Commonplace Vol. 4 Issue 3
In which the writer expands upon incomprehensible social media and probably doesn't really help much
Hello! This issue is a collection of bits and pieces stemming from the Commonplace presence on tumblr. Tumblr, for those not familiar, is currently the best social network. It has elements of Livejournal as was, in that it’s obscure, and therefore populated only by dedicated nerds, but with more discovery, pictures, and its own very odd and specific subcultures. Much of the network activity is around collating and curating stuff you like, “reblogging”, which is like retweeting on Twitter except, well, pleasant. My plan here is to pick out a few posts from the ones I’ve reblogged, and talk about them a little - obviously, they’re all on the topic of food in some way.
(From irishmansdaughter on tumblr; see discussion below)
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So first up, a video recipe. Yes, I know, I don’t like video. But this avoids the things I don’t like about video, which can be summarised as “too slow” and “too much voice for my brain to process”. It’s a video of a guy making a kind of stew; maybe technically a casserole, since the cooking happens in an oven. He speaks only to identify ingredients, and to say things like “done”, in what I think is a Caribbean accent (but honestly, there are so few words over the video that it’s hard to tell). The stew has basalmic vinegar and tomato puree and coriander in it, which takes it out of the kinds of stew I know, but not so far away that I can’t imagine the taste. The whole thing is just pleasing.
Next, a series of animated gifs - a sort of halfway house between video and stills - from a TV series called, apparently, A League of Nobleman, originally posted by a Chinese tumblr called minmoyu. I don’t know who they are, and I don’t know much about the TV series, but the images are of traditional Chinese food preparation and serving, and they are gorgeous. They’re pleasing just in isolation, and the series of them in the same format is vaguely akin to a small photography collection. I don’t know much about actual Chinese food - I’m familiar with the Irish Chinese Restaurant food, which is a different thing - but this makes me want to find out more. In my copious free time, etc.
Next up, a picture post (see the post image, above) from irishmansdaughter, a photography account posting pictures within a particular aesthetic, which could be sorta-kinda pinned down as “scenic farmcore”. I love this stove, and covet it greatly. Nina and Anna and I lived for a while in a house in Portobello which had a stove not entirely dissimilar to this, but which wasn’t in such good repair, and couldn’t really be used. The combination of a open flame (when wanted; there’s a mechanism to close it in as well), the oven, the boiler, the stovetop; it’s the kind of practically bombproof Edwardian-or-thereabouts technology that I adore, and which I reckon would stand you in good stead through any aopcalypse of your choosing.
A poll. The text around this this - specifically the “baking guys” and “fuck vanilla” - take a little bit of cultural unpacking. First, there is a tradition on tumblr to refer to anything as “a guy”, “just a guy”, or even “just a little guy”. It’s not so much a gender-neutral term as a full-on metasyntactic variable, so it should be read more as “baking thingmajigits”. Then, polls are still relatively new, and for the first few weeks, it was recongised across the whole network, for reasons unmeasurable by anyone, that every poll had to contain “vanilla extract” as an option. This spun off into memes of its own, of course, but also provoked some excellent posts on the history of vanilla, and this poll about other baking spices (and specifically not vanilla). Cinnamon came in well ahead of everything else, with cocoa powder second, and ginger just beating cardamom to third place. I’m not clear on whether this means that cardamom is better known in the US (where around half of tumblr accounts are) or that the tumblr userbase has more sophisticated tastes than the Irish public. Suffice it to say that I don’t think cardamom is well known enough here to come in tenth on a poll like that.
And now someone who is confused about what an artichoke is. I got nothing.
A long discursive post post about replicated food in Star Trek. This kind of long, interested dialogue is one of the best things about tumblr. It seems to work better than on Twitter, mostly because Twitter insists (insisted, perhaps) on showing you all the stupid half-baked responses as well as the good ones. Incidentally, I recently learned that when the kids say “discourse” on social media, they mean what I’d call a “flame war”. Anyway, this runs through a lot of thinking on how replicators would work, how the food they produce would be chosen, and how commands would be understood by the computer. It’s been observed elsewhere, of course, that Picard’s “tea, Earl Grey, hot” is clearly exactly the tone taken by someone who has learned that the AI will, with that phrasing, produce what’s wanted, and doesn’t dare vary it in the slightest for fear of what might emerge. The opposite, if you will, of my enunciating clearly “Alexa. Play. Inkubus. Sukkubus. From. Spotify”, and getting “I can’t find a track called ‘Succubis’ by Incubis on Spotify” every damn time.
Anyway. Tumblr is great. You should make an account, and follow Commonplace (and maybe my main account, arcanehobo and sideblogs thaumic-hobo and drift-hobo too).
This issue has been brought to you by a vast pot of mac-and-cheese, a false spring, various purry cats, and an overwintered tomato plant that’s fruiting. Eat well, and I shall write again soon.
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