It seems to me that it is probably very important that food is not being overcooked!
This is mentioned in the post that I reblogged:
“. . . . FSA’s campaign against overcooked starchy foods is based on laboratory tests show that acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals. The carcinogenic nature of acrylamide in food was first discovered by a Swedish study in 2002. While the same has not been proven in human studies, scientists seem to agree that acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans.
Foods like roasted potatoes and root vegetables, chips, crisps, toast, cakes, biscuits, cereals and coffee naturally contain acrylamide. The aim of the campaign is not to shun these foods but to be careful about the way they are cooked.
If these starchy foods are heated for too long they turn from golden to brown and finally black. This intensifies the levels of acrylamide produced which can pose a health risk.
The campaign is trying to create an awareness about overcooked or burnt starchy foods and avoid eating overcooked potatoes or burnt toast. . . .”
A new study carried out by the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in the UK and published in the Scientific Reports Journal said:
Toothpastes and a few other food products contain an additive called titanium dioxide, which may cause cancer.
An additive is a substance used in products to improve or preserve it. Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide of titanium. It is commonly referred to as E171 on the ingredient list and is often used in products like toothpastes, biscuits, chewing gums and sunscreen.
Before I forget again, here is what Peter and I talked about this morning. Somewhere Peter had read that these days authorities may get suspicious if you leave the house without your mobile. It happened to a journalist in Germany who went out without his ‘handy’. He straight away became a suspect. What did he plan? Without carrying his phone, nobody could trace where he was going! So why did he leave his phone behind? What did he want to cover up?
My response was, what happens to people who do not own a phone? I for instance have no mobile, never had one. When I go out, who can trace my steps? Peter said, this was all right for I am a non-person, I do not count. Ah well, so this means, that nobody really knows whether I am alive or dead. The German government generously pays me a monthly pension. It is a very nice little addition to my Australian pension. How do they know, I am still alive? They do not know, do they? The same applies to Peter. This is why we are required to let them know once a year that we have not died yet. That means every year at the beginning of July Peter and I make an appearance at our Australian Centre Link Office. When they see us they believe that we are alive and certify our existence, The signed and stamped papers about our existence we then send off to the German Centre for pensions in Germany, and this safeguards the payment of our small German pension for another year. We do get this pension since we turned 65. My goodness, that is nearly 18 years for me, and over 17 years for Peter. It adds up. Quite a bit of money really. No wonder that every so often we can afford a trip to Germany. At the moment we are in a bit of a rut. So I suggested to Peter today, that we should look into it whether we could book another trip to Germany for sometime this year just before another cancer treatment is due for Peter. Meaning that maybe we should not wait until someone in our family wants to travel with us again. Maybe we should just take off on our own as soon as possible. How about it?
A Handmaid’s Tale isn’t science fiction, it’s a warning
This is what
says in THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
three days ago.
She speaks about that our rights are “not rigid but already unravelling. Especially for women.”
And then she shares with us a scene from the last episode:
“I will try not to spoil the plot suffice to say a character escapes Gilead and finds their way across the border into Canada. There, a process worker performs his routine duty and gives the refugee an ID card, a prepaid phone, clean clothes and a medical insurance card and, with it, a return of dignity and hope.”
And Wendy continues:
“Yep, it seems there is one element Margaret Atwood didn’t get right in her dystopian future and that is that refugees fleeing war, hatred, violence and oppression will be respected and welcomed by so-called free and progressive countries. OK, in Canada, maybe. But Australia under our present government? Not a chance. And that is truly terrifying.”
We meet the family again next month for a holiday at Sussex Inlet. We booked some accommodation for the weekend from the 18th to the 20th of August. We stayed for a weekend in August at this holiday place at Sussex Inlet just three years ago when I turned 80. We have known this holiday place since 1984, visiting there quite often with our children.
This is one of my blogs that I wrote about Sussex Inlet:
Dan Berger is an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. He is the author of several books including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, which won the 2015 James A. Rawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians. His latest book, coauthored with Toussaint Losier, is Rethinking the American Prison Movement. Follow him on Twitter @dnbrgr.
David Stein is a Lecturer in the Departments of History and African American Studies at University of California-Los Angeles. His first book, Fearing Inflation, Inflating Fears: The Civil Rights Struggle for Full Employment and the Rise of the Carceral State, 1929-1986, will be published by University of North Carolina Press. He co-hosts and produces Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast with Betsy Beasley. Follow him on Twitter @davidpstein.
Healthy landscapes and water systems
are the basis of our life.
They provide food, water, clean air, a stable climate, biodiversity, good health, security and happiness. However, one-fourth of the world’s land mass is seriously degraded from centuries of human activity.
Think: deforestation, overgrazing, overexploitation, the building of infrastructure and pollution. In economic terms, this incurs an estimated loss of more than USD 4.3 trillion per year. The good news is that this process can be reversed.
A few years ago we saw in a brochure that a house close to Goulburn Railway Station was for sale. It was also near a shopping centre, even an ALDI store was within easy reach. What more could we want if we planned to move to a more rural area?
We saw our dream come true, namely to sell our present dwelling, buy the new place and end up with something like fifty thousand Dollars saved in the bank! People told us, but Goulburn, this is a bit out of the way, isn’t it?
No, we said, not at all. There’s the Railway Station close by. We hop on the train and are in Sydney in no time. The pensioner excursion trip from Goulburn to Sydney would still cost us only two Dollars and fifty cents! We can even go from Goulburn to Newcastle for our two Dollars fifty!
But you cannot do such a long trip that often, was the objection. We were asked, how often we were then going to see our children. How often do we see them now? We asked back. We pointed out, that we more or less only saw them for birthdays and Christmas anyway. We could still see them on these occasions, when we lived in Goulburn.
So we were all set to make the move to Goulburn, when it suddenly dawned on us, that we could not possibly move to the new place without doing some renovations first. The new place would need some renovations to be done to it! Renovations? You are kidding! Who would want to do renovations at our age! If we paid someone to renovate for us, we’d probably end up with no money left in the bank.
This is the end of the story. We are not going to sell our home and we are not going to move to another place.
March 29, 2013
Yesterday I found this page. I think it was in draft. I was curious what it contained. After reading it, I thought, why not publish it? So here it is.
END OF STORY?
May be it is and may be it isn’t. Basically nothing much has changed since I wrote the above.
= = = = = = = = =
Today is the 17th of July 2017. I come back now to the above story that I published a few years ago in my ABOUT page. Well, over the past years we realized more and more that suitable properties in the Goulburn area would be a bit too dear for us and not worth all the troubles of moving. However, that idea that we could perhaps live in a country area somehow stuck with us. For a while our inquiries were set on Cootamundra, a town in New South Wales, also with a Railway Station on the Sydney to Melbourne line. Quite likable properties were significantly cheaper than comparable properties here a bit to the south of Sydney. We checked out quite a lot of properties on the internet. Once Peter and I even stayed in a hotel in the main street of Cootamundra. We did get a very good impression of that little town. People there seemed to be all very friendly towards strangers. We thought that this was a place that we could definitely like. We thought it was feasible for us to live there. But in the end it turned out we were really not determined enough to initiate some steps towards moving.
A few years have passed. Since both Peter and I are past eighty now, should we really stop thinking of moving to a different area? And a country area at that that we are not used to at all. So, we are in old age now. But we still love to travel, We also love to go for family visits. However, with each year we may find it a bit harder to do all this. For how long can we keep it up really, all this moving about?
We have just been on a visit to Benalla in Victoria, seeing our son Martin who recently moved to Benalla. This is a beautiful thriving little country town, also on the Sydney to Melbourne train line! Properties are less than half the price of the properties here in our area in the Illawarra! Of course, alone the likelihood of being able to purchase at a reasonable price a good property in Benalla , and that our son lives there now in his own house, made us think that maybe we could move there too.
Yes, we could, and we could not. Medical facilities, yes they are available. It would however be a question whether they would be the right kind of facilities for the treatments that Peter requires. We would have to find out. Also, we would need a lot of help with actually moving and sorting everything out. Of course, we could afford to pay for a professional removalist. Maybe we would have to get rid of some of our old furniture and things that we do not need any more. And then we could buy something new for the new place. Could we cope with all this? Is it worth it to undertake a move like this at our age? The more we doubt, the more years pass, and in the end we’ll really be toooo old for all this!
In the meantime we had another great-grandchild, a boy called Carter, He was born on the 21st of November 2016. He is the son of granddaughter Roxy and of Scott. Yesterday we had a family celebration at the Illawarra Yacht Club. Little Carter was there with his mum, grandparents, his cousins and lots of aunts. Carter is a very huge and very friendly baby. The family celebrations were for Lucas, who is going to be five tomorrow on Tuesday. Alexander, the younger brother of Lucas, as well as Lucas did like to play with their cousin Carter. It was lovely to see the three boys together.
I had a look at the two above blogs about EAT MOVE LIVE
These blogs I find very interesting. One blog tells me all about 10 veggies, the other blog introduces the two authors behind EAT MOVE LIVE.
Here is some of what it says in the second blog:
“It matters. Every bite that you choose has the power to nourish you and help you thrive. From choosing seasonal, fresh and local food, to learning how to prepare it and enjoy it – we believe in simple, real and time tested practices. We lean on the wisdom of our ancestors and our understanding of nutrition science to make the best decisions for our families and our students.”
“It matters. Our cellular health depends on the stimulation provided by movement. From modifying our work environment so we can be more dynamic during the day, to planning how we spend our free time, we find a way to make life truly active – without disrupting the rhythm of work and creativity, but blending our passion for productivity with the passion for health. Exercise can be a supplement on the days when we didn’t get to move enough, or as a part of specific goals, such as developing strength or endurance for a specific task.”
“This matters most of all. On some level, we all know what’s best for us. We know we need to eat better. We know we need to move more. Fitting health into our daily lives can be hard, but many of us make it harder than it has to be. Few people got unhealthy overnight. It took lots of tiny changes over many years to get where we are today. The good news is that things can get better the same way.”
In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wrote in longhand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter I’d rented.
The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: The Soviet empire was still strongly in place, and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. “This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared.” I heard such stories many times.
Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. “It can’t happen here” could not be depended on: Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.
By 1984, I’d been avoiding my novel for a year or two. It seemed to me a risky venture. I’d read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I’d never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonize, a veering into allegory and a lack of plausibility. If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.
Back in 1984, the main premise seemed — even to me — fairly outrageous. Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship? In the book, the Constitution and Congress are no longer: The Republic of Gilead is built on a foundation of the 17th-century Puritan roots that have always lain beneath the modern-day America we thought we knew.
The immediate location of the book is Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard University, now a leading liberal educational institution but once a Puritan theological seminary. The Secret Service of Gilead is located in the Widener Library, where I had spent many hours in the stacks, researching my New England ancestors as well as the Salem witchcraft trials. Would some people be affronted by the use of the Harvard wall as a display area for the bodies of the executed? (They were.)
In the novel the population is shrinking due to a toxic environment, and the ability to have viable babies is at a premium. (In today’s real world, studies are now showing a sharp fertility decline in Chinese men.) Under totalitarianisms — or indeed in any sharply hierarchical society — the ruling class monopolizes valuable things, so the elite of the regime arrange to have fertile females assigned to them as Handmaids. The biblical precedent is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaids. One man, four women, 12 sons — but the handmaids could not claim the sons. They belonged to the respective wives.
And so the tale unfolds.
When I first began “The Handmaid’s Tale” it was called “Offred,” the name of its central character. This name is composed of a man’s first name, “Fred,” and a prefix denoting “belonging to,” so it is like “de” in French or “von” in German, or like the suffix “son” in English last names like Williamson. Within this name is concealed another possibility: “offered,” denoting a religious offering or a victim offered for sacrifice.
Why do we never learn the real name of the central character, I have often been asked. Because, I reply, so many people throughout history have had their names changed, or have simply disappeared from view. Some have deduced that Offred’s real name is June, since, of all the names whispered among the Handmaids in the gymnasium/dormitory, “June” is the only one that never appears again. That was not my original thought but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish.
At some time during the writing, the novel’s name changed to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” partly in honor of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” but partly also in reference to fairy tales and folk tales: The story told by the central character partakes — for later or remote listeners — of the unbelievable, the fantastic, as do the stories told by those who have survived earth-shattering events.
Over the years, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has taken many forms. It has been translated into 40 or more languages. It was made into a film in 1990. It has been an opera, and it has also been a ballet. It is being turned into a graphic novel. And in April 2017 it will become an MGM/Hulu television series.
In this series I have a small cameo. The scene is the one in which the newly conscripted Handmaids are being brainwashed in a sort of Red Guard re-education facility known as the Red Center. They must learn to renounce their previous identities, to know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.
The Handmaids sit in a circle, with the Taser-equipped Aunts forcing them to join in what is now called (but was not, in 1984) the “slut-shaming” of one of their number, Jeanine, who is being made to recount how she was gang-raped as a teenager. Her fault, she led them on — that is the chant of the other Handmaids.
Although it was “only a television show” and these were actresses who would be giggling at coffee break, and I myself was “just pretending,” I found this scene horribly upsetting. It was way too much like way too much history. Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life.
Which brings me to three questions I am often asked.
First, is “The Handmaid’s Tale” a “feminist” novel? If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are “feminist.”
Why interesting and important? Because women are interesting and important in real life. They are not an afterthought of nature, they are not secondary players in human destiny, and every society has always known that. Without women capable of giving birth, human populations would die out. That is why the mass rape and murder of women, girls and children has long been a feature of genocidal wars, and of other campaigns meant to subdue and exploit a population. Kill their babies and replace their babies with yours, as cats do; make women have babies they can’t afford to raise, or babies you will then remove from them for your own purposes, steal babies — it’s been a widespread, age-old motif. The control of women and babies has been a feature of every repressive regime on the planet. Napoleon and his “cannon fodder,” slavery and its ever-renewed human merchandise — they both fit in here. Of those promoting enforced childbirth, it should be asked: Cui bono? Who profits by it? Sometimes this sector, sometimes that. Never no one.
The second question that comes up frequently: Is “The Handmaid’s Tale” antireligion? Again, it depends what you may mean by that. True, a group of authoritarian men seize control and attempt to restore an extreme version of the patriarchy, in which women (like 19th-century American slaves) are forbidden to read. Further, they can’t control money or have jobs outside the home, unlike some women in the Bible. The regime uses biblical symbols, as any authoritarian regime taking over America doubtless would: They wouldn’t be Communists or Muslims.
The modesty costumes worn by the women of Gilead are derived from Western religious iconography — the Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary; the Handmaids wear red, from the blood of parturition, but also from Mary Magdalene. Also, red is easier to see if you happen to be fleeing. The wives of men lower in the social scale are called Econowives, and wear stripes. I must confess that the face-hiding bonnets came not only from mid-Victorian costume and from nuns, but from the Old Dutch Cleanser package of the 1940s, which showed a woman with her face hidden, and which frightened me as a child. Many totalitarianisms have used clothing, both forbidden and enforced, to identify and control people — think of yellow stars and Roman purple — and many have ruled behind a religious front. It makes the creation of heretics that much easier.
In the book, the dominant “religion” is moving to seize doctrinal control, and religious denominations familiar to us are being annihilated. Just as the Bolsheviks destroyed the Mensheviks in order to eliminate political competition and Red Guard factions fought to the death against one another, the Catholics and the Baptists are being targeted and eliminated. The Quakers have gone underground, and are running an escape route to Canada, as — I suspect — they would. Offred herself has a private version of the Lord’s Prayer and refuses to believe that this regime has been mandated by a just and merciful God. In the real world today, some religious groups are leading movements for the protection of vulnerable groups, including women.
So the book is not “antireligion.” It is against the use of religion as a front for tyranny; which is a different thing altogether.
Is “The Handmaid’s Tale” a prediction? That is the third question I’m asked — increasingly, as forces within American society seize power and enact decrees that embody what they were saying they wanted to do, even back in 1984, when I was writing the novel. No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities. Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.
So many different strands fed into “The Handmaid’s Tale” — group executions, sumptuary laws, book burnings, the Lebensborn program of the SS and the child-stealing of the Argentine generals, the history of slavery, the history of American polygamy . . . the list is long.
But there’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness. Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: Every recorded story implies a future reader. Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal. So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Dallaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex.
There are two reading audiences for Offred’s account: the one at the end of the book, at an academic conference in the future, who are free to read but who are not always as empathetic as one might wish; and the individual reader of the book at any given time. That is the “real” reader, the Dear Reader for whom every writer writes. And many Dear Readers will become writers in their turn. That is how we writers all started: by reading. We heard the voice of a book speaking to us.
In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.
Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?
Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not.
Correction: March 26, 2017
An essay last Sunday about Margaret Atwood’s Novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” misspelled the surname of the Canadian general who was the commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide in that country who later wrote a book about the episode. He is Romeo Dallaire, not Daillaire.