April 8th, 2010

a few remarks on _Pickled, Potted, and Canned_

I still hope to finish this, but I just can't let this paragraph slide.

On page 117 of the hardcover, Shephard (sic) describes a 1960s archeaological dig in Northeast Poland around Lake Biskupin. The site was dated to the ninth century and was a place to smoke fish. Some people replicated the kind of smoking they thought had been done there, including "using authentic ninth-century equipment", and the fish was tasty.

Here's the offending paragraph:

"In fact, more primitive methods of smoking than this are still practiced around the world. In many parts of Africa the tradition is for fish to be sun-dried and hard smoked until almost burned. Large oil drums are covered at one end with wire mesh."

And here's the problem I'm having. Oil drums? Wire mesh? Primitive? Yes, I'm sure Shephard meant the method (she said method), but throughout this book -- including in the previous paragraph -- she has included details of the tools as part of the method. While it might be obvious to _you_ what the wire mesh and the oil drum are replacing, I'd kind of like to hear the details, and how they dealt with those things drying out and/or catching fire and/or not being structurally adequate to the task.

I knew about the inadequate sourcing and total lack of footnotes going in, so I cannot really complain about those.

ETA1: Lest this seem isolated:

p 130

"The isolated Maoris had an obsessive interest in food preservation, storage and trade." Earlier, Shephard refers to Polynesian food pits as a way to keep "surplus" food. Repeatedly. Given that she simultaneously refers to these food pits and this food as necessary to survive at all, to the point that parents enforced this for their kids before they let them marry, it's hard to imagine what she might mean by surplus. Similarly, not clear what she might mean by "obsessive". "Sadly, the trade brought them into contact with the outside world, where they were rewarded with deadly diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and venereal disease and their numbers were decimated."

There is so much wrong with that last sentence it is difficult to know where to begin. But saying that it was trade that got them into trouble is a vast oversimplification and understatement on a par with trying to proclaim confederate history month without any mention whatsoever of slavery.

West Texas: source of wackiest news stories EVER

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125670601

Short form: Dad decides to have "the talk" with his 8 and 9 year old daughters from first marriage. He chooses to include as exhibits in "the talk" "a live webcam of a woman by herself and Daddy was typing to her what to do". To be fair, that summation is provided by the ex-wife. The current wife "told NPR the exhibition was a one-time occurrence. She said her husband knew the next day he'd made a mistake attempting to educate his young daughters by using computer pornography."

Why is this interesting, you might ask, after you clean up the computer screen from whatever you were drinking?

"The Texas penal code allows prosecution of anyone who sells or shows harmful material to a minor. And the law stipulates that pornography is considered harmful. The law was written in 1973, but it came with one important caveat, Farren says: It doesn't allow prosecution when the child was accompanied by a consenting parent or guardian."

One suspects Texas imagined a man taking his adolescent son(s) to the dirty movie theatre to learn about how It Is Done. Texas probably had not envisioned dad showing his pre-pubescent (I assume 8 and 9 year olds are probably pre-pubescent altho these days, you just never know) daughters a woman-for-hire on the TV or its modern day equivalent, receiving instructions from dad on what to do next.

My walking partner pointed me at this story. It is the funniest story she's told me about yet, and she has come up with some doozies. And lest we forget, YFZ is in West Texas, too, but a long ways away. Then again, everything is a long ways away in West Texas.