Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: everyday

On the origin of food

Writing about the origin of food for us contemporary supermarket-bound and slow-food-preferring culinarily-minded individuals has been tickling my mind for over a year now. Maybe it’s a good reason to start blogging again, who knows?

It started last year as I ordered a grilled rock lobster in a fine restaurant in Lisbon. Picked up living, the waiter squeezed his eyes to make him “say goodbye” by waving his only remaining arm (the other one had been taken away for a reason unknown to me, probably for the reasons of economic profit). As it happened, Luis tried to jump off the plate, but the laughing executioner aptly caught him. Within minutes, Luis returned to me, halved, grilled and scenting of saffron. Tasteful.

Although I failed to blog about this funny incident back then, I was reminded by it this year as I was fishing with my brave niece and nephew. Catching the numerous fish, mostly zander and the pike, was of course exhilarating. It was also exiting for everyone to row to the shore and meet the children’s mother and grandmother and tell them about the epic trip, wondering the beasts. But…the question emerged…then what? What was to be the destiny of those pritive, sharp-toothed beings?

Well, this brings us to the crossroads of real life and philosophy; and how the use of language ‘sanitises’ our life-experiences. What I did with the fish was I killed, slaughtered and cut them to pieces. Intriguingly, my choices of words of explaining the then-on-going process were not extremely highly regarded by the gate-keepers of family morality. Why? Should we clean our vocabularies of violence, even if that is exactly what we do to living beings to keep ourselves (well-)fed?

In our contemporary society, death and violence are highly regulated, conceptually and rhetorically. Meat comes from the supermarket and when people grow old they end up dying in hospitals (this gives a whole new meaning to ‘taking care’, doesn’t it?). Violence is abundant in entertainment, but daycare aunties and other professionals of education condemn boyish wrestling as ‘gendered violence’. In this post, I’m only concentrating on the un-knowability of the origin of food and how children should be protected from knowing it? Or should they?

The main reason for this seems to be to save them from the emotional distress of losing their cuddly animal friends. On the other hand, our whole Western lifestyle depends on killing; not only animals, but other human beings as well. What a hypocritical dilemma! In other words, we want to whitewash our life-worlds by the proper use of words. Everyone knows that ‘killing’ doesn’t sound that good.

This might be a thread in the development of ‘cleaning’ media-vocabularies as well: is this not similar to ‘neutralising’ terrorists? In a sense, this combines patronising, neo-colonialism and compassion. ‘Cleaning’ fish and ‘terrorist training facilities’ doesn’t sound that bad after all…

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When the ice cubes melt

Been gathering some steam for a while now… I think now it’s time to vent some of it!

It hardly comes as a surprise that Ultima Thule is perhaps not the most inspiring place to live. An interesting re-phrasing caught my eye this week, however. A British anthropologist (living in Oulu, uuh) depicted Finland being “a diluted Greenland”. What a neat, condensed way of putting it!

This is exactly how it is. Religiousness, alcoholism, traditional values, lack of critical thinking… Let’s just not start, the list is far too long and f*ed up to be completed here. I’d like to focus my attention to something else, namely the mass media.

I might be exaggerating, but I think it’s extremely hard to find information of the world in this place, in the local language. If I didn’t have UK and Middle East sources in my feeds, I would almost completely be at the mercy of mainstream media. And this is full of ‘news’ that are either foolish, irrelevant, or local to ridiculousness. Maybe we should start talking about ‘newslets’?

Then again, whose relevance? It may well be the case that laypeople just.don’t.care about South Waziristan military offensive, but when the extent reaches ignoring militaristic apartheid regimes defying UN reports, I think things are going a bit too far. To prove my point, I went to the 1st source of unbiased and objective journalism. As I’m writing this, the paper has the following topics under ‘news’ -> ‘foreign’ (not always the exact wording):

  1. Additional Finnish occupiers’ return from Afghanistan likely to be delayed
  2. Farmers burned tires in Paris
  3. French bees are distressed by the countryside

What? Is there really nothing more interesting happening in the world than bees and their ‘psychological’ symptoms?

I’m not a fan of imagined conspiracies, so it might just be due to ignorance, anti-intellectualism and lack of market. Which is, kind of, soothing, right?

Pseudo-scientific comparative analysis

I think it’s time for one. Some ten days here in the land of sunshine, culinary excellence and friendly people give the needed backrest for some reflections of my time on the island.

Food: London is simply wonderful, even traditional British treats are excellent; one just has to know where to go. No need to elaborate here further, the interested ones should just research TimeOut or book a flight. Compared to London Helsinki is generally miserable, sometimes positively surprising in its exoticism, the peak being narrow, boring and very pricey.

Prices: Nominal prices are what they are, currency rates fluctuating, added to cultural and geographical differences of availability. If ‘expensive’ is perceived as “the cost of what you get”, London wins 6-0. By the river the scope varies from good and cheap to exquisite in both ways, by the sea one can choose between expensive mediocrities and very expensive haute stuff.

Alcohol: Both are pathologically infested with alcoholics and a culture of excessive consumption. The North leans more towards binging and glorification of non-controlled drunken idiocy, whereas the Brits sip all the time. After work, the streets in front of pubs are crowded at least four evenings a week, full of shouting and smoking office labour. Splendid. On the other hand, Helsinki is drunkard-littered ‘only’ two times a week (summertime is another matter), and has more brawling and aggressive behaviour (in London one has to seek a bit).

Housing: In this sense, Helsinki is a clear winner (except for the geo-location). At the price of a nice studio in Helsinki city centre, in London the same money buys you a garage with dust, mould and free street entertainment. Crumbling infra is a big turn-off, added to the almost inescapable need to commute (in similarly crumbling) mass transit establishment.

People: One thing I’ll definitely miss is the politeness and considerateness of the people around. Everyone is simply used to taking other people’s space and person into account, physically and verbally, which is definitely not the case in Ultima Thule. Maybe it’s due to the long history of people living together, don’t know. Nevertheless the archetypical, rude Finnish redneck with two modes of talking—complete silence and verbal abuse—is not appealing.

Hubris levels (ungrounded self-satisfaction added to ignorance about the exterior world) are pretty much the same in both countries. In the UK, however, they have far better reasons for that; hence it’s slightly less ridiculous.

Back on the island

After a month of wandering in the belt of good life (south of the Alps, north of the Atlas), it was time to return to the fog. It took some time and pain to re-adjust to the rain and cold.

+13 degrees, wind and rain just don’t do it for me anymore. Yes, many things are better here than in the south (infra etc. you know it). Sadly, the benefits hardly outweigh good food, nice people and excellent weather… Cold fingers no good.

There must be something in the notion that bad outdoors makes people concentrate on the indoors (and vice versa). No surprise that doing a PhD right next to a beach takes a very curious mind…

Mangiare

Had to leave Italy, otherwise they would’ve made me fat! In the Ligurian mountains even the waiters took no no for an answer. Seems they are insistent on every front…

After declining a dessert from the dinner menu and just opting for a coffee, the waiter came back in few minutes suggesting another, ‘very good local dessert’, which I, of course, could not turn down. It ended up being a plateful of these

Uuh…

Also easiness of the wine specs was surprising, which is rather uncommon in Europe. When I asked about the difference between normal and ‘superiore’ Rossese (local red), I got an extremely helpful answer. “You see-a, superiore is very good!

For you my friend

This is how it should be! Renting a vespa in Italy can turn out to be pretty much anything. But what comes without saying, it’s not boring!

The best thing to have is someone who knows what he’s doing, and knows the owner of the rental as well. Then you can get a discount and be quite sure that they don’t fool you. This is common knowledge, not surprising, and so on.

But the most important thing is the thing what this leads to. Unlike in cultures with high level of Weberian bureaucracy and low level of charisma (read: everything north of the Alps), here assholes don’t have a fun time! (Or you have to be the biggest asshole in the country in a loong time).

Being friendly pays off—which is very cool indeed!

The cowboy’s burden

First reflections after seeing Clint Eastwood’s newest—Gran Torino—were quite confused. The immediate reaction was that the film is Eastwood’s will—summation of the things he’s famous of, spiced up with some criticisms.

Initially, his main character seems like a rather good depiction of a ghettoised, white, racist veteran. After a while, though, this picture starts to show some signs of overemphasis—sometimes he’s just too much himself.

Apologetic and obvious to start with, the movie proceeds to its non-surprising end. The critical viewer is also tempted to see white man’s heroism as a form of neo-colonialism. It’s after all him that saves the aborigines—from themselves.

And yes—the winner gets a car.

Lever attitude

It’s such a long time since reading a blog moved something inside. And…oh, yes.

Would it be cool to have an espresso bar in the middle of the town that would inhabit lever machines, skilled baristas and a flow of interested customers—only? Single 1, doppio 2 units of currency.

Fancy milk? F*ck off!

Charm of the infra

One of the common topics around the campus is the physical condition of the premises. Simply put, there is great variance among different buildings—some seem never to have recovered from the Second World War, some being brand new.

Also the populace is divided. There is a sect that values the shabby attractiveness of the ‘city’ campus with its tight corridors, gloomy rooms and peeling paint. Then there are those who’d rather have an Oxbridge-style countryside campus. And of course, there are those freaks who would like to have a modern and well-functioning one.

However, today something happened that was too much even for the Brits themselves. In the middle of training, we realised something smelling. When we looked to the door, we saw an expanding pond dripping down from the ceiling. A pond—as we would soon realise—of urine.

Charming, indeed.

Big macs and death

There’s a sticky habit among my American friends to recommend some places to visit or even live in across the ocean.

Obviously, they don’t feel that either the media or the general atmosphere here in Europe does them the justice they should. Much of their ‘justice’…

This is, of course, heart-breaking. My friends the Statesmen think (or at least used to) that the main criticism is pointed towards their former regime. Now, suddenly and magically, with the new regime, things are somehow much better. They fail to see two things: first, it’s no argument to say—“not all Americans are like that”—of course not. It’s just too sad that the rest of the world gets what it gets. Second, this is not the issue—the critique goes against their whole way of living and co-existing with the world.

I fully, truly and honestly acknowledge the possibility that I would find NY, DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle as vibrant, dynamic, eye-opening, interesting, cultivated, welcoming and open-minded cities. There is no doubt about that. Moreover, I don’t think that I would necessarily have miserable time in the ‘fly-over-land’ (as one of the guys from the coast so nicely put). Quite the contrary, there should be great landscapes filled with outdoor and hunting possibilities.

But as long as the country treats her visitors as criminals, imprisons and tortures people fighting for their own countries in their own countries, proudly and openly funds apartheid governments and fills all the backyards of the world with sh*t, corpses and consumerist ideology, I’m not particularly eager to go.