What I Learned in March

The Great Salt Lake, Utah

This month, I got more adventurous in the kitchen. I cooked Grain-free banana pancakes, lasagna, and chicken fajitas, while my brother cooked turkey meat loaf (all delicious!) from The Paleo Cookbook: 300 Delicious Paleo Diet Recipes.

I learned a little about North American geology, human health and evolution, and what it means to live a happy life (hint: what you spend your time concentrating on is of paramount importance).

I took an exhausting but glorious hike up the Manitou Springs incline.

The most interesting article I read online was called ‘In Search of Japanese Roots‘ about the confusion of native Japanese heritage, and their ongoing enmity with the Koreans. Japan is so isolated, being about 100 miles from mainland China, but among other curiosities are that it has the first recorded instance of man-made pottery—made especially strange by the intuitive bias that ancient innovations began on mainland territories then filtered out to islands. Also of interest in this article are the Korean nose tombs (it is what it sounds like) and the unclear origins of the Ainu. For more information, check out the Association for Asian Research.

From Netflix

(I watched entirely too much TV. No regrets.)

The third season of House of Cards was thrilling as usual. I’ll keep mum on the spoilers and leave it at that. Black Mirror blew my mind, especially ‘The Entire History of You‘, which Wikipedia says Robert Downey Jr. has optioned to make a film of. If he can do better, good luck, but he’s probably just high again.

American Experience: JFK revealed the 35th president to me in ways I’d never before known him. I had heard about Kennedy’s shameless philandering but didn’t know about his serious health problems. This guy was on a crippling amount of narcotics throughout his presidency. I didn’t realize how underdeveloped his presidency was. He made a ton of mistakes. He made a lot of fumbles with diplomatic relations with Cuba and Soviet Russia. He set the Vietnam War down the ruinous path it ultimately took. He trusted brains over experience. But he prevented the outbreak of nuclear war, which was scary close to happening. And if several of his advisers had had their way, the Cuban Missile Crisis would’ve gone much differently. In school, I learned that his cabinet was a textbook example of groupthink. It certainly was, but if it had been mindless and without conscious a nuclear bomb certainly would’ve gone off.

Vietnam in HD showed me combats footage and interviews with the men who served in the Vietnam War. This documentary isn’t very good, it’s full of clumsy celebrity narration that was only put in there for the sake of attaching famous people to the project. But it does have some insane war footage, and I cringe to think that my own father could’ve been sent there. I didn’t realize that for a time the draft didn’t exempt college students. If anything, this documentary is important only because it shows how fallible those in power are and that something equally terrible can still happen.

Prohibition by Ken Burns held similar lessons. That even when your intentions are pure, the outcome of your actions are entirely unpredictable and can even lead to moral catastrophe. Even at a superficial level, the parallels between the problems of prohibition and the War on Drugs have been uncanny. I’d known that prohibition had happened but only peripherally—I didn’t appreciate that it was an amendment to the Constitution! The law itself lasted 13 years, 10 months, and 18 days. As one confident teetotaler said, “There’s as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a humming bird to fly to Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

Among other things, I found out about Carrie Nation, the bitter old woman who went around trashing saloons; that during World War I sauerkraut was rechristened liberty cabbage as part of the anti-German propaganda campaign, the rise and tragic fall of George Remus, and more.

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