January 18, 2014

A couple of historical items

Filed under: Historic, Media, Paleoanth, Pop culture — acagle @ 4:57 pm

Snipped from Althouse:

First, the history of Velveeta cheese

In America, James L. Kraft became perhaps the most recognizable face of processed cheese when he discovered that heated cheese with added emulsifying salts would form into a solid mass when cooled–and would keep much longer than non-processed cheese. Processed cheese was immediately welcomed by American consumers because of its consistent quality and increased stability.
In 1918, Frey figured out how to use similar technology to help recoup some of the factory’s waste. He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product. Frey named the product Velveeta, and in 1923, the Velveeta Cheese Company became its own corporation.

I have no real history with Velveeta. I vaguely recall my parents always having some in the fridge but I honestly don’t recall ever consuming it. I don’t have anything particularly against it, but I don’t have much desire to eat it.

Also: What’s Wrong with the Paleo diet:

he paleo diet is hot. Those who follow it are attempting, they say, to mimic our ancient ancestors — minus the animal-skin fashions and the total lack of technology, of course. The adherents eschew what they believe comes from modern agriculture (wheat, dairy, legumes, for instance) and rely instead on meals full of meat, nuts, and vegetables — foods they claim are closer to what hunter-gatherers ate.

The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. “I don’t think we really understand … well the proportions in the ancient diet,” argues Pollan on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). “Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate — I think they’re kind of blowing smoke.”

He explains some of the rationale for cooking food and the changes that processing certain foods undergo to release more calories and nutrients. He makes the basic case, which I’ve made here many times, that there is no single “Paleo” diet: People in different areas and in different times ate whatever was available and it’s devilishly difficult to get anything like a precise read on what they were eating and in what quantities.

November 26, 2013

“I said Beyoncé was stupid and I left.”

Filed under: Egypt, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:13 pm


November 6, 2013

And still more pastopianism!

Filed under: Pastopia, Pop culture — acagle @ 1:02 pm

The gentleman athlete has disappeared.

I’d wager there was probably as much or more crap going on back then than there is now. Just picking one example out of the hundreds or thousands does not a trend make.

November 4, 2013

“These aren’t the ruins you’re looking for”

Filed under: Historic, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:55 pm

The Archaeology of Star Wars

In 2012 Italian photographer Rä di Martino spent more than a year wandering the desert towns of Morocco and Tunisia, on her journey she came across the curious remnants of another world…

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far away’ these words are so familiar as to be short hand for the beginning of a grand adventure! Much like the immortal words ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ they are arresting and instantly significant. For generations they have peaked the interest of the movie-going public and almost like a mass pavlovian experiment, we can scarcely stop ourselves from re-playing the grand opening phrases of John Williams’ iconic score in our heads – perhaps making raspy lightsaber noises with pursed lips as we thrash our arms about… Just like a ‘real’ Jedi.

However, the truth is that George Lucas’ epic space opera did not take place in a galaxy far away, it was shot here on earth and while much of the more recent canon have relied on digitally rendered backgrounds, the iconic landscape of Tatooine is very much a real place!

Actually, I didn’t even notice that first line before I made mine. Great minds, etc.

Well, except that interest is ‘piqued’ rather than ‘peaked’.

But I kind of like this. The sets really were part of something that contributed to a change in culture (ours, maybe, not necessarily Tunisians). I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a lot of Star Wars tourism there, the locals could probably be making major coin with ‘Sci-Fi Tourism’ to coin a phrase.

September 10, 2013

I Want To Can’t Believe. . . .

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts, Pop culture — acagle @ 3:51 pm

It’s been 20 years!

Tonight, 20 years ago, The X-Files debuted. I really liked that show. Reminded me of The Night Stalker which is not a coincidence, since Carter used it for inspiration. After Twin Peaks it was the first really creepy show on television, IIRC. I’m surprised it’s not been getting more attention.

At any rate, if it “influenced” me at all, it was that A) the Pacific northwest with all its gloomy skies and rain could actually be cool (it was filmed up in Vancouver, BC), and B) that maybe it wasn’t so bad to be totally dedicated to, if not a cause, at least something that fascinated you.

June 27, 2013

Moving on the become part of the archaeological record

Filed under: Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Mick Aston, Time Team expert, dies aged 66

A former resident academic on Channel 4’s popular archaeology show Time Team has died at the age of 66.

His friend and former colleague Phil Harding confirmed the news and Time Team’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts also paid tribute to the retired academic with the message: “It is with a very heavy heart that we’ve been informed that our dear colleague Mick Aston has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Too bad, that’s fairly young these days. I didn’t follow the show all that much, I’m afraid.

June 18, 2013

For the Trek nerds

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 7:21 pm


May 30, 2013

I don’t care what the Internet was made for

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts, Pop culture — acagle @ 3:34 pm

This is what’s it’s good for:

May 13, 2013

Kinda sorta virtual archaeology?

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 11:12 am

Civilization 5: Brave New World trailer highlights culture, tourism

The Civilization 5: Brave New World expansion puts new focus on tourism and culture, including a new Cultural victory that lets you besiege other civs with just how cool you are with all the works of your new artists and composers. A new trailer goes into a bit more detail, including how the masterpieces will bring in the tourists.

An interesting aspect of the video talking about the discovery of archaeology mid-game. Players can discover artifacts from events earlier in the game, giving your civilization more culture and increasing tourism.

Ha. I got addicted to Civ II many moons ago, although I kind of sucked at it; I was kind of more interested in fiddling with the different cultural trajectories and also “discovering” things in the order in which they first made an appearance in archaeological reality than in developing my civilization and winning (I did it once or twice, I think). “Wait, you have to develop ceramics before iron!” And I almost always used the ‘real’ world instead of a random one. Still, I always thought it was a fascinating game and would probably make a good introduction to the history of civilization for youngsters. I wonder if any teachers have ever used it as an instructional tool? You know, play the game, make a report on what you did, and then compare the game world with what’s known historically. IIRC, there’s some written material within the game that you can learn more about what it is you’ve just “discovered”, like an explanation of what pottery did in terms of food storage and cooking and such.

I like it though. I recall that was the first time I really understood viscerally why Vikings may have reached the New Word but never retained a foothold there when my (Roman, I think) explorers landed there and were immediately wiped out by some Aztecs or something. “Hey, a small group of settlers could easily be wiped out by an already-present group of people with an entire culture to back them up”.

May 1, 2013

Archaeology on film. . . .and in the future

Filed under: Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:49 pm

Well, Prometheus. Finally got around to seeing (most of) it, as we recently got HBO. I say “most of” it because I missed the very beginning twice and by the middle of it I was so stupefied and bored that I just went to bed. Here is Forbes’ review, which I have to say I mostly agree with:

Where Scott & Co. have innovated on these stolen ideas is by making their characters — who are all bizarrely unfazed by the philosophical weight of their mission and discoveries — do ridiculously dumb things. When they see black alien ooze, they touch it. When they find a giant severed alien head, they bring it on the ship and perform inexplicable experiments on it in an open environment with no protective clothing. When the answers Charlie seeks are not immediately offered by the alien temple — which would be an earth-shattering discovery in its own right — he foregoes further inquiry and gets drunk. When members of the science team are lost in a gigantic, danger-filled alien structure, the mission leaders all go have sex. When a giant wheel-shaped object is rolling toward a couple of characters, they don’t run right or left, but stay directly in its path, like the security guard and the steamroller in Austin Powers.

Mostly everything that happened you saw coming from a mile — no, two — away and, like that say, they just did everything not even remotely like what, you know, actual people would ever do.

But that’s not my main beef! This is:

Screenwriters and directors are not scientists, and will likely fall back on the kinds of formulaic, non-scientific ideas that would occur to people who work in the entertainment industry.

One thing (among many) I’ve harped on here over the years is the sort of cardboard-cutout characters that Hollyweird likes to make Scientists out to be. You know the type: Incredibly brilliant, socially inept, usually working alone, shunned by colleagues who “just don’t understand because they’re stuck in their own scientific dogma”, but who is miraculously proven right in the end. This can work out well, like in Stargate, but here the “scientists” are just so. . . .lame. . . .that you kind of want to run to your office, tear down your framed PhD certificate, burn the paper, and shatter the glass to gouge out your own eyes because you’re too embarrassed to even be associated even indirectly with these people.

And they had to be archaeologists!!!

1) When you find a giant temple complex on another planet, what’s the first thing you do? Map it and photograph it in excruciating detail? Why no, you charge into the main temple and start poking around. I mean, duh.

2) What happens when you find a mummified head? Scan the crap out of it, take samples, DNA, blah blah blah, all in a safe containment vessel (not to mention collecting it in a sterile haz-mat container instead of stuffing it into a plastic bag)? Why no, you stick stuff in it and crank it up until it explodes.

Admittedly, they did have these whack floating orbs that cruised around the whole interior of the temple mapping everything in a sort of LIDAR-ish fashion. I’d give my right arm for something like that. But, you know, they only busted those out after they’d charged into the temple near dark. Without any sort of plan.

So I dunno. I guess I’d like to see the beginning. Otherwise, I think I’ll go watch Blade Runner again. . . .

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