Bacon – Won the West, Men’s Hearts, and maybe the Apocalypse

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From Wikipedia Commons: Bartolomeo Passarotti – The Butcher Stall

From Wikipedia Commons: Bartolomeo Passarotti – The Butcher Stall

Bacon has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent months (not that it hasn’t been a durable headliner for those of us who enshrine smoked meats). Our local AA baseball team is hosting Bacon Days Friday and Saturday, September 19-20, a celebration of America’s favorite artery-clogger, to start with a 5K run that includes a stop to eat bacon.  You can read about it in the Morning Call, but I’ll venture a guess the event won’t be mentioned in Runners World.

I’m an enthusiast of foods we might see in the aftermath of apocalyptic events (see my earlier article, Expiration – Never). The cured and smoked belly of Sus scrofa domesticus, better known as the domesticated descendent of the wild boar, has been a part of ancient societies for thousands of years.  Along with flour, beans and brown sugar, it kept people alive when pioneers wagon-ho’d to the Wild West. You could say bacon is a founding food. It’s a national treasure, like the bald eagle.

It isn’t healthy you say. Well … neither was winning the west, or any story I’ve read with apocalypse and dystopia in the plot line. We’re supposed to eat veggies and fruit. People had a lot of that in the olden days. I jest, of course.  Had Native Americans caught pioneers noshing prairie grass with light balsamic vinaigrette, they would have laughed themselves to an early grave.

Romance writers, listen up. An adaptation to the popular saying; A way to a man’s heart is … with bacon, has a wrinkle of truth.  Though it doesn’t come with a fancy European name to suit a romance novel stud, like prosciutto, serrano, jamon, try writing a scene after a clandestine night of spooning (with every cutlery device in the drawer), where the girl sashays  down the staircase to the sensuous smells of bacon, clad only in her lover’s Brooks Brothers dress shirt. He’s making breakfast for her … willingly … enticing her with its smoky manly scent, a reminder of the reason she brought him home in first place.  Try wafting applewood smoked bacon under the nose of that shirtless firefighter you’ve been eyeballing. Works better than perfume … or cleavage.

From: thelolshop.com

From: thelolshop.com

Want him to leave? Just say, “let’s go downstairs, I’ll make you a salad with pine nuts and goat cheese”. Contrails will form in his wake on the way out the door.

For us end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it fans, unless you have several years supply of foods that will survive the apocalypse (Twinkies, liquor, Spam, and processed cheese come to mind), one has to think like our Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer ancestors did.  It means a return to hunting and fishing to supplement a meager supply of seasonably available vegetables, fruit and nuts. Don’t forget about insects.  Fish drops off the list for survivors living near a contaminated river (home of the three-eyed salmon) or too far from the seacoast (provided we still have one). Not everyone is going to have a stock of heritage seeds, and not-so-hardy fruit hybrid trees might not survive sudden climate change. So unless you’re a good hunter like Katniss Everdeen, you better start thinking about what to raise, and how to preserve it.

The porcine family has a long history of domestication, going back as early as 8000 B.C., possibly predating sheep and goats (Cambridge World History of Food). It’s a rather hardy creature, just ask anyone about our ample supply of feral pigs roaming the land. They’re prolific, will eat anything, can take care of themselves without a lot of fuss, and the fodder to meat yield translates into a higher return for energy invested than for other domesticated animals.  Sheep and goats tend to be stupid creatures, need a lot of care, and when was the last time you had goat bacon? But if bacon isn’t your thing, there’s always … ham.

Bacon in the apocalypse makes sense to me. Smoking and salt curing is one of the oldest methods of preservation. As long as we still have fire and a supply of wood (have to believe we’ll have an ample supply of unused hardwood furniture in the apocalypse), we can make bacon.

In the current dystopian story I’m writing, bacon will be on the list of foods my protag will covet. So … barring lifestyle restrictions, or veganism (which might be a detriment in the apocalypse), put a little bacon in your life. You might just might survive the end of the world.

Going Off Grid for a Human Touch

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From: CursedSenses - DepositPhoto.com

From: CursedSenses – DepositPhotos.com

Been a while since my last blog post (a phrase hauntingly reminiscent of my parochial school years), but I have a really good reason.  I’ve reached a new phase in my life, grand-parentage. Took a few weeks off to trek out west, where daughter number one has brought into the world an amazing baby boy.  Though I brought tools to write on the road, the creative keyboard went untouched in favor the simple act of belonging.

I wrote about such silence last year in Going Off The Grid.  That incident was less voluntary; influenced by geography and lack of signal.  I remember it being inspirative; separated from the noise of media input. My senses rekindled a childhood when social media used voices and a high tech communication device called a telephone.

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Your Brain’s PnP Driver Has Been Hacked

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From: vectorguru - DepositPhoto.com

From: vectorguru – DepositPhoto.com

In science fiction, we love the premise of enhanced brainpower. Wouldn’t you like to be Lucy, the main character in a recently released movie, who overdoses on a synthesized drug and ends up stimulating access to over 90% of her brain capacity to become a superhuman?  Or how about Gabriel Vaughn in the TV series, Intelligence, an operative with a super-computer microchip in his brain and the first human directly connected to a globalized information grid.

We’ve been tinkering with the brain for centuries. Ever since cave dwellers discovered certain plants instilled feelings of euphoria, mankind has been on a quest to unlock the mysteries of our human processor, find ways to upgrade its abilities, repair and improve upon original sensory input devices.  A recent article on the future of “wired” brains had me wondering if we were pushing a concept destined to backfire on us.

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Robert A. Heinlein – YA Science Fiction Pioneer

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Robert A. Heinlein - Tunnel in the Sky

Robert A. Heinlein – Tunnel in the Sky

The writer who instilled my love of science fiction is the incomparable Robert A. Heinlein. As a child of the fifties, I was voracious reader in a time of Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, Boy’s Life magazine, and comic books like Strange Adventures, Tales from the Crypt, and Archie (where Betty and Veronica wore scandalous cheerleader outfits and bikinis).

But Heinlein took me to the stars.

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The Fourth of Fantastic

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Photo by DT Krippene

Photo by DT Krippene

I love Independence Day. It’s all about summer, family, picnics, BBQ, beer, fireworks and homage to Old Glory. In last year’s article, Star Spangled Memories, I reflected on summers spent at grandpa’s place on the lake, and the dozen photo albums of memorable fourths. For 2014, I’d like to revisit the subject of who we are as a nation.

If you listen to today’s seemingly immoderate media espousing the derision of our elected officials, many wonder what happened to the greatness that defined the country. Live a while outside our borders, I’ve no doubts you’ll find that greatness is still soundly intact.

I spent two years with the Peace Corps in Asia. They used to say “it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.” What it should be is: “It’s a job that will make you appreciate where you came from.” Having spent more than a decade overseas in my professional career, you get a unique perspective of how other cultures live, and more importantly, what they really think of us Americans. Ask any military person who spent time overseas, and they’ll be happy to tell you how good we really have it.

We’ve had a tendency of late to feel our nation has lost its luster in the eyes of the international community. Aside from a few who have axes to grind or disappointed in our free-wheeling way of life, most are as positive of our country as they’ve ever been. They like America. They like our freewheeling cowboy ways, a place where anyone can be rich and famous, live your dream, speak your mind, and worship freely. The planet still has too many places where despots insist on dictating needs of the many.

Is it perfect? Oh, hell no. Right versus left, up versus down, enough to make your head spin. That’s what makes it great. People voicing opinions, standing up and saying what for. Democracy is chaotic, inclusive, confusing, open-minded, batty, and downright fantastic. Like all large families, it’s a potpourri of multi-generational next of kin that comes with large doses of squabbling and that crazy uncle we whisper about. And man, do we love to bicker.

Wouldn’t it be neat if all teens when they graduate high school were required to spend a year or so outside the borders? It can be the military, school internship, or service like the Peace Corps. Further away from the border, the better, get them out of that comfort zone of a familiar language and recognizable food. You may think it sounds radical, but they’ll gain a respect for different cultures, and I’ll bet when they repatriate home, they’ll be more patriotic than a general in the army.

What am I doing this fourth? Oh, the usual, check out the local parade, burn some meat over an open fire with a beer in my hand and grouse with friends about what’s wrong with whatever. Why?

Because I can.

I’ll also give thanks for the incredible luck of being part of the world’s greatest democracy … warts and all.

Lori Nix – My 8 X 10 Life

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Lori Nix - The Living Room

Lori Nix – The Living Room

I became a fan of photographer, Lori Nix, while researching the graphic to represent my website, Searching for Light in the Darkness.  Every author wants to find that perfect header graphic that best captures the brand.  No shortage of candidates for apocalyptic and dystopian settings, Lori had a unique presentation of forsaken places.  I settled on The Library, where a tree stretches to the broken roof of a derelict library in search of better light.

Lori Nix, is a self-described, non-traditional photographer who constructs her subjects (rather than look for them). Her lifelike photographs begin as dioramas—some as small as 50×60 centimeters—that she builds with her creative partner, Kathleen Gerber, who adds aging and deteriorating effects. “We have a great symbiotic relationship—I build them, and she helps destroy them,” Nix says. The scenes recall the 1970s disaster movies she grew up watching, images of crumbling buildings and abandoned subways, with nature overgrowing the built environment.

Lori working on set

Lori working on set

Her collection, The City, is an imagined city of our future, where something either natural or as the result of mankind, has emptied the city of its human inhabitants. The walls are deteriorating, the ceilings are falling in, the structures barely stand, yet Mother Nature is slowly taking them over. Insects, Flora, and fauna fill dilapidated spaces, reclaiming what was theirs before man’s encroachment.

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Romance on the High Seas

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Kovacevic - DepositPhotos.com

Kovacevic – DepositPhotos.com

Romance writers love to tell period tales of pirates, sailors, sea captains, and the women whose hearts are broken by them. Might have had something to do with why seafaring men of yesteryear considered the presence of women on ships to be bad luck.  Much has changed since then.  An entire industry evolved around getting folks on cruise ships to find or rekindle love’s illusive spark.

A recent weeklong cruise gave me an opportunity to observe romantic rituals of people sequestered on today’s modern SS Gluttonous Seas. Enthralled by the dichotomy of behaviors, I discovered love could still be a challenge for some, despite the best efforts of ship crew to conspire, coddle, and coerce folks to love the one you’re with. The following is a summary of my questionably unscientific study.

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Disassembling a Fairy Tale with Charles Kiernan

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Illustration by Heinrich Vogeler - Wikipedia

Illustration by Heinrich Vogeler – Wikipedia

When was the last time you read, or heard someone read, a real fairy tale? Did you know the Brothers Grimm printed over 200 stories, but most of us are aware of only a handful?  Centuries ago, fables were told by word of mouth, perpetuated by folks who couldn’t read, or couldn’t afford a printed version.  When the Brothers Grimm collected and published popular folklore in the nineteenth-century, it opened a completely new door to literary romanticism in Europe.

Fellow Aponte Literary author, Charles Kiernan, is one of those rare talents that can hold an audience captivated with his storytelling, no matter how many times you’ve heard the tale.  It isn’t just the words, it’s how it’s told. I had the privilege last month of listening to Charles dissect the elements of a traditional fairy tale. He was kind enough to share this knowledge on Searching for Light in the Darkness.

And yes, his resemblance to Mark Twain is uncannily accurate.

*****

Charles Kiernan Gesture

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Sign-otopia

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From: WarningLabelGenerator

From: WarningLabelGenerator

We have a global addiction to signs.  Somewhere in human development, common sense became … not so common … requiring we put warning labels on everything to protect ourselves from … ourselves.  We’ve become, in a sense, a signotopian society.

Journalists have an unending supply of stories where miscreants scream at the government for letting them be so reckless, followed later with an equal amount of disdain of government’s heavy handedness infringing on individual rights.  Don’t believe it?  Both sides of the argument have a team of lawyers who’d be glad to send you a brochure.  Where it’s led us is a profligacy of visual aids with words and stick figures.

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Bride of Frankenchicken

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From: amusingplanet.com

From: amusingplanet.com

Anybody out there think last year’s weather was normal?  Bounty hunters are still looking for Punxsutawney Phil.  Or is it Phyllis now?  Who can keep up with the changes anymore?  Harder still, I’m unsure what’s considered normal. What I do know, based on the regularity of Chicken Little teeth gnashing, much of the world is warming, and farmers have been encouraged to rethink industrial agriculture.

A recent article in a local paper by Evan Halper, described how food scientists are Hot on the Trail of New Food Sources better suited to endure the hazards of climate change.  You had me at “new food sources”.  I love it when geneticists and agrobiologists talk shop, especially over cocktails, and think of ways to further jigger the natural world.  It gives us writers of dystopian fiction new fodder in a currently overcrowded, literary genre.  I had a little fun on the subject last year with the idea of synthetic meat, How Do You Like Your Schmeat.  Never mind that we’ve have thrown in the towel on global warming, for a new arena of carnival freaks about to make their debut, I can’t wait for the ticket booth to open.

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