Cambridge University Professor Cooks 4000-Year-Old Recipes from Ancient Mesopotamia, and Lets You See How They Turned Out

Those of us who’ve dedicated a portion of our isolation to the art of sourdough have not suffered for a lack of information on how that particular sausage should get made.

The Internet harbors hundreds, nay, thousands of complicated, contrary, often contradictory, extremely firm opinions on the subject. You can lose hours…days…weeks, agonizing over which method to use.

The course for Bill Sutherland's recent culinary experiment was much more clearly charted.




As documented in a series of now-viral Twitter posts, the Cambridge University professor of Conservation Biology decided to attempt a Mesopotamian meal, as inscribed on a 3770-year-old recipe tablet containing humankind’s oldest surviving recipes.

As Sutherland told Bored Panda’s Liucija Adomaite and Ilona Baliūnaitė, the translated recipes, found in Ancient Mesopotamia Speaks: Highlights of the Yale Babylonian Collection, were “astonishingly terse” and “perplexing,” leading to some guess work with regard to onions and garlic.

In addition to 25 recipes, the book has photos and illustrations of various artifacts and essays that “present the ancient Near East in the light of present-day discussion of lived experiences, focusing on family life and love, education and scholarship, identity, crime and transgression, demons, and sickness.”

Kind of like a cradle of civilization Martha Stewart Living, just a bit less user friendly with regard to things like measurements, temperature, and cooking times. Which is not to say the instructions aren't step-by-step:

Stew of Lamb

Meat is used. 

You prepare water. 

You add fat. 

You add fine-grained salt, barley cakes, onion, Persian shallot, and milk. 

You crush and add leek and garlic.

The meal, which required just a couple hours prep in Sutherland’s non-ancient kitchen sounds like something he might have ordered for delivery from one of Cambridge's Near Eastern restaurants.

The lamb stew was the hit of the night.

Unwinding, a casserole of leeks and spring onion, looked inviting but was “a bit boring.”

Elamite Broth was "peculiar but delicious," possibly because Sutherland substituted tomato sauce for sheep’s blood.

It’s an admittedly meaty proposition. Only 2 of the 25 recipes in the collection are vegetarian (“meat is not used.”)

And even there, to be really authentic, you’d have to sauté everything in sheep fat.

(Sutherland swapped in butter.)

via Bored Panda

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her isolation projects are sourdough and an animation with free downloadable posters, encouraging the use of face coverings to stop the spread of COVID-19. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Milton Glaser (RIP) Explains Why We Must Overcome the Fear of Failure, Take Risks & Discover Our True Potential

Milton Glaser died last week at the age of 91, a long life that included decade upon decade as the best-known name in graphic design. Within the profession he became as well-known as several of his designs did in the wider world: the Bob Dylan poster, logos for companies like DC Comics, the Glaser Stencil font, and above all  I ❤ NY. Glaser may have become an icon, but he didn't become a brand — "one of my most despised words," he says in the interview clip above. He also acknowledges that specialization, "having something no one else has," is the sine qua non of "financial success and notoriety." But "the consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn't aid in your development." When we succeed we usually do so because people come to rely on us to do one particular thing, and to do it well — in other words, never to fail at it.

But as Glaser reminds us, "development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail." As an example of development through failure he holds up Pablo Picasso: "Whenever Picasso learned how to do something, he abandoned it, and as a result of that, in terms of his development as an artist, the results were extraordinary."




We may, of course, question the relevance of this comparison, since many would describe Picasso as an artistic genius, and not a few would cast Glaser himself in similar terms. Surely both of them, each in his own way, inhabited a world apart from the rest of us. And yet, don't the "the rest of us" wonder from time to about our our own potential for genius? Haven't we, at times, felt nearly convinced that we could achieve great things if only we weren't so afraid to try.

Glaser breaks this fear down into constituent threats: the "condemnation of others," the "criticism of critics and other experts and even your friends and relatives," the prospect that "you won't get any more work." But "the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgment that you're not a genius, that you're not as good as you thought you were." We can't bear to acknowledge "that we really don't exactly know what we're doing," an inescapable reality in the process of self-development. But there is a solution, and in Glaser's view only one solution: "You must embrace failure, you must admit what is, you must find out what you're capable of doing and what you're not capable of doing." You must "subject yourself to the possibility that you are not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are." And as the famously never-retired Glaser surely knew, you must keep on doing it, no matter how long you've been celebrated as a professional, a master, an icon, a genius.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Milton Glaser (RIP) Presents 10 Rules for Life & Work: Wisdom from the Celebrated Designer

“None of us has really the ability to understand our path until it’s over,” the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser (RIP) muses less than a minute into the above video.

Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture---the  I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo---confer undeniable authority. To the outside eye, he seems to have had a pretty firm handle on the path he traveled for lo these many decades. Aspirant designers would do well to give extra consideration to any advice he might share.

As would the rest of us.

His “Ten Things I Have Learned,” originally delivered as part of a talk to the AIGA---a venerable membership organization for design professionals---qualifies as solid life advice of general interest.




Yes, the Internet spawns bullet-pointed tips for better living the way spring rains yield mushrooms, but Glaser, a self-described “child of modernism” who's still a contender, does not truck in pithy Instagram-friendly aphorisms. Instead, his list is born of reflection on the various turns of a long and mostly satisfying creative career.

We’ve excerpted some of his most essential points below, and suggest that those readers who are still in training give special emphasis to number seven. Don't place too much weight on number nine until you’ve established a solid work ethic. (See number four for more on that.)

MILTON GLASER”S TEN RULES FOR WORK AND LIFE (& A BONUS JOKE ABOUT A RABBIT).

1. YOU CAN ONLY WORK FOR PEOPLE THAT YOU LIKE

Some years ago I realized that… all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client.

2. IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE NEVER HAVE A JOB

Here, Glaser quotes composer John CageNever have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. 

3. SOME PEOPLE ARE TOXIC AVOID THEM.

Glaser recommends putting a questionable companion to a gestalt therapy test. If, after spending time with that person “you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”

4. PROFESSIONALISM IS NOT ENOUGH (or THE GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF THE GREAT)

Glaser concedes that a record of dependable excellence is something to look for in a brain surgeon or auto mechanic, but for those in the arts, “continuous transgression” is the quality to cultivate. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. 

5. LESS IS NOT NECESSARILY MORE

I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

6. STYLE IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED

Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.

7. HOW YOU LIVE CHANGES YOUR BRAIN

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body…. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way…. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

8. DOUBT IS BETTER THAN CERTAINTY

One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise…. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable.

9. IT DOESN’T MATTER

Glaser credits essayist Roger Rosenblatt’s Rules for Aging (misidentifying the title as Aging Gracefully) with helping him articulate his philosophy here.  It doesn’t matter what you think. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.

10. TELL THE TRUTH

It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

BONUS JOKE

A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent, I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’’

Read Milton Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned” in its entirety here.

Note: This post originally appeared on our site in April 2017.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch a Mesmerizing Stream of Unwatched YouTube Videos: Astronaut.io Lets You Discover the Hidden Dimensions of the World’s Largest Video Platform

When times are hard, it often helps to zoom out for a moment—in search of a wider perspective, historical context, the forest full of trees…

Astronaut.io, an algorithmic YouTube-based project by Andrew Wong and James Thompson, offers a big picture that’s as restorative as it is odd:

Today, you are an Astronaut. You are floating in inner space 100 miles above the surface of Earth. You peer through your window and this is what you see.

If the stars look very different today, it’s because they’re human, though not the kind who are prone to attracting the paparazzi. Rather, Astronaut is populated by ordinary citizens, with occasional appearances by pets, wildlife, video game characters, and houses, both interior and exterior.

Launch Astronaut, and you will be bearing passive witness to a parade of uneventful, untitled home video excerpts.

The experience is the opposite of earthshaking.

And that is by design.

As Wong told Wired’s Liz Stinson:

There’s this metaphor of being on a train …you see things out the window and think, 'Oh what is that?' but it’s too late, it’s already gone by. Not letting someone go too deep is pretty important.

After some trial and error on Twitter, where video content rarely favors the restful, Wong and Thompson realized that the sort of material they sought resided on YouTube. Perhaps it’s been reflexively dumped by users with no particular passion for what they’ve recorded. Or the account is a new one, its owner just beginning to figure out how to post content.

The videos on any given Astronaut journey earn their place by virtue of generic, camera-assigned file names (IMG 0034, MOV 0005, DSC 0165…), zero views, and an upload within the last week.

The overall effect is one of mesmerizing, unremarkable life going on whether it’s observed or not.

Children perform in their living room

A woman assembles a bride’s bouquet

A kitten bats a toy

A pre-fab home is moved into place

The vision is heartwarmingly global.

Astronaut is anti-star, but there are some frequent sightings, owing to the number of nameless inconsequential videos any one user uploads.

This week a Vietnamese fashionista, a karaoke space in Argentina, and a boxing ring in Montreal make multiple appearances, as do some very tired looking teachers.

The effect is most soothing when you allow it to wash over you unimpeded, but there is a red button below the frame, if you feel compelled to linger within a certain scene.

(You can also click on whatever passes for the video’s title in the upper left corner to open it on YouTube, from whence you might be able to suss out a bit more information.)

A very young Super Mario fan has apparently colonized a parent’s account for his narrated gaming videos.

Halfway around the world, a formally dressed man sits behind a desk prior to his first-ever upload.

Some gifted dancers fail to rotate prior to uploading.

A recently acquired night vision wildlife cam has already captured a number of coyotes.

And everyone who comes through the door of a Chinese household adores the happy baby within.

It’s unclear if the algorithm will alight on any cell phone footage documenting the shocking scenes at recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. Perhaps not, given the urgency to share such videos, titling them to clue viewers in to the what, who, where, when, and why.

For now Astronaut appears to be the same floaty trip Jake Swearingen described in a 2017 article for New York Magazine:

The internet is a place that often rewards the shocking, the sad, the rage-inducing — or the nakedly ambitious and attention-seeking. A morning of watching Astronaut.io is an antidote to all that.

Begin your explorations with Astronaut here.

h/t to reader Tom Hedrick

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Every day since March 15, she has uploaded a set of 10 micrhvisions of socially distanced New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Free Plays from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth & More

As depressing articles about the upcoming Summer of COVID-19 begin to proliferate, our hopes for beach days, concert series, and summer camp begin to dim.

Here in New York City, the Public Theater’s announcement that it is cancelling the upcoming season of its famed Shakespeare in the Park was met with understandable sadness.

You don’t have to like Shakespeare to enjoy the ritual of entering Central Park shortly after dawn, prepared to sit online for several hours awaiting noon’s free ticket distribution, then returning to the Delacorte later that night with snacks and sweater and wine.




Performing a quick Internet search to brush up on the plot can enhance the experience, but—and I saw this as someone whose degree included a metric heinieload of The Bard—it can be equally satisfying to spend the final acts enjoying an impromptu, al fresco nap.

Bonus points if a raccoon runs across the stage at some point.

Alas all this must be denied us in the summer of 2020, but it's still within our power to replicate that summer feeling in advance of the equinox, using the past productions that London’s Globe Theatre is screening on its YouTube channel as our starting place.

First up is Romeo & Juliet from 2009, starring Ellie Kendrick and Adetomiwa Edun, though according to the Independent’s Michael Coveney, the show belongs to Penny Layden as the Nurse:

Far removed from the fussing tradition of comic garrulity and the Patricia Routledge factor, Layden plays her as a scrubbed, middle-aged, sensible woman carrying a history of sadness. The bawdy assault on her by Philip Cumbus's melancholy Mercutio is both shocking and plausible, and she retains her quiet dignity while at the same time mourning its sacrifice.

Back to New York City...

Prior to starting your screening, you'll want to approximate a seat at the Delacorte (which, like the Globe, is authentically circular in shape). I recommend a metal folding chair.

Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of water onto the seat if you want to pretend it rained all afternoon leading up to the performance.

Definitely have some wine to pour into a plastic cup.

Slather yourself in insect repellent.

Silence your cell phone.

If your housemate’s cell phone goes off mid-performance, feel free to tsk and sssh and roll your eyes. Honestly, how hard is it to comply with the familiar instructions of the house manager’s speech?

At intermission, stand outside your own bathroom door for at least 15 minutes before letting yourself into a “stall” to use the facilities.

Doze all you want to…. arrange for your housemate to tsk and sssh at you from an appropriate distance, should your snoring become audible.

You have until Sunday, May 3 to stumble sleepily away from the screen, and pretend you’re wandering to the subway with 1799 other New Yorkers.

Then make plans to wake up at 5:30 and sit on the floor with a thermos of coffee for several hours, hoping that they won’t run out of tickets for The Two Noble Kinsmen before you make it to the top of the line.

(Spoiler alert: they won’t.)

Others in the Globe’s free series:

MacBeth, May 11 until UK schools reopen

The Winter’s Tale (2018), May 18 - May 31

The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019), June 1 - June 14

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), June 15 - 28

Clicking the red “discover more” lozenge beneath each show’s photo on the Globe Watch's landing page will lead you to a wealth of supporting materials, from pre-show chats with the Globe’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Will Tosh to photos, articles, and a student challenge specifically tailored to the times we find ourselves living through now.

Subscribe to the Globe’s YouTube channel to receive reminders.

Donate to the Globe here.

Americans can make a tax-deductible donation to The Public Theater here.

via My Modern Met

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Depending on how long this thing goes on, she may look into giving Penny Layden a run for the money by live-streaming her solo show, NURSE. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Find Emotional Strength & Resilience During COVID-19: Advice from Elizabeth Gilbert, Jack Kornfield, Susan David & Other Experts

There are many roads through the coronavirus crisis. One is denial, which only makes things worse. Another is service and self-sacrifice, a choice we honor in the medical professionals putting their lives at risk every day. For most of us, however, the best course of action is non-action—staying home and isolating ourselves from others. Days bleed into weeks, weeks into months. It can seem like life has come to a complete halt. It hasn’t, of course. All sorts of things are happening inside us. We don’t know how long this will last; current courses of action don’t bode well. What do we do with the fear, anger, loneliness, grief, and buzzing, ever-present anxiety?

Maybe the first thing to do is to accept that we have those feelings and feel them, instead of stuffing them down, covering them up, or pushing them onto someone else. Then we can recognize we aren't by any means alone. That’s easier said than done in quarantine, but psychologists and inspirational writers and speakers like Elizabeth Gilbert have come together under the auspices of the TED Connect series, hosted by the head of TED Chris Anderson, to help.




TED, known for showcasing “thinkers and doers [giving] the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less),” has wisely recognized the need to dig much deeper. Anderson and head of curation Helen Walters’ conversation with Gilbert, above, runs a little over an hour.

As for that ceaseless anxiety, Gilbert suggests we should all give ourselves “a measure of mercy and compassion.” We might feel like we need permission to do so in societies that demand we constantly justify our existence. But admitting vulnerability is the beginning of strength. Then we find constructive ways forward. The kind of resilience we can build in isolation is the kind that can outlast a crisis. Still, it is hard won. As Anderson says above, in addition to the external battle we must fight with the virus and our own governments, “there’s this other battle as well, that is probably equally as consequential. It’s a battle that’s going on right inside our minds.”

Rather than killing time waiting fitfully for some acceptable form of normal to return, we can build what psychologist Susan David calls “emotional courage.” In conversation with TED’s Whitney Pennington Rogers, above, David reveals that she herself has good reason to fear: her husband is a physician. She also understands the consequences of a collective denial of suffering and death. “The circumstance that we are in now is not something that we asked for, but life is calling on every single one of us to move into the place of wisdom in ourselves… into the space of wisdom and fortitude, solidarity, community, courage.” We move into that space by recognizing that “life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.”

Themes of courage and connection come up again and again in other TED Connects interviews, such as that above with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and below with author Priya Parker. Elsewhere on the internet, you’ll find similar kinds of advice.

On the Tim Ferris show, you can hear interviews with Jack Kornfield on finding peace in the pandemic, Esther Perel on navigating relationships in quarantine, and Ryan Holiday on using Stoicism to choose “alive time over dead time.”

Stoicism has gathered a particularly rich store of wisdom about how to live in crisis. In his own meditation on isolation, Michel de Montaigne drew on the Stoics in advising readers to “reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free, wherein to settle our true liberty, our principle solitude and retreat…. We have a mind pliable in itself, that will be company; that has wherewithal to attack and to defend, to receive and to give: let us not then fear in this solitude to languish under an uncomfortable vacuity.” In other words, the road through isolation, though fraught with painful emotions and uncertainties, can be, if we choose, one of significant personal and collective growth.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Playlist of Songs to Get You Through Hard Times: Stream 20 Tracks from the Alan Lomax Collection

There’s an argument to be made that folk music is always political, in a broad sense. It is music made by ordinary people struggling against overwhelming forces: natural disasters, oppressive governments, corrupt bosses, job loss, the pains of marriage and illicit relationships... and epidemic infectious diseases. It’s music of consolation and resilience. Folk music helps us navigate—as the title of a 20-song collection of Alan Lomax’s recordings newly released on Bandcamp puts it—“hard times: up, over and through.”

At least,  the fact that we know of and can hear so much folk music from around the world has a good deal to do with political decisions made, for example, in the U.S., where Lomax began working with his folklorist father John, collecting music and interviews for the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song. This work was funded on the premise that conserving the voice of the people had value independent of its profitability.




But profitable it was: first creatively, as Lomax’s recordings inspired the American and British folk revivals of the mid-20th century: then financially, as folk and folk-rock artists sold millions of records. Given the tenor of those times, it’s no wonder folk became mainly associated with Civil Rights, labor, and anti-war movements. Yet as folklorists like Lomax showed, even after the Congressional funding ended, folk songs from around the world have stories to tell that we may never have heard otherwise.

A 20-track selection of those songs, dating between 1936 and 1982, can hardly be representative of the massive trove of recordings Lomax collected. It does show, a press release notes, “an enormous range of geographical and stylistic diversity across 50 years,” with artists ranging from “legends of American vernacular music—Bessie Jones, Skip James, and Dock Boggs among them—to rural Italian, Spanish, and Scottish singers.” This music offers, “in these trying times, comfort diversion, and historical perspective.”

Such perspective is critical when the world seems to be falling apart. The struggles of “folk”—wherever they may be in the world—are interconnected and ongoing. Hearing how people responded to disaster, both personal and collective, in decades past provides a sense of continuity. Things have been very bad before, and people have had reason to lament. To declare that “Money is King,” as a track by The Growling Tiger tells us. To wonder plaintively, as Harry Cox does, “What will become of England/if things go on this way?”

But folk singers have also had reasons for joy, in the best and the bleakest of times, and joy is also a kind of politics, a show of strength in the face of what Rev. Pearly Brown plainly calls “A Mean Old World.” Stream the collection, which includes six previously unreleased tracks, above, and buy individual tracks or the full digital album for $5 at Bandcamp.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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