So I might as well share some of the gems. The internet is full of instant gratification, but this year I'm starting to find myself drawn to full-length, properly though out essays much more than in the past, and the fact they're online rather than in foreign newspapers I wouldn't otherwise read is just a matter of convenience.
Michael Pollan's NYT essay Unhappy meals was getting mocked a bit when it came out. People pounced on the comment about not eating what your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, which out of context is a ludicrous remark. But actually now I've read the whole essay it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it may well be important that food is food, not a formula of a certain number of calories plus a certain set of chemicals that we define as "nutrients" or "vitamins".
There simply isn't a short-cut to eating healthily, you just have to eat healthily. However, even if you can get away from the mindset of looking for a magic supplement to add or a demon ingredient to avoid, it's easy to get carried away with the idea of eating "healthily". The attitude to health I discussed in my Health and Virtue post last year is totally pernicious, and it's something that really frequently comes up when the issue at hand is food and diet. (Also, eating healthily has a reasonable chance of making you healthier, but there's no guarantee at all it will make you thinner. There is essentially no reliable way of losing weight long-term through dieting.) The worst extreme of making a moral issue out of healthy eating (whether that's environmentally healthy or healthy for you or both) has been defined as orthorexia, a mental unbalance which I think is rather prevalent in our society.
There's also the issue that eating well is more effort than eating badly; in some cases, it's the healthier eater who is making the extra effort, and that's fine. But that's not always so, and very often the extra work falls to the poorest sectors of society, and disproportionately on women. Chris Clarke's essay on unpaid labour is well worth reading. It's wide-ranging, not only discussing food, but it does underline the point that it is very well worth questioning where the extra labour is coming from in preparing real food from fresh, locally grown, organic ingredients. (Yes, it is often possible to spend extra money instead of extra work, but that just means that someone else unseen is doing the extra work instead of you. And sometimes they're getting the extra money in return, but sometimes they're not. It's good to be aware of these things.)
On a completely different matter, try Charlie Stross' essay on a future without privacy. His premise is interesting one and he's a persuasive writer, though I think he's over-estimating the technology and under-estimating the complexity of human society. Myself, I'm leaning more and more towards the view that rather than trying to keep my various online identities separate and private (ultimately a futile task), I should just make everything open and take care never to post anything that I could be ashamed or embarrassed about. One point of Stross' that is applicable to our current technology, let alone his projected future, is that you can't protect your own privacy online because you don't have control over the people who interact with you and what they publish.
Talking of embarrassing myself, there's a virtual orgy going on in a dark corner of LJ. Yes, I am somewhere under that huge pile of bodies; I'm still weighing the question of whether I should make a top-level comment and ask for people's fantasies about me. It's naive in the extreme to walk into an orgy and be shocked, but I am a little disturbed by the level of violence in some of the threads. It's partly that the link has mostly been passed around the goth / kink community, but still. I appreciate that some people are into violence and humiliation, fair enough, but it seems odd to me that people would approach total strangers with threats of quite nasty physical harm and no preamble. I don't want to over-think this, because I recognize that it's only virtual and it's only a bit of fun, but it seems to me that if I were into anything like that I'd at least enquire whether the person I was pursuing shared my proclivities. Even in the middle of an orgy.
Anyway. If you want a distraction, and don't have moral objections to it, you might find the thread enjoyable. There's some rather good erotic writing amongst that lot. Please don't follow the link from work or if you are younger than the age of consent in your jurisdiction, though. It's all text (other than some impressively creative icons), but I'm not totally certain it's legal to put some of that stuff in public with no protection against minors reading it.
Not reading material, but still on the internet: living in a digital world means that I can usefully share radio stations even though none of you live in the same country as me. Swedish radio P2 is broadcasting most of the Early Music festival I attended a couple of weeks ago. This evening at 8 o'clock is a concert of Icelandic music from a 1660 manuscript collecting much earlier traditions, which is not the kind of thing you get to hear every day. When I was looking up the information for that I also found that they have a live concert of sixteenth century chamber music at 6 o'clock. If you want to listen, click on the button that says "SR Klassiskt". I'm not sure how well their streaming is going to work if you're not on a Windows system, I'm afraid. They do have a listen again archive which I shall link to once these two concerts are in the system.
Hm, so much for not having time to post so I'll just put up a few links! That turned into a long essay after all. Let's see if I can harness that verbal energy into writing the review I'm working on.