currents & waves

floating in an ocean of arts & humanities

July 2008 - Posts

i've been feeding myself successfully for long enough that i rarely give much thought to things like "food pyramids" and whatnot, but recently i revisited this middle school health class favorite after a friend of mine began talking about struggling to get enough protein in her vegetarian diet. since i was raised vegetarian and continue to follow a vegetarian diet with no detectable protein deficiency, i decided to start keeping track of the protein in my diet to see where it comes from and how much i get on an average day. happily, after a couple weeks i concluded that i'm easily meeting my requirements.

however, after that brushing up on standard nutrition recommendations and tracking my own typical diet, i found something else to fret over: portions! now, things like grains are easy--a slice of bread comes in a package with clearly marked stats. whole grains like rice and quinoa, cooked at home, are very easy to estimate (if the serving size is 1/4 cup uncooked and i cooked a cup of dry grain, i know i cooked 4 servings and have no problem estimating a quarter of the total cooked product). but when it comes to fruits and vegetables, all bets are off.

i don't keep a scale around the kitchen, so how many grams of apple i just ate is a mystery to me. and cups of cherries? is that whole cherries that still have pits in them sitting in a measuring cup? that seems so imprecise. the size and contour alone could drastically alter how much edible fruit fits into a cup. heck, the shape of the cup could impact how much fits in it. and how about greens? apparently the mixed greens i used in my salad today come one 50 gram serving to the 2.5 cups. but is that 2.5 loosely tossed cups? or lightly packed cups? if i sandwiched it between two slices of bread it would take up significantly less space.

and then, some recommendations are as broad and vague as to say half a cup of vegetables is one serving. if that's true, i could easily meet my "5 a day" with one big lunch salad. but, the bag of salad mix tells me that same salad is only one serving! and how is half a cup of coleslaw (all that shredded cabbage sitting nice and compact) any match for half a cup of steamed broccoli and cauliflower (with all that negative space between the florets and stems)?

see what i'm saying? how helpful is it to know how many servings i should eat if i can't figure out a true serving size?

luckily i really like fruits and vegetables and can safely meet and easily exceed the food pyramid's recommendations while sticking with my old ways of eating some sort of fruit and/or vegetable with each meal, and eating a wide variety throughout each day.

Posted by emcee christmas | with no comments
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during the achaemenid dynasty, persepolis was (as you may recall from high school world history class) the ancient riverside site first chosen by cyrus the great and then built up by darius the great to stand as the center of the persian empire. fastforward a couple thousand plus years, and persepolis is the name of the animated film that won the 2007 cannes film festival jury prize.

based on a autobiographical graphic novel by marjane satrapi of the same name, the film covers her childhood and teen years from ten to twenty-one and charts the growth of her nascent political awareness.

the following synopsis may constitute a **SPOILER** in some opinions.
the film opens with the rush of the overthrow of the shah and moves through the the islamic fundamentalist regime that took root, continues on through the iran-iraq war, and ends with the same type of tyrannical repression experienced under the shah. during this, marjane's childhood innocence and religious belief is sullied as her beloved uncle is released from imprisonment, re-incarcerated, and ultimately executed. other instances of repression and resistance weave in and out of the story, and eventually land marjane in vienna as a teenager where her outspoken ways will not be a risk to her own safety. here she encounters philosophies of nihilism and anarchism, racial discrimination, her own experience of exile, and also falls in love. after a low point involving homelessness and grave illness, marjane returns to her family in tehran. though her experiences in vienna serve to develop her belief system further, upon her return home marjane suffers a malaise underpinned by spiritual and political paradoxes. but with the care of her family, anti-depressants, and general will-power, marjane regains her stamina. as the story continues, marjane's voice grows stronger as she continues making a life for herself under a repressive regime. the chain of unbearable events continue, however, eventually culminating with her permanent exile to france at the age.

within these political events, the story stays grounded in the standard "coming of age" narrative items: childhood dreams, pop music, schoolgirl shenanigans, teenage romance, covert parties, and the aging of a grandmother. marjane undergoes the common trials that mark any good tale in this genre, to wit, separation from family, feeling angst and isolation within a peer group, and eventually making sense of the metaphysical, the corporeal, and the tangible threads that form "experience."

this is the meta of the movie: even as her home is bombed, her city destroyed, and loved ones are murdered, marjane still goes through the normal events of youth and comes out on the other side as a whole person.

and then, there's the movie beyond the story. the animation itself is a visual treat, and if you watch close, it's interesting to note the changes in style that accompany various themes throughout the movie. however, i don't get very excited about talking about animation, so i'll leave it with i enjoyed how it looked. meanwhile, the pace keeps the movie, well, moving right along.

besides winning the cannes jury prize, this movie received high marks from reviewers at publications as diverse as the washington post, slate, and the christian science monitor (to name only a small fraction of its critical fans). and not without cause. what makes this really stand out as a feat of storytelling is the matter-of-fact presentation that lends a delicate sense of balance. the severity of life under war is not compromised, but nor is a political stance hammered down on the viewer. this is not to say there is not an angle on this story, because there certainly is. what keeps it palatable is that the angle comes across as that of one person based on their own life rather than a political rant. this keeps the story in the realm of the universal, regardless of one's political position. and meanwhile (despite that fact that this film is in fact a cartoon) rarely do i encounter a movie with an arch is as literary and complete unto itself as this one.

bonus: both the subtited and dubbed versions are available, so you can have it whichever way you prefer. (i recommend the subtitles, but that's just me.)

Posted by emcee christmas | with no comments
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