Monthly Archives: February 2004

Fast Food Nation

I recently finished reading Eric Schlosser’s excellent book, Fast Food Nation (Penguin, 2002). Rather than try to write yet another review of this extremely popular and widely-reviewed book, I’ll just cite a few of the passages that I found especially noteworthy:

  • “EVERY DAY in the United States, roughly 200,000 people are sickened by a foodbourne disease, 900 are hospitalized, and fourteen die.”
  • “The medical literature on the causes of food poisoning is full of euphemisms and dry scientific terms: coliform levels, aerobic plate counts, sorbitol, MacConkey agar, and so on. Behind them lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: There is shit in the meat.”
  • “Today nations with BSE must not only confront the prospect of slaughtering millions of potentially infected cattle, but must also figure out what to do with their remains. In Great Britain, about a billion pounds of rendered cattle sit at waste sites, vast mounds of fine brown powder, awaiting incineration. In Japan, plans are being made to blend rendered cattle with concrete — and use the mixture as a building material. In Denmark, a company is now erecting the world’s first power plant that generates electricity by burning cattle.”
  • “Whatever replaces the fast food industry should be regional, diverse, authentic, unpredictable, sustainable, profitable — and humble. It should know its limits. People can be fed without being fattened or deceived. This new century may bring an impatience with conformity, a refusal to be kept in the dark, less greed, more compassion, less spend, more common sense, a sense of humor about brand essences and loyalties, a view of food as more than just fuel. Things don’t have to be the way they are. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I remain optimistic.”

You can read a short article by Eric Schlosser, Bad Meat, in the online edition of The Nation.

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In Denial?

According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Defence has vigorously denied a report by the official Iranian news agency IRNA that Osama Bin Laden has already been captured. Hmmm… Call me a cynic, but it’ll be interesting to see if OBL is magically produced by U.S. forces a few weeks before this year’s U.S. presidential election.


I watched the movie Underworld at home on DVD last night, and I have to confess, I LOVED it! This movie was pretty much panned by critics, and admittedly the premise of the story is somewhat absurd, and the dialog isn’t that good, but visually and aurally, it’s great. Although there’s little food for thought, there’s plenty of candy for both the eyes and ears, with attractive stylish characters doing impressive “wire-work” stunts in dark gothic sets, plus excellent use of Dolby Digital surround sound.

It was also really nice to see an action/fantasy movie that didn’t rely too heavily on computer graphics for a change; most of the effects were done the old-fashioned way using prosthetics — basically guys in animatronic rubber monster suits. And finally of course, Kate Beckinsale is amazing as Selene, the beautiful leather-and-latex clad femme fatale, instantly joining the ranks of other movie-femme-fatales-I-really-liked, such as Anne Parrilaud in Nikita and Carrie Anne Moss in the Matrix trilogy (Matrices?).

Farewell CK

My friend Chris (a.k.a. CK) left New York today to begin a new life back in San Francisco (via ski resorts in Colorado and Wyoming, and a two-week trip to Australia!). We caught up briefly in the Botanic Bar on Houston for a farewell drink or two last night.

I was sad to see him leave, since we both moved here from San Francisco in 2002 and he’s been a solidly reliable buddy for drinking, dining and other fun NYC activities etc. ever since, but he missed the SF social scene and the great outdoors too much, and I’m sure will be much more content back in the Golden State.

So, farewell CK, and the very best of luck with your second chapter of life in San Francisco!

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

I was snowboarding in California over the President’s Day weekend with friends from my old job at RLG, which for the most part was a great deal of fun.

Not so much fun, however, was the crash I had at Homewood, an event later dubbed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre due to the large quantities of blood involved. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I guess it was technically my fault because I collided with a skier who was marginally ahead of me when he suddenly and unexpectedly turned across my path as we barrelled down a run called The Glades.

Unfortunately I stopped most of my not inconsiderable momentum with my face, which slammed into his back, causing us both to hit the snow pretty hard. My nose then proceeded to spray jets of blood several feet (Ricky, who was the first to arrive at the scene, compared it to the Black Knight in Monthy Python & the Holy Grail). My left hand got pretty banged up somehow too.

After establishing that my jaw was still vaguely attached to my skull, I asked the other guy if he was OK; he said he was alright, although the impact had winded him somewhat. Then he took off.

By this time the rest of my friends had arrived and were giving me tissues, helping collect the possessions that had got dispersed around the slope, looking for a ski patrol and taking pictures of the carnage etc.

After a while, I was able to get back on my board and we headed for the first aid station, and found a guy waiting for me a little way down the slope. He established that I had a “contusion” on the inside of my lower lip and some major facial swelling, so advised me to keep ice on my jaw and visit a medical centre to get some stitches at the earliest possible opportunity.

Anne was kind enough to take me to the Truckee Tahoe Medical Centre, where a Dr Krause did a great job of sewing my lower lip back together after stuffing all the meat back inside. Then he sent me home with some Vicodin and Tylenol, telling Anne that I had mild concussion and had to be watched for 6 hours to make sure I didn’t go bonkers (which could be a sign of more serious neurological trauma).

So, overall it wasn’t the best start to my 3-day snowboarding vacation, although I guess that one notable injury in 6 years of snowboarding isn’t too bad a record!

Something good, something bad…

Balance is good, right?

Something bad: Last night I was having a quiet night at home, sitting on my sofa watching a DVD movie and drinking red wine (I didn’t quite finish the bottle, a fact I was inordinately proud of).

Towards the end of the movie (Charlies Angels 2: Full Lobotomy) I innocently stretched my legs out, which resulted in the most excruciating cramps in both calfs I’ve ever experienced. After rolling around on the floor in relentless agony for what seemed like an eternity, the pain finally started to subside.

Once I was able to walk again I went online to research the phenomemenon of muscle cramps, and was chagrined to find that the causes of this transient yet excruciatingly painful condition are basically unknown; muscular fatigue plays a role of course, but potentially so do hydration and electrolyte levels…

On the plus side, I discovered on behalf of my ex-girlfriend that you can buy brand new cars online at prices significantly cheaper than dealer prices at , and are giving away thousands of free tunes here.

This Week…

Had a couple of bits of excellent news this week…

The first one was that my ex-girlfriend Jessica both successfully accomplished her first day working as a substitute teacher since getting her California teaching credential at the end of last year, and also landed a sweet 3-month teaching job at a school in the South Bay that will kick-start her teaching career and open up lots of options for the future.

The second excellent bit of news is that my oldest friend Johnny D. (we’ve known each other for 30 years) proposed to his girlfriend Emily while snowboarding for the first time in Japan — nice one geezer!

The week was rounded off nicely when another old friend (of 22 years) Andrew came up from Washington DC to spend a boozy weekend with me in New York, including a fun 30th birthday party in my neighbourhood in Brooklyn for my colleague Barbara.

The only fly in the ointment was that I lost my shiny new Canon digital camera somewhere in Manhattan early on saturday morning whilst Andrew & I were out having fun in Manhattan. I only bought it last May, and it cost over $400. Doh! Anyone that knows me will also know that this is not the first time I’ve lost an expensive camera; in fact, I seem to do it with depressingly predictable regularity.