make you giggle, too. Go there! Enjoy! It's mental_floss-esque but more funny, a bit less trivia-based.


Damn, I meant to post every day, but have fallen behind. However, I've been doing plenty o' microblogging on Twitter, and here I will give you a recap of my tweets since my last blog post:

This basically sums up America: http://tinyurl.com/cpa8ja
Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:33 PM

via mental floss: 15 terrible gifts for Valentine's Day: http://tinyurl.com/crd78l
Thursday, February 12, 2009 12:18 PM

holy shit, don't play this. why are you clicking? stop before it's too late! http://tinyurl.com/bbpodw
Thursday, February 12, 2009 1:20 AM

heh, pillory. thanks, @tenshirei, I'm reposting this one for others: http://www.thepillory.org/?p=50
Thursday, February 12, 2009 1:11 AM

kittens, inspired by kittens! http://tinyurl.com/akm6yp (I am a magician! We are in Hawaii!)
Thursday, February 12, 2009 1:04 AM

and in addition to that a very incomprehensive list of swear words but OH WELL lols anyway
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:46 AM

@tenshirei apparently also it only goes back a month... hmmm
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:44 AM

@tenshirei yeah, you gangsta rapper
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:42 AM

damn, I swear like a children's tv presenter. lol cursebird http://cursebird.com/
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:40 AM

Tonight: trivia at the Green Leafe in New Town!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:06 PM

yay rock climbing finally after so long
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 2:54 PM

oh noes what are you doing here insomnia?
Monday, February 09, 2009 3:36 PM

jeff is determined to distract me hjkghjgj
Sunday, February 08, 2009 11:56 PM

I am addicted to staying up late, and not doing anything productive.
Sunday, February 08, 2009 2:32 AM

Late start today... but it's warm! yay! and I'm in the mood to sing.
Saturday, February 07, 2009 2:47 PM

@sisterchen that's a lot of dancing! I went to a salsa dance last night, and thought of you!
Saturday, February 07, 2009 1:50 PM

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Potpourri post!

1) Porn. Boing Boing posted the site Make Love Not Porn not long after I had seen someone looking at it. Just before seeing that, though, I had read an interview with porn star/creator Joanna Angel, who is asked about the lack of kissing in porn. She argues that maybe it's not porn that has caused people in real sexual relationships to kiss less. Perhaps it is the opposite. After all, real sex is a constantly evolving practice. There are fads and fashions in it, too. People aren't doing it the same way that they were in the '60s, not even as they were 10 years ago. Angel also claims that porn actors do it like they do it in real life, just more exaggerated for the camera. So how about that, Make Love Not Porn? What if some people DO have sex more like you see it in porn? What if sex has influenced porn, as well as vice versa? Of course, sex is a matter of personal choices; not everybody does it the same. The Make Love Not Porn site situates 'real sex' in a very particular context. According to the site, 'real sex' is monogamous, heterosexual, vaginal sex that you have with someone you love. But I hate to break it to you: that's not the only kind of sex! Not by far. Lots of people do it 'cause it feels good, with the same sex, non-vaginally, and with various partners. And as long as it's consensual, more power to them! Sex is a great thing; but you do what you're comfortable with, and what you and your partner decide is the right way for you both. And that might end up being just like something you'd see in porn. However, I do think porn, too, makes it seem like there's only one way to have sex, and might cause unreal expectations.

2) Tenshi tweeted me an awesome link that goes right along with the semen cookbook I found online a little while ago: The Testicle Cookbook! Well, people have been eating Rocky Mountain Oysters for a long time, so there you go. It's definitely more legit than cooking with semen...

3) Third topic for today: cold water safety! Randy, my awesome canoeing instructor, sent us a link about a boating safety cold water boot camp which, if you watch the video, will make you ALWAYS want to wear a lifejacket. If you don't have one, you could drown within 5 minutes of being in below 40 degree Fahrenheit water.

4) Bonus point! I am so tempted to buy some food from New Zealand because I miss certain things, and many of them can be imported. It's not that expensive... but I'm guessing the shipping is killer...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

on sleeping all day

I felt bad this morning upon waking. So I went back to sleep. Then I got up to eat lunch and still felt exhausted. So I went back to sleep. I finally got up at about 2:30, and did some chores. Then played Race for the Galaxy (good game!) with Jeff and Edris. Then went to Sal's with Tal. Then we watched Jeopardy, then had some private time. But you know, now it's 12:30, and I am not at all tired. So that's the downside. Oops.

Monday, February 2, 2009

SWAS is back

The good ol' Sex Workers' Art Show will be back this year in late March. You probably remember the huge controversy that it sparked last year. Well, many people wanted it back, and our new president, W. Taylor Reveley is reluctantly letting it back on campus. I would definitely recommend that you click above to read his actual statement. He says that the reason he's letting it on is not because he approves of it (neither did Gene Nichol, personally) but that he believes the students should and can decide what to bring onto campus. Which is good. He makes another good point that I fully agree with. Here's what he said:

"Repeated performances by a controversial group like SWAS, year after year, without a robust opportunity for the free play of ideas does not serve the Jeffersonian ideal. Such a pattern is a singularly sterile way to explore ideas of artistic expression and sexual exploitation. The sponsors of SWAS and its performers must do much better on the Jeffersonian front than they have to date. In addition to performing, they need to provide means for a serious discussion about pertinent issues, conducted with the intellectual rigor and civility characteristic of William & Mary. By the same token, those who find SWAS degrading and offensive should show up, prepared to articulate and defend their views."

(via The Flat Hat)

Now, I am personally fully in support of the Sex Workers' Art Show - even just as art itself. You don't have to go if you don't want to, but you can if you think you'll like it (much like I Heart Female Orgasm, and Saturday's Good Vibrations, a sex toy show, which were wholly uncontroversial). But it's true that SWAS is trying to make a point - but they don't allow much discussion of that point. They don't articulate it very well. If the message is the point of the show, this is a necessary addition to SWAS. I know that last year there was a forum about SWAS later in the week - but it would be much better if the forum were at the end, and that people could ask questions to the sex workers themselves.

EDIT: I have been informed that there was room for discussion afterwards, and MORE THAN ONE discussion venue later that week - I wasn't that well informed, even though I went. So in conclusion, Reveley is just trying not to piss off the people who give us money.