MSG – Enhancing the Flavour of Intellectual Discourse

msg-of-social-gastronomyI have been known to get a little frustrated with the culture of misinformation in modern  society. There is a common attitude that if a lot of people believe something, it’s probably true. When someone tells me something like ‘everyone knows that’, there’s a quote from the perceptive Sir Terry Pratchett that springs to mind:

The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member, divided by the number of mobsters.

Sadly, I’m inclined to agree. People don’t seem to get more intelligent when they clamour together. As their minds collectively bend towards the same outcome they begin running with the pack, like lemmings leaping over the cliffs of free-thinking despair. This is a bit of a fatalistic view, perhaps. I wholly understand that this largely occurs due to a primitive cultural coding which tells us that there’s safety to be found in numbers. It is why people have difficulty empathizing with someone far removed from their cultural or ethnographic circle, but it’s also the same impetus that makes a person want to play cricket with their neighbours and have them all around for a backyard barbeque.

Have I told you guys about MSG?

The story behind MSG is one of my favourite examples of the ingrained propensity we all have for cultural misinformation. For those of you who don’t know, MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and it is commonly used as a cooking supplement to enhance a dish’s natural flavours. It is used most predominantly in Asian cooking and in the 60s it was linked to a health condition known as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, a loose collection of complaints symptomatic of allergic reaction or food poisoning. To this day, people still believe MSG to be bad for you.

So, what is MSG?

In the early 1900s, a biochemist named Dr. Ikeda, one of the leading researchers into taste neurosensory, identified a substance called glutamate. Glutamate was a naturally occurring chemical compound which was found in highest quantities in foods such as meat, tomatoes, cheese, seaweed and breast milk. Once he had identified this compound which made everything taste better, Dr. Ikeda used salt as a stabilising agent, or monosodium, and went on to found one of the largest monosodium glutamate manufacturers the world would ever see. MSG is little more than salt and glutamate, two highly common, naturally occurring foodstuffs.

msgSo, how did everyone get this idea into their heads that MSG is bad for you?

In the 60s, a gentleman named Dr. Ho Man Kwok published an article in a journal describing a loose collection of symptoms he consistently encountered upon eating out at Chinese restaurants, ranging from headaches, to neck pain, to palpitations of the heart. Dr. Ho would go on to perform a series of tests on lab rats which involved feeding them copious quantities of MSG. When the rats inevitably developed brain legions, MSG was declared a health risk and has been spoken of in hushed tones ever since.

The part of this story you don’t hear is that Dr. Ho fed them ridiculously high quantities of MSG compared to anything that would be fed to you at Chinese restaurant. The part of the story you don’t hear is how food manufacturing companies, instead of not putting MSG in their product, began to relabel MSG as ‘Artificial Flavours’, and other misnomers, so that we never actually stopped consuming it. The part of the story you don’t hear is how there are virtually no complaints of ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ in Asia, despite Asian cooking utilising more MSG than any other cultural demographic. Not to mention the fact that that there hasn’t been a conclusive study indicating that MSG is bad for you since the 60s.

And yet, when I type MSG into a search engine, I see just as many websites indicating that MSG is a health risk as ones that debunk these myths. I myself was still under the impression that MSG was bad for me, until I found out what it actually was and the truth behind the matter.

Beliefs can be hard to change, guys, especially when you have large groups of people telling you that they’re right. Don’t base your truth soley on what’s commonly accepted. Be prepared to ask questions of both those around you and of yourself. Because truthfully, I do believe that wisdom is not measured by the times you are right, so much as the times you’re willing to concede that you’re wrong.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.


The Nomad


The nomad crossed the failing light,

Into the pregnant moon,

Diana’s long lost daughter

Reunited on the wind,

As twilight breeze bore desert sand

And opalescent bloom,

E’er driving on the nomad

As she arched her wings and grinned.

What force can halt the woman who won’t tread upon the earth?

A fleeting barren wasteland to the nomad’s wanton eye.

Laissez-faire on sea and air,

Why fight the flow of earth’s sole snare?

When verdant field in time will yield

Too wet,

Too hot,

Too dry.

So onward drives the nomad,

Crossing deserts and dark plains,

Swooping into valleys,

Cresting ridge by crescent light,

Chasing after shadows in a sea of pitch black stains,

Coalescing round her head to mar her moonlit flight.

But darkest piracy of thought

Won’t shy her from her course,

Horizon in her sights,

Promise spurring in her side,

Gliding like an angel

Driven by demonic force.

Always fleeing failing light

And truths no night could hide.


question-markIt’s been nearly a week since I’ve written a love letter to the world.

Honestly, it’s been something of a relief. Though I started this blog with the intent of keeping it going as much as possible, I have no idea how some of you bloggers out there manage one (or more) posts every day. Of course, I have been busy trying to finish BaCwS, as well as tending to the demands of my real life.

That’s right. I’m sure it may come as a shock to many of you, especially since I don’t talk about it much, but there is indeed a real human being on the other side of the information stream, his digits clicking away amidst the press of plastic alpha-numeric equivalencies. I don’t tend to talk about my real life much, mostly because I’m very big on compartmentalisation, but also because I’m a firm believer in the power of enigmaticism. There is a mystic quality to any mystery, of that there is no mistake. When knowledge is withheld, it excites the innate storyteller in all of us. In the presence of a vacuum of information, our consciousnesses will rush in to fill the void, imagining anything and everything, possible and impossible, in our desire to stem the looming tide of fearful unknowing.

Tell a person something about yourself and they’ll try to know you.

Don’t tell them anything, and they’ll try to understand you.

And I’d much rather be sparingly understood than widely known, I fear.

Now, I have been nominated for a few peer awards upon starting this blog which I am very thankful for, but have largely ignored up until now. Mostly because, as flattered as I am (and I am very flattered), these don’t seem to be awards so much as chain letters.

However, it has been pointed out to me that the peer awards are good as an excuse for networking and showcasing the talents of fellow bloggers, and I do love showcasing the greater blogging community. So, instead of accepting the awards formally, I have instead decided to simply give a few honourable mentions to a few blogs that I think deserve it. 🙂

leclownA Clown On Fire – I’m certain many of you are familiar with Le Clown’s work. For anyone unfamiliar with him, Le Clown’s irreverant writing style and backhanded observations are well worth checking out.  Do yourself a favour.

coppersloane 29 – The blog of the one Copper Sloane Levy. Copper’s intelligent, factually-informed opinion blog appeals to the knowledge-hound in me. Well informed, witty, and, above all, always interesting. Bad-ass work, Copper.

stephanierogersShe Said What? – A random collection of thoughts, stories and topics from the talented Stephanie Rogers. Somehow Stephanie always manages to make me smile, which makes her blog a priceless commodity in mine eyE.

chrisjensenthisoldtoad – Chris Jensen’s blog journals his life on the streets of Vancouver. His POV photography and reflections on urban travels really sparks something inside me and speaks to a societal wound. Great work.

amelthaltblinksdazedandconfused – Poetic, dark, and definitely 18+, Amelthalt Blinks has captured something candid and erotic in a scene heavily saturated with mediocre erotica. Unapologetic and well-written. Standing ovation.

ioniamartinReadful Things Blog – Ionia Martin is a treasure to the blogging and independant writing community. Whether writing poetry, book reviews or opinions articles, Ionia’s posts are always engaging. You’re a peach, I.M..

Let me just say that there are so many awesome blogs out there that I follow that it was hard to pick just a few for a mention. I will try to make a regular habbit of giving more of you guys the props you so obviously deserve.

In the meantime, I’ve got plans on the horizon for an ongoing series of posts designed to draw out the enigmatic story-tellers in all of us. Just when you thought I couldn’t make any more bad puns on the title of this blog…

Coming soon – eyE[potheticals] 🙂


5 Easy Steps to Channeling the Force

I’m sure we all know by now, but Star Wars – Episode 7 is

For those of you who have been squatting under rocks, chomping on maggots like Timon and Pumba, Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas a few months back and have set to work breathing fresh life into The Saga.

I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. Though I was not old enough to see the original trilogy in cinemas, I’ve spent my fair share of time watching poor quality VHS recordings of New Hope whilst making Luke and Han action figures duel to the death with Skeletor. And, like most Star Wars fans, I left ‘Revenge of the Sith’ feeling a little violated.

The wound Lucas has gouged into the Jedi mythology will not be an easy one to heal, of that there is no doubt. And so, philanthropist that I am, I shall list the ways to ensure a successful return to a galaxy far, far away.

Gosh, I’m a good human being.

  1. Cast Returns – there’s a lot of talk about getting the cast from the original trilogy back in, and I’m all about it. Good sequels always hinge on maintaining the link between installments. Replacing or writing around characters has proved to leave gaping holes of dissatisfaction and remorse in the mass consciousness – it don’t work guys, don’t try it! They may be able to get away with missing one, maybe two, of the main actors from the original trilogy, but they really need to get as many of them back as possible for this thing to be a success. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Luke and Leia’s matching trailers in a Tattooine caravan park at the ripe old age of 60? I know I do.
  2. Bigger Isn’t Always Better – a classic big-budget mistake is thinking that if you have cash you should put it to use. There is a culture of one-upsmanship prevalent in action movies these days, and it grows tiresome. Think about the prequel trilogy. The prequels were meant to set the scene for the awesome three movies that followed them. If we see nothing but colossal CG droid fight scenes, expensive and extravagantly budgeted sets, and entirely unnecessary fight scenes between core characters (cough-Emperor-and-Yoda-cough), what’s left to follow? I think the fact that the original trilogy shines so much more so than the polished turd of the prequels tells us that bigger and better are not synonymous. Also, well-made puppets will always look better than the best CG. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Story, Story, Story – this may be the writer in me, but I can’t stress the importance of a good story in film. A good, well-planned story is absolutely key to making it work, especially when you’re making a trilogy (and I’m certain Episodes 8 and 9 will follow all too soon). While it’s true that audiences these days are a bit more sophisticated in what they expect than they were in the 70s and 80s, I think that everyone will be happy with something that matches the tone of the original movies in a well-thought out way. Remember the last rule; bigger isn’t always better. Keep it simple to start with, gently remind us why love this franchise, and lay the foundation for an epic story arc in the last two movies.
  4. Grit – I must confess, the Disney label on this scares me a little. The original trilogy were infamous for some really gritty scenes, like the death of Obi-Wan, Han and Greedo’s shoot-out, Luke losing a hand… Don’t fluff this out too much, Disney. The temptation will be there though, since Star Wars has a ‘cross-generational’ appeal (because fans of the trilogy are now parents who want to share the experience with their kids) and movies that gross the highest tend to be ones that all age brackets want to see. Keeping it light and fluffy ensures a high-grossing movie at the potential cost of artistic integrity. I hate being able to observe decisions that have obviously been made based on production-end meddling, but there it is. Of course, Disney’s influence doesn’t scare me quite as much as my last point…
  5. J.J. Abrahams – is slated to direct Episode 7, and words can’t express how overrated I think this guy is. Now, I’m sure a lot of people will leap to defend him, so lets look at this logically – what has J.J. Abrahams ever done for me? Alias? I enjoyed the first season or two, before it flopped. Lost? Another show that flopped due to lack of planning. Cloverfield? Super 8? Not terrible movies… Not great movies either. Truthfully, the only 2 movies on J.J.’s IMDb profile that I don’t mind are Regarding Henry, which he produced in ’91, and the new Star Trek movie (and even that didn’t have a great plot). Am I missing something? Why do people think this guy’s so great? He’s a modern day Spielberg, sure… But Spielberg’s big-budget, grandiose style have become par for the course in modern cinema. You might as well say Abrahams is a modern day Karl Marx in Communist Russia. But I digress… By the same token, J.J.’s mediocrity hasn’t gone too far against him, so I’ll hold out hope. But in all honesty, I’d rather see Joss Whedon behind this project.

Disney for the win.

Here’s hoping for cybernetic Ewoks.

(image credit to nei1b)

eyE[am]Hannah – Time Dilation

Very excited today to hand y’all over to a close friend of mine; one Miss Hannah Leigh Yarbrough. Hannah is an exceptionally talented musician, writer, poet, astronomer,  historian and philosopher (among many other things) who continues to impress me with her broad and intimate knowledge of causal reality and all its mysteries. She has graciously agreed to share her musings with you guys in true eyE[before]E style, following on from my ‘Welcome to Atlantis‘ post last week. I, for one, hope this post isn’t her last.

It is my pleasure to give you the quixotic mind of the querulous Hannah Leigh Yarbrough.

Time Dilation: Ancient Crystalised Thoughthannah

By Hannah Leigh Yarbrough

In reading Ryan’s eloquent posts of late, delving curiously into the lovemaking of science and the metaphysical, my own thoughts swim with potential underwater causality. Come, let us splash for a moment inside the flaming gaze of the Vitruvian Eye.

There’s a Hindu tale of ancients from 700 BCE of King Kakudmi of Kusasthali (an underwater kingdom) and his daughter Revati. King Kakudmi, a mystic, took his daughter dimension travelling to see the Creator, Lord Brahma. After visiting with Lord Brahma regarding a suitor for his beloved Revati, the Creator laughed and explained that time worked differently between planes of existence. The suitors King Kakudmi asked of were now dead. 

In the mere moments they’d been in Brahma-loka, many years already passed upon Earth and under the Sea. This is the first recorded tale of time travel that we know of.

In another Japanese legend from around 720 CE, Urashima Tarō speaks of a fisherman, who travels to an undersea Dragon Palace. He stays 3 days and finds his village 300 years into the future when he returns.

Let me, if you will, enter my metaphysical-making-love-to-science thoughts. Neutrinos and tachyonic particles – both travel faster than the speed of light. What, if inside us, traces of such cosmic particles exist?

In Puerto Rico today, there are three Bioluminescent Bays, which glow indigo blue, filled with prehistoric one-cell organisms, half-plant and half-animal. What if all of us were also bioluminescent when stimulated by particular photonics crystals (which are three dimensional)? Do such key crystals lie beneath the seas, waiting to fuel our travel between dimensions? I must wonder, if our bodies aren’t part-cosmic, part earth, part-water, part-past, part-future?

Time, the starkest illusion.

Atlantis, where art thou?


(Image credit to Matho Mathis)

Hannah can be looked up on Twitter. I highly recommend dropping her a line, if only to listen to her e’er enchanting thought processes and her eloquent command of forgotten tongues.

Gratias, Hannah. 😉



This week, I put the inquisition to the talented Tammy Salyer. Tammy is an independant author, editor and all-round awesome human being. A former para-trooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Tammy has a uniquely gritty writing style which makes me personally a big fan of her speculative fiction. The debut novel in her Spectras Arise science fiction series, ‘Contract of Defiance‘, dropped last year, while the sequel, ‘Contract of Betrayal‘, hit Amazon in February this year.

On top of all this, Tammy maintains her blog and runs an editing service called Inspired Ink Editing, available for proofreading, copy, and manuscript evaluation. She is also an avid cyclist and has asked me to drop the secret cyclist’s code word: Wiggo (or Cadel for Australian readers). I don’t know what this means, and if I have offended anybody, it’s Tammy’s fault. 🙂

Without further ado, the brilliant, beautiful and definitely-not-bombastic Tammy Salyer.

What first made you want to become a writer/author?

“Someone said that they write to quiet the voices in their heads, and in short, that’s true for me as well. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have become a linguist. First, because I think Noam Chomsky is super cool, but second, and more germane, I think humans have access to few things more powerful than words. War and peace (negotiations) hinge on language; marriages, births, and deaths, are memorialized with words; all our memories and the events of our lives are conveyed to others and made immortal through communication. Words are our link to the future and past, and those truths have always fascinated me. I didn’t become a writer because I have a vivid imagination (though that’s part of it); I became a writer because it is a good way to live forever in the absence of becoming a member of the living dead (which, in many respects, I hold out hope for).”

You are predominantly a science fiction author. What is it about speculative fiction that most appeals to you?

“I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I believe all those stories severely warped my grip on reality. Writing speculative fiction, besides being loads of fun, lets me access things that are firmly rooted in real life, yet still transcends these quotidian tropes in limitless ways. Also, when I get tired of doing research on any particular topic, speculative fiction gives me the nod to go ahead and make up what I need to.”

How important a role does ‘world-building’ play in your writing? How much time do you spend constructing fictional settings, and what processes do you go through?

“The world of a story is just as much of a character in any story as the people who populate it. For me, the world-building part of writing is an ongoing and integral part of the process that is consistently unfolding in my subconscious. I’m very much a discovery writer, so I rarely sit down with the sole purpose of designing aspects of the events and social structures of my fictitious worlds — until I hit a plot question that requires my undivided focus on knowing some specific detail of the world in question to keep moving forward with the story. For more on my process and questions regarding world-building, I recommend reading a guest post I wrote for mystery author Susan Spann here.”

As a science/speculative fiction author, how much do you borrow from modern social and technological conventions to build a futuristic world? How do you see our species evolving culturally, technologically, or otherwise?

“Wow, great question, and one that could be an entire post all on its own. I think it’s best to just take a couple of points. My military science fiction trilogy is heavily influenced by some of the experiences and stories I heard from other soldiers during my time in the US Army. I don’t know if “borrowed” is the correct term, but definitely influenced by and extrapolated from. I’ve always been a technology buff, too, so I really enjoy challenging the limits of known physics and technological innovations to bring in new inventions.

“As far as our species evolving, I firmly believe that there will eventually be some type of whole-planet unification once we get to the point of realizing that continuing to exist as independent cultures and corporations is going to end up with us fighting against unbeatable odds for the last scraps of resources and physical space. Our evolution, if we’re lucky enough to get there, will be a giant kumbaya of homogenization. That, of course, can play out in myriads of interesting ways. I guess it will all depend on who has the best-smelling peace lilies.”

The crew of your interstellar survey vessel, the ‘S.T.S. Melchizedek’, have succumbed to violent food poisoning, congesting the air recycling vents with their stomach bile. In accordance with Star-Trans protocol, what is the appropriate action you should take in order to resolve this crisis?

“Clearly, in a case such as this, it would have been better if Star-Trans had given me that raise I requested last year, and the captain and first mate really ought not to have barred me from the bridge and denied my request for leave when we’d overnighted on planet Kali. If these fops had done the necessary, I would not be quite as inclined to jettison the entire crew during one of their goosestepping vomit party dropout sessions (nodding to the Breakfast Club) and take the STS Mikshake to my shady cousin Viggo, who can part out and scrap a Class D freighter faster than you can say “My King Most High“. I really could use the money. After all, vacationing on Kali isn’t cheap.”

Tammy’s blog can be found here – Tammy Salyer: Alternative Reality Engineer

The first Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Defiance

The second Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Betrayal

And Tammy’s editing service can be found here – Inspired Ink Editing

Also, feel free to look up Tammy on Twitter here. She is lovely, and will probably not hurt you unless you are a zombie.

Welcome to Atlantis


Let’s talk about crystals.

Crystalline mineral structures are one of my favourite subjects to talk about. They are singularly weird and enigmatic natural constructs that have fascinated man-kind for thousands upon thousands of years. Crystals have historically been reserved for the elite few who could afford to splurge on their shiny-ness, adorning the crowns and ornaments of rulers long past. When accessible, they have been used for scrying and fortune-telling. In the Old Testament, the High Priest Aaron adorned his breastplate with twelve different jewels, including Urim and Thummim; the heavenly-sanctioned stones of divination. As a species, we have marvelled over these gleaming protrusions spied in the dirt for a long time, and it turns out that it wasn’t without good reason.

Has it ever occurred to you guys that nearly all the technology of the modern era only works because of crystals? You see, crystalline mineral structures have some unique physical properties concerning their energy conversion, piezoelectric charges and electron valences. As a result, certain crystals make excellent semiconductors.

So, we started building radio transistors out of them. These transistors would then be used in clocks, televisions, computer chips, and so on. In the modern age, chances are that when you buy something electronic it has a micro processor in it, and that micro processor is in turn made out of a crystalline silicon compound. Crystals have given us telephones, television, and the internet, inventions which would have been decried as witchcraft not 200 years earlier.

I’ll leave you all with this fascinating video on Quantum Trapping, my favourite experimental application of crystal technology. If you have never seen or heard of Quantum Trapping, watch this video now. It’ll blow your mind.

Welcome to Atlantis, my friends. 🙂

Also, I did a guest post on Tammy Salyer’s blog this week, about the innate spirituality of story-telling – The Importance of Spell Check. Check it out. #punintended

(Image credit to stomaster)