Archive for March, 2010

Blue is the new Green.

I found this on the website of a Texs news station, trying to pick this year’s Academy Award winners: “Best Picture – “The Hurt Locker” – It should be very close between “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar,” but I think the social relevance of “The Hurt Locker” should sway more voters.

Erm, wait a second.  Did this guy get lost in the theater and wind up seeing “Tooth Fairy” or something?  Did he see the same AVATAR that I did?  Because the one I saw was like, one of the most important films ever (after Star Wars and The Matrix—both of which simply repackaged the same deep-rooted “hero’s journey” archetype that people have been telling since before Gilgamesh, except that Lucas based his on swashbuckling serials and Vietnam-era politics, and the Wachowskis drew upon postmodern anti-civilization philosophy and cyberpunk).
It’s funny, because The Hurt Locker and AVATAR are both ‘socially relevant’, except Bigelow’s film is specifically about the Iraq War, while Cameron’s is big-picture and about the Iraq War only to the extent that that conflict is simply the most current and visible example of Our Culture’s insatiable need to expand and devour natural resources.

Yes, AVATAR is Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, The New World, Zulu, Fern Gully, 1492, or any other story where advanced imperialists have a run-in with the indigs.  And this is exactly the point; this is what Cameron wanted.    It seems that his plan with AVATAR was to repackage the same old story that we’ve seen countless times before, dress it up in his “gimmicky” 3D technology to get people into the theaters (because “You couldn’t get them to come… and watch a film about the conquest of New Spain…”), and show them how Our Culture has been exploiting the planet for transient, monetary gain—and otherwise generally fucking things up—for untold generations.

But apparently, it didn’t seem too terribly effective, because all people could see was a “groundbreaking film with dazzling 3d effects and breathtaking landscapes.”  Ugh.

In the 11 Dec 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, James Cameron explicitly states:

“What I was doing with Avatar…was more in response to the history of the human race (that) has been written in blood by technically or militarily superior people taking from those who are less capable.
I think it’s important for people to see the patterns in history…I think science fiction is a way of making history exciting by putting it in the future and taking you to a new planet and showing you exactly the same shit that’s been happening for the last 2,000 years…”

“Science fiction is excellent for that because if you make a comment about the Iraq war and American imperialism in the Middle East, you’re going to get a lot of people pissed off at you in this country, but if you do it in a science-fiction context, where you do it at a metaphorical level, people get swept in by the story and they get to the end of the movie before they realize they’ve been rooting for the Iraqis.”

After the film was over, I left the theater in high spirits: it wasn’t just me—finally, somebody who seemed to abhor “civilization” as much as I.  On the interweb, I hoped to see if there were others who thought the same.  But if you go to the IMDB’s AVATAR message board, you won’t find people debating the merits of industrial sabotage, or the ethics of armed vs. nonviolent resistance; no, you’ll find arguments over whether or not AVATAR is an animated film, or how much the final budget was, or yet another 15-page thread repeating the same petty comments we’ve been hearing since before the film came out: “It’s just Dances With Wolves in space!”  No shit, Sherlock.  Grow up, get over it.  Look past the 3D, look past the surface story—see AVATAR for what it is: a metaphor, a message—and wake up.

ecodefense, Na’vi-style.


Don’t believe everything that you eat.

At my university, every student has to take the required course “Lifetime Fitness”.  It’s just like PhysEd and Health class from high school, except we also have to work out in the “fitness center” (read:gym) every week.  One of the projects in the course is to keep track of what you eat and do (activity-wise) for three days, and then plug it all into an objective computer program and see what it reveals about your diet.  As soon as I saw the assignment on the syllabus the first day of class, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”

You see, when I first got into rewilding, I started with diet.  As a result, I’ve been purposefully ignoring The Food Pyramid for several years.  When I finished this project, I really expected the first page of the report to just tell me to “Eat more bread!” a few hundred times.

According to DINE (for future use, the name of the food analysis program), my diet received an arbitrary score of “Good” with 65 points—high marks on protein (high percentage of calories), and saturated fat, added sugar, and cholesterol (all low).  Of course, the analysis suggested that my diet needed improvement in several areas: total calories (apparently I wasn’t getting enough), mono fat (too much), complex carbs (not enough), and fiber (no idea why, as I eat plenty of fibrous things).

The DINE program suggested that my intake of animal fat was greater than recommended, which would reflect a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol (“associated with increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers”).  However, the two areas of my diet on which I received extra points for being within or even significantly below the recommended range were…saturated fats and cholesterol.  It’s just further evidence that a high-meat/high-fat diet can be extremely healthy, if combined with an active lifestyle.  Civilized agriculturalists may have had as much meat in their diets as hunter-gatherers, but their sedentary lifestyle and crowded conditions led to the same diseases that plague our modern world.  In addition, the little meat I actually ate during this period was local venison—clearly a healthier alternative to factory-farmed, corn-fed beef or pork.  If my Paleolithic ancestors could eat a diet composed of 20 to 30 percent wild game and be incredibly healthy, I can too.

The DINE system also said that I do not eat enough complex carbohydrates; the Nutrient Messages report suggested that I eat more breads, cereals, pastas, and grains, of course..  This is what I expected when I began this project, and this is one suggestion I will continue to ignore, as these foods have, since their relatively recent introduction, contributed to a decreased level of wellness, and are currently in the pocket of corrupt industries.
Every single one of these foods came into existence only after the Neolithic agricultural revolution.  These were cheap foods that were easy to make; filling, but not terribly good for you in the long run; foods perfectly-suited to feeding the peasants upon whose backs the first civilizations (read: oppressive, stratified societies) were built.  As Jared Diamond wrote, “Today just three high-carbohydrate plants—wheat, rice, and corn—provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.”  To make things worse, these products are today heavily subsidized by the government, providing incentives to produce more wheat to make white bread, and more corn to be made into cheap, unhealthy additives for “food”.  As a result of the absolutely corrupt special-interest groups (industry lobbyists) who essentially control our government, one cannot trust what The Food Pyramid (sorry, I forgot that now it’s the “MyPyramid”) which the DINE program is surely based upon.  While it’s possible that the limited food database in DINE is simply the result of an out-of-date system, I cannot entirely discount the possibility that the program is backed by Monsanto, Syngenta, or some other multinational industrial food corporation—I was unable to find any organic foods, wild edibles, or provisions for homemade meals—and distorting one’s diet through the filter of “analysis” would lead one to head back to the grocery store to buy the foods that DINE prescribes will make one “healthy”, furthering the capitalist economy that created the problem in the first place.

I do feel that the DINE program is not giving a totally-accurate report, as—despite any apparent lacking in my diet—my sizable intake of organic or local products give me a edge on “wellness” (physical as well as emotional/environmental/intellectual, knowing that many of my meals have small footprints) over those zombies who may follow the program’s suggestions to the letter.

In the end, the project was somewhat interesting, but—as I suspected at the outset—found the analysis results were incompatible with my unconventional diet, way of eating, and philosophy, and I take the results with a large grain of salt.