Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cooking more

   There is no way to consistently eat healthy without cooking.  My wife has introduced me to cooking in the crock pot and I find that it is great for cooking beans.  I grew up eating rice and beans, and eating canned beans is okay, but I am never thrilled to eat canned goods.  Cooking dry beans has always been a chore, but no more!  Now I soak the beans of my choice overnight, drain, rinse, add water at a 2:1 ratio and proceed to place them in the slow cooker for the day with a teaspoon of salt.  It cooks for six to seven hours.  When it is done I discard about half the water and use the rest.  I add sofrito, tomato paste, a little more salt and perhaps some chorizo, if I have it.  My next task is making my own sausage, so I won't have to worry about where it came from.  I make my own sofrito already.  Try it.


   There are several reasons I don't ride all the time.  The first reason is the weather.  I am not inclined to go crazy and ride in extreme cold or any kind of precipitation.  It's simply not necessary.  It's messy and the risk when automobile driver's vision is impaired and my brakes are compromised is unacceptable.  The other reason is simply when it is inconvenient.  I may be shopping or traveling with others, etc...  The last reason and least acceptable reason is when my bike is down due to some maintenance issue.  The cost of having it repaired at a bike shop often negates the savings from commuting, yet taking the subway while the bike is down isn't cheap either.  I have taken to doing a good deal of the work myself.  However, it has taken some learning.  One source of this learning has been the classes at Times Up!, an environmental action group, as they describe themselves.  They offer bike repair classes that are quite useful.  I've patched inner tubes many times before, but I learned things attending their workshop on the subject.  I learned to service my bottom bracket and hubs at their classes and I even learned a thing or two about adjusting my brakes and changing the cables.  I look forward to the next class on replacing spokes and truing wheels.  It is a useful organization and I think every cyclist should know the basics of bicycle repair.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Warriors of the Rainbow

   The film I am reviewing here is called Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.  It was written and directed by Wei Te-Sheng and produced by John Woo.  I didn't really know what to expect, I just gave it a try.  I'm glad I did.  There is apparently a 2-part, four hour, original version of this film--I saw the 2 1/2 hour international version on Netflix.  I am interested in seeing the original because the shortened version was so good that the time flew by and I didn't realize it was so long until after the fact.  There was something fascinating about this film that deserves to be captured and understood.  The story is based on an actual event, the "Wushe Incident," an uprising of Taiwanese highland indigenous peoples against the Japanese in the 1930's.  The Japanese had taken the island from China in 1895 and while the Han Chinese of the lowlands acquiesced to the new rulers, it seems assimilation was virtually impossible for the indigenous highland tribes.

   The "Wushe Incident" was a localized uprising of some 300 warriors against Japanese authorities.  It occurs some thirty years after the initial occupation and it is led by now chief, Mouna Rudo, who was just a young warrior when the Japanese first arrived.  The plot is somewhat predictable, but it is not about the plot.  The plot is just a tool used to explore various themes.  Among these themes is the clash between primitives and civilization, which is a rich theme when looked at honestly.  This film attempts to do that.  I think it is highly successful because it honors another less obvious reality that binds the two: the fight between contempt and respect.  Contempt, as defined by Eli Siegel, is "...the disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world."

   Without being heavy-handed about it the film explores the contempt of the civilized Japanese and the primitive Seediq Bale.  It is intriguing to watch.  It is a study in violence at its core.  The Seediq are head-hunters who celebrate the process of taking heads--this is not Dances With Wolves and aside from the scenery, which is gorgeous, it is not Last of the Mohicans.  It is not good guys versus bad guys, yet the insurgent natives do seem to come out on top.  They are petty and cruel, yet they kill with purpose and ultimately many die with purpose, choosing death, even by suicide, to surrender and continued life under the Japanese.  The bottom line is that the Seediq kill for a reason: over hunting grounds, to settle scores, for the tribe, for their way of life, while the Japanese kill because their government told them to.  One is simply less honest than the other.  The filmmaker is able to convey nearly a religiosity onto the native violence and I don't think he is wrong.  The rainbow is how the Seediq travel to the next world and clearly, both in the film and in reality, they chose to go "home" rather than remain in what their home had become. 

   The events are mostly real.  The Japanese are not caricatured as they are in other Chinese films.  Here I feel they are representative of civilization and its impacts on primitive peoples.  They are not especially villainous, they just assume they are better and they are right--any civilization will see itself in the mirror here.  In this sense, the queer quality of civilized warfare is captured.  The matter is not just about the past as there are still many primitive people in Asia (Many are more primitive than those depicted in the film.), but they are being pushed to the point of extinction.  As a side note, the actor who plays the elder native chief, Mouna Rudo, is not a professional actor, yet he is great!  The film is well worth watching.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A teaspoon of sugar

   As a cyclist I am at least somewhat interested in my health.  I suspect that on average anyone who engages in any physical activity is more actively concerned than one who does not, but that is sheer speculation and we shall leave it there.  I have become conscious over the years of many things that really should be made clearer, yet they are not.  One of these is the hidden and not so hidden ways we are exposed to things like sugar in far greater amounts than many would ordinarily choose.

   We in America don't use the metric system as they do overseas and I can see why.  The old system is not as precise for measurement, but for most common purposes it does just fine.  For cooking certainly, measurements do not have to be exact.  Any good cook knows that a recipe is merely a foundation upon which one should feel free to build according to one's taste.  I never follow a recipe to the letter and I find that cups and spoons are fine, commonsensical methods of measurement.

   The problem comes in when one is reading the nutrition labels on food products in the supermarket.  I can't remember the last time I measured anything in grams.  Frankly, it is a guessing game.  It doesn't have to be of course, so I looked up the conversion from grams to teaspoons and it was quite enlightening.  I only add a tsp. of sugar to my mug of coffee in the morning and I never add the recommended amount of sugar to any recipe as it is usually more than I find necessary.

   Apparently, each tsp. of sugar equals about 4g., so Honey Nut Cherrios, which lists about 9g of sugar contains slightly over tsp. of sugar per serving, which is more than I would add, but nothing crazy.  My instant oatmeal store brand lists 13g of sugar, which is over three teaspoons of sugar.  This is much more than I would add to the tiny portions that come in those packets--not buying anymore of those.  A popular yogurt brand list 26g of sugar for its 6oz. serving--interesting how it is sold in Imperial Units, yet labeled in metrics.  I wonder if that's the doing of the FDA?  Anyway, just offering food for thought.