Creative & Tasty Ways to Kill Yourself

Ladies and gentlemen!  Damas y caballeros! It is my pleasure, no, my honor, to present to you…


As detailed in this pleasant and panic-free story from NBC’s Today Show, this “invention” is set to premiere at the Texas State Fair later this month.

Let me save you the experience of reading the entire article (an act which might induce a heart attack all by itself) to summarize the highlights:

1. The inventor–Abel Gonzalez Jr.–is Chicano (but of course!).

2. Gonzalez won the Texas State Fair’s “Most Creative Fried Food Award” in 2006 for his previous invention of “fried Coke.”

3. Gonzalez coats the butter with a tasty crust because, as he says, “Nobody just grabs a stick of butter and eats it. That would be gross.”

4. A Texan “nutritionist,” who thinks it is bad to ban any food and, instead, advocates a moderation policy, says even this has “some” nutrition. “Fried butter has fats, and you need some fats. The dough would have some carbohydrates.”

My brain is as overloaded as the average American’s arteries right now in trying to make “sense” of this.  Should Latinos consider Gonzalez a covert re-conquistador, taking back Aztlan in a slow-motion act of heart attack?  No, too easy.  Should we not be concerned, since this “food” will really only affect Texans and, as we all know, there’s way too many of them anyway? No.  And what about the children?!? Oh!!  The CHILDREN!!!

In all seriousness, the fact that there is a competition to invent things like this is a testament to our current state of imperial decline.  This is like the Romans sitting around…wait a minute.  I just realized the only things I remembered about the Romans are from Mel Brooks. Well, that just shows you how far they fell.

Funny, though, that the oblivious excess of the whole thing is so hyperbolic as to also be uniquely “American.”  And what does that say?


Racism in the strawberry fields

Most people in the United States don’t think racism is a problem. While they’ll agree it was a “problem of the past,” the lack of formal segregation (the only kind of racism people were taught to understand) suggests to them not only have things gotten better, they’re pretty good overall.

This perspective is rooted in the post-Civil Right Era debates between the Left and the Right, a debate the latter largely won.  When Reagan seized the rhetoric of “personal responsibility,” he worked from the assumption that people were unencumbered by any formal structural kinds of impediments to their own progress and, so, if they were poor, it was their fault.

The lack of recognition of racism in our present-day is ultimately linked to our lack of understanding regarding how “race” actually operates in our society.  As I suggested above, that is not surprising considering the historic contest of the last thirty years over ideology and interpretation, a struggle of public policy and accountability as much as anything else.  But our condition is also expected when you consider the complexity with which race actually does operate in our present moment.

Take strawberries.

In 2007, over the objection of 50 medical and scientific experts, the Bush Administration’s EPA approved the use of the pesticide methyl iodide.  The chemical is promoted by the strawberry industry, despite the fact it “has been found to cause thyroid toxicity, neurological damage, and fetal loss in lab animals.”

The letter written by the group opposing its approval in 2007 said, in part, “We are concerned that pregnant women and the fetus, children, the elderly, farm workers, and other people living near application sites would be at serious risk.”  The EPA approved it anyway.

You and I and anybody else who might ever eat a strawberry is at risk because of this chemical.  Honestly, we have been for a long time.  Strawberry production is reliant on a host of chemicals, not to mention systemic labor abuses, some of which were detailed in Eric Schlosser’s 1995 exposé of the industry.  The long and short of it is, none of us should at strawberries, for both health and moral reasons.

The most disturbing part of this, however, is the way racism is at play.  Brown bodies toil in those fields, almost without exception. Those brown bodies are not valued by government or society as embodying the same kind of human being as do white bodies.  Their cancer rates are irrelevant; their wombs are collateral damage.  Their humanity is dismissed as an appropriate risk and loss in order for us to have big, red strawberries.

The use of methyl iodide has been banned by the State of New York. The decision on whether to scrutinize its use in California is currently in the governor’s hands. In the next two weeks, Schwarzeneggar will make his decision: to be a pawn of agribusiness or to recognize the humanity of poor, brown workers.  We will see.

A tremendous h/t goes to Barry Estabrook and his coverage of this issue on Gourmet.  Their “food politics” coverage is almost without rival.


Academic blob

Do you watch Oprah?  I know!  Me, too.  Hell, it’s probably the law or something…

Well, as you know, Oprah and her middle/upper class viewers are obsessed with both living healthy and living forever.  Enter Dr. Oz.  He’s been helping us help ourselves for sometime now, though lately he’s kicked it up a notch.

Oz and his buddy have gone around the world researching what makes old people old.  You know what they found?  It’s about regular exercise, a healthy diet, vitamins and minerals, and emotional & mental nourishment.  Damn scientists!

Well, with the above constituting the “secret recipe” for a long life, it’s no wonder academics don’t do too well. I mean, we got the whole emotional and mental nourishment thing down (although I’ve met more than a few “on the job” who are a little emotionally, shall we say, wanting?) but even if you eat right, they still smack you down with the whole physical inactivity thing.

This is part of a work email I got today:

Here is how it works – Once a faculty member identifies the desired book through the electronic catalog system [redacted], they simply push the “request” button that is on the screen. After logging in with their name and ID number, the faculty member can choose to either have the item held at the library or can select “mail.” In the case of “mail” a menu will appear offering the seven campuses as delivery choices. The faculty “request” goes into a queue; a librarian will print a slip, retrieve the book, check the book out to the requesting faculty member, package it up and send it to the mail room. The mail service will deliver books at least once a day. Each campus mailroom will deliver the books to their respective faculty members. Similarly, books may be returned to the library or through individual mail rooms and the mail staff will pick them up and return them to the library.

The art of browsing is dead. I may be following soon.


Day-care poisons 10 kids

From the Associated Press comes this story:

Ten children at an Arkansas day-care center drank windshield wiper fluid after the owner served it from a container mistaken for Kool-Aid and placed in a refrigerator, authorities said Friday. The day-care owner voluntarily surrendered her state license Friday.

The ten kids who were served the wiper fluid all survived. Only one remains in the hospital and is expected to be released soon. So that’s good.

BUT, what I find most shocking is that there are day-care facilities in this country who still think its okay to serve kids Kool-Aid! Don’t get me wrong; I was raised on the stuff. But I was also raised in the 70s and 80s. We thought shit was going to blow up in a nuclear holocaust, so who cared about health?

Stories like this make me realize the profound health divide that exists between regions–and within segments–of the United States. There is a divide between (most of) California and (most of) Arkansas, as there is a divide between urban and rural America.  Economic class filters how people receive and manage health information (I once lived in a poor neighborhood where fruit punch was often called “juice”); and cultural preferences often shape the results even further (Lord knows they loves them some Kool-Aid in the South).  But I don’t think that’s all of it.

Is there a difference in the way regional cultures in the U.S. value knowledge itself?

The “Border Beat” (December 15, 2008)

Health care, the Border Patrol, murder, religion, abuse, and intrigue–it’s all here in the latest edition of The “Border Beat,” a roster of the must-read news for you Latinos and Latino-philes out in Latinolandia.

• “Hiding in Plain Sight” (NY Times Magazine)
This might be one of the most complete and humanistic stories written on undocumented immigrants in the past year.  In this profile story, a family of Mexican migrants living in New York serves as the foundation of a thorough and thoughtful description of the myriad forces shaping life and circumstance for the millions living and  studying and working within our borders.  My favorite part is a child’s description of her and her family’s status as “unlegal.”

• “Children of U.S. Farmworkers Often Uninsured” (Washington Post)
This is not a surprising article in terms of the revelation that the children of farmworkers remain among the most underserved when it comes to health care, but it is a reminder of the continuing need for more–more attention, effort, affordable health care, insurance, fair labor standards, movement, and justice.

• “Border Patrol swells to more than 18,000” (Houston Chronicle)
Bush is close to fulfilling his pledge to double the Border Patrol by the end of his presidency.  There are problems, of course, with such a rapid growth spurt (not to mention the ones relating to the “pledge” in the first place).  The Border Patrol is now most-armed federal agency, having more gun-carrying personnel than the FBI.

• “More Hispanics in USA fluent in English” (USA Today)
This is as interesting a story and are the sad comments of many of the readers.  For those who care, Latinos seem to be assimilating according to tradition in U.S. history, with respect to language–only faster.  Germans, Russians, and others held on to their native tongues in monolingual enclaves as well, don’t forget, and often for longer.

• “Jews, Latino Pentecostals together” (Post-Bulletin)
A small piece that serves as an able introduction to both the growing population of Latino Pentacostals and the strengths/weaknesses of Jewish-Protestant relations.

• “Calls for justice after Ecuadorean’s beating death” (Newsday)
Just weeks after the murder of Marcelo Lucero, another New York Latino is dead, apparenty the victim of a hate crime.