El Caganer

The Stinky Twist of a
Catalan Nativity Scene

A quirky centuries-old tradition is an integral part of every nativity scene worth its hay in parts of Spain. Somewhere behind Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus himself, there’s the none-too-holy figure of a paesano, relieving himself with not a worry in this world.
The Caganer, a bare-botton icon that originated in Catalonia, is now a familiar sight this time of the year in Portugal and Italy too. And unlike other oh so pious Christmas symbols around the world, it never ceases to draw a little smile from tourists.
It’s no wonder. Most celebrities – not just Spaniards – have their own, and love it too. President Obama has it. The Pope? Sure. Queen of England? Definitely. And, we suspect, a certain vomit-yellow haired American lout may soon be getting one too.
Artists, politicians and footballers, they all have their own little squatting clay statues, sold in souvenir shops. And those who don’t, well, they may be wondering just why not, or whether there’s something terribly wrong with their agents, right Justin?
You better believe it. Even though, the Caganer may be a tad too anarchic for the sanitized tastes of contemporary culture. The social and political subtext that the figure came to evoke may be completely lost for mainstream artists and typical crowds of our times.
The Caganer also conveys fertility and good fortune, as insurance for plentiful produce crops for those who keep one at home. That could be the context connecting such a rich, secular tradition to the Christmas lore and its rural tale of a dispossessed boy born in a manger.
Its addition to a Middle-East religious representation is also a throwback to Spain’s Muslim past, but in the form of some kind of social, almost satirical commentary. And as such, the contrast (more)
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* St. Nick of Time
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Quantum Leak

Urine To Power Generators
May Also Create Brain Cells

News about bodily functions hardly excites us. More than a matter of taste, there’s not really much point into reducing our humanity to its mechanical underpinnings. Unless, of course, you’re part of the medical community. Or make crass jokes for a living. Or are in high school.
But amid the flood of depressing news, 2012 had at least two stories worth our urge to celebrate: one, about four African girls who developed a urine-powered electricity generator; the other, about research to reprogram cells found in urine into neurons to fight disease.
While the generator is ready and, depending on funding, may fulfill a huge huge gap in clean energy, the research is still in its initial, albeit promising, stages. Both, though, beat anything a teenager, or a comedian, or both, could possibly do with such lowly source of material.
The year had, naturally, its share of sophomoric stories about er… bladder discharges. Such as the boxer known for drinking his own ‘product,’ who scored a major victory on the ring, just a few weeks ago, and a publicity stunt in Brazil, for a urinal that sounds like an electric guitar when used.
For the record, we’re not uptight about it, if there’s a point about even mentioning urine. Two years ago, some bars in the U.K. had a game of ‘hit the spot‘ and watch it power an ultra-quick video game on the screen in front of the user. Those who enjoy spending time in the restroom, liked it.

By far, though, the most depressing news about it was Michael Phelps‘s confession (as if we needed to know) that most swimmers (that means, he for sure, and others he wouldn’t mention by name) have the habit of peeing in the pool before competition starts. So much for telling our kids how gross that is.
That’s right, the winner of a record 22 Olympic medals, is not nearly as accomplished as a public role model outside the water. His golden opportunity to remain silent was not just missed, but also enough to Continue reading

The Food Report

Oregano, Grapefruit, Edible
Wrappers & the End of Pasta

One of civilization’s most precise markings is what we eat and what we don’t. We’re not about to summarize that here, though. But some curious food news did catch our fancy, despite the barrage of sensorial and taste stimuli with which we stuff ourselves as the year closes shop.
We’re intrigued, for instance, with what they’re doing with oregano. Or how grapefruit-haters may have a point, after all. Or that some burger-lovers may eat the wrappers too. Plus a few snacks sprinkled here and there. Oh, and then there’s that bit about pasta.
Even amid the unappetizing news about the world, circa 2012, which, let’s face it, makes us all nauseated, there are some tasty scraps about food to make us feel hungry for more. A little bit of ingenuity may take us a long way, and heaven knows we’ll need to be way more creative from this century onwards.
What, haven’t you heard? It may have taken the world 2.5 million years to reach the seven billion people walking around, but the next billion may happen within less than 20 meager years. We don’t want to sound alarmist, but if you needed a reason for it all to end last week, that wouldn’t be an unreasonable one.
We’re exaggerating but just a bit. Even if the most of the current mix of technology and food has been scarier than the prospect of hordes of the famished roaming the streets, both are already here. The fact is, while this planet has no expiration date, its natural resources can be depleted to extinction.
By the way, do you know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? Although both are rich in potassium, magnesium and Continue reading