Faine Opines

Southeast Asia, liberation technology, drones, and pontification

Month: August 2012

Angry 9-year-olds on the Internet and Hello Kitty: How We All Began

Via the glorious Hello Kitty Hell.

A man deeply fed up with our universal, oppressive Cute Culture humorously defaces some Hello Kitty coloring pages over at Hello Kitty Hell. His wife: not amused. The Internet: amused. 

Well, most of the Internet. If you amble to the comments section, you’ll find what appear to be genuine offended 9 and 10 year-olds demanding something be done about this horror:

Shakeia Jenkins says:

Yall are crazy this is not funny please block your site from these horrible pictures.

emily says:

these pictures are ugly i think that is mean to the creaters of hello kitty!!!!! PS I HATE THIS WEBSITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gabby says:

This is stupid,dumb,and unbelievable that grown people would do this!I am 10 and love hello kitty!I agree with emily and shannon

hellokittyhellHATER says:

you idiot get a life!!! hello kitty is not like this!!! so stop hating on hello kitty and go get a life, you dumb piece of crap…hating hello kitty doesn’t take you anywhere!!! Screw you, hello kitty is more successful than you will ever be.

leah says:

you shouldnt do that about hello kitty
i am 9 and you better take that back

I could write a book on this, but I am endlessly amused by how the Internet allows people of all age groups to express petulant rage anonymously. When once young children maybe threw rocks at cars or TPed Boo Radley’s house to express their juvenile displeasure or offense, now, they take to the Internet. (Works better if Mommy and Daddy have not adopted the Big Brother technique of parenting-which is admittedly, awfully common in this sadly constrained day and age).

I remember the first time I flamed someone, at the tender age of 8. Maybe I was 9. It was around 1998.

I spent a lot of time playing computer games, and I was especially fond of “Oddballz,” a simulation game where you cared for (and were also allowed to comically torture) mutated 3D pets.

I was interested in modding my creatures, because I was a massive nerd. In fact, the kind of child who had just perhaps programmed the computers in my pissed-off third grade teachers room to make juicy, unctuous fart noises whenever you used the keyboard.

This creature could make me very angry when I was 8.

.And so I found my way onto forums devoted to the game – doubtlessly populated by other prepubescent people pretending to be 13, and probably a couple of early-era creepers. Someone said that their favorite pet was the Dynaroo, which resembled a purple and green kangaroo llama thing which hopped a lot and made funny noises.

I thought that was total bullshit, since I was partial to the Modvark, which sort of resembled an orange coyote with a hunched up, leopard-spotted butt, and made different funny noises. Also, I was 9, and when things are total bullshit when you’re 9, you feel this with an acute, searing pain that is hard to replicate when you enter adulthood, unless you are dumb enough to go into party politics.

I signed onto the forum and called the Dynaroo loving offender a “jackass,” which was at the time the nastiest word I both knew and felt comfortable airing in a private place. I hit submit. I immediately closed the browser window, in mortal fear my parents would find out I was using the Demon Phrase on the Internet. (Not that they would have cared in particular, but 8-year-olds are paranoid). I giggled to myself.

That idiot will never know that a 8 year old called them a jackass on the internet, I thought to myself, gleefully. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Or a 8 year-old with a grudge.

There was a time when this was hilarious.

And so began my career of snarking on the Internet for pay. I moved on to Barney hate forums (something you did to prove you were a veritable 9-year-old AARP recipient). And then I moved on to hating anime, then I started liking anime and began hating popular music, and then I hated George W Bush, and then I hated everything that had ever had the fucking pique to breathe on this planet because I turned 14. The list goes on, and will always go on, because I shall always derive extreme personal pleasure from hating things.

So I applaud these tender, offended Hello Kitty loving youth. They have, perhaps for the first time, hated something on the Internet and said so. They are well on their way into an interesting career in criticism. We must all start somewhere, and our modern pundits will doubtless begin by getting pissed off about the wanton abuse of cartoon characters on the Internet. It is superior to their viewing porn.

Did Gore Vidal mail an angry letter on glorious letterhead about Mickey Mouse to Disney when he was 8? Did Joan Didion ever complain in extremely icy, curiously controlled scrawl at age 9 about Archie Comics? Maybe. I certainly hope so.

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Mutant Butterflies/Cornelia Hesse-Honegger

Have you found yourself profoundly concerned about radioactive butterflies in recent months? It’s cool, I’m on it by way of GlobalPost.

I find it interesting that there’s been such a media flap over this. I suppose the symbolism of mutant insects flitting around vomiting smoke-stacks of nuclear hell stick in the craw of the public. On the record, I’m no anti-nuclear activist – but it’s interesting to contemplate the emotions and fears that these mutated animals evoke.

I attempted to dispel some of the confusion in this GlobalPost article, by calling up a certain Dr Joseph Rachlin of New York’s City College. Via his aggressively New York accent, I learned more about mutant butterflies than I had ever expected to learn. I thank him for that.

Mutant butterflies? What “radioactive” insects means for everyone else

Mutant butterflies are flitting around the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and the public is — understandably — looking for answers. GlobalPost reported yesterday that some butterflies near the site of the Japanese meltdown, according to a recent study, are exhibiting some bizarre characteristics,including smaller wings, irregularly developed eyes, and malformed antennae.

The study, published in Nature, also found that pale grass blue butterflies appear to be passing abnormalities to their offspring.

But how worried should we be about this new development, and the possible effects of low-dose nuclear radiation on humans? GlobalPost contacted City University of New York biology professor Dr. Joseph Rachlin to find out more. 

What is a mutation, anyway? 

“A mutation by definition is a change in genetic structure,” said Rachlin. The butterflies, according to the study authors, are exhibiting germ-line mutations, which are hereditary. That’s different from a somatic mutation, which only affects the body and can’t be passed on to offspring.

“A genetic mutation can be positive, it can be negative, or it can be neutral, in the sense that it’s affecting — or not affecting — deleteriously the survivalship of the butterfly population,” Rachlin said, adding that there are actually more neutral mutations than negative in nature.

“The concerns you’re looking at are manifested at the population level,” said Rachlin of the Fukushima butterflies. “We don’t really care about what happens to an individual organism — unless it’s human.”

Read more at GlobalPost….

If you’re interested in mutant insects – and who isn’t! – I can’t recommend the beautiful work of Swiss science artist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger strongly enough. She specializes in in painting and documenting insect mutations near nuclear sites, most famously at Chernobyl.

She was kind enough to respond to my e-mail vis a vis mutant butterflies lately. (Oh, the things I do for my craft. But isn’t it nice to be paid to research mutant butterflies!)

Q – I`ve read reports that insects are considered to be relatively immune to radiation – but I`ve also heard the opposite, especially regarding butterflies. Can you shine any light on this for me? 
A – As the scientist irradiate insects, mostly flies from the outside with high doses of x-rays they correlate from their studies to what is happening around nuclear power plants and the insects living there. But – insects in nature are exposed to a cocktail of radionuclides. so a comparison with the lab work is not possible unless they do as the Japanese scientists did, mainly irradiate also the food of the insects.
Low doses of radiation are considered harmless among the official scientists, which is purely political. I published my findings with Drosophila in Chernobyl fallout areas in Jan 1988 and have ever ben opposed by biologists in Switzerland and elsewhere.

Q – Why do you think the public is so horrified by these mutations in insects – especially butterflies, which are often considered something of a symbolic species? Should they be? Are you? 

A – Butterflies are dear to humans and this is why they are shocked, at least for some time. True bugs are less a symbol for a healthy Nature.

Q – Do you feel the mutations you document are grounds for cutting down on nuclear power use worldwide? Why or why not?

A -I cannot confirm they are mutations, because I cannot look at chromosomes ore genes. I am an artist and never a biologist offered to do this work. Yes all nuclear power plants, all depleted uranium ammunition all nuke bombs and all nuclear scientific institutes should be closed down and our main independent research should be – what do we do with the waste.

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Draft Horse Pull in Illinois

It’s summer in the Midwest: go forth and find yourself a draft horse pull. At least that’s what we did when I was in Iowa a week ago. The Western Illinois Theshers tractor show was being held, and beyond a truly impressive array of tractor paraphelnia I knew nothing whatsoever about, there was also a draft horse pull.

A draft horse pull is a sport wherein a team of two very, very big horses and their owners compete to see who can pull the most weight. This sounds insanely boring, but it is actually not, especially when you realize that these horses can top 2,000 pounds each and are so uncomfortably enormous that you might conclude they belong in the zoo. Also, if the Giant Muscle Horses did decide to go on a rampage in the stands, it would be remarkably close to witnessing a rhinoceros attack in the flesh, and that gets everybody’s blood pumping. Go to a draft horse pull sometime.

According to Horsepull.com (which sells all-natural horse body building substances on its front page, in case you were in the market), the rules are somewhat more complex than you might expect, and there’s different weight classes for teams of horses that weigh over and above 3,200 pounds. There’s also quite a bit of prize money involved in certain horse pulls. In case you were looking for a lucrative side-job involving convincing really big horses to pull weight for you in a rural area. Which actually sounds way more appealing than call-center temp work.

The National Anthem started off the pull, because we aren’t savages at this draft horse pull affair. The announcer could sing quite well. Lest you deride him for reading the words off a piece of paper, I am entirely certain I couldn’t recite more than a couple of lines of the Star Spangled Banner if you held a loaded pistol to my head. Something about cannon’s red glare and bursting things, which in that context sounds sort of dirty.

This tractor is why draft horses aren’t often kept on farms anymore. It’s being used to haul the “sled” where the weight for the horses is piled up. This is a very, very big tractor. If you’re looking for more detail on this tractor, you are shit out of luck. It’s the kind of thing you could probably subjugate a small, depressed European principality with if you were in a mean sort of mood, though. Which people in Western Illinois and Iowa quite rarely are. (I make no promises for Missouri – they might be in the mood for a subjugation. Watch your ass, Luxembourg).

The “sled,” which you see above, is weighted with blocks – I believe they begun at 1,000 pounds, but I could be very wrong. Weight is added to the sled in increments, and when a horse can’t pull the weight after two tries, the team is cut from the competition. The last team standing takes the prize and a large, shiny trophy. And the pride and renown of Western Illinois, or at least the people who showed up.

Here the horses are hitched to the sled, before they’re given the OK to pull. There’s usually a false start or two, as controlling a couple of extremely excited 1000-plus pound animals when you’re merely a (usually older, slightly podgy) human is a difficult task. The draft horse owners often “surf” behind their horses to the sled when approaching from the waiting area, which looks like a lot of fun in a terrifying way, considering those animal’s hooves are like 4 times larger then my face. I like my face where it is.

Before you begin casting aspersions of animal cruelty, it certainly didn’t seem that way to me as I watched the event. These horses have been bred for size, power, and awe-inspiring pulling ability, and they certainly seemed quite eager to go up and move around some cinder blocks on a metal sled.

The whole affair is probably way more interesting for the horses than, say,  living their lives flicking their tails in a small pasture somewhere, although I admit that I am also not super well-acquainted with the profound emotional needs of horses. (Nor am I entirely sure that they have them).

This is Jack and Satan. The announcer hastened to tell us that the owner, a particularly solid 83-year-old, had not named them himself.

A local told me that there’s something of a seedy underbelly to draft horse racing, involving steroids and injections of pure adrenaline in the ass to make the horses REALLY WANT TO GO.

Which is probably perfectly believable, considering how pervasive this stuff is in every other physical endeavor on the planet in our era. You were paying attention to the Olympics, right? Horse doping, human doping, doping your mom, it’s all the same thing.

I’d certainly like to believe this draft horse pull is simply a touching, folksy look back at our not-so-distant farming past. Certainly it seemed that way.

 

The tack that’s used for these horses is very impressive. Also, huge.

 

See, this is way more exciting than watching golf. Everything is more exciting than watching golf. They should introduce a deathmatch element to golf, than maybe I’d watch it.

 

Jack and Satan, approaching in this photo, eventually won. It was a misty morning and sticky, and it rained like hell that afternoon. A pleasing development in drought-stricken Iowa, where the corn is crackling and brown. I was told it’s the worst drought year many folks can remember since the Dust Bowl.

A slice of Midwestern life, here. Mostly older folks. Iowa has a brain drain problem, but it’s easing up a bit as things get harder elsewhere in the USA and people realize that the simplicity (and low prices) of Midwestern life isn’t half bad. Certainly scenes like this draft horse pull could have come from 30 or 40 years ago, barring some small differences.

 

The other aspect of Threshers is a tractor-get-together, where farmers and tractor enthusiasts from all over bring their machines together. As I know exactly nothing about tractors, I mostly took photos, but it seems that tractor enthusiasts are a very serious lot. Antique tractors have as many fans as antique cars (there were some of those here, too, but a lot less).

 

A 1940 Farmall tractor. I sort of wish tractor enthusiasts painted their rides in, say, leopard print and rainbow colors. Or maybe attached hydraulic systems and spoilers. Not so much, but many modern tractor varieties do have impressive sound and video systems – the GPS is usually used for planting, though. Not really a great option for long road trips.

(I have heard that people will occasionally take their riding mower to the supermarket in Keokuk, but I haven’t seen this magical occurrence with my own eyes…..yet).

My Iowan boyfriend bought John Deere stock at the ripe age of 8, under the logic that people aren’t going to stop needing tractors anytime soon. He was right.

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Dangerous Sandwiches Throughout History: my recent magnum opus

 

Possibly my favorite image of Mittens ever. With a sandwich. 

I am really, really proud of my recent story on Dangerous Sandwiches Throughout History for GlobalPost. I just thought I’d share. 

Maybe there’s a book in dangerous food somewhere.

Deadly sandwiches: remarkably dangerous lunchtimes throughout history

Sewing needles have been found in in-flight sandwiches on Delta and now, on Air Canada, causing some to cast an eye of suspicion towards our most dearly-beloved lunchtime dish. But what about other dangerous sammiches in human history? A non-exhaustive list follows.

I don’t care if this sandwich is dangerous. It is delicious.

1. Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Dangerous Sandwich. (Addendum: you find the best things when you Google “Dangerous Sandwich.”

Ohio congressman (and 2008 Presidential hopeful) Kucinich’s very public ordeal began in 2008, when he bit into an unmarked-and-dangerous olive pit in a sandiwch served at a House of Representatives cafeteria in Washington DC – splitting his tooth into multiple pieces and causing him “excruciating” pain.

“This injury required nearly two years, three dental surgeries, and a substantial amount of money to rectify,” Kucinich told CBS, pointing out that he had to get both implants and a new bridge to fix the ensuing dental problems.

2. Exploding Chicken Sandwich of Doom 

Pity Frank Sutton: late one evening in 2005, the amusement park ride technician decided to stop for a McDonalds chicken sandwich, somewhere in the bowels of Southwestern Virginia.

But things got ugly when the Florida native bit into the sandwich, whereupon, according to court records of Sutton’s testimony, “the grease from the inside of the chicken sandwich spread out all over my bottom lip, my top lip, down onto my chin,” and immediately caused serious facial blistering.

Sutton promptly filed suit and demanded $2 million for his troubles, pointing out that he was forced to work less due to a painful, persistent lip condition induced by the burns. The “exploding chicken sandwich” case was eventually settled in September 2010 for an undisclosed sum – and set off a round of hearty debate over tort reform and frivolous lawsuits.

Read more at GlobalPost…

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Update on Faine, Venison Rib Roast is Easy to Make, Really

I haven’t done a food blog post in a while, I realized. As for me: currently figuring out the ropes at the GlobalPost and at the National Democratic Institute. Looking at/thinking about grad schools for international development and international relations. Complaining incessantly about Washington DC weather, which is categorically worse than Cambodian weather. I just thought I’d throw that out there. Contemplating a return to Asia to do some reporting in the fall – I just need to pick a country.

Anywho, here, have a venison rib roast.

I saw a picture of a venison rib roast my aunt took at Darlington Estate in Perth, a quite lovely winery-fine-dining-restaurant in the hills outside the city. The last time I was there involved a multiple course dinner that revolved around truffles, so I have some affection for the place.

While in Iowa, I realized my boyfriend’s parents had a marvelous venison rib roast in their freezer. I decided to do it the way I do short ribs: a simple slow braise with porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, tomato paste, red wine (lots), shallots, and carrot.

It tastes impeccable and is actually pretty idiot proof: sear the meat, put it aside. Brown shallots and carrot and some onion. Add tomato paste, wine, thyme, salt and pepper, and maybe some oregano. Add red wine. Add reconstituted porcini mushrooms and a bit of the juice.

Cook the living hell out of it – about 3 hours should do it. About an hour before you want to eat this, saute the fresh mushrooms and add them in. Best part? You can’t overcook it.

Best with mashed potatoes or polenta. I’m a polenta partisan myself. Also superb with braised kale, collard greens, or some other kind of slow-cooked vegetable, preferably involving bacon.

And really best with venison, if you’re lucky enough to be eating something your benevolent neighbor shot. Mmm.

The sauce remaining can be boiled down to produce a pretty tasty soup base, or something you can pour over pasta. The leftovers aren’t half bad either.

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