Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Metro 2033: A Powerful Narrative about Human Existence

The so-called post-apocalyptic fictions deal with the lives of survivors of a certain apocalypse. The art of the genre lies on how to depict the lives of human beings after the world as we know is scrapped. In this respect, post-apocalyptics are destined to be part sci-fi and part fantasy, both of which factors can lead to a big failure if not controlled well. Most of the time, writers are so involved in creating the new world, and fail to capture the simple fact that what they tell are, after all, about human beings. On the other extreme, some writers use the post-apocalyptic setting as a mere prop in their theatrical setting, which means, the post-apocalyptic part of the fiction is merely an unusual setting..

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky is by all means a very well written post-apocalyptic novel. The writer did not indulge himself into his own creation, nor did he simply borrow the scene of a post-nuclear war Moscow for no purposes. The themes are about human nature, and they are well woven into the story where people are forced to think about human nature.

The theme of this novel has two layers. One is the communication conundrum. The other is about the purposes and weight of life. The first theme on communication is dramatically presented at the very end of the novel, when the right message is finally delivered only a few seconds too late. The second theme about life is repeatedly presented by the hero of the novel, Artyom. But this theme again is revisited very powerfully at the very end of the novel, where he says that we human beings are doomed to creep on earth. In this sense, in that we human beings are left with the doom because of our fear of communication, the two themes are interwoven - beautifully.

The most attractive aspect of the novel lies in its ending, where the coda is thrown at the reader like a sudden death. Throughout the whole time, Artyom narrates all kinds of thoughts on life and mankind to the reader. He is quite verbose. Then, at the very end, when all is lost, he does not elaborate. His action speaks louder, as he tears open the gas mask. It is time to go home.

I already said that this wonderful piece of art accomplished the dual objectives of a post-apocalyptic novel, which means the description of the life after the apocalypse is also all too powerful. I’ve heard some people say that the mutant creatures are too extreme - rather phantasmal than sci-fi. Yes, they are, to a certain degree. But not without a reason. Think about the librarians. They are big, brutal, but are also humanoid, and have hands rather than paws. They echo people’s speech. And they live in the library. Isn’t this wonderfully allegorical?

Even from the perspective of pure ideation, Glukhovsky is excellent. There have been much imagination about currency after an apocalypse, like bottle caps in the Fallout saga. In the metro, it is the bullets. Means of life are gauged against the means to kill lives. At the same time, it makes a perfectly realistic sense. Since the life in the metro is full of danger, bullets become indispensable commodity to rely on, for survival.

Even though I have shed glimpses of this wonderful fiction to make my points clear, I did my explanations rather vaguely, because I sincerely do not want to ruin anybody’s experience with this novel with some careless spoiler. I recommend this book very strongly. Whether you seek action, violence, fantasy, or food for thoughts, you will find it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Avoid GMO

Capitalism is unbelievable in some profound ways, sometimes, as in the case of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). I bet those scientists would never test genetically modified corn syrup on their own children. Yet those food industry tycoons are motivated by the the stock market figures and media coverages, and the scientist working for them are driven by 99% monetary incentives and 1% scientific curiosity.

Somehow, we are exposed to GMOs with little protection. This means we should take measures to protect ourselves from the god-knows-what impact of GMOs. As follows are some tips I garnered from the Internet.

1. Go organic. Buy food with organic labels. When I was in Switzerland, an American expat wrote an article on a journal, in which he said, “In Switzerland, I see food with organic label everywhere. Can I trust these labels?” That coming from an American person, perhaps this is not a trustworthy strategy in North America. However, let’s hope it is better in Canada.

2. Make a list of archenemies - soybean, corn, cotton, and canola. Someone says you should memorize the acronym, SCCC. They are produced in bulk in GMO, and are sold throughout the world. For example, canola oil seems to be en vogue in some parts of the world, but alas, most probably the canola oil you get at grocery stores will be from GMOs.

3. Live like your grandpa, in the old-fashioned way. Buy grocery locally, preferably at a farmer’s market. Prepare food yourself, rather than microwaving packaged foods. In packaged foods, the contents are simply enumerated in the unit of basic ingredients, not the plants and dairies we see in the farmer’s market. For example, if a packaged food contains fructose, it is most probably from some GMO corn.

4. Go veggie sometimes. Animals are positioned higher in the food chain, hence have harmful substances in more concentration. Most cows feed on corn, and you won’t imagine them organically grown.

* Photo credit: http://leightonpost.com/2010/04/30/poison-on-your-plate-gm-foods-and-your-right-to-know/