Brave New Me

Blog- Movie Brave New WorldGrowing up, I detested Star Trek and anything futuristic. I had no interest in science fiction, and to this day have never seen Star Wars.

In high school, because it was assigned, I read Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but left to choice, never saw The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi or The Matrix.

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. And truthfully, for the most part, those things didn’t interest me.

I’m not one for dramatic change, and science fiction forced me to participate in scenarios that required a lot of imagination, and even if only for the duration of a film, acceptance of a life that looked way different from the one I was living. I didn’t want to contemplate an existence with aliens or a future bleak with Big Brother. Those things, and Spock’s ears, frightened me.

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Turns out, I was right to be frightened because science fiction movies and books have predicted our future.

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley portrayed a world in which people escaped through the use of mood-enhancing drugs called "soma".

"By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles."

Huxley wrote about mood- altering drugs in the 30’s, years before antidepressants became prevalent.

And in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), written by George Orwell, government control was questioned. Orwell described a future where "Big Brother," knew exactly what you were doing and when.

"There was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system…It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time."

With surveillance cameras, computer hacking and information forever stored in the cloud that concept is not so far-fetched today.

As a young girl, I couldn’t have imagined a future world without landline phones, encyclopedias or marriage. And yet those things are either already obsolete or on there way to being outmoded.

The same way I couldn’t have imagined a world without those things, I’ll bet you can’t imagine a world without food. And yet science is taking us there.

Interestingly enough the concept of not needing food was depicted in a 1973 science fiction movie called Soylent Green. I’ve never seen the film but it takes place in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans and other problems due to the greenhouse effect.

In the movie, people survive on wafers called "Soylent Green"; and as if an overpopulated, polluted, world weren’t horrifying enough -spoiler alert- Soylent Green, viewers find out at the end of the movie in a surprising twist, is made of human remains.

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In 2012, three young men ran into financial trouble while working on a technology startup. They needed a way to cut expenses. They found food was a problem: costly and time-consuming.

Rhinehart, who was studying electrical engineering, began to think about food as an engineering problem and concluded that food was an inefficient way to get what you needed to survive. Rhinehart put his startup on hold and focused on nutritional biochemistry. He invented a potion made up of 35 nutrients required for survival, and being a bit derisory called it Soylent. He started living on it. Only.

Rhinehart claimed Soylent was saving him time and money and physically, he wrote, “I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker.”

Read: The End of Food published in The New Yorker for more details. The article describes how meals in the future will be separated. There will be meals for utility and function, and meals for experience and socialization.

Liquid food has played an escalating role in diet regiments for years. We have Ensure and Muscle Milk and because of health concerns and time constraints there is juicing and green drinks and smoothies.

Tim Gore, the head of food policy and climate change for Oxfam says, “The main way that most people will experience climate change is through the impact on food: The food they eat, the price they pay and the choices they have due to availability.”

The New Yorker article states that Chipotle announced it might phase out guacamole due to climate change.

This might be proof that Gore is right.

In Interstellar, a recently released science fiction movie, humans can no longer survive on a dying planet Earth and a crew of astronauts travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.

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It doesn’t sound like my kind of movie but I’m reconsidering if I’ll see it. That’s what art does: it shows us who we are, and what we want. But also what we fear.

Killer Heels

Heels 2Is it true that men are chumps for women in pumps? A new study out of France says that men are more helpful to women in high heels. Is that why we wear them?

The first time I can remember being wowed by a pair of heels was when Olivia Newton John wore red stilettos in the movie Grease. Her beauty mesmerized me, even as she danced, a bit wobbly, as if dancing on stilts, singing You Better Shape Up to John Travolta. Given how good she looked to me, her discomfort and clumsiness seemed irrelevant.

I bought my first pair of heels, red Candies, just a few months later.

I was 14.

And I loved those shoes.

Some historical accounts show that heels were worn by men, and not women, as early as the 9th century in Persia. Other accounts say heels grew in popularity around the time of Louis XIV in France. High heels were symbols of power and dominance, allowing men to tower over other men. Heels were initially associated with class, status and privilege. Around the 17th century upper class women began to wear heels and by the 18th century, men stopped wearing them, deeming them impractical.

Heels went out of fashion for a while but then made a comeback in pornography, mostly pinups for men’s barracks during World War ll.

It wasn’t until after the war that the stiletto was invented and fashion aligned with erotica. While we may have had a desire for higher heels; we simply didn’t have the technology. But in the 50’s it became possible to create higher heels by putting steel in the heel, and crafting high heel shoes became an art form for striking and innovative design.

Presently, at the Brooklyn Museum, there is an exhibit, Killer Heels: The Art of the High Heeled Shoe. I loved the exhibit, and viewed the shoes on display in awe, appreciating the genius and beauty in the designs, captivated by the red soles on countless Louboutin shoes, gold leather Salvatore Ferragamo wedges from 1938 and silk creations from as far back as 1650.

But then there were the shoes from China that women who had their feet bound wore; and my heart literally clenched, my stomach turned. I went home and read about foot binding and how a woman’s foot was broken and bound in order for it not to grow. As a result feet would be smaller, more dainty and womanlike. This process, foot binding, was excruciating, feet deformed and women crippled. And yet the desire to be beautiful, and maintain high status, according to some cultural belief, allowed this to go on for centuries.

Is it so different today here in America?

Our back hurts, our calves are tight but go to Barney’s 5th floor any time of any day. Go to the Bergdorf’s shoe salon. Those floors are so crowded you would think they were giving the shoes away. On the contrary, prices have climbed as shoe departments have grown in size. It seems we can’t get enough. Of course flats are displayed too; but that’s not what catches my attention.

What fuels our desire for heels?

Is it Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City? Does her desire for Manolo Blahniks glamorize the high heel?

Are women more attractive in stilettos?

Or have we been conditioned to think that high heels are beautiful because celebrities and fashion models are pictured in them?

Here’s news: in 2010, at an Alexander McQueen fashion show a model took off her deadly sharp stilettos, protesting, choosing not to walk the show for health and safety reasons.

Are high heels the new cigarettes?

There was a time when Lauren Becall and Humphrey Bogart made smoking look cool. But in case you didn’t know, Humphrey Bogart died of esophageal cancer. As people got educated and became aware of the hazards of smoking, things changed.

So feminists, like the surgeon general, warn us. They proclaim that heels are unsafe and detrimental to the well-being of a body, our backs and feet compromised. And maybe that agenda has been successful. The image of the heel altered from something beautiful to something irrational, which leads one to believe that flats are just cooler. Image accounts for a lot. And possibly, in time, these shifts in thinking will change things for future generations.

Often, comfort wins out, and I wear flats; but while I believe there is nothing as uncool as wearing high wedges or heels to the beach or a poolside, sometimes, I do it anyway.

Even though it might not be considered the height of elegance or class, I have been known to dance barefooted at the end of a long night. Yes, I can be defeated, or more precisely, “defeeted” by my shoes.

And yet, I won’t stop wearing them. I gawk at them in wonder in magazines, on department stores shelves, on other women’s feet and in museum exhibitions. They are inexplicably alluring.

In Kinky Boots, the Broadway show, there is a song called, Sex Is In The Heel. And maybe that’s it.

After all, John Travolta responds as desired to Olivia Newton John as she struts in those red stilettos. He sings, “And I’m losing control ‘cause the power you’re supplying, its electrifying.”

High heels are instruments of power. And I, along with many other women, buy into the idea that they elongate your legs, make you wiggle when you walk and give you a taller, thinner silhouette.

Even though logically, I want to say those are silly, superficial reasons to wear high heels, on some primitive level, I’m seduced by them. Just as men are.