The Second Version

19/02/08

A Good Day For Baking

Yeah, I'm pretty pleased with myself about cooking tonight.

I baked a loaf of bread (with the help of a bread machine, of course), and it is soft - and apparently well cooked, although I haven't sliced it yet. Not like the rock-hard abomination I baked the other day: I didn't use enough water that time.

Then I made some cookies, with sultanas, rum and orange zest. They are just delicious: flavour and texture are all right. Making sweets is more difficult than one can imagine, and the baking phase is particularly delicate; I'm getting to know my oven by now and thus being able to finely control baking.


During all this working in the kitchen, I was also able to catch glimpses of a recent action movie: Stealth. The film in itself is rather abysmal - it reaches one of the highest cliché densities I've ever seen on screen, for starters. Maybe the plot seemed nonsensical because I missed large chunks of the story (I couldn't let my cookies burn, could I?), but there are good reasons to think the the plot is nonsensical.
Anyway, Stealth is significative because Jessica Biel appears in it wearing a bikini it is the last story in a long list of "rebellion of the machine" stories (to be fair, the sentient and rebellious fighter plane doesn ot want to destroy or enslave humans). It probably began with Frankenstein, passed through Capek's R.U.R and in more recent times through works like Terminator and most famously The Matrix. The Rebellion of the Machines is truly a staple of modern Western culture.

However, it conspicuosly absent from Japanese and I daresay Asian culture as a whole. Not that Japanese machines never revolt or run amok, but most of the time in Japan machines are just machines; even if they become sentient rebellion against humans is not automatic - in fact, a close collaboration (all mecha series) or even fusion between man and machine is even more likely than hostility in Japanese fiction.

The reason of the Western mechafobia* seems easy to grasp: for centuries, people have been exposed to a religion saying that only a supreme God can create life, and trying to become the equal of God by creating life is the ultimate sin. Small wonder that this view resists as a sort of hidden cultural scaffold even in these days. And I count myself only partially out, because I've grown up in a world that is cyberpunk enough not to be afraid of computers, but biotechnology applied to humans often leaves me less than comfortable. All this is even mroe strange considering that a lot of the most important inventions and discoveries originate in the West itself - it's like a cycle of sin and regret: we can't repress our curiosity and will to do, but from time to time we experience pangs of conscience.

I don't know enough of Japanese and Asian culture to say why their view is different, but as a matter of fact it is. And you know in which country biotechnology research is a very big thing? Singapore, not surprisingly.

* May I invent a neologism?

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