Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Phillip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

33 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

  1. 17
    Someone I know elseweb, whose wife works for the USAF Space Command, says it’s a good idea – they tend to get less in budgets because they’re not working with (expensive) aircraft.

  2. @8: the only Chalker I even vaguely liked was And the Devil Will Drag You Under; I found most of his work too repetitive and formulaic to finish (even his parodies were labored), except for his first, which I would have made even less sense of if he hadn’t been talking it up at a Pghlange. I have this memory of him talking down to the audience at an early Arisia in tones worse than Freas at the 1976 Hugos, but I’m not certain enough of the words to repeat them.

    @8 bis: I liked Pullman in Casper — but I also liked Spaceballs more than you report.

    @14: a little like the current problems over sriracha….

  3. @Chip
    Anything involving chiles will be a problem. (I worked for a while near a salsa factory. Some days it was sinus-cleaning. And some days it smelled delicious. It varied, depending on what they were cooking that day.)

  4. 8) I remember seeing lots of Chalker paperbacks on the library SF spinner, but the only one I ever read was Web of the Chozen which was … weird. And awfully explicit for a book about a guy who’s turning into some kind of kangaroo-alien thing. (I occasionally pulled one of the Well of Souls books off of the spinner, but I’m not sure if they ever had book 1, and also I was turned off by the hex map at the beginning of the book.)

    That Milla Jovovich Three Musketeers film was not good. (And I say this as someone who, of his own volition & recognizance, owns all of her Resident Evil films and rewatches them periodically.) It was the vaguely steampunk version.

  5. 8) I subscribed to Omni for a couple years in high school (late ’80s). The article I remember most was about the contest winner for an Apple-sponsored contest describing the computer of the Year 2000. (The winning entry came from a UIUC team that included Stephen Wolfram, who has put his paper online at https://www.stephenwolfram.com/publications/academic/tablet-personal-computer-year-2000.pdf)

    Reading it now, it’s interestingly prescient in many ways – you can clearly see how Apple used ideas from it in the Newton, and the device as described is recognizably similar to an iPad.

  6. I was a fan of Chalker’s early work when I was in high school (early to mid 1980s) but there were a number of problematic tropes in it that were repeated, to the point that I was driven away.

    I made a comment along those lines on Usenet around the time of his death, which was a stupid and callous thing to do. It didn’t occur to me that someone would forward the remark to his widow, and it damn well should have. Someone pointed me to an entry in her LiveJournal where I was of course being excoriated. I posted an apology there, but never went back to see what reactions to it there were.

  7. Related to (16), the Swedish star and exoplanet has been named Aniara and Isagel. Isagel was the use-name of Aniara’s female pilot in Harry Martinson’s epic poem Aniara.

  8. David Goldfarb: I made a comment along those lines on Usenet around the time of his death, which was a stupid and callous thing to do. It didn’t occur to me that someone would forward the remark to his widow, and it damn well should have. Someone pointed me to an entry in her LiveJournal where I was of course being excoriated.

    No. Just no. It was okay for you to express your opinion of his work on a general chat on Usenet. The person who stupidly and callously forwarded your comment to the widow did a horrible thing and they should be incredibly ashamed of themselves. WTF were they thinking, to do that? They are someone who enjoys causing other people pain. 🙁

    You need to stop blaming yourself for this. You did nothing wrong.

  9. 14) The best garum was supposed to come in a “stinking Byzantine jar” according to Martial, so I’m surprised garum factories are rare in the Eastern Med. Maybe the best stuff was artisanal small-batch production?

  10. I still refer to Jack Chalker’s Encyclopedia of the Science Fantasy Publishers on a regular basis, and I recall many conversations with him at Midwestcons over the years.

  11. I think one could make an argument along the lines of “Jack Chalker is to ‘nc transformation / forced bimbofication’ as John Norman is to bdsm except without all the lifestyle / cult /discount philosophy / being a jerk stuff”, but a better thoughtsmith than me is needed to fill it in.

  12. @P J Evans: I’m not surprised that any chili processor lets off occasionally-noxious fumes — but sriracha (the one time I dared try it) is especially strong, and was in the news in the last couple of years due to neighbors’ complaints.

    @Joe H (re an uncertain Three Musketeers): so not the 1993 one that starts with Kiefer Sutherland dueling with multiple thugs while wedged face-down in the rafters of an inn? I remember Mike Ford observing that each generation gets the 3M it deserves; he would have nodded and smiled (just a little) at the 2011 *punk version (Wikipedia calls it “clockpunk”, which I wasn’t previously acquainted with).

    @Sophie Jane: Wikipedia says garum was more appreciated in the Western Mediterranean; customers for this factory may have been Roman garrisons (for a cheap version) and travelers who had picked up the taste elsewhere. Possibly the jars were shipped, or possibly Martial was being snide — garum was not universally praised. The sauce did show up in Byzantium (the ~edge of the Middle East?), but seems to have mutated to “murri” as the idea spread to Arab areas.

  13. Mmmmmm fish sauce! Count me in!

    And no, no sarcasm intended. My favorite cuisine is Thai. Fish Sauce Is Good!

    In re: chiles, chilis, sriracha, etc. — Oddly enough, I can tolerate very high capsaicin levels in my food, but I am very VERY sensitive to it when aerosolized. Parrot feed is often treated with capsaicin/peppers for added vitamin A (with the side benefit of repelling rodents), and just opening a bag can send me into paroxysms of coughing and wheezing. If I were ever pepper sprayed I’d be in an ambulance pretty quick!

  14. Contrarius says Mmmmmm fish sauce! Count me in! And no, no sarcasm intended. My favorite cuisine is Thai. Fish Sauce Is Good!

    Interestingly fish sauce Isn’t found everywhere in that region. Courtesy of Uncle Sam, I spent some time in Sri Lanka which has deliciously hot curries but not a bit of fish sauce is to be tasted. The only fish sauce curry you’ll get there, provided it wasn’t blown up in the civil war and it’s still in business, was in the restaurant attached to the Thai owned whorehouse and casino in Colombo, the capital city. Mind you this was moe than thirty years ago.

    Lots of red velvet there…

  15. @Cat —

    Interestingly fish sauce Isn’t found everywhere in that region. Courtesy of Uncle Sam, I spent some time in Sri Lanka which has deliciously hot curries but not a bit of fish sauce is to be tasted.

    On the one hand, as I understand it, Sri Lankan cuisine is heavily Indian-influenced.

    On the other hand, fishy ingredients are often present in Asian foods but not noticed by the casual eater. So I’d be a lot of what you were eating did have fish sauce or other fishy additives, and you just didn’t realize it.

    I still remember being surprised — naive young me! — about 25 years ago, when I found out that the kimchi I often bought at my local Korean market was always made with fish sauce. Who knew?

    Ha — now you’ve sent me down a Sri Lankan food rabbit hole. Food porn is good, especially on a cold cloudy day like today! From Seriouseats.com about cooking in Sri Lanka:

    “There’s one more key component to many dishes: Maldive fish. It’s bonito tuna that’s boiled, dried in intense sun until rock-hard, and shredded. While it’s used to add savoriness, it is not as pungent as the fish sauce or dried or fermented fish or shrimp of Asian cuisines further East. “Care should be taken,” Ceylon Cookery instructs, “not to allow the Maldive fish flavour to predominate over other flavours.” Meat and fish curries are generally left to develop their own strong flavors, but nearly every vegetable dish gets the fish’s umami injection. It is nearly imperceptible, other than an underlying boost to the flavor, much like that of MSG—you’ll hardly notice a “fishy” flavor. “

  16. Contrarius saysI still remember being surprised — naive young me! — about 25 years ago, when I found out that the kimchi I often bought at my local Korean market was always made with fish sauce. Who knew?

    Yeah, I’ve known that for years. I prefer the kimchi that comes sans fish sauce as it has a fresher taste to it and keeps longer as well. The non-fish fish sauce version tends to spicier.

    Ha — now you’ve sent me down a Sri Lankan food rabbit hole. Food porn is good, especially on a cold cloudy day like today! From Seriouseats.com about cooking in Sri Lanka:

    Yeah that’d make sense. It’s there but very, very subtle. Sri Lankan curries use a green chilli that’s small, a few centimetres at most in length, chopped up with lots of onions. A bit of meat, not much, usually fish or beef, and lots of rice make up a curry meal packet wrapped in a banana leaf. YMMMM!

    A warm Third World Coca Cola and you’ve got a great meal.

  17. @Cat: I don’t think I’d call Sri Lanka part of “that region”. Going by great circle distances, Thailand is over 1400 miles away, Burma’s not really any different, and the closest I’m finding is Banda Aceh at about a thousand-ish. (The Andaman islands would be closer, but man those Sentinelese are a surly bunch).

    (And from a historical standpoint, there’s been just a whole lot of contact with India proper, and not to mention the whole Ramayana thing).

  18. Jake says to me I don’t think I’d call Sri Lanka part of “that region”. Going by great circle distances, Thailand is over 1400 miles away, Burma’s not really any different, and the closest I’m finding is Banda Aceh at about a thousand-ish. (The Andaman islands would be closer, but man those Sentinelese are a surly bunch).

    (And from a historical standpoint, there’s been just a whole lot of contact with India proper, and not to mention the whole Ramayana thing).

    Oh your definition of region is way too small. One of my language instructors was Beatrice de Silva. Yes there was a major Portuguese occupation here for centuries. Fifteen hundred miles just isn’t that far. It was a country that had Buddhists direct from northern India (hence wheat in the diet), Hindus from southern India (hence the rice I’m the diet), Muslims (yes some lamb) and even a bit of Catholic influence in the diet. I’m also assuming the Buddhists from Thailand brought, and continue to bring, their culinary influences with them.

  19. (11) DNA testing and personalised diet is already available in London from a company called DnaNudge that operates in a number of supermarkets.

  20. @Stuart Hall
    A lot of US pharmacies have DNA testing kits. The kits don’t cost much; it’s the analysis that’s the expensive part.

  21. The eyes are more sensitive generally — consider the relative effects of onions on the mouth (directly) and the eyes (even a couple of feet away). They’re not the only sensitive part; there was a story in the 1970’s about somebody who attempted to present himself as more male in a local disco by putting a pepperoni in his trousers. Bet he cut some great moves before crashing….

  22. Honest Trailers just did Galaxy Quest. It’s kind of partly an ad for the new documentary, but it’s still pretty entertaining, for those who are entertained by such things.

    I like very hot foods, but I’m not a fanatic about it. The endorphin rush is fun, but I want good flavors too. Heat for heat’s sake is not my thing.

    Currently reading: Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes, an interesting light space opera I just stumbled across. I know nothing about the author, but it looked like something worth taking a chance on. It is pretty decent for what appears to be a first novel. Humorous, but not excessively so. Fun adventure, engaging characters, psychic cats, and just a dash of rishathra. I will definitely be remembering the name.

  23. Somehow I missed a stack of comments — my last was a response to @Contrarius, who I didn’t identify because I thought mine would be directly after….

    And now that I’ve read the comments on @11 and looked at it more closely, I’m amused that somebody is still pushing the DNA-is-destiny story. One of the plausible-to-me arguments about why primates wound up apparently-on-top is that they grow slowly, learning along the way, instead of being more hardwired (e.g. by DNA) — but, as Lorentz showed, other ~clades also learn life habits from experience; despite some of the interesting results from studies of twin separated at birth, I find it hard to believe that tastes would not develop independently. (Weird example: my taste for English beers comes significantly from them being the offering at the region’s first brewpub, to which changeringers would take English visitors; I got involved in changeringing following my sister, who fell into it because it happened to be at the local Oxford-movement church.) OTOH, that somebody would make a bogus ad as presented here, and make money off it, is all too plausible.

  24. A lot of US pharmacies have DNA testing kits. The kits don’t cost much; it’s the analysis that’s the expensive part.

    The ones in London are somewhat more direct. They do the test there and then and give you a personalised shopping list to take round the supermarket. I don’t know what the cost is, but they are only operating in the more upmarket supermarkets.

  25. @Stuart Hall
    I think in the US the rules are different – the tests are pretty much just for ancestry or health-related genes. I don’t think they can recommend diets; they tell people to go to their doctors for that.

  26. PJ Evans says I think in the US the rules are different – the tests are pretty much just for ancestry or health-related genes. I don’t think they can recommend diets; they tell people to go to their doctors for that.

    I don’t think it’s fair to treat pharmacies as a monolith. Even the major chains, say Walmart versus Walgreen, have radically different policies (and I’ve found oddly varying stock as well when I need a certain dose of Magnesium which I ended getting at GNC). And the PCP would most likely hand this sort of thing to a nutritionist which most wouldn’t have in office.

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