Never let it be said that I do not suffer for my art(icles). I have just poisoned myself in the name of research. I have downed a dram of Soylent that I found in my cupboard and realised a little too late that 1) I bought it several years ago and it is now horribly out of date; 2) it was horrible to begin with; 3) it is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern life; 4) it is possibly made out of people.
Let me start from the beginning. Soylent is a meal-replacement beverage. Media outlets have described it as tasting like everything from “licking stamps” to “a protein shake with sawdust in it”. Despite these less-than-glowing reviews, Soylent has become a darling of Silicon Valley. The company, founded by wunderkind Rob Rhinehart and launched in 2014, has raised more than $72m in funding and amassed a cult following. Having won the hearts and guts of the US, it is coming for Britain; the drink will launch in the UK on Wednesday.
Perhaps you are still confused. I don’t blame you. Unless you are a tech-bro who thinks eating is inefficient, Soylent is somewhat befuddling. Rhinehart developed the products when he was 24 because he thought food was an outdated concept; chewing took too much time and kitchens were terrifying. In his blog (which has now been deleted), he wrote: “I think it was a bit presumptuous for the architect to assume I wanted a kitchen with my apartment and make me pay for it. My home is a place of peace. I don’t want to live with red hot heating elements and razor sharp knives.” So he invented Soylent. A meal you could swig from a bottle, without using any razor sharp knives. A meal that would allow you to spend less time living, and more time being productive. And, because we live in a world obsessed with efficiency, the venture-capital money rolled in. Despite, you know, the fact that the product’s name is inspired by a 1973 post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller called Soylent Green where humans eat a foodstuff made out of people.
Hang on a sec, you may be thinking. I have heard of this whole meal replacement thing before. Isn’t that what SlimFast is? Well, yes. But that’s a foolish drink targeted at foolish women. Soylent, meanwhile, is disrupting food and changing the world. That, you see, is the genius of Silicon Valley. It takes ideas that already exist and rebrand them as amazing innovations, aimed at cool tech types.
I normally detest anything to do with Silicon Valley, but when I first heard about Soylent, several years ago, I was intrigued. I hate cooking and I am a sucker for lifehacks. I thought Soylent might change my life. So I bought 24 bottles of the stuff. I took one sip and retched. Reader, it tasted like nostril. Disappointed, I put the remaining 23 bottles in a cupboard and forgot about them. Until I got a bottle out to remind myself what it tasted like and inadvertently poisoned myself.
I am not sure how much time I have left on this earth, so I want to leave you with two thoughts. First, beware VC-funded futuristic food and just stick with the good old-fashioned chewable stuff. Second, if this expired Soylent does finish me off, then please let it be known that my last words were: “Omigod, I’m literally dying.”
Alienation vs predators
One of the actors in a new Hollywood movie called The Predator is, it turns out, a real life sexual predator. Sorry, one of the actors who was in it.
Steven Wilder Striegel had his part in the movie cut after it transpired he was a registered sex offender. In 2010, Striegel pleaded guilty to exchanging sexual emails with a 14-year-old girl. Striegel was in his late-30s at the time. He spent six months locked up.
Despite being a convicted sex offender, Striegel was given a job on a major movie because his longtime friend, Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3), was the director. Black thought his buddy deserved a second chance, but apparently did not think his cast deserved to know they were working with a sex offender. When Olivia Munn, who shared a scene with Striegel, found out, she was understandably upset and complained to Fox Studios, who cut the scene. According to Munn, she was shunned after she complained. “There are people who get very mad at you for not just helping them bury it,” Munn recently told the Hollywood Reporter.
Munn is far from alone in being ostracised after speaking out. For all the talk of #MeToo turning into a witch-hunt against men for past behaviour, it seems that the only people getting seriously burned are those who are protesting against abuses of power. Munn’s account is a depressing reminder that doing the right thing – advocating for a safe and equitable workplace and making a stand if necessary– is not always rewarded.
And this is something most minorities and women know only too well. You have to choose between alienating your peers and putting up with predators.
War and Peace and corrections
Veja, a Brazilian news magazine, recently issued this A+ correction regarding a political candidate: “[He] likes to spend his free time reading Tolstoy, and not watching Toy Story, as originally reported.” I have got to admit, I love a good newspaper correction. This Tolstoy mixup is a classic, but another great example comes from the New York Times, which misstated a Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, a Muslim scholar, and had to issue this correction: “It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.” The Guardian, too, has had its fair share of amusing typos. A 2014 recipe for tagine listed 13kg of lamb instead of 1.3kg. One imagines the copy editor felt somewhat sheepish about that.