We Need To Talk About Cilantro

Cilantro can make even curry, one of my favourite meals, into the modern culinary equivalent of an unscented urinal cake.

Here’s the thing: cilantro is disgusting.

It is.

I’m not sorry if I offended you and your love of your precious soap weed, whose presence makes a dish taste as though the chef accidentally used palmolive instead of olive oil.

You won’t get an apology out of me, either. If you keep reading, you’re just going to get increasingly florid descriptions of the way cilantro can make even curry, one of my favourite meals, into the modern culinary equivalent of an unscented urinal cake.

Cilantro is utterly, unforgivably vile.

Are you still here? I have to admit I’m surprised. A study back in 2012 found that I’m in the minority in thinking that cilantro and toilet duck are in the same class of edibility. It’s not everyone that thinks ciantro is better suited for the torture chamber than the kitchen table, or who thinks that you could probably save salt and till the soil of your enemies’ lands with cilantro if you wanted to poison it for untold generations to come.

Apparently, “the prevalence of [people who understand that, in a list called “things you should add to food,” cilantro should probably be ranked somewhere near botulism] ranged from 3 to 21%. The proportion of subjects classified as disliking cilantro was 21% for East Asians, 17% for Caucasians, 14% for those of African descent, 7% for South Asians, 4% for Hispanics, and 3% for Middle Eastern subjects.”

Among white people (which I am—I can only take my shirt off in daylight if everyone around me is wearing eye protection), fewer than one in five of us would willingly exchange the worldwide fungal blight on bananas for one that forever destroyed the world’s cilantro crop. And that’s up in the high end.

But you know what? I still think we’re right, here.

Evidence is starting to pile up that the reaon you people like cilantro? The reason you don’t think that cilantro should be added to tide pods and lead paint to prevent children from eating them, the reason you don’t think that it’s an utter injustice that it was garlic, and not cilantro, that was chosen as something nasty enough to repel vampires, is simply that you can’t actually taste it. Not really.

Another study seems to suggest that “one of a cluster of olfactory receptor genes, perhaps OR6A2, may be the olfactory receptor that contributes to the detection of a soapy smell from cilantro in European populations.” And yet another found “new associations … between [recognizing cilantro for the chemical and biological weapon of food destruction it is] and variants in three genes (TRPA1, GNAT3, and TAS2R50).

It’s not like we’re the ones who can’t taste how “wonderful” cilantro is. It’s not like we’re missing something that lets us taste this “god’s gift to the kitchen.”

It’s that you can’t properly taste how utterly despicable your toxic nazghul catnip really is. You don’t have the sensors for it.

Well lucky you.

Lucky. Lucky. You.

I didn’t ask for this superpower. I didn’t ask to know that god invented a weed whose taste can at best be described as “not technically a war crime.” I didn’t stand in line for the ability to know that there are things in this world that have a taste that’s about as pleasant as a case of the shingles. I didn’t volunteer.

So fine, go ahead and ruin your guacamole with it. Throw it into your green thai curries as though you wouldn’t have been just as productively served by using the prep time to dislocate your fingers one by one. Put it on everything. Make the world taste like a giant green tidal wave of stygian detergent and unbelievable disappointment.

Just don’t expect an apology when I politely decline your offer to share.

Signed: The Remixologist

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Photo source: Henrique Pinto, CC0 

I Don’t Know How To Convince You That GMOs Are Good

What would it actually take to prove to you that you’re wrong, that genetic modification is no more dangerous or harmful than any other kind of human agriculture?

On the heels of yet another study demonstrating that GMOs aren’t harmful and are in fact Very Good Things, I feel as though I need, once again, to address the 1-in-5 Americans that think the risks of eating GM foods are “high.”

What would it take? I’m asking you.

What would it actually take to prove to you that you’re wrong, that genetic modification is no more dangerous or harmful than any other kind of human agriculture? To prove to you that it is uniformly better in most cases? I can’t think of all the things I’ve tried to say.

They’re better for the environment. They increase the food supply using less land and often less water than traditional (and organic!) crops.

They use fewer and less harmful pesiticides than traditional (and “organic!”) agriculture.  Roundup (i.e. glyphosate) is safer and a better alternative to the other necessary pesticides.

They’re safer for humans because we know exactly what genes are changing, unlike the results of selective breeding which captures tens of thousands of unnecessary (and unstudied!) genetic changes. Unlike shooting your oranges with ionizing radiation so they won’t have seeds next time.

They’re healthier for humans. There’s rice that introduces vitamin A into the diets of malnourished children. There’s corn that contains less mycotoxin because it’s healthier. There’s potatoes that produce less cancer-causing agents when fried.

They’re not bad for farmers. Thy aren’t the only crops that are patented. The story about farmers being sued for seeds blowing into neighbouring fields is a complete fabrication. Nobody in India is comitting suicide over GMOs. Most farmers buy new seeds each year from other farmers who specifically grow seeds because it’s more efficient than trying to grow your own, so nobody even cares if they don’t grow well the next year from seed because that’s not what modern farmers even do.

They save taxpayers money. When farmers make more money—and they do with GMOs, because they can get the same or bigger yields with less investment of time and money in combating problems—they need fewer subsidies.

THERE IS NO FISHMATO. There was an attempt to make tomatoes frost-resistant that failed and it never went to market. There are zero GM tomatoes on the market and the only one there ever was failed commercially because of economics, not safety.

There is literally no argument against GMOs that holds even the tiniest bit of water, and all it takes to learn this is the tiniest bit of Google-fu and the ability to give just the most microscopic bit of credit to the group of people who’s only job is to study these things for a living—you remember them, right? Scientists?

And that’s really the problem, isn’t it?

You’ve lost the ability to trust in expertise.

You’d rather have your conspiracy theories about “Big Agro” and “Monsanto Shills” than a healthy stable food supply―so long as you get yours, that is.

Well right now there are Seven Point Six Billion Human Beings on this one exceptionally-taxed planet and that number’s not shrinking anytime soon. And we’re already using all the land we can. So you’d better suck it up and start trusting in science and scientists again soon otherwise the next time there’s a famine somewhere you’ll either A) be partly to blame, because your fear of expertise—that’s what that is, by the way, you’re afraid of people who know more about something than you, long and short of it—is doing things like leading your elected representatives to Ban GMOs in Europe For No Good Reason or B) be one of the starving multitudes yourself.

I don’t know how to convince you that GMOs are good, because I don’t know how to convince you to trust in expertise again.

But I sure as hell hope you suck it up and figure it out yourself, because we’ll all be in a heap of trouble if you don’t.

Signed: The Remixologist

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Photo source: David Kessler, CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

 

 

Black History Month and Badass Women

To celebrate Black History Month, I’ve decided to shine a light on some of my favorite Black women from history that people (*cough white people cough*) may not have heard of.

 

Because February has lasted both approximately 1 million years and about 2 days, I almost made it past the last Friday in February without doing a post for Black History Month. For shame Elle, for shame! So to celebrate Black History Month, I’ve decided to shine a light on some of my favorite Black women from history that people (*cough white people cough*) may not have heard of. Obviously Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are bamfs, but I’m trying to go past the awesome ladies that everyone knows and highlight three of the many, many gems that don’t get nearly enough attention in the month.

 

Photo: Wikimedia, CC0 (US)

Queen Anna Nzinga

Queen Anna Nzinga (1583-1663) was first an ambassador and then a ruler for the Mbundu people in Angola in the 1600s. When her brother was king, he sent her to negotiate with the Portuguese, who were attempting to enter Angola as a new slave trading port. When entering into negotiations with the Portuguese representative she realized the only chair in the room belonged to the Portuguese governor. Wanting to start negotiations on an equal footing, she motioned for an assistant to get on all fours, and then sat upon her for the length of the negotiations. After her brother’s death and some political machinations that may or may not have included the murder of her nephew (gotta talk to Richard III about those nephew murdering rumors) she took control. When the Portuguese didn’t honor the treaties she had made, Nzinga managed to wage war against them for thirty years. Pretty hardcore.

Sources:

http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nzinga-1583-1663
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nzinga_of_Ndongo_and_Matamba

 

Photo: epicture’s, CC BY 2.0

Josephine Baker

If the afterlife has a dinner party, you want to sit next to Josephine Baker (1906-1975). Born to a mother who was a former entertainer, Josephine had been a live-in domestic servant, lived on the streets, danced on street corners, been married twice, and was recruited to be part of a vaudeville show, all by the time she was 15. During the Harlem Renaissance she moved to New York City, and was part of the chorus line in Shuffle Along. Baker eventually left the US to escape the constant discrimination she felt there.

In 1925 she started performing in Paris at the age of 19. She became famous for her sensual dancing and her daring costumes. In the Danse Sauvage she wore only a feathered skirt, and then in La Folie du Jour a year later, she would dance in a skirt made up of 16 bananas, and little else. She also often performed with her pet cheetah, Chiquita, who wore a diamond collar and often escaped into the orchestra pit to terrify the musicians. Baker became the most successful American entertainer in France, and gained admirers such as Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picaso, and e e cummings. Baker was bisexual, and also had relationships with women around this time, including the blues singer Clara Smith. She became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, appearing in the 1934 film Zouzou. During WWII, she was recruited to act as a French intelligence agent. As an entertainer, she had a plausible reason to move about Europe and North Africa, touring clubs and entertaining soldiers. She also gathered information and passed messages written in invisible ink on her sheet music, or even pinned to her underwear. For her work during the war, she received two of France’s highest military honors, the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance. She adopted twelve children from all over the world, whom she called her “Rainbow Tribe,” to show that people of all races could live together happily. During the Civil Rights Movement, she refused to perform at segregated venues, which helped lead to the integration of Las Vegas clubs. She ignored death threats from the KKK, and became good friends with Grace Kelly after the latter defended her during a racist incident at the Stork Club. She spoke alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington, and was even approached by Coretta Scott King to be a new leader of the Civil Rights Movement following MLK’s assassination. Baker eventually said no, fearing that her children might lose their mother.

Baker received a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall in 1973. In 1975, she starred in what was meant to be the first of many performances celebrating her 50 years in Paris as an entertainer. The audience for the opening night performance included Princess Grace, Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, and Liza Minelli. Four days after this initial performance, Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. More than 20,000 lined the streets of Paris to witness her funeral, and was the first American woman to be buried with French military honors.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Baker
https://www.biography.com/people/josephine-baker-9195959

 

Photo: Wikimedia, CC0 (US)

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) became the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license. Born in 1892, she was the tenth of 13 children of two share croppers. Growing up in Texas, she had to walk four miles each day to her one-room, segregated school, where she was a bright student. At 18 she enrolled in the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (man they had weird names for shit in the early 1900s) but her money ran out after just one semester. After moving to Chicago to work as a manicurist, she heard many stories from returning WWI pilots about flying. She took a second job to save money for flight school, but no American schools would admit women or Black applicants. With some financial backing from a banker and a local paper, Bessie took French lessons before moving to France to study at a French aviation school. Returning to the US in 1921 she was a media hit, but quickly realized that to make money in the civilian realm as a pilot she would have to become a stunt flier, which would require additional training. But again, no school in America would accept her. So she returned to Europe and studied under multiple instructors in multiple countries. She started performing in US airshows in 1922, and became known as “Queen Bess.” Unfortunately, she died at the early age of 34, when she was thrown from a malfunctioning plane during a rehearsal for an aerial show.

 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_Coleman

 

There are many, many more amazing Black women that I would love to talk about (hat tips to Ida B. Wells, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Shirley Chisolm, Mae Jemison, Nella Larsen, Nichelle Nichols, and Ella Baker!) Hopefully next year I’ll have a better grasp on how long February is, and I’ll be better prepared to talk about these awesome ladies.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, CC0 (Public Domain)

The ‘American Dream’ Is Trash

There’s something deeply wrong with the idea of the “American Dream.” It was supposed to be the embodiment of hope, but instead it’s spawned real-life bigotries.

 

Everyone loves Oprah Winfrey. She’s an incredible human being in many respects. She was born into potato-sack-dress poverty to an unmarried teenaged mother. She worked hard in high school, learned how to give speeches and won a contest at the national level and got a full scholarship to a university. She got a job in local television, and through sheer personality, intelligence, and business acumen got her own show—and later her own whole entire media empire. She has a net worth of nearly three billion dollars. Literal rags to literal riches.

That’s the story of the “American Dream”: that someone can go from the worst poverty to the most astonishing economic success through hard work and sheer force of will. “Only in America,” they used to say.

Except that it’s never just hard work and willpower, is it?

Winfrey benefitted from a lot of factors, and not all of them innate. As a teen, she was identified by a federally-funded program called Upward Bound that moved her to a more affluent high school where, yes, she was made fun of for being poor, but where she also had the opportunity to learn to give the speeches and enter the competitions that would lead to her getting a full-boat ride to college. And she had a whole lot of luck.

None of this is to discount how amazing Oprah is. She’s a force of nature, and she’s worked harder for her money than I’ll probably ever work at anything in my entire life.

But because one person does a thing does not mean it is possible for everyone, or a reasonable thing to except from any more than that one specific unique person.

This is the problem with the American Dream. I call it Bootstrap Logic. Here’s how it goes:

  1. The American Dream is open to all.
  2. The American Dream is acheived through hard work.
  3. If you don’t achieve the American Dream, you didn’t work hard enough.

By this twisted logic, poverty becomes a symbol of laziness, and wealth a symbol of moral rectitude and personal effort. There’s no room in this equation for federal aid, no admission of the power of luck, no understanding of just how unique every single intensely rare rags-to-riches story is.

And certainly no admission of the ways systemic issues like racism and poverty contribute to the marginalization of whole groups of people in America.

The American Dream is about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” doing everything on your own, because you, the individual, are solely responsible for your success in life. And if you don’t achieve success, well, that’s your fault.

But here’s the thing about that line about bootstraps.

Try sitting down.

Now pull on your bootstraps.

Are you standing yet?

No of course you’re not, because it is a literal impossibility to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps. That’s what the saying means. You cannot pull yourself up by things attached to your feet.

Look, I’m not saying social mobility is impossible (though it’s getting harder) or that people can’t get anywhere through hard work (some can). But this “American Dream,” this idea of the “self-made” success story, this linking of “hard work” to social mobility, is bad and wrong and should be thrown on the trash heap of history.

By equating wealth with effort it makes failure immoral, and makes those who don’t achieve the heights of success de facto worthy of the aid of no-one and the scorn of all.

The “American Dream” is a mythology constructed to make the rich feel satisfied that they earned it, and to assuage any guilt they have for not helping the poor.

The “American Dream” is a lie created to convince the poor that if they don’t become rich that it’s somehow their own fault.

The “American Dream” is complete and utter trash.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Photo source: Michiel Jelijis, CC BY 2.0

Gun Control is a Feminist Issue

Guns make domestic violence situations inherently worse.

Guns inherently endanger women.

Stricter gun laws that restrict the access that domestic abusers have to guns will simply, and clearly, save women’s lives.

It makes sense that I’m going to christen our new site with the post that I am the most certain is going to piss of specific members of my family and my friends. Might as well start strong, and worry about getting dropped from the Christmas card list later. So here goes:

Gun control is a feminist issue, and if you care about women’s issues, you have to care about decreasing the number of guns we have access to in this country, the ease with which we can purchase guns, and the value we place on guns as a culture.

So. It might help to establish my gun bona fides. I’m not exactly the stereotypical East-coast liberal who has never touched a gun, let alone owned one. I grew up on a ranch with plenty of guns. I’ve carried guns; I’ve shot guns; I’ve gone hunting. I’ve slept with an (unloaded) shotgun under my bed, because the sound you can make cocking a double barrel is usually terrifying enough that any intruder who isn’t too insane or dedicated to care will probably find a different house to rob.

My problem is not the existence of guns in general, or the use of guns for hunting, or even the safe and responsible use of guns for defense. My problem is literally everything else, and it kinda blows my mind that so many of my friends and family, who are otherwise sane, caring, thoughtful people, don’t have the same problems that I do.

First, let’s go over a few statistics.

  • The United States has about 5% of the world’s population, and about 35-50% of the civilian-owned guns in the entire world.
  • We have about 88 guns for every 100 people in the United States. The country with the next highest gun inundation is Yemen (which is kinda sorta undergoing constant military strife) where there are 54.8 guns per 100 people. We have more guns per person than a country that is frequently described with the adjective “war torn.”
  • About 100,000 people are shot in the United States each year. About 30,000 are killed by guns in the US each year, with about two thirds of that number coming from accidents and suicides.
  • US citizens are about 25 times more likely to be killed by guns than citizens in any other quote-unquote “civilized” country.
  • Between 1994 and 2015, there was a 71% increase in the total number of handguns owned, from 65 million to 111 million.
  • There was a 38% increase in total gun ownership over the same period.
  • 400,000 guns are stolen in the United States each year.
  • The total cost of treating gunshot victims, if we include both hospital costs and lost wages, is likely $45 billion annually.
  • There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings in the US since Sandy Hook, defining a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot at.

But Elle, you might say, all of these statistics are scary and whatnot, but where does the “feminist issue” part come in? Besides, of course, how some of the people who got killed in these mass shootings were girls and women, which should be reason enough?

I’m so glad you asked.

  • Perpetrators of domestic violence are responsible for roughly 54% of all mass shootings between 2009 and 2016.
  • At least 53% of women who were killed by guns in 2011 were killed by a current or former intimate partner.
  • Having a gun in the household increases the risk of a domestic abuser killing their partner by 500%.
  • In states where background checks are required, 38% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.

But there are still loopholes and problems.

Many laws that address the ownership of guns by domestic abusers focus on protecting spouses and children, even though many more women are killed by dating partners than by spouses.

In 35 states, local laws do not prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or under the restrictions of a protection order from owning guns.

In all but sixteen states, background checks are not required for all handgun sales, and are only required for licensed sellers. In all other instances, a domestic abuser can easily purchase guns form a gun show or online. 1 in 4 people who seek to illegally purchase a gun despite federal restrictions have a domestic violence background.

41 states do not require domestic abusers to relinquish the guns that they own.

In a study of women staying in California domestic violence shelters, over one third of them had been threatened or harmed with a gun wielded by their partner.

I am truly, heartily sick of the gun debate as it exists in this country. We keep playing a shell game with different causes of gun violence—mental illness, access to guns, culture, violent video games, song lyrics—and the end result is that we don’t do anything to address any of the possible causes. Mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators, but I would still love to see us actually pour funding into mental illness treatment and cultural de-stigmatization.

We have a culture that valorizes violence, especially gun violence, and we should address that. (Maybe by creating fewer bizarre remakes of uber-violent vigilante films with Bruce Willis.)  We can and should address domestic violence with prevention and bystander intervention programs. But in the meantime, we can also fucking address gun control. None of these things have to be mutually freaking exclusive.

And in fact, better gun control could potentially be really, really easy. All we have to do is treat guns the same way we treat cars and cold medicine. Chris Ladd of Forbes writes,

Our habit of imposing complicated and confusing restrictions on weapons by type and shape is largely theater, designed to create a sensation of progress while avoiding the fundamental problem. Instead, we should adopt a simpler, more powerful solution. Register every gun and every gun sale. Require gun owners to obtain a license. Make liability insurance a requirement for every gun owner, tracked to every gun. Require proof of insurance for every sale. Track sales of ammunition, just like we track the sale of Sudafed. Make these gun and ammunition registries available to law enforcement. It is a simple, constitutional approach that preserves the right of responsible adults to own as many weapons as they want, so long as they can demonstrate responsible, safe ownership.

Registration and insurance would not stop every crime, just like they fail to stop every automobile death. They would, however, begin to bring down gun deaths almost immediately. Faced with registration and insurance costs, declines in casual gun ownership would accelerate. It would become very expensive to maintain a gun-nut arsenal of dozens of weapons. Insurance costs would power the spread of trigger locks, gun safes and other safety protections. Registries would empower police to enforce gun laws. Liability suits and criminal actions against irresponsible gun owners would severely constrain criminals’ access to weapons. Instead of waiting for the ATF to crack down on illegal sellers, lawyers representing murder victims would quickly bankrupt today’s crop of amateur gun smugglers. Liability risks on sellers and insurers would make it more difficult for the obviously mentally ill to build an arsenal.

Personal freedom, constrained by personal responsibility, with limits imposed by markets rather than government. It’s an approach to gun control that any Republican should love, right?

The rest of Ladd’s article is worth reading, especially since it addresses the 2nd Amendment argument that honestly makes me too tired to think about. I’ll let you take that one up with him. Instead, I’ll focus, again, on the feminist side of things.

Guns make domestic violence situations inherently worse.

Guns inherently endanger women.

Stricter gun laws that restrict the access that domestic abusers have to guns will simply, and clearly, save women’s lives.

The end.

Welcome to the new site, everyone. We’re not pulling punches.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Photo source: Robert Freiberger, CC BY 2.0

A New Beginning

Dear Readers,

If you’re here, it’s because you decided to give us a chance on our new project. Thanks for that. This Week In Tomorrow was, after nearly four and a half years, getting to be a little stuck in its ways, and it didn’t afford us much ability to change and adapt to the world and to ourselves.

We’ll still be posting about a lot of the same content—especially Elle: her Feminist Friday and Ellements of Film posts will definitely be continuing.

What you’ll see less of is the Sunday news roundup. Last week’s was, unfortunately, the last. When we started This Week, a basic roundup of the latest cool science and technology news wasn’t so easy to find. These days, they’re a dime a dozen. So instead you’ll be getting less summary and more opinion, less technology and more social commentary.

And I’ll probably talk more about things that interest me—autism, cryptocurrencies, rockets, anime, economics, politics, anything. Whatever crosses my mind that week.

This Week In Tomorrow won’t be coming down, at least, not soon. But there won’t be any new content there. Its time has come. We hope you’ll continue to follow us Into the Void.

Sincerely,

Richard and Elle.