Archive for March, 2012

Animation project, Part II

About half of my animation project is done. I thought that it would take up to May to finish it, but I might be able to finish it at some point in April. I love working on it, so I put more hours in it as time goes by. You can see a picture of my Vegas editing app with the project loaded. I hope the artist will like the final result of the music video (he doesn’t know I’m working on it), although I’m not too optimistic.

Scene where the heroes are escaping to space. Everything is just better in space.

UPDATE: One more frame grab, from the time travel section of the story…

A review of Madonna’s “MDNA”

MDNA is Madonna’s first album on her new label, so she seems to be playing it safe. She serves us a canned formula that has worked for her in the past. Does it still work though?

Girl Gone Wild: 8/10
The best track on the album, it’s a good dance song. The editing of the official music video is even better though.

Gang Bang: 6/10
A nice semi-atmospheric dance track, but it doesn’t go far-enough. It needed to blossom, but it didn’t.

I’m Addicted: 2/10
Yuck. Boring, unimaginative, uncatchy, goes nowhere.

Turn Up the Radio: 2/10
Reminds me of her late ’80s period. Nothing new here. Playing it safe.

Give Me All Your Luvin’: 3/10
Oh, shut up. This is fucking annoying. What is she? 13 years old?

Some Girls: 6/10
Not a bad song, it’s got a nice melody and atmosphere (atmosphere is the No1 thing I always try to find on music btw). But it’s not really exceptional either. It’s just ok.

Superstar: 1/10
Someone pass Acid Pro. I could write such a song too in a single afternoon.

I Don’t Give A: 2/10
We heard this song a million times before in the last 15 years. The only good part in it is its last minute, where it becomes operatic and grand. It’s one of the best moments in the whole album. Too bad it’s attached to the rest of this song.

I’m a Sinner: 2/10
This track is a mess. It tries to channel her 1998 period, but it ends up being a hot mess. It could have worked back then, but it’s 2012 now.

Love Spent: 2/10
This feels like a song that is sang by Cartman trying to become a pop star (the way South Park would have done it).

Masterpiece: 8/10
A nice ballad, written by different song-writers than in the rest of the album, people who actually know how to write music, it seems.

Falling Free: 4/10
Good ideas (channeling Irish/Celtic music) but it ultimately goes nowhere. This song asks for a buildup that never arrives.

Beautiful Killer: 6/10
A good dance track, mostly salvaged by its strong refrain. It could be realized even better though.

I Fucked Up: 1/10
She seriously fucked it up on this track. Useless bullshit.

B-Day Song: 2/10
Not album quality. It feels like a B-side.

Best Friend: 3/10
Wow, it’s R&B from 1996 all over again. Harmless.

Overall rating: 4.2/10

Madonna needs to push herself to innovate. Religion and sex themes can only get her so far in today’s day and age.

My Anti-Aging Regimen

I will be 39 years old in a few months, and this got me thinking about anti-aging strategies. Some people tell me that I look younger than my age, but I think it’s time to start thinking about the inevitable. At first, I was naive enough to go search about “what the best face cream” would be. Soon I realized that these creams don’t really work, and they would be wasted money. A cheap, natural hydrating cream for face & eyes would be enough. To really make a difference though, the change must come from inside.

Dr Jack Kruse, the most crazy Paleo doctor out there (also the most interesting), has many blog posts on anti-aging, that go well beyond nutrition and supplements. He goes into reprogramming the human body with cold thermogenesis, even “lite” hibernation and fasting. But these are too extreme regimens, I just want something to ease up my wrinkles, not to outlive Galapagos tortoises.

So I went again to my new best friend, the US government’s PubMed, and started reading. Most of the chemistry described goes over my head, but I can still put 2+2 together and draw conclusions. So after two weeks of research, this is what I came to understand it could give me back 5 years in terms of of looks/energy, and extend that look for a longer period. Please note that this regimen is for skin and hair only, there is additional supplementation for mental & joint health, but Paleo itself is good-enough to provide the necessary nutrients for these two anyway. Also note that this is what I’m doing for myself, it’s not a medical suggestion to you.

STEP 1: Follow Paleo/Primal for life
No way around it. Even if you never put in your mouth a single pill of the ones suggested below, this diet is a must for longevity and overall health. Here is a description of the diet, the top-10 superfoods that must all be eaten, and here’s why dairy can be included in the diet, as long as it’s from buffalo, camels, goats or sheep (but not US cows — only butter & cream from them).

STEP 2: Lifestyle changes
Doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. 45 minutes, 3-4 times a week. 30 minutes of slow and fast running (alternate, 2 miles overall), and 15 minutes of weights. That’s it. You need no trainer or to pay a gym for it. Or you can alternate that with some yoga too. Consider some meditation too, which can put your cortisol & stress under control. And of course, SLEEP. At least 8 hours day. Make time for it!

STEP 3: Basic supplementation
No matter what diet you follow, there are some nutrients that the modern Western humans are deficient on. These are:
– D3 at 3000-5000 IU, daily, in the mornings. Get tested every 6 months for toxicity levels though.
– Magnesium Malate, daily, 20 minutes before bedtime. Malate is the most absorbable form.
– K2 Mk4, every 2-3 days.
– Fish or krill or fermented cod liver oil, almost daily.
Then, the following are as important, if the diet is not balanced:
– Calcium, only if you’re not doing dairy, every 2-3 days. I’d suggest you go for home-made goat kefir instead.
– C + Bioflavonoids, only if you are not eating fruits for some reason (you should), or if you’re feeling a virus coming your way.
Supplement for other vitamins too accordingly after you do a blood test, or if you track your food intake on a site like Cron-o-meter btw. E.g. you might find you’re low on iron, or manganese, or folate. Especially if you’re trying to get pregnant, you might need to lightly supplement with it for months before conceiving (just make sure it’s not folic acid, folate is a different form).

STEP 4: Skin-specific supplementation
These are the supplements that visibly change the skin and energy levels. On old people these supplements would help too, but not as visibly as in younger people. I include links to the supplements I usually buy myself, these are NOT paid/advertizing links in any way.
CoQ10-Ubiquinol. 100 mg, daily. In addition to taking the pill, you can also apply its liquid to tooth gums and at a lower dosage, to wrinkles directly.
PQQ (PyrroloQuinoline Quinone). Every 2 days or so.
BioSNP’s anti-oxidant & anti-inflammatory formula. A lot of different powerful anti-oxidants in one pill. Take one pill every day (not the suggested 3, it’s strong).
Acetyl L-carnitine. Ever 3-4 days or so.

STEP 5: Supplementation after a certain age
Don’t take these before the age of 30 or 35. You can increase the days you take these as you age. Take it easy in the first few years.
R-Lipoic Acid. It must be the R- form. Every 2-3 days or so, in the mornings.
Collagen Type I and III. Every 2-3 days, not at the same day as the other collagen below, or when you’re cooking with bone marrow broth.
Collagen Type II. Every 2-3 days, not at the same day as the other types.

Other anti-oxidants you can add to the mix are cranberry extract and Astaxanthin/Lycopene, but the suggested BioSNP formula is already pretty good. For hair, consider taking some Biotin every 3-4 days or so (supplements usually contain way too much in them), and E-tocotrienols (no tocophenols in it). This vitamin E 125 mg version is pretty strong, so take it occasionally and only if you’re somewhat deficient on vitamin E, or use the lower 50 mg version.

Why “John Carter” Failed

“John Carter”, the recent fantasy/sci-fi action movie, is the biggest box office bomb in film history, with a total net loss of $166,566,620. The movie did “just ok” with critics, but most viewers who saw the movie, liked it (70% rating on IMDb & Rotten Tomatoes). So apparently, from entertainment’s point of view, the movie was not a disaster. It entertained better than expected. Marketing was adequate too. So why didn’t more people go to see it? I have a suspicion that I would like to share.

I believe that the reason it didn’t attract larger crowds was because of the theme itself. This is a very old fashioned story, more leaning towards kits fantasy rather than radical, modern sci-fi. When I first saw the trailer for “John Carter” a few months ago, I was left bewildered that Hollywood would finance such a movie. It had a feel of the 1930’s Flash Gordon in it, but with better effects. And that was its flaw: old fashioned, pure cheesiness.

In today’s day and age, most people I know are hungry for smart movies that mess up with their mind a little. That make them think. That have something interesting and new to say, or at least visually show something refreshing. A movie becomes a classic when it speaks about our situation today, or tomorrow. This movie has nothing like that in it. It’s a very sterile & dry interpretation of old epic fantasy films: some guy, fighting bad guys and monsters, amongst laughable technology.

Give me a break. While this might fly with a few young kids and very old people who don’t know better, it won’t fly with most of the rest of us, the main body of customers, who still have a brain and would like to use it occasionally.

“John Carter” deserved the money loss, but I fear that Hollywood will never learn anyway. They pour unnecessarily huge amounts of money on stupid movies such as this. And this, among other things, will be their undoing.

Get off [insert] flour

This starts to piss me off more and more as time goes by: Paleo dieters baking stuff using heaps of almond flour. You go to a Paleo recipe site and what you see half the time is variations of cookies and breads. As for those who make an almond-based pizza? Two cups of almond flour are required for the base alone! And don’t let me start about nut butters.

The point of the matter is, nuts should only be consumed in moderation. They’re very high in O-6, and they have lots of phytates and anti-nutrients. On top of all that, almonds used to be poisonous in the Paleolithic times, the kinds of almonds we have today are highly selected. When we are eating such high quantities of nuts, we endanger our health, and we generate a new wheat-like threat. The older varieties of wheat, when were eaten in moderation they weren’t such a big problem, but today, we have in our hands a selected super-gluten which can be found in almost every food.

Ask yourself this question: Would you eat two full cups of almonds for dinner? Most of the time, the answer is “no”. So why the heck would you eat a 12″ pizza made of just that? The almond to almond flour ratio is 1:1, you see. These “allowed” flours (almond, coconut, flax, and tapioca), must be consumed in small quantities, and rarely. Birthdays, holidays, PMS… And try to mix these flours when the recipe allows it, so you at least spread the amount of the various anti-nutrients into smaller quantities.

Personally, I make almond flour-based cheese crackers twice a month (used only with goat/sheep/buffalo fermented dairy, which *is* healthy). We eat 1-3 crackers a day, which is equivalent to 3-5 almonds. A healthy amount of nuts per day, that is. The last time I baked something for indulging reasons was for a coconut birthday cake in January, six almond cookies in November (half a recipe), and coconut donuts in September (threw away half of them, baked too many). As for bread and pizza (any kind), I haven’t had these at all since I started Paleo in September 2011.

In other news, I started a Pinterest group, with categorized Paleo/Primal recipes. So far the dessert category has more pins than the other boards, just because the sites I visited mostly indulged on such comfort food. But I will be correcting this soon, as I add more pins.

Regarding movie & TV show remakes

It has been a constant complaint in the last few years, especially by genre fans: the countless Hollywood remakes or re-imaginings of older movies and TV shows. I personally prefer original works (even if everything is a remix of previous artistic knowledge in reality), and I don’t discount all direct remakes as useless. But in the last few years there’s definitely an identified problem in the sheer concentration of remakes or blatant copies of older ideas. It feels like there’s nothing really fresh coming out from the world anymore. I believe that it’s a three-tier issue:

1. Hollywood doesn’t take risks anymore
Why would Coca-Cola change its recipe? They normally wouldn’t. Similarly, in these difficult financial times we live in, Hollywood prefers to serve us tried & tested recipes. Can you blame them? Actually, you can. Hollywood is an immense artistic influence and force, we like it or not. While the various execs are in it just for the money, this doesn’t discount the fact that as industry leaders they also have an ethical obligation to be artistically progressive. And this can only happen when some risk is taken. With the explosion of various art mediums in the ’90s, Hollywood has entered a second phase of maturation, which unfortunately made it more bureaucratic, and more concentrated. There are of course a lot of politics behind the scenes, but the gist of it all is that these companies are now running like old oil factories: one step in front, two steps back.


“Kichwateli” (Swahili for TV-head) is a short film by self-taught animation & film director Bobb Muchiri set in a post-apocalyptic African slum and city. This afro-sci film takes the viewer on a spiritual and metaphorical voyage through a young boy’s dream mixing new imagery of a young boy wondering inquisitively with a live TV as his head to show the effects of media on a young generation.

2. Lack of imagination
Has capitalism sank its fangs into us to the point that we’re culturally bankrupt already? I don’t think so, because whereas in the past only a few people would become artists, today almost everyone is one. Human beings are resilient artistically to be able to go around such obstacles, such as a rotten political and economical system. Or could it be that every cool story is already being written and there’s nothing new to provide to the world? Sure, our world is cataclysmically bombarded with various works every day, but not everything is shown on screen, and not absolutely everything has been thought-up yet. And yet, not many radical works are getting released recently. I find the lack of imagination (or at least the exec disapproval of imaginative works) very disturbing. Science Fiction is supposed to be about what it could become, while at the same time is being current to today’s problems. What is our existence without a window to a possible future or solution? What is art if it doesn’t strive to imagine some sort of utopia?

3. Plot timing
As I wrote above, science fiction describes both a possible future but also our present. When remaking an old sci-fi movie, you’re running into the danger of re-discussing a then-current issue that is no more. Often this is “fixed” by re-writing specific plot points, enough to piss off the old fans and sabotage the new movie any way the can. And failing at the box office, it gets the business back to point No 1 above. Rinse, repeat.

The solution? By definition, the new wave will come from indie filmmakers (especially as tools become even more inexpensive), or from an anti-Hollywood conglomerate of international media companies. Hollywood won’t survive this new reality, the same way the big-4 music labels haven’t survived the indie music onslaught in the last few years.

Kelp noodles are godsend

A few weeks ago I saw at some blog a kelp noodles recipe that looked like real rice noodles, so I went ahead to Whole Foods and bought this brand. It costs about $4, and it’s good for 3-4 servings. They have only 5-6 calories per serving, and only 1 carb too. Kelp has a lot of iodine and many other minerals and enzymes, so it’s one of these Paleo super-foods that you shouldn’t miss. It’s too bad that these things are very difficult to find in other countries though, or in rural America even.

Tonight I stir-fried them with peppers, onion, and a range of shellfish, and they came out amazing! They really taste like real noodles! Here’s the recipe I modified to do my own stir-fry. Two things you need to remember though:
1. Without the suggested bone marrow broth the stir fry will taste like nothing. I added a cup of bone marrow broth to give the noodles the taste they deserve, and to also get that dark yellow color.
2. Do not add much soy sauce (maybe 2 TBspoons — and make sure that’s wheat-free tamari soy sauce). You see, soy is an antagonist to iodine, so you don’t want to be eating kelp in order to get iodine, and on the other hand having soy eradicating it. Broccoli is also an antagonist to iodine btw, but not as much as soy.

Update: I liked it so much that I made some today too, this time with chicken breast, zucchini, pepper, onion and a bit of broccoli.

Yuvarlakia

One of my favorite Greek recipes, yuvarlakia, Paleo-ified (with cauliflower instead of rice). If using rice instead, use 1/2 cup of it, uncooked.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings, 4 gr of net carbs each)
* 200 gr of beef ground meat
* 200 gr of “riced” cauliflower
* 1 onion, chopped
* 30 gr butter
* 1 cup bone marrow broth
* 1 large egg, in room temperature
* 1 large juicy lemon, or 2 smaller ones
* Salt & pepper to taste

Method
1. In a big bowl, mix the meat, the “riced” cauliflower, and the chopped onion. Generously add salt & pepper, and using your hands mix all ingredients very well. Then create 2″ diameter meatballs.

2. Add the butter and melt it under medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown them well on all sides. The secret for the balls to not “open up” while cooking is to brown them well.

3. Add the bone marrow broth, olive oil, and 1.5 cups additional water. Cook for about 20-30 minutes. There should still be plenty of liquid left, since this is a soup.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Get a deep plate, and put the egg white in it (keep the egg yolk for later, separately). Start beating the egg white with a whisk for 3-4 minutes, until it becomes a fluffy, creamy substance (picture).

5. Add into the plate the egg yolk and beat again for 1 minute or so. The creamy substance should remain. Add the lemon juice in it, and beat again for 30 seconds. It should look like this now.

6. Using a deep ladle, carefully remove some broth and slowly pour it into the deep plate. Keep beating. Make sure the broth is not super-hot, or the egg will cook. Keep bringing broth to your deep plate. Just pour it slowly, and keep beating! It should look frothy (picture)!

7. Pour the plate’s content back into the pan, and stir carefully. It should now have a thick sauce! Crack some black pepper in it, stir carefully, and serve hot (gently reheat if required). Adjust lemon/salt and enjoy!

Lahanodolmades

One of the best Greek recipes, lahanodolmades (stuffed cabbage), Paleo-ified (with cauliflower instead of rice). If using rice instead, use 1/2 cup of it, uncooked.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings, 5 gr of net carbs each)
* 200 gr of beef ground meat
* 200 gr of “riced” cauliflower
* 6-8 large cabbage leaves (of this variety preferably)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1 TBspoon parsley, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 TBspoon olive oil
* 1 cup bone marrow broth
* 1 large egg, in room temperature
* 1 large juicy lemon, or 2 smaller ones
* Salt & pepper to taste

Method
1. Wash the cabbage leaves, but be careful to not perforate them. Boil a lot of water in a big cooking pan and immerse the cabbage leaves in it for about 4-5 minutes. The point is to wilt them so we can roll them easily, not to cook them. Discard that water.

2. In a big bowl, mix the meat, the “riced” cauliflower, and the chopped onion, garlic and parsley. Generously add salt & pepper, and using your hands mix all ingredients very well.

3. Take one cabbage leave, and add a small handful of the meat mix on its lower, thicker side. Roll the cabbage once, then fold inwards the two left & right sides, and then continue rolling. Then place that on a cooking pot (with the opening of the rolling touching the bottom of the pot). Do the same for the rest of the mixture and leaves. The big secret for the stuffed cabbage to not unroll while cooking is to pack them very well at the bottom of the pot, so make sure you choose a cooking pot that’s the right size. The less room they have, the more securely will cook.

4. Start cooking in medium heat. Add the bone marrow broth, olive oil, and 1.5 cup additional water. Cook until the liquid has evaporated enough to reveal the stuffed rolls.

5. Remove the pan from the heat. Get a deep plate, and put the egg white in it (keep the egg yolk for later, separately). Start beating the egg white with a whisk for 3-4 minutes, until it becomes a fluffy, creamy substance (picture).

7. Add into the plate the egg yolk and beat again for 1 minute or so. The creamy substance should remain. Add the lemon juice in it, and beat again for 30 seconds. It should look like this now.

8. Using a deep ladle, carefully remove some broth and slowly pour it into the deep plate. Keep beating. Make sure the broth is not super-hot, or the egg will cook. Keep bringing broth to your deep plate. Just pour it slowly, and keep beating! It should look frothy (picture)!

9. Pour the plate’s content back into the pan, and tilt the pan a bit in all directions. It should now have a thick sauce! Crack some black pepper in it, and serve hot (gently reheat if required). Adjust lemon/salt and enjoy!

Vitamin Deficiency on Paleo/Primal diets

Paleo/Primal are the most healthy diets there is on the planet right now. As I’ve written in the past on this blog, they have fixed almost all of my health problems, and daily I read about more miraculous results from others online too. But I don’t believe that its mainstream wisdom is always bullet-proof.

A few weeks ago I started using Cron-o-meter, as a way to track my food intake (calories) and to analyze my carbs, vitamins & minerals. I was expecting to be low on D3, Potassium & Magnesium (modern foods don’t provide enough of these), but what I found out was that I was missing more than just these three.

Granted, I take a lot of different supplements (sometimes up to 10 pills a day), so it’s unlikely that I’m actually deficient in any of these vitamins/minerals, but if I was to do straight Paleo and not take any vitamins, I’d probably be deficient of the following. The percentage in the parenthesis is what I get from food alone on average, and please consider that I eat EVERY kind of Paleo food (including offal, rare/sea veggies, shellfish, nuts, even dairy etc).


Sashimi Dinner from J-Town by Sifu Renka. Licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

D3 (40% RDA)
Not a surprise, modern people stay in front of a computer all day, not out in the sun. I supplement with a 5000 IU pill almost daily.

Iron (42% RDA)
This one is a mystery to me. I eat a lot of red meat, offal, eggs, greens, even oysters, and yet I’m iron-deficient according to the data (cron-o-meter uses US government’s data to calculate nutrients). I rather not have to supplement for iron (it can be dangerous), but occasionally I just have to. Not sure what’s up with iron yet.

Folate (44% RDA)
Folate is very important for brain health and women wanting to become pregnant, but liver is pretty much the only Paleo food with high doses of it — and unfortunately most people just don’t eat offal. I eat liver once a week, greens too, and I’m still deficient of it, so I get the rest of my folate via a vitamin pill. Please note that folic acid is not the same as folate.

Manganese (55% RDA)
Legumes are not allowed on Paleo, and yet manganese can only be found in any significant amount in beans. It is my personal opinion that the 4-5 main Paleo gurus need to come publicly together and agree on letting lentils into the game. Lentils, when soaked for 36 hours, lose most of their lectins and other anti-nutrients they carry (recipe and research), and they become the most benign kind of bean out there. Given that lentils have a LOT of both folate, iron, and manganese, it’s a superfood that is sorely missing on Paleo. You can quote me on that.


Lentils and Peas by Photobunny Earl. Licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Magnesium (64% RDA)
This one is not a surprise either, as it’s a universal deficiency no matter which diet you follow. Supplementation of it is highly encouraged in the Paleo world, so I take a pill 4-5 times a week, 2 hours before bed.

Potassium (70% RDA)
Paleo, and especially ketogenic diets, are a bit low on this, while supplements are useless for it (they only sell 99 mg pills, while we need 3500 mg per day). The only major food source for potassium is beet greens. I try to have these 2-3 times a month, but they taste a bit funny. I bought “potassium salt” from Amazon to use occasionally to supplement further.

Calcium (65% to 75% RDA)
Dairy is the No1 thing I don’t agree with Paleo (soaked lentils being the second one). Paleo gurus will tell you that you don’t need calcium from dairy because our absorption is now better, but I believe this to be wrong. I do dairy, and I’m still below the RDA. And when I have too little of it, my sensitive tooth is killing me. Gulping down a calcium pill makes the pain go away within the hour. I wrote extensively about dairy and Paleo here.


Seaweed salad by Sifu Renka. Licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

E-tocotrienols (traces)
Unless you’re cooking with Red Palm oil, then you’re not getting enough of E-tocotrienols. I cook with coconut oil instead, so I supplement almost daily with it (especially since I’m low on E-tocophenols too). Unfortunately, there’s no food we can buy that has enough of this specific E form.

K2 (traces)
K2 is rare in the modern diet. Grass-fed offal & butter have some, but not that much. The Japanese natto (fermented soy beans) have a lot of it in it, but if you can eat natto, then you’re probably a super-human (it tastes & smells terrible). I supplement with K2-Mk4 a few times a week.

Biotin (traces)
Biotin is available on almost every Paleo food, but it’s not included in big quantities in any of them. I supplement for that too, 2-3 times a week, but not at high quantities. Biotin has the opposite effect when taken in high doses.

Omega-3 ratio
My current omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is between 1:3 and 1:4. This is already pretty good compared to most western people, but ideally it would be best for my ratio to be 1:2. That’s a bit difficult to achieve, even with grass-fed meats and wild fish though. Maybe more fish instead of meat in the week will achieve that, so in the meantime, I supplement with krill oil 3-4 times a week.