DYSKE Philosophy, Food, and Comedy

According to a video I watched, Lebanon's economy was falling apart even before the massive explosion, mainly because of...
08/14/2021

According to a video I watched, Lebanon's economy was falling apart even before the massive explosion, mainly because of political corruption where every religious sect tried to gain at the expense of the others. Many who can flee are fleeing the country, including doctors and nurses.

It seems that many nations who have trouble organizing themselves share this problem where lack of power or lawlessness is taken as an opportunity to gain at the expense of others. Apparently, this is happening now in South Africa also.

We speak of "diversity" as a virtue, but, in most cases, it leads to this type of situation; the diversity of values, beliefs, religions, and political views divide the country into multiple groups without mutual respect. In such a nation, empowering people will inevitably lead to corruption because they only care about their own groups. Democracy would not work. It would require a militant dictator to keep everyone in line.

Japan, on the other hand, is a highly homogenous society where looting or violence is rarely seen even after major natural disasters. There are no out-groups they can exploit, and the social consequences of exploiting their neighbors are severe. It's easy for them to organize themselves even without strong leadership. Lack of diversity has its disadvantages but, it's certainly advantageous for security and stability.

I believe diversity worked in the US because Americans needed each other in order to survive. Even beyond survival, living under the mature gaze of Europeans, Americans had to rely on one another to grow up fast and prove themselves. They had no choice but to set their differences aside and help each other.

But unfortunately, this is changing. The contempt and disrespect between liberals and conservatives, I'm afraid, have reached a point of no return. I'm not sure if it's repairable. Given any disaster that could cause a power vacuum, I could imagine people looting the businesses and homes of outgroups because they are only too happy to see them perish, and they are likely to blame each other for the disaster too.

I'm not sure if America is still capable of managing its diversity.

This is a picture of the cheesecake my daughter gave me for my last birthday. No, it's not after I took a big bite; this...
08/13/2021

This is a picture of the cheesecake my daughter gave me for my last birthday. No, it's not after I took a big bite; this is before I had any of it. Apparently, she also offered it to her friend who was visiting, and this is what was left of it for me. It's fine; as they say, it's the thought that counts.

But what exactly is the person we think about when we are shopping for a gift? He doesn't need to physically exist for us to think about him. When we ask who John is, a typical answer might consist of his job title and achievements, like how we might introduce him before he gets up on a podium. But that's not who we give a gift to or miss when we haven't seen him in a long time.

If John writes a user's manual for a kitchen gadget, we might not detect him at all in his words, but if he writes a poem, we would. Why is this?

Let's say that the blue circle represents what can be defined in words about him and the red blob represents who he actually is. The overlapping area leaves no trace in our memories, like trying to grasp a holographic image of him. A description like "John is a technical writer" is in that area, and so are his words in the user's manual.

What's left of the two overlapping shapes is the person we think about when we shop for his gift. What's left of the circle might be the part that annoys you about him, and what's left of the blob might be what you like about him. Whether you love him or hate him, that leftover shape is your John. He exists in your mind because he doesn't fit the circle perfectly.

Nobody can, but some people come close to it. We won't remember them because there is nothing for us to hold on to. We might remember the information shared in a user's manual, but we won't remember the author. Perhaps we would if the author's name on the cover was Jermajesty von Priestley, again, because such an unusual name wouldn't fit in the circle.

The part that doesn't fit will annoy some people and delight others. You cannot control it because everyone's experience of you will have a different blobby shape. If you try to control it, you will end up fitting in the circle perfectly. There will be nothing left of you for anyone.

Not just for food but also for art, we often talk about the importance of being authentic. What does it mean to be authe...
08/09/2021

Not just for food but also for art, we often talk about the importance of being authentic. What does it mean to be authentic, and why do we value it?

Recently, I wrote about how I don't care for fusion cuisines, but then I came across one I liked, literally a day after, which forced me to rethink. The reason I don't like fusion is that it's too often a gimmick. You could create a list of popular cuisines, compute all possible combinations, and pick one that hasn't been tried yet by anyone. In this way, creating something "new" is easy, and we humans are drawn to new things because novelty triggers dopamine production in our brains. But nothing can remain "new" forever (it's impossible by definition), which means a restaurant could not remain popular solely based on the novelty factor. As it becomes "old," the experience would stop producing dopamine.

One way to sustain the audience's interest is through authenticity. It resonates within us because there is a soul we can connect with, like a realistic character in a movie, and this relationship is long-lasting, not dependent on fast-fading dopamine.

If the combination of two cuisines was selected by marketing research, there would be no human soul behind it. Even if you try to fake authenticity, it's hard to sustain it, just as you cannot sustain a lie forever. The easiest way to be truthful is to be yourself.

We crave authenticity because today's world is full of inauthenticity. Everyone is scared of revealing what they really think or feel because today's technology makes finding a needle in a haystack easy. You worry that college admissions officers or your future employers might see what you reveal, even if you said it only once. Better safe than sorry, you figure.

When everyone is behind a protecting shield, you appreciate anyone who isn't because you can make a real human connection; thanks to her courage, you don't have to risk anything.

To be a good writer, you write what you know for the audience you know. Likewise, to be an authentic cook, you drop any pretense or cleverness and cook for the people you care about, not what's going to sell or who is going to pay more.

This particular painting caught my eye at the Met. Unlike most still-life paintings of the era, it felt more down-to-ear...
08/01/2021

This particular painting caught my eye at the Met. Unlike most still-life paintings of the era, it felt more down-to-earth, an everyday scene, like someone's real lunch, original food blogging.

I generally don't like museums, and I rarely visit them because the idea of "elevating" art bothers me. Since I studied fine arts, I'm familiar with how the vast majority of artists get started. Very few of them come from wealthy families. The environments in which artworks are typically presented, like in museums, galleries, and corporate lobbies, are entirely foreign to most artists, especially when they produced their seminal work.

Even for food, when people talk about "elevating," it typically means, "Let's throw a lot of money at it," but what relevance does the substance of art have to money?

The problem with "elevating" art in this way is that it attracts the wrong audience. Billionaire executives and financiers who would not have touched the same artists with a ten-foot pole when they were still poor and unknown suddenly are flocking to them in hopes that some of their prestige can rub off on them.

Even tourists who know nothing about art are attracted to museums in order to feel cultured and sophisticated. On social media, posting selfies with sophisticated artworks in the background does rub some of that prestige off on them.

Not just people but corporations too want some of that prestige, and they wait in line to donate money and sponsor exhibits in order to enhance their brands.

Throwing money at artworks doesn't actually elevate anything; if anything, it cheapens it. The physical environment might be elevated, but the social environment is downgraded as a result. Printing Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass on gold leaves wouldn't change the substance of his work, but it would certainly draw the attention of thieves.

If these prestigious institutions of art didn't exist, artists would be better off, as the audience would then have to make a real effort to find art that they truly love, not for any dubious ulterior motives.

What is "q***r food"? An intriguing question posed by @carloscuisine in the podcast hosted by the gastronomy department ...
07/31/2021

What is "q***r food"? An intriguing question posed by @carloscuisine in the podcast hosted by the gastronomy department of Boston University. At first glance, food and q***rness seem unrelated, but Carlos makes a compelling argument. In his view, an essential aspect of being q***r is defiance of social conventions for the sake of being yourself. For that, food need not be sexual to be q***r.

The reason sexuality and food seem unrelated, I believe, is that, for most of us, their associations are repressed in our psyche. The very first thing we eat is our mothers' breasts which is an organ for both feeding and sexual pleasure. This idea feels so uncomfortable that we repress it. That is, we actively work to dissociate food from sexuality, but the words like "eat," "devour," "thirst," and "hunger" are commonly used to describe sexual behavior and feelings.

We have an uneasy relationship with the idea of pleasure partly because there is always a possibility of losing control, where we end up doing something that we cannot rationalize. In this sense, our eating and sexual behaviors are governed not by what is conventional but by what is normal.

Conventions are easier to break than normativity. For instance, there are no grave consequences for wearing a USB cable around your neck instead of a tie to break a social convention. In contrast, if you told someone that you like to ma******te with a USB cable, he might not speak to you again.

When it comes to pleasure, we conform to the norm not because it makes sense but because nothing we do for pleasure makes sense in the first place. We are scared of not making sense, so we need a way to rationalize our behavior, and that's why we cling to the idea of "normal."

From this point of view, "q***r food" would be an eating experience that makes us uneasy, makes us want to deny or repress our enjoyment of it, makes us want to return to the norm so that we can explain away our behavior. It can't simply be something that breaks social conventions. It needs to give us a q***r feeling. It's not about being different but about feeling unsettled or destabilized.

I think there are many possibilities in this area.

What is "q***r food"? An intriguing question posed by @carloscuisine in the podcast hosted by the gastronomy department of Boston University. At first glance, food and q***rness seem unrelated, but Carlos makes a compelling argument. In his view, an essential aspect of being q***r is defiance of social conventions for the sake of being yourself. For that, food need not be sexual to be q***r.

The reason sexuality and food seem unrelated, I believe, is that, for most of us, their associations are repressed in our psyche. The very first thing we eat is our mothers' breasts which is an organ for both feeding and sexual pleasure. This idea feels so uncomfortable that we repress it. That is, we actively work to dissociate food from sexuality, but the words like "eat," "devour," "thirst," and "hunger" are commonly used to describe sexual behavior and feelings.

We have an uneasy relationship with the idea of pleasure partly because there is always a possibility of losing control, where we end up doing something that we cannot rationalize. In this sense, our eating and sexual behaviors are governed not by what is conventional but by what is normal.

Conventions are easier to break than normativity. For instance, there are no grave consequences for wearing a USB cable around your neck instead of a tie to break a social convention. In contrast, if you told someone that you like to ma******te with a USB cable, he might not speak to you again.

When it comes to pleasure, we conform to the norm not because it makes sense but because nothing we do for pleasure makes sense in the first place. We are scared of not making sense, so we need a way to rationalize our behavior, and that's why we cling to the idea of "normal."

From this point of view, "q***r food" would be an eating experience that makes us uneasy, makes us want to deny or repress our enjoyment of it, makes us want to return to the norm so that we can explain away our behavior. It can't simply be something that breaks social conventions. It needs to give us a q***r feeling. It's not about being different but about feeling unsettled or destabilized.

I think there are many possibilities in this area.

Burdock root is hard to find in the US, so when I saw it at the green market in Union Square Park, I had to get some. It...
07/30/2021

Burdock root is hard to find in the US, so when I saw it at the green market in Union Square Park, I had to get some. It's a common ingredient in Japan. Because it's bitter, the recipes usually call for a lot of sugar. It tastes great with white rice.

My mom once told me a story about burdock root. I'm not sure how much of it is true, but it goes something like this.

During World War II, this Japanese lady felt sorry for the starving American soldiers in a prison camp. She secretly donated burdock root through the camp barrier, even though the food shortage was severe even for the Japanese at the time. After Japan surrendered, this lady was punished for feeding the soldiers burdock root; that is, it was interpreted as a cruel joke.

The story made an impression on me because I've always been terrified of misunderstandings of this nature.

Fear, like fear of snakes, comes and goes. As long as the snake is no longer there in front of you, you wouldn't suffer from fear. In contrast, there is no way to escape anxiety, especially social anxiety, completely. Nagging questions can torment you for hours or even days after the event that triggered the anxiety. "Did I say something to offend her?" "Was I wrong to say that?" "What did he hear about me?"

If you cannot come up with reasonable answers (in most cases, you can't), you consult your friends. You try to get them to side with you, affirm that you did nothing wrong.

In my experience, talking provides only temporary relief. It's just rationalization; in reality, you'd never know the truth. I find that not talking about my anxiety works better. If the problem is solvable, or the question is answerable, consulting others is helpful, but otherwise, simply staring at the anxious feeling without words has better outcomes. After all, rationalization is a lie or distortion. One lie leads to another, and eventually, anxiety transforms into something much more complex. Untangling yourself from it becomes more challenging.

I imagine the Japanese lady shedding some tears upon learning about the misunderstanding but moving on with her life saying, "Hey, what can I do?" Life is bitter-sweet like burdock root.

Burdock root is hard to find in the US, so when I saw it at the green market in Union Square Park, I had to get some. It's a common ingredient in Japan. Because it's bitter, the recipes usually call for a lot of sugar. It tastes great with white rice.

My mom once told me a story about burdock root. I'm not sure how much of it is true, but it goes something like this.

During World War II, this Japanese lady felt sorry for the starving American soldiers in a prison camp. She secretly donated burdock root through the camp barrier, even though the food shortage was severe even for the Japanese at the time. After Japan surrendered, this lady was punished for feeding the soldiers burdock root; that is, it was interpreted as a cruel joke.

The story made an impression on me because I've always been terrified of misunderstandings of this nature.

Fear, like fear of snakes, comes and goes. As long as the snake is no longer there in front of you, you wouldn't suffer from fear. In contrast, there is no way to escape anxiety, especially social anxiety, completely. Nagging questions can torment you for hours or even days after the event that triggered the anxiety. "Did I say something to offend her?" "Was I wrong to say that?" "What did he hear about me?"

If you cannot come up with reasonable answers (in most cases, you can't), you consult your friends. You try to get them to side with you, affirm that you did nothing wrong.

In my experience, talking provides only temporary relief. It's just rationalization; in reality, you'd never know the truth. I find that not talking about my anxiety works better. If the problem is solvable, or the question is answerable, consulting others is helpful, but otherwise, simply staring at the anxious feeling without words has better outcomes. After all, rationalization is a lie or distortion. One lie leads to another, and eventually, anxiety transforms into something much more complex. Untangling yourself from it becomes more challenging.

I imagine the Japanese lady shedding some tears upon learning about the misunderstanding but moving on with her life saying, "Hey, what can I do?" Life is bitter-sweet like burdock root.

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I am black. I took the SHSAT, passed it and attended and graduated from Stuyvesant HS with honors. My wife was accepted to Bronx Science (another great specialized high school). We did not take any test prep classes. We didn’t have to because our entire academic careers reflected the educational values of our West Indian immigrant parents who made education more important than anything else except for God himself. It is no secret: immigrant groups are driven to succeed, and they pass this insatiable appetite for academic success and excellence unto their children. When other families adopt this value—when they make hard work and indefatigable diligence normative for their children, then we will not have to create shortcuts and quotas, for excellence comes from within. So let’s stop blaming the Asian families who sacrifice nearly everything to get their children the education they value the most. If a culture has found the secret to success academically, why don’t we simply emulate them instead of seeking to immolate them?