TL;DR Book Report – Salt, Sugar, Fat

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

This book isn’t too long to read. You should read it. It’s that good and that helpful. But just in case you don’t, here’s the TL;DR:

  1. Processed food is bad for you.
  2. Like, really, really, bad for you.
  3. Processed food companies are evil.
  4. Like, really, really, evil. They are run by Big Tobacco and Wall Street and are pretty much the justification for every rant you’ve ever heard about “the corporations, man.” They know that they are manufacturing addictive poison and pushing it on people least able to resist their very sophisticated marketing efforts, but they don’t care because this is what makes them rich.
  5. The people who make processed food know how nasty it is. That’s why none of the people interviewed in the book eat the very products they manufacture and push on the public.
  6. Food scientists know how to hack our brains and get us addicted to ever increasing quantities of salt, sugar, and fat. This is why Americans are so sick and obese.
  7. Lots of the people who work at processed food companies aren’t evil, and have tried to change things, but they can’t.
  8. Don’t eat processed food. Ever. Just don’t.
  9. Read this book if you want to be able to outsmart the marketers trying to get you to buy non-food.

Frozen

I recently read that the Disney megahit “Frozen” will be getting a sequel. This isn’t terribly surprising, given the glut of snowflake-encrusted tchotchkes in every store in the country right now. I didn’t see Frozen when it was out in theaters because I’m not a nine-year-old and the only entertainment my kid requires at this stage involves technology at the level of cat toys.

I finally did check it out a few weeks ago. Visually, the filmmakers knocked it out of the park. Musically, not so much. There’s that one really catchy song that nobody can remember the lyrics to except the words “let it go”, but the soundtrack overall is pretty forgettable. Whoever wrote the score started out like “OMG I LOVE FOLK MUSIC LET’S DO FOLK MUSIC” and then after two songs went “JK LET’S JUST STICK TO BROADWAY SHOWTUNES LOL.” There was one good joke (a “size doesn’t matter” line meant to go over the kids’ heads), but the story is a jumbled mess that was clearly the product of at least a dozen rewrites by as many screenwriters. So since Disney hasn’t worked out a plot yet for Frozen 2, I’d like to offer some humble suggestions about where they went wrong with the first one so they can avoid making the same mistakes twice.

Tip 1: Lose the Lousy Parenting

Just a few minutes in to the movie, I already had concerns about the judgment of Mr. King and Mrs. Queen. Why are two small children able to get out of bed and wander around a giant castle in the middle of the night with so much ease? This is entry-level parenting, people. I would imagine that the king and queen could afford a baby monitor or a nanny to help enforce bedtime. Worse comes to worst, they have soldiers. You know how many times an armor-clad goon carrying a halberd would have to tell a five year old to get back in bed? Once. Boom. Fixed that for ya.

Poor supervision is just the tip of the iceberg, though. What kind of father locks his special needs daughter in a dark room for fifteen years? I hate to break it to you, but after decades of isolation and zero human contact, Elsa would not be up to the task of governing anything. Anna wouldn’t be much better off, having also been kept cut off from the human race, which would not have helped her rehabilitate from her brain damage. I was pretty annoyed that there was one kid with anxiety and deadly superpowers and there was another kid with ADHD and nobody was helping them out.

Seriously, the best thing that ever happened to Elsa and Anna was their dad’s ship going down to Davy Jones’ Locker. Their parents sucked at their jobs, which is all the more inexcusable given that they literally had an entire nation of people and their beck and call to help them out.

Tip 2: The characters should know each other well enough to have relationships

Elsa and Anna are shown as pretty normal kids, but they separate very early in life and don’t have any kind of relationship until they are reunited as young adults. I mean, how much do you care about the kid you sat next to in grade school and haven’t seen since? They aren’t functionally sisters without any kind of relationship to draw on. Sure, Elsa gives solid advice when she tells Anna it’s a terrible idea to marry some dude you just met, but that’s a pretty low bar for personal advice.

Anna is even worse. After Elsa decides to bail on being queen to live in her fortress of icy solitude, Anna decides to go after her. Not only does she just not understand introverts (“nobody wants to be alone”), Anna just doesn’t grok her sister. Sorry, kid, but Elsa just belted out an Oscar-winning power ballad about how awesome it is to not be queen and live all alone in the woods. She even throws in a sexy diva wiggle walk to show how much she means it, and when you don’t listen to her Elsa throws in an abominable snowman bouncer for good measure. Do not disturb, Anna.

I can’t care about a relationship between two people who don’t know or understand one another. If they’re going to make another one of these movies they can keep all the staff that did the physics effects on snow, but they need to fire the writers.

Tip 3: If you make a movie about the only person in the world with superpowers, those superpowers need to be explained.

Elsa just has extraordinary powers that people fear or misunderstand. She’s a character straight out of X-men, yet nobody in Arendelle seems the least bit interested in how Elsa got her powers or where they came from. You could do an entire movie on this issue alone, and it was completely ignored in the first flick.

Tip 4: Try an original plot

Let’s see, what other show involves a story of two young women who learn to care deeply for one another despite their differences and stars Idina Menzel as a misunderstood antisocial weirdo with magical powers, an irritatingly bubbly sidekick, a castle on the edge of civilization, and a chart-topping pop song about how great it is to be all alone?

wickedfrozen

Look, if you’re going to be so brazen as to rip off the plot of Wicked, at least don’t hire the exact same actress in the lead role. Oh, well. At least Idina got to be pretty this time.

Tip 5: Arendelle deserves better

I realize that this is a remote, non-diverse society (I think I spotted one light brown person in the ballroom scene), but the people of Arendelle deserve better government. The film starts out with the world’s worst parents heading a hereditary monarchy that is passed down to a paranoid shut-in who immediately abdicates because can’t stand the pressure. Society’s response to this should not be (a) try to get the unfit queen to come back or (b) put the unfit queen’s kid sister in charge or (c) put the unfit queen’s kid sister’s new boyfriend from out of town in charge.

Three years pass between the death of Elsa’s parents and her coronation. Isn’t there like, a parliament or at least a privy council or something? Where is the civilian oversight? Who is running this country?

The sequel should feature the oppressed proletariat storming the shuttered castle and demanding immediate free elections. I’ve even got a guy in mind to head the government: Kristoff.

That’s right, Kristoff. I mean, sure, he’s schizophrenic and is a little too close with his moose, but he’s a small business owner, seems to have plenty of common sense, and it’s hard to blame him for being a complete pushover when helping that idiot Anna because let’s face it; he thinks she’s hot. At any rate, he seems to have a much better grip on the economy and society than two girls who never leave the castle.

So there ya go Disney. Whatever story you had in mind, let it go, because Frozen 2 needs to have some serious dialectic on the need for fully participatory representative democracies.

A Sad Realization

Everyone on the Internet has been losing their mind over the new Star Wars trailer. I had a sad realization when I saw it.

Star Wars is dead to me.

I was so into Star Wars as a kid. The greatest jealousy I ever felt was when my cousin Justin got the Ewok Village playset and I started to feel very sorry indeed that all I had was a She-Ra Crystal Castle. You can’t even roast action figures on a spit in the Crystal Castle. I was Princess Leia for Halloween when I was two, and “Scruffy Nerf Herder” was the worst insult I could give someone until I was old enough to learn really rude words.

At least until I was a young adult I was able to enjoy the golden days of Star Wars, when it was just the original movies and simple toys that you could enjoy over and over. I sensed a disturbance in the force when the originals were re-released with a bunch of new digital effects crammed in. Still, I hoped for the best. Like so many others, I eagerly lined up on opening night when Episode 1 came out, and then, like so many others, walked out thinking “Meesa wanna die rather than see that again.” Midichlorians? What? Really? Also, any planet that elects a fourteen-year-old girl to rule them deserves to be invaded by bug-eyed aliens. Seriously.

I didn’t even see Episodes 2 or 3 until long after they were out on DVD. When I saw Yoda dancing around like a ninja hobbit with a glow stick I knew that it was over between me and Lucasfilm. What had happened to my beloved franchise? A fun, action-packed space adventure had turned into long, rambling exposition about politics and trade deals, peppered with oh-so-family friendly scenes depicting the murder of children and choking to death of pregnant women. The only good part of the third prequel was when Anakin had three of his limbs chopped off and his face caught fire, because that’s what I felt needed to happen to these films. Lucas had deliberately waited to make his films until technology was where he wanted it, a supremely lazy and uncreative position for a filmmaker to take. The result was a violent yet somehow boring mess that was unworthy of the modern myths we were given back in 1977.

The prequels also revealed something awful to me; there aren’t three original Star Wars films; there are only two and a half. Return of the Jedi really was the beginning of the end. It wrapped up too neat; too pretty. Someone should have died to show that there was a real price to freedom. It probably should have been Han, and it would have made the last episode glorious.

So yeah, I just can’t care anymore. I’ve been burned too much so I won’t go back for more. I’ll admit, when I was watching the teaser I felt a flicker of interest when I saw a shot of three X-wings coasting over the rippling surface of water, but no more than that. You are dead to me, Star Wars. We’ll always have Empire, but alas we have no future together any more.

Finnish Sun Square

My friend found a nice square motif that she wanted to crochet, but there was one catch; the pattern was in Finnish. Translating patterns is a tricky thing because automated translating programs don’t usually know how to handle figures of speech. It was a fun challenge figuring out this pretty little pattern, which was inspired by the sunset. I got to learn some fun things, like for example that a double crochet (treble crochet in UK terminology) has the metaphorical name “column” in Finnish, but other terms like ketjusilmukka (chain stitch) translate literally.

I wanted to share the US-English translation here. Just to be clear, this is not a design by me. Full credit goes to Oma Koppa. Be sure to say “kiitos” at the original post if you use this pattern. If you are in Britain or another country that uses British crochet terms let me know and I’ll do a GB-English version for you.

Materials:
I used Vanna’s Choice worsted weight yarn and a size I hook, but this motif could be worked just as well in a variety of yarn weights. It might look very pretty worked in a sportweight yarn, with many motifs stitched together to form a lightweight blanket or cardigan.

Round 1
Ch 7. Close loop with a slip stitch. There are 7 ch in the round.

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Round 2
Ch 2 to count as first dc in next round. Repeat 11 times: [Ch1, 1 dc in loop]. Ch1 and close loop with a slip stitch. There are 12 dc in the round, each separated with a ch.

finnish2

Round 3
Ch 2 to count as first dc in next round. Put 2 dc in next ch-1 space. Repeat 11 times: [I dc in next st, 2 dc in next ch-1 space]. Close with a slip stitch. There are 36 dc in the round.

finnish3

Round 4
Ch 3 to count as first trc in next round. Work one trc in next stitch, but do not close the last two loops of the stitch yet. Work one trc in the SAME stitch, but do not close the last two loops of the stitch. Work one trc in the next stitch, and close all four stitches together at once. Chain 4. Repeat 11 times: [Work 1 trc in next stitch, but do not close the last two loops of the stitch. Work 2 trc in the next stitch, but do not close the last two loops of each stitch. Work 1 trc in the next stitch, then close all four stitches together at once. Chain 4]. Close the round with a slip stitch. There are 12 “petals” made up of 4 trc closed together at the top, each separated by a ch-4 space.

finnish4

Round 5
Ch 5. Single crochet into the point of the next petal tip. Ch 5 and sc again in the point of the same petal, forming a loop. Repeat 3 times: [Ch 5, sc in the tip of the next petal. Ch 5, sc in the tip of the next petal. Ch 5, slip stitch in the tip of the next petal. Ch 5 and slip stitch in the tip of the same petal, forming a loop.] Ch 5, sc in the tip of the next petal. Ch 5, sc in the tip of the next petal. The shape should now be more square with loops at each corner and three arches running along each side.

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Round 6
You need to start this round with a sc in the middle of an arch. You are currently attached between two arches. You have two choices:
(A) Cut yarn, finish off, and reattach in the center of the next arch. Drawback: every cut is a point of weakness in the finished piece.
(B) Work a few slip stitches into the arch until you get to the middle of it. Drawback: adds bulk to half of the one arch and can look asymmetrical if too noticeable.
Sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and sc in the center of the next corner loop. Ch 5 and sc in the SAME loop. Repeat three times: [Ch 5 and sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and sc in the tip of the next petal. Ch 5 and sc in the tip of the SAME petal.] Ch 5 and sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and sc around the center of the next arch. Ch 5 and close the round with a slip stitch in the sc that started the first arch.

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Round 7
Ch 2 to count as the first dc of the round. Work 1 dc, ch1, 2dc next arch. Ch1 and work 2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc in next corner loop. Repeat three times: [In each of next four arches work the following: (ch 1, 2 dc, ch 1 2dc). In the corner loop work (ch 1, 2 dc, ch 3, 2dc). In each of next three arches work (ch 1, 2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc). Ch 1 and close round with a slip stitch in the first dc of the round. Cut yarn and work in loose ends.

finnish7

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls

Thomas Moore wrote a lot of beautiful poems, but “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls” has always been one of my favorites. I arranged this version for a weekly Irish music session I hosted that we called “Shenanigans” for lack of a better description. We were lucky enough to have two fiddlers, which allowed me to have some real fun with the string parts. The Fiddle I part includes the lyrics and chords if a singer or guitarist wanted to use them, and either fiddle part could be easily adapted by a tin whistle or accordion player.

This poem references the historical site of Tara in central Ireland, which was the ritual seat of the Ard Rí (High King) in the days when Ireland was self-governed in a loose and messy confederation of tribes. The poem uses the image of a harp as a political symbol of an independent and thriving Ireland, something that wouldn’t happen until a good two centuries after Moore’s time.

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls
by Thomas Moore

The harp that once through Tara’s halls
The soul of music shed
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls
As if that soul were fled.
So sleeps the pride of former days
So glory’s thrill is o’er
And hearts that once beat high for praise
Now feel that pulse no more.
No more to chiefs and ladies bright
The harp of Tara swells
The chord alone that breaks at night
Its tale of ruin tells.
Thus Freedom now so seldom wakes
The only throb she gives
Is when some heart indignant breaks
To show that still she lives.

Free Sheet Music and MP3 Downloads

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls – Score

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls – Fiddle 1

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls – Fiddle 2

The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls – Practice MP3

This arrangement is copyright 2014 by Stella Quinn. The sheet music provided here may not be used for commercial purposes without my written permission.