restaurant review: Burger King

So it was Friday the 13th and a full moon, and such are the type of unhallowed irregular circumstances under which I countenance breaking my vegetarianism. I was with a client who was eating at Burger King, and in a fit of madness I ordered a meal. (I have not had Burger King in perhaps a decade or more.)

Let us examine it piece by piece.

Cheeseburger:

On reflection, the most terrifying thing about it was that it was prepared fresh; I had to wait for it to be made, and yet it was as it was.

The bread was not like bread. Soft, insubstantial, textural; iconic, appearing as a burger bun, yet not.

The meat was not like meat. It is pretty creepy to think about what it might have been. I am not sure what it tasted like.

Perhaps there was something cheese-like in it. I don’t really recall. It may have been lost among the various sauces, and a gherkin, abundantly smeared through it to give it an approximation of flavour.

The burger was some kind of bizarre facsimile, a simulacra, a degraded copy of what a burger might be. It was a form of material and texture. It was not satisfying.

Fries:

This was by far the easiest portion to consume, a pleasant amalgam of fat and saltiness, wrapped around some kind of easy to chew material. I have eaten potatoes. I am not sure what the chips are made of – a bit like processed potato chippies, which bear a texture and nature far removed from their origin – easy to eat, but curiously empty and unsatisfying. Potatoes have a kind of weight to them: you know when you have eaten potatoes. These lacked that weight.

Sundae:

I know what ice-cream is like. I even know what snow-freeze ice cream is like. I am not sure what this was. An unknowable texture, cold and white, with caramel syrup gunk. Again, a peculiar simulacra of an ice cream sundae. Deeply unsatisfying.

Drinks:

(I very rarely drink soft drinks.) First I tried a Lift. It was odd; I sort of remember what it tasted like, and it is less offensive than many dense syrup concoctions, with its overt lemonyness. Found it useful to attempt to cleanse the palate with, and send down to help dissolve the material previously consumed.

In a particularly foolhardy move I went for a refill, this time going for a Fanta. Wow. Holy fucking shit. Three sips was enough; the third just to confirm what had gone before. Undrinkable, hideous, almost acrid. (Perhaps we can blame the entire Nazi movement on their soft-drink? No, that is too far.) But truly shocking to the palate after a maybe 20 year absence. How can something so full of sugar taste so horrific?

Summary:

On the whole, it was not recognisably food. I felt less overtly ill than I had anticipated, but did not feel great after.

I am left somewhat stunned that this sort of thing is what people pay money to eat. (And I recognise a past incarnation of self that did eat this sort of thing.) It speaks volumes about our culture. Perhaps the Matrix is here, concentric overlapping rings of reality itself. Platonic ideas of food radiate outwards, ever degenerating as we get further from the source. Shadows eating a copy of a copy, fuelling shadow lives.

 

sunday mutants

 

been a while. why not?

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Thomas Piketty is a French economist who you have probably been hearing about, and if not, you soon will be. His book Capital is making major waves. Link takes you to a pretty useful review of it.

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Google, encryption, and the future of email.

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World population growth is declining. Rather, is growing at half the rate it was 40 years ago. Stats on avoiding the overpopulation bomb. Amusing that they pick television ownership as the correlate of fertility reduction. Buckminster Fuller pointed out around 40 years ago that population rates went down as soon as people had access to electric power (as you need less people to do things.)

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Came across this a couple weeks back: CEO of (wildly successful) Evernote app notes that apps will soon be dead as we move into wearable computing.

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Huh, just poking around in my bookmarks now. DIY solar water heater for about $30 in materials.

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Shanghai mall installs bitcoin ATM.

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Random stat from Bill Gates on Twitter: “In ’81, just 20% of the world lived on $2-$10/day. Today it’s 40%.”

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Any why not: Montana Senator shoots down drone with rifle in attack ad. Strange days.

Review: The Wind Is Rising

 

Miyazaki’s (alleged) final work. Felt very personal as a film, moreso than his others, with a greater depth and emotional resonance.

Really good. Mature (seems like a weird word to apply, but perhaps less whimsical comes closer), beautiful, daffily romantic. Somewhat dour and dark. Occasional dreamy wonderfulness, but very grounded in reality, with the shadows of war and Japan’s strained history looming over everything.

Essentially seems to argue that being courageous and honourable and following your dreams is the way to go, even though we live in a fucked up world full of awfulness and tragedy; and that precisely because the world is the way it is, that is why we must live, and live well.

Glad I saw it, though I enjoyed it less than several of his others; and I think it is the first of his films that will haunt me a little.

Waitangi Day-ish special cultural appropriation post: The Plunder of Glow Worm Grotto

 

How about this (laughable, terrible) episode of an obscure cartoon from the 1980s which makes remarkable use of “Maori” culture and “New Zealand” as a backdrop. Presenting: M.A.S.K S01E55: The Plunder of Glow Worm Grotto.

YouTube Preview Image

All natives are basically interchangeable, after all.

(Sometimes, despite how much further there is to go, maybe we need to reflect on how far we have come.)

 

Reading January 2014

A slow start to the year…

Falling Man – Don DeLillo

Nah.

I have had a mixed run with DeLillo. Underworld seemed brilliant to me. Years later I got half way White Noise then gave up on it until someone told me they thought Don DeLillo was really funny, which confused me, so I picked it up again and saw that it was meant to be funny, though I didn’t think it was funny, and finished it.

Falling Man attempts to grapple with the fallout from 9/11 on the American psyche. Which is admittedly a huge endeavour. But mostly it devolves into DeLillo’s empty characters having empty dialogue and empty interactions which leave all sorts of room for implication but ultimately doesn’t satisfy.

I suspect this will be the last DeLillo I read. (Though Cronenberg’s film of Cosmopolis was interesting.)

The Unfoldment – Neil Kramer

Autodidact spiritualist gives his take on what is happening. Interesting in that it grapples with the modern world as a whole – politics, economics, conspiracy, spiritual malaise – and the forces that keep us down, locked into a false model of reality, as well as providing a relatively functional take on personal spiritual development. Interesting, would probably speak to a younger generation raised on internet research and weird documentaries (and how freaky is it to say that!) Bought it on the strength of this fantastic interview he did on Occult of Personality, which from my perspective remains much meatier and more interesting than the book.

The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles

Wow. Paul Bowles is an amazingly talented writer. His grasp of the nuance of human interaction is startlingly precise. Here again, Morocco looms – almost the major character – as an intoxicating and alien otherworld, one which has shaped and inspired so many writers (Gysin, Burroughs, Shah.) Sort of an existential horror novel, the bleakness and meaningless and loneliness of existence writ large; when love is all that holds us together, what happens when that love frays? Who are we? What are we? An extraordinary, beautiful and disquieting book.

The Sheltering Sky is probably better than his later novel Let It Come Down. And I wrote a song about Let It Come Down. Both, along with his short story A Distant Episode, have the same arc; entering into an alien landscape and utterly losing oneself with nightmarish consequences.

The Fool: The Jersey Devil – Andrew Mayer

Novella in beta, so probably shouldn’t comment on it, just logging for my own records.

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Have also been reading a bunch of short stories from various collections.

Review: American Hustle

OK, so I saw this based on seeing the posters before going away to the burn, and on some idiosyncratic vibing decided it was what I should see on returning. I went in knowing nothing but say three images and the name, and then the projectionist telling us right before screening that it was up for like 10 Oscars, to which I was like huh.

Here goes.

What a waste of talent. There are some pretty good actors doing pretty good work in the service of a story which does not need telling and has no content worth imparting. It creates emotion in the viewer and does nothing with it. All this film has to tell us is that people are scum who look out for themselves, and occasionally their friends and loved ones. It is long, feels longer than it is, and then stops abruptly. Walking away, it just seemed to have no point. An empty and confusing experience of cultural production. Distraction and glitz. Will doubtless win big at the Oscars.

 

Disconnect – block tracking scripts

 

This tool is pretty neat – Disconnect – basically it blocks invisible tracking scripts and advertising scripts and other junk. Combined with adblocker, it makes for a smoother internet. You can also use it to search on Google without them tracking your searches. (It was created by an ex-Google employee.) It is a wee bit fascinating watching which sites track you the most, too, as it tells you the number of scripts etc it is blocking, and often where they come from.

A simple way to fight back a little in the online privacy wars.

top 3′s of 2013

 

…or a half assed year in review just while it occurs to me off the top of my head and before they crop up everywhere; I am pretty culturally out of sync so this will be stuff I encountered this year maybe rather than was definitely released this year.

 

Film

1. The Act of Killing

Perhaps the most astounding, powerful and indescribable documentary – and film in general – I have ever seen. Reviewed back here. Incredible. See it.

2. War Witch (Rebelle)

Phenomenal film about a young girl forced into becoming a child soldier in Africa. And then it goes deeply weird, entering another magical yet completely grounded African reality. Wonderful, intense, bizarre.

3. John Dies at the End

Ridiculous amounts of fun from Don Coscarelli. Not actually sure when this came out but I saw it early this year. Really really fun. Reviewed back here.

 

TV

1. John From Cincinnati

Stoner surfer mystic madness. Possibly the best thing ever. Ten episodes of sheer joy. See it.

2. I think Game of Thrones is the only other thing I have watched.

 

Books

Ouch. Now this will be challenging. These are probably the three that have stayed with me and formed the basis of multiple conversations.

1. Exterminate All the Brutes – Sven Lindqvist

Incredible and unsettling account of the Western colonial expansion and genocide of Africa; and so much more. Reviewed in detail here.

2. The God Problem – Howard Bloom

Bloom is perhaps the most multidisciplinary genius thinker out there, and this is his magnum opus; a synthesis of human exploration and insight into the nature of the universe and its workings, told as a rollicking story through a historical anthropological historical scientific humanistic philosophical biological conceptual &c blend, with remarkable verve and vigour. Epic learnings.

3. Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master Speaks

Singapore’s eminent respected genius leader’s take on pretty much everything that matters about the current state of play in world affairs. An absolute masterclass in what is going on, from someone who knows all the key decision makers, and has been wildly successful at negotiating power at the highest levels for forty years, all in under 200 pages.

 

Music

1. 3 Organic Experiences – Aglaia

Ambient. Lush. Beautiful.

2. Ambiant Otaku – Tetsu Inoue

Ambient. Serene. Beautiful.

3. Toucan Stubbs.

Don’t know that they have released anything. Most interesting live act in Wellington at the moment. Multi-instrumentalist folk duo doing… things. Live. Wonderful things, in strange places.

 

Thoughts on the Roast Busters

Even though I don’t follow news, the Roast Busters thing has been unavoidable.

Here are some thoughts, most of which I haven’t seen elsewhere yet. Some are tangents into wider issues. I don’t claim they are thought out, comprehensive, or even useful. I guess I will figure out what I think by writing it.

a) I don’t recognise my culture in this.

Rape, sexual violence, child abuse, there’s a whole lot of ugly beneath the surface of our culture that doesn’t get aired enough, which is part of what allows it to continue. And I overwhelmingly support talking about this stuff and shining light on it, and it is an excellent use for social media and the general power of the internet to let us have the discourses we need to have.

But this particular incident feels alien.

This feels like what happens when kids are raised by the internet. This is not something so simple as “blaming the internet”. But there is an ever widening pool of influences that pour in on children. My grandparents’ generation were raised by their parents and community. My parents’ generation were raised by their parents and radio and movies. My generation was raised by our parents and the television – a massive explosion of the world and images and ideas into the home. My niece’s generation – she is of the Roast Busters generation – is being raised by a hypermediated world defined by the internet – access to any damn thing whatsoever. Which is what you make of it. A global cesspit, if that’s where adolescent toilet humour and vileness goes. Or non stop ponies and rainbows.

I was a fairly grubby minded teen with offensive tendencies. I have no idea what I would have made of the internet, and what dark corners I would have found.

b) When I say I don’t recognise my culture in this, what do I mean?

I can imagine teen douchebags I knew getting girls way too drunk and fucking them and thinking that was awesome. And I can imagine them bragging about it to their mates.

I can’t imagine them filming it and sticking it on the internet and kinda trying to destroy the girls and bragging about it to the world. If for no other reason than someone in their family would track you down and give you a hiding.

That, and it just wouldn’t have occurred to anyone as a thing to do.

So what is happening? Maybe this is an imported mentality. There is some other culture in which this behaviour makes sense – maybe not even a real culture, maybe just an internet porn fantasy they couldn’t discern from a reality, hybridised with social media and reality television – and it has infected these young people in our culture. And they (and those around them) just didn’t have the health – or self-knowledge – or fundamental sense of right and wrong – to fight it off.

Or maybe this is just part of the mutation that technology is rendering to us – we are enlarged and magnified and distorted by our new technological extensions, and they reveal us to ourselves uncomfortably – and a world without the expectation of privacy, which encourages sharing everything, was always going to bring some dark things to the surface.

c) In terms of the Roast Busters themselves, I have to wonder, where are their fathers? What did you teach your sons that this kind of behaviour seemed acceptable to them? The internet might be an influence, but surely some basic sense of right and wrong can be instilled on a parental level. If we can’t even do that, we may as well give up on raising kids altogether. Let wolves raise them.

d) The real elephant in the corner is that humans just don’t deal with sex very well. It is a massively powerful force in us that can overwhelm, obsess, and prompt all kinds of crazy. Religion and social mores have done their damnedest to control it across the centuries. Nothing much works to control it. Dealing with it directly and doing a better job of it is the way through this.

How many parents have a conversation with their kids explaining the mechanics of sex? And how few have a conversation explaining the dynamics of interaction with the other gender, the confusions of sex, lust and love, and how strongly these basic drives can kick us around and make us act like animals and drive us out of our minds? How many of us understand ourselves and our own experience enough to be able to have those kinds of conversations with our kids? And if we don’t, are our kids going to be any more able to figure it out than we were?

e) Man, when the police get it wrong, it is a real bad thing. The police have a hard, shitty job to do. If we had better people we wouldn’t need police. They are a symptom of us not having our shit together. But the police are also people who don’t have their shit together, operating within a flawed system. And when justice fails, it is ugly and sad.

f) I have seen a lot of talk about “rape culture”. I find the term weird, and the discussion interesting, though am surprised that a bunch of myths around rape continue and that so much effort is going into continually debunking those, which is a necessary step before we can start having the actual conversations that need to happen here. Because hell yes, let’s talk about sex, and consent, and being responsible for ourselves and our decisions and actions in general.

What I would add is, hey, male culture in this country is completely fucked. This is the invisible pairing with how female gender roles are completely warped. Much has been justifiably written on the warpedness of female gender roles and imagery. However, if the female role is imbalanced, the male role must also be imbalanced. This corollary is unavoidable. The roles are complementary and interlinked; by definition, two halves of a whole.

The male gender role in New Zealand is at least as limited and proscribed and warped. And it is shit. And by shit I mean a horrifically constrained and restricted version of what it means to be a fully alive, functioning, experiencing and expressive human being. The masculine mainstream of rugby and beer are a straightjacket and lobotomy in one.

Drop gender for a minute.

We are human beings, facing the same fundamental circumstance in life, lots of which is pretty rough. We need to be free to be human beings. To feel, to think, to be and do.

We need to update our understanding of what it means to be a human being. Period.

We need to remind ourselves of our needs, our drives, our rights and responsibilities, as human beings.

First, we need to know it in ourselves. Then we can understand that this stuff applies to all of us. And maybe then we can start acting like human beings towards each other.

 

Billy goes to the movies

Or, film fest 2013 review.

Blancanieves

Spanish update of Snow White, recreated as a very stylish black and white period silent film. Snow White becomes a bullfighter but somehow this makes sense. Looked great but felt very long.

The Act of Killing

Absolutely incredible documentary. In Indonesia in the 60s they killed 2.5 million communists. They don’t view this as a bad thing, and the death squads of the time are now made men in society. The doco follows some of them as they make a movie re-enacting (and celebrating) those times. It is bizarre and surreal and terrifying – much of it is incidental in purely how insane and corrupt Indonesia seems to be – but yeah, incredible to see the re-enacting, and their reflection on what they have done (killing a thousand people by hand!)… the film is long, amazingly well crafted, with so many moments of jaw-dropping speechlessness… and the ending is out of this world. Not fun in any conventional sense, but incredibly worthwhile.

The East

Brit Marling’s latest film is another very smart, very well done alt-SF feeling film. This time more of a straight thriller about an agent going undercover with a principled but extreme eco-terrorist group whom she is both sympathetic to and at odds with. Smart, relevant, excellent. Shows up exactly how shit and irrelevant the average Hollywood thriller is.

Utu Redux

Had never seen this NZ classic. Opening is very brutal, the slaughter of a Maori village by English soldiers, but it loses the edge of that beginning, and meanders into its transposed Western form. Fascinating, bemusing on occasion (particularly Bruno Lawrence), holds up with little to induce cringing, and a couple of excellent performances. Nice restoration, worth catching on the big screen as presumably it will get a general rerelease.

Post Tenebras Lux

Won Best Director at Cannes in 2012. No idea how to describe this. Lush, fragmentary, non-linear, bizarre, powerful; with some extraordinary images. Mostly about the life of a young family in rural Mexico; on the meta level seemed to be about relationships, between humans, and humans and the environment, and how these relationships shape us. One for film afficianados rather than casual viewers.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch’s latest is a vampire film. While very stylish and enjoyable – his jaded aesthete vampires are charming and sane, and using their perspective on humanity (“zombies”) leads to some sharp observations – ultimately it is maybe a bit pointless. Good music throughout.

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