May 13th, 2009

Ann Vole

Ryan, Surfs Up, and Meerkat Manor: breaking the 5th wall

I just watched the film "Ryan" on DVD with all the extras including a film called "Alter Egos". Ryan Larkin is an animator who made a name for himself among animators with the Oscar-nominated short "Walking" among other ground-breaking animated film shorts while working at the NFB (National Film Board of Canada). Ryan now begs for change on the streets of Montreal. The animated film "Ryan" is sort of a docu-drama using real interview material with Ryan for the audio but the film is made with computer graphics animation. In "Ryan" the filmmaker and interviewer (Chris Landreth) show how damaged both the subject and interviewer are and the guilt the interviewer has for further damaging the subject by looking at the subject in a judgmental way (and that guilt further damaging the interviewer as well). The film "Alter Egos" is a documentary about the making of "Ryan" and how the making of that film affected both Ryan Larkin and Chris Landreth... and the director of "Alter Egos" too (Laurence Green). A central question in both films is "What is in it for [the subject]?". I find it very fascinating how much the interviewer/documentary-filmmaker is also the subject of the film. Breaking the fourth wall is where the characters in a film (or comic or book) know that the are in that film... the fourth wall is what we the audience are looking at them with. Behind that invisible wall is the film-makers (or comic artist or book writer) and behind them is the wall of their own personal life and thoughts. Turning the cameras around and looking in on the life of the creator is what I mean by breaking the fifth wall.

I am sure I mentioned the animated film "Surfs Up" and how it was done as a documentary but what I never really pointed out was the fact that they made the documentary film-makers who were supposed to be filming the characters in "Surfs Up" into characters themselves. You do not see them on screen but they talk with and interact with the subject characters and you see "Surfs Up" as kind of a documentary of the making of the documentary of the characters where the subject is really the filmmaker characters. The question sort of comes up in places "what is in it for the subject characters?" and maybe "what is in it for the film-makers?"

Meerkat Manor is a nature documentary based on the lives of a group of meerkats that are being researched. Part of the drama are cases where babies get lost and die of exposure or adult meerkats get injured and will likely die without medical attention. People are often critical of the seemingly callus way the film-makers allow these animals suffer and often to die while filming them. They emphasize at the beginning of every episode that the meerkats are the subject of this research so they cannot interfere no matter how much they love the animals and have full capability to help them... but that would interfere with the research. This is where the audience is asking "what's in it for the meerkats?" and the film-makers need to break the fifth wall and say "oh, our hearts were broken too by the death of that meerkat but remember that this is research."
Ann Vole

foods not needing refrigeration

Someone wrote: Ann, I'm interested in what foods you've found that don't require refrigeration.

There are two competing challenges here, no cooking and no refrigeration. I worked at a seed cleaning plant - they take farmer's crops and remove the weed seeds, dirt, straw, dead animals, machine parts, etc from the crop and often bag the grain to be shipped overseas. The cleaned grain is also sold to farmers for seed. While there, I acquired bags of dozens of types of grain and seeds to try my hand at cooking with them. I also got bags of other grains and seeds not grown in Canada like Mung beans (grow in trees) and different kinds of rice. I also tested mixtures of these grains and seeds to make food for the wide variety of pet rodent species I had as pets. The successful results for the rodents included increased lifespan, elimination of cancer cases, increased litter size, increased birth weight, and elimination of birth deaths mother-infanticide and runts. The problem is that humans do not have the right kind of teeth for eating raw seeds. Hedgehogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits were part of my non-rodent pets and making foods for them required a bit more processing to include seeds in their diets so concepts of sprouting, soaking, pickling and fermenting various grains, seeds and even vegetables made for some good foods (to go with the rodent meat and insects included with their balanced diets tailored to each species). I mention that because I too worked on the same food items for myself (and taste-tested everything for the animals so I could figure out stuff like rabbits like bitter taste and crunch, hedgehogs like foods to be slimy, etc). Now my big push is for eliminating the cooking aspect too so grains are less interesting due to the time and mess factors of sprouting (2-5 days), soaking (several hours), fermenting/pickling (a few weeks) compared to cooking (1/2 - 2 hours). Greenhouses are also on my interests due to how much more food can be raised in them (especially in the North where growing seasons are too short for many plants and those you can grow outdoors have only one season per year). Because of this, I am buying a lot of fresh vegetables to get used to eating them raw and storing them without refrigeration. Most crucifers (members of the cabbage/mustard family including broccolli) will do fine for several days at room temperature, especially if kept in a high humidity environment and protected from flies and other insects. Root vegetables will last months at room temperature if protected from light and again kept humid (and any damage to the skin will cause rot quicker so damaged ones eaten first). Most squash and melons will last quite awhile with the root vegetables: there is even one called winter squash because it lasts for months. Eggs and fermented milk products like cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream will do fine without refrigeration for a few days (especially if unopened) and for meat eaters, there are various sausages and jerky that require no refrigeration (and some are also made without high heat so could be said to be uncooked). Most fruit can also be kept at room temperature for a few days and those that cannot like berries can be quite enjoyable as dried fruits. Rice noodles can be prepared with hot water from a kettle or even cold water (takes longer) with almost identical taste as being boiled (the same is not true for wheat noodles like macaroni and spaghetti - these need to be kept close to boiling point for 7 minutes for a chemical change in the noodle). The basic idea is that if you have a year-round greenhouse, you can get fresh veggies anytime so refrigeration would be unnecessary (now to succeed in building two greenhouses for my two houses). Fermented foods include sauerkraut, tofu, some sort of grain mixture (forgot the name of it when fermented) and I fermented rice noodles using sauerkraut as a starter (same active bacteria) for noodles I could eat immediately at room temperature for weeks (so I did not need to get out the kettle and heat water). Pickles are self-explanatory but you may be surprised at how many foods can be pickled (including meat and eggs... even fruit like watermelon).
Ann Vole

1,200 Journal Entries - er - make that 1201

I just noticed my main page said I have made "1,200 Journal Entries"... I am assuming that is not a rounded off figure so this should be post number 1201 (I will see as soon as I post this). That seems a bit surprising at first but if you look at 4-5 years times 365 days times an average of about one per day (some days no posts some days several), that sounds about right (4 x 300 = 1200)