Here it is, the Ostensible New Year. The new school year heralds a feeling of getting back down to business; whether we are escorting our kids to the bus stop or just fighting a little more morning traffic, we all share a sense, regardless of the thermometer's reading, that summer is over. Even if the seasons, at this station in your life, don't demarcate your responsibilities, you still hold the somatic memory of that feeling when you realize that the freedom is over, that another interminable year of teachers and homework and other degradations great and small await you. We shall throw a more mature light on that sense next week, but for now, let us ruminate on our own memories of this annual affair.
I think I speak for most Soupies when I say that going back to school is fraught with fears of exposure of your various ill-fitting attributes. Left-handed scissors, the cushion of the green rubber handles little consolation for the exhibition of your anomalous wiring. The uneasy, starchy feeling of your new school clothes a perversion of your carefree summer wardrobe. The buzzing alarm and gloomy early morning sky harbingers of a year of rigor. Then, homeroom... the cool kids seem even cooler than last year while you're just the same, and the ones lower in the pecking order seem to be growing up faster and taller than you, you sense yourself slipping in the Division Standings. The teacher just another adult with another agenda, another boring, uncool agenda. And the teachers that want to be youthful and goofy, well they are the most suspect of all. Then the interminable hours that lead you to the lunchroom... where among the communal tables, social strata become visibly, geographically arranged. The long march to the final bell, the realization that you will have to endure this inhumanity for... you count on your fingers and employ your multiplication skills... could it be? You stop in your tracks, your backpack hanging heavily off your slumped shoulders. Your jaw drops, it authentically drops... Another 200 days? That night, a dream of arriving to school in your underwear and wondering how you could be so stupid! How could you forget your clothes?
It is all too much, and now for the parents among you, you escort your kids to their doom with reassuring words of how thankful they should be to live in a land of freedom and education and how they should seize this opportunity with both hands, knowing well the hollow sound of your entreaties. Alas... it is their problem now. You're done with all that.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Napoleon. The name itself inspires fear and admiration, even the occasional bit of merry-making. The impact he had on the world is staggering... He inspired so many throughout history to market themselves under a single name, like Cher, and later, Madonna. He even inspired the development of canned food (pictured at left)...
As the Napoleonic Wars raged, Napoleon realized something important after observing his army decimated by scurvy and malnutrition, namely that "an army marches on its stomach" and "soup makes the soldier", and that feeding the troops was one of his greatest logistical challenges. He offered a prize of 12,000 francs to anyone who could develop a way to keep food from spoiling. The prize winner, a candy maker named Nicolas Appert, opened his first vacuum-packing plant by 1804, the technology of which leaked across the English Channel and helped create the canned food industry.