Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Egg Roll in a Bowl” Recipe

I created this recipe about 10 seconds ago in my kitchen.

You’ll need (for a single serving):

1 packet of Ramen Noodles, your choice of flavor
4 cabbage leaves
2 whole carrots
3 2/3 cups of water
1 tspn Salt
1/2 tspn Ginger
Other spices to taste (I like Sriracha sauce and a tspn of better than bullion), Soy sauce might be a nice flavor, or sweet and sour. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you use the spice packet that comes with the ramen or whatever else you like.

First,

Boil the water in covered medium sauce pan.

While bringing water to a boil,

Chop cabbage into fine pieces.

Shred carrots thin and short with vegetable peeler.

Add vegetables to boiling water

Add a pinch of salt to the water and vegetables, let it remain covered, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft (but not too soft).

At this point, add the ramen noodle pack and boil covered for 3 minutes.

Eureka! Tastes just like an egg roll!

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Ananda Shankar, Bridging East and West Through Music

When one thinks of Indian music, the sitar instantly comes to the forefront of our minds.  For westerners, the sitar embodies Indian music.  Perhaps most aren’t even aware that there are more instruments on the subcontinent. 

And, like the sitar has come to represent Indian music to the west, Ravi Shankar has ultimately become the poster boy for the sitar itself.  His music has ushered in a sort of Indian Invasion in Britain, America and beyond during the 1960s and 70s, with help from such loyal friends as George Harrison, guitarist from The Beatles.  He has come to the forefront of our western reception even more so in recent years with the arrival of his all-too popular musician daughter, Norah Jones.

Throughout my study of the Indian subcontinent and its cultures, I have found something missing in Ravi Shankar’s music.  It, more than likely, is a hint of western flare that I’ve quite obviously come to crave as an American-based fan of music.

I found redemption in Ananda Shankar.  A sitar player by trade, Shankar is the nephew of world-renowned Ravi Shankar.  It is my well-informed opinion that if you have a hard time with sitar music as it is, in terms of difficulty relating, Ananda Shankar’s tunes are perfect for you. While Ravi’s musical career has largely been aimed at preserving Hindustani traditions in music with albums such as “Sounds of India”, which is great by the way, Ananda speaks directly to his expanding western musical audience in his eponymous album.  

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Playing classic rock ‘n’ roll tunes such as the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” & The Doors’ “Light My Fire”, Shankar gently introduces western ears to traditional Hindustani music instead of shocking their system right off the bat.  He even has another album in which he marries two of my personal favorite instruments, the sitar and the moog!

For a pleasant experience in sitar and traditional Indian music that will ease your western ears into this magnificent world, check out Ananda Shankar.

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Polnytt

Tim O’Brien/Irish Times

For the second time in half a century, the remains of what appears to be a dug-out canoe have been discovered in Arklow, Co Wicklow. In a curious coincidence, both finds were by the same person, local man Peter Dempsey.

The National Museum of Ireland confirmed yesterday that the first discovery made in 1966 was a dug-out canoe which was recorded and photographed by the museum at the time.

Mr Dempsey, who is mayor of Arklow, said he was feeding ducks on the riverbank close to the locally known 19-arch bridge, when he saw the second canoe last Friday.

As the original canoe had been returned to the water after a record was made by the museum, Mr Dempsey said he initially thought his latest discovery was the same canoe.

However, Nessa O’Connor of the National Museum said photographs appeared to suggest it was a second canoe…

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Non-Ferrous Thievery

Recently, it has become all the rage for thieves to transcend traditional laborious hardships by stealing non-ferrous (copper, brass, aluminum, lead and other valuable scrap) metals and turning them in to recyclers for money.

The most bitter part of this pill is that it is affecting people of all classes in areas chiefly unaffected in years gone past. Air conditioners are common targets for people hoping to score valuable semi-precious metals. The immense copper coilings within the units, coupled with their out-of-doors locales make them desirable and easy marks for criminals. This destruction of coveted property is also dangerous for those involved because of the immense amount of hazardous chemicals associated with the use of air conditioners. In much of the developed world, special license is required to extract these chemicals and even then, special equipment, the least of which is around $1000 US to purchase is required, along with annual to semi-annual licensure renewals.

While the problem is rampant in the United States, it is also quickly becoming a concern in that of the United Kingdom. In early 2011, James May, co-host of BBC’s Top Gear, reported that thieves had “stolen the lead off my roof…all of it.”* Jeremy Clarkson (co-host) joked that “only [James] would be the victim of a crime from the 1950s.”* This is particularly telling, because it does seem absurd that such crimes are taking place in a world of internet thievery and hacking, but nonetheless the struggling global economy seizes to reason with conventional means of theft.

At nearly $.88 per pound (19 May, 2012)** , the lead market inspires new, unconventional thieves to even steal the roofs right off of churches in Britain***.

For Eclectic Spot, Spencer Johnston.

*Top Gear, Episode 388, 2-13-2011, BBC.
**http://www.metalprices.com/, 5-19-2012.
***http://www.runcornandwidnesworld.co.uk/news/9532827.Teenagers_charged_with_church_roof_lead_theft/, accessed: 5-19-2012.

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Honey: The Cultural Differences Between Near East and West

My studies of Indian culture and history often bring me to the same place: the dissimilarities between East and West and how their respective cultural standpoints are almost a proverbial yin and yang, to borrow from Chinese vernacular.  The Chinese maintain that two polar opposites are essential to existence.  In this case, the opposites are literally on the opposite sides of the globe, adding to the distance maintained by their stigmatic understandings of  one another.  The United States and India are two very different places and attempts at understanding these two separate models of reality have largely been skewed by one’s own perception of the others cultural norms.

This is essentially the epitome of what makes researching the Near East so exciting for those in the West, particularly America.  The United States, far from the stronghold of Eastern philosophy tends to form its own allegiances to its own interests, abandoning Indian ideals that we are all part of Brahman, the soul of the world that encompasses all of existence.  Geographically stripped from a great deal of alternative forms of reality, America remains isolated in many of its own cultural norms.

To further understand the wide crevasse between the two ways of life, we need look no further than a mere teaspoon of honey.  Perhaps one of the simplest foods on Earth, honey has recently come to represent much more than the sweetness of nature to me.

I, in the United States, found myself going about my normal routine of warming up a bottle of breast milk for my infant son.  Likely, a mother or father on the Indian Subcontinent would find themselves doing much the same on a weekday morning.  While Royal (my son) and I were waiting for the milk to get up to temperature, he began to get impatient.  His cries cut me to the bone.  When he wouldn’t accept his pacifier as a substitute for his coveted breast milk, his crying grew more intense.

In an attempt to quiet the echoing cries of a hungry baby, I reached for a squeeze bottle of honey (how American!) and put the ever-so-light dab directly on the pacifier.  THIS WORKED.  The honey had quieted him like I had never seen anything quiet him before.  Of course, if I hadn’t had the bottle ready when I did, I’m sure he would’ve started up again.  Hm, I thought…this must be old world knowledge, like sugar water.  Honey is thought by many-a health nut to posses unique qualities and is widely considered to be a super food of sorts.

It was only after using this method a few more times over the course of the next month did I realize that the label warned against feeding honey to infants.  Clearly, I was a monster!  How could I?  According to the back of the bottle, honey can cause infant death.  After doing research online, I came to understand that honey can contain trace amounts of ecoli bacteria.  When these cultures are consumed by an infant, who has a remarkably undeveloped intestinal tract, they can attach themselves to the intestines and manifest lethal infections.

…Or so it is said.

In a book I’ve been reading entitled South Indian Hindu Festivals and Traditions by Maithily Jagannathan, I wasn’t surprised to find that Indians feel quite differently about infants, even new-born babies consuming honey. It should be noted that at the point I discovered this information I was merely reading the book for historical research.  Instead, I found wonderful evidence that Hindus have been using honey to welcome their children in to the world for perhaps thousands of years (with our knowledge of how old the religion itself is).  In something called a “Cradle Ceremony,” one of the important rituals among other things is “the mother tak[ing] the baby on her lap and feed[ing] a few spoons of [a] milk and honey mixture.”

I came to accept this “truth” that honey is harmful to babies lightly and as many do cultural understandings of the natural world.  Scientifically probable it is not.  But, scientific probability is not likely the culprit.  After all, my son is fine.  It’s been two months.  What, then is driving this machine?  Is it fear?  Fear on who’s behalf?  The honey producer?  The consumer?

To insist that the people of India are inferior in their understanding of the natural world or medicine would be wrong.  The people that invented the concept of the number 0 would likely resent such sentiments.  In fact, a staggering amount of medical practitioners come to us from India.  According to this article, “India [is] #1 in number of doctors practicing in [the] U.S.”  Quite relevant also is the fact that my son’s doctor is actually from India.  On our next visit I’ll be bringing this up to her to discover her opinions on honey.

Ultimately, Americans are living in a state of panic in which we must determine with relative absolutism the dangers of the natural world pose.  We are bored.  We are sue-happy.  We watch too much television.  We gossip far too much.  We swirl around medical jargon in our mouths to the point that when finally spit it out it is all but unintelligible.  We are all experts.  We are unwilling to subscribe to the ideas of a culture many consider our opposite.  All the while, both Indian and American cultures are two of the biggest players in the most dangerous game of all:  industrial and technological pollution.  It is likely that the two cultures will suffer more casualties and detriment at the hands of technology and industry than they ever would by the embrace of something so honestly produced by the natural world.  And, yet in a world where the cost of automobiles is going down and the price of honey going up, we think little of walking down sidewalks and streets fogged by tailpipes and even less of dwindling populations of bees.  It would seem East and West is not so different in this way.

UPDATE 12/27/2012:

It’s been a long time since I originally wrote this blog entry about honey and the cradle ceremony in India.  However, since its conception, I’ve discussed with Dr. “Dolly” Ubhrani, Pediatrician, mother, and Indian, who practices medicine in central Florida these concerns.  She was able to shed considerable light on the use of the traditional use of honey in the Hindu Cradle Ceremony.  To paraphrase her words, “the cradle ceremony is a traditional practice in much of India.  Because western medicine has revealed that the bacteria in honey can manifest in the immature intestines (which have difficulty digesting such a viscous material), leading to life-threatening infections in other parts of the body, including the brain.  Unfortunately, these practices are still very common in much of Hindu India.  There is a high rate of infant mortality in this part of the world and this is considered to be one of many reasons.”

In much of the developing and peripheral world, traditional beliefs and practices trump modern medicine.  While there are a significant amount of diverse explanations for this, perhaps the most important is concerning caste.  In these traditional realms, those who not only have access to, but become certified in westernized and modern medicine become closely aligned with the upper tiers of social stratification.  This undoubtedly plays a role in their interaction with those that maintain a more traditional way of life-at the lower end of India (and beyond)’s caste system.  These traditional people would rather maintain the practices of their ancestors and the enculturation they’ve received, even in some of the most dire straights.  It has become clear to them that when they are amongst medical doctors educated in the west or highly revered universities, they are talked down to, as if their very way of life (and especially their way of knowledge) is outdated, obsolete, and of little use, burdensome.

source:  Anthropology: A Global Perspective, Raymond Scupin, 2010.

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Wade Davis, Anthropologist/Ethnobotanist

Wade Davis, man, author, explorer and all-around genius inspires students of world culture and history like no one else.

His new book, “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World” speaks to the immense perplexities of language and culture loss in our ever-globalizing world of snowballing assimilation.

Visit him here to learn more about the man and his amazing vision:

 

Wade Davis, Anthropologist/Ethnobotanist Information, Facts, News, Photos — National Geographic.

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