Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
To whoever created an account with the name "Tom Metzger", it's been deleted. Buzz off, racist asshole.

tags: %l

08/28/07: China update

Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
Since my first blog entry on China (The new Yellow Menace?), I've continued to monitor the news, mostly via the New York Times, and note the trends. It's been really interesting! There was a fallow period of a few weeks after the pet food, medicine, and toy scandals, but the spotlight is back with a vengeance this week. Here are some major stories I read over the weekend:

What all of these articles emphasize is the menace of China's bullish economy, to itself and to the rest of the world. The Chinese are corrupt, they're greedy, they're reckless, they're going too fast, they're killing themselves and the hapless consumers of their products. They must be stopped... but can they be stopped? So goes the subtext (actually, most of the time it's text) of these stories. The "disk drive" story (they actually meant "hard drive"; the NY Times really needs to check their language better when they don't know the field they're writing about) was an outlier here: the concerns being expressed had a quaint Cold War feel to them that made me smile. Hard drive encryption being nefariously exploited by a Marxist enemy? Yeah... right.

What's missing from almost all of these stories is a sense of perspective about world economic history. Today it was a relief to get the following link from Orson:

Yes, fearful Americans! We're looking at a variation on our own history. And just as the remedy to American corruption and grossly adulterated products was boycotts, so will it be in the case of China. Given that quite a few of the Chinese factories spewing out poison air, dumping filth into the rivers, and sending deadly toys to the U.S. are owned or kept in business by American companies, I'll be interested to see if Congress passes legislation holding said companies accountable for their product sourcing.

Someone recently posed me the question of what individuals can do about the fact that possibly tainted Chinese ingredients are in almost everything they buy. My answer: buy local. There was a great quote in one of the above articles that succinctly explains why:
"The larger the chain, the more people involved, the greater the difficulty in controlling the quality of the product."

-- Marshall W. Meyer, professor of management at the Wharton School at UPenn
Some of the stories I've read about tainted products have featured truly byzantine supply chains, with sloppy record-keeping often obscuring the origins of items even when suppliers aren't intentionally tampering with paperwork. The amount of effort required to ensure accountability increases hugely as more people play telephone. (I didn't even know that the game was also known as "Chinese whispers" before I linked to that Wikipedia entry. How strangely appropriate.)

Totally apart from questions of food and product safety, buying local supports the economy of your own community and minimizes the packaging and transportation that continue to rank the U.S. as the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions. It makes sense, for a lot of reasons. If you're not already doing so, why not give it a try?

tags: %l

08/14/07: IBARW Addendum

Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
I only got out one post for International Blog Against Racism Week while it was still happening, but you know... there's never a wrong time to call out this shit when it happens. And lo and behold, yesterday, when I was at work, something gross and racist happened.

I'm a computer geek, and on Sunday I spent my day reorganizing the server room. We had a lot of cables left over after the reorg, so on Monday I was sorting through them and holding them up in the air to see how long they were. As I was doing so, one of my officemates walked in to the office and said offhandedly, "Looks like you're getting ready for a lynching." This was such a weird and unpleasant thing to say that my first reaction was just an annoyed, "What?!" He didn't reply, and several minutes passed as it sank in what he had just said, and I felt more and more sickened.

Most people reading this blog know me personally, but for anyone who doesn't I will say that I am white. I'm certain my officemate, who is also white, would not have made the comment he made if I was black. It was an "in joke" for white people (though thankfully he didn't push its humor value) the likes of which I haven't encountered in years. It infuriated me that he would think I was in his club, but given that I have to work with the guy I didn't yell at him. Instead, after a couple of minutes of intense thought, I told him that it was an unsavory reference and that I would prefer it if he didn't make comments like that. And then I told our mutual boss.

This guy has made sexist comments in the past, too, and generally doesn't seem too smart about what he says in front of other people. I wish I thought he was just a bad apple, but I wonder how many of his beliefs are held by other people in my community who are more subtle or careful about who they talk to. Ugh.

tags: %l

08/07/07: Racism begone!

Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
It's the second annual International Blog Against Racism Week. Think racism is a thing of the past? That it happens some other place, not where you live, or in your favorite entertainment, or in your virtual hangouts? If so, you should read some of these posts as background material, then follow up with these.

One data point that ties directly to one of my favorite topics, television: The Wire, a devastatingly good drama that happens to have a majority black cast, received not a single nomination for the Emmys this year. Another HBO series, The Sopranos, came away with 15 nominations, and the HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee received 17. This is the book adaptation that was rewritten to include a part-white character "to carry a contemporary white audience through this project". (quote from the scriptwriter, Daniel Giat)

Nope, no racism going on here.

tags: %l
Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
What's with all the negative articles about China in the New York Times lately? Our household has been getting the Sunday Times for the past couple of months, so I've been paying closer attention to their content. The first couple of China articles were interesting and disturbing. But after the third and fourth, I started to wonder, are things really that bad in China? Or does the Times have some kind of agenda to make them seem threatening?

Is there a pattern here? These are the articles I noticed, along with some more I just found from browsing the web site:

"Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China" 4/30

"From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine" 5/6

"Today’s Face of Abortion in China Is a Young, Unmarried Woman" 5/13

"An Export Boom Suddenly Facing a Quality Crisis" 5/18

"When Fakery Turns Fatal" 6/5

"4 in Senate Seek Penalty For China" 6/14

"Reports of Forced Labor at Brick Kilns Unsettle China" 6/16

"The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer" 6/17

"F.D.A. Tracked Poisoned Drugs, but Trail Went Cold in China" 6/17

"As More Toys Are Recalled, Trail Ends in China" 6/19

"China and the Chest Thumpers" 6/20 (Editorial)

"Fast-Growing China Says Little of Child Slavery’s Role" 6/21

"China Tops U.S. in Greenhouse Gas, Group Finds" 6/21 (Reuters)

"The China Puzzle" 6/22 (Editorial)

"My Time as a Hostage, and I’m a Business Reporter" 6/24

It's a lot of material! The impression one gets after reading all these articles is of capitalism run amok in a society too out of touch with itself to recognize what is happening. This may be entirely accurate, but being the cynical type I am, I wonder if there's a bit of psychological projection going on as well. After all, most of our contact with Chinese goods comes through American companies who have outsourced their manufacturing to China in pursuit of larger profits and turned a blind eye to the very abuses now being made public. Aren't they the ones we should be blaming? Perhaps, but then we might have to question our entire Wal*Mart consumer culture and how those prices got so cheap and irresistible. Much easier to choose a scapegoat.

But forget all this pop psych analysis of the zeitgeist... why are the politicians and business people so concerned? I think I found a big honking clue in the "4 in Senate Seek Penalty For China" article:
"The United States trade deficit with China last year was $232 billion, about a third of the total American deficit with its trading partners. After years of accumulating trade surpluses, the Chinese are sitting on an estimated $1.4 trillion in foreign exchange, and have started to use some of that vast reserve to purchase American companies, including a stake in the Blackstone Group last month."
Ah... now we're so in debt to China that they can start calling the shots instead of just being a compliant business asset. And that is making people very scared.

The next few years should be interesting. Maybe we're heading for a Sino-American future, as depicted in Firefly or China Mountain Zhang? It might not be a bad idea to take some lessons in Standard Mandarin...

tags: %l
Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
For those who have missed it, there’s been quite a controversy in the blogosphere lately about the lack of civility on the internet and what ought to be done about it. What sparked the conversation was a post by tech blogger Kathy Sierra about the harassment and death threats she received on several comment threads in mid-March. Pretty much everyone agrees that the threats she received were not acceptable (despite several bone-headed responses like this from guys who couldn’t be bothered to look up the details and implied that she might have made it all up). What got a lot of people inflamed was the follow-up from influential tech blogger and publishing powerhouse Tim O’Reilly, who on March 31st called for the creation of a “Blogger’s Code of Conduct” to address the sorry state of conversation on the internet.

What has ensued is a veritable shitstorm. The internet is a popular hangout for white male libertarians, and the idea of a civility code really punched their hot buttons. Their cries of “censorship!” and “fascism!” have shown a basic lack of understanding about what is being proposed (for the record the Blogger's Code is a) still in draft; b) completely voluntary; c) likely to be modular rather than a monolithic set of guidelines), and have been both intellectually lazy and obnoxious. Worst of all, they have ignored the issue that gave rise to the Code project to begin with: internet harassment and silencing of women. To a certain extent, this is because they haven’t informed themselves about the problem; a lot of them reacted to the O’Reilly proposal without understanding what prompted it. But I think another factor in a lot of cases is that -- at least in the context of the internet -- they are truly indifferent to how women feel or what their experiences are. They consider the online world to be their domain, where their customs reign supreme, and they are not at all interested in changing their ways to be inclusive of others. Thus all the variations on the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” that have come up in blog reactions over the past week.

I see two main problems with this thinking. First, it advocates an indifference to verbal abuse that ignores the continuum between the internet and the real world. Participants in comment threads and chat rooms are real people who can get just as angry or upset about what they read as they would if someone were speaking to their face in meatspace. Advising them to “get over it” or grow a thicker skin puts all the responsibility for abuse on the victims rather than the perpetrators. Sure, having a thick skin is good, but that’s not the only option here. Why not talk about how the jerks ought to change their behavior?

Second, the “get used to it” response ignores the fact that men and women, in general, have very different approaches to verbal confrontation. A lot of guys consider it healthy and/or fun to get in conversational battles; women, not so much. So for a group of guys to say, “this is the way we do things, take it or leave it” effectively shuts a lot of women out of the conversation, which in turn leads to a spiral of “boys will be boys” behavior that makes women even less likely to want to participate.

Of course, women are free to create their own blogs, and many have done so. But a lot of the most popular blogs on the internet are run by men, and the expectations for behavior are set by the collective norms of the sites people visit most often. Once a critical mass is reached, the customs start rolling forward into new blogs and copy cat behavior. It’s time we stopped acting as if each blog is an island, entire of itself, and started talking about what traditions we (men and women) really want to uphold on the internet. There will never be general agreement on these issues, but thinking about them is important, particularly at a time when internet access is on the verge of becoming a core utility like electricity and phone service.

Further reading:

"Kathy Sierra, misogyny on the web, and the Blogger's Code of Conduct", by webweaver

"Men who hate women on the Web" and "Bloggers, Don Imus and free speech", by Joan Walsh

"Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities", by Andrea Rubenstein

"Female-name Chat Users Get 25 Times More Malicious Messages", from ScienceDaily

An example of "debate" I took part in at Candleblog

Blog interconnections graphic from New York Magazine

03/21/07: Sunday laughs

Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
This past Sunday I laughed harder than I have in quite a while. It all started with the NY Times news roundup of George Bush's trip to Latin America. I will quote it in full since it wasn't an article per se, and the NY Times will "disappear" it from their web site soon.
On Bush’s Trip, a Name Unspoken and a Surprising Phrase

MÉRIDA, Mexico, March 14 — Try as they might to make President Bush utter the name of his chief Latin American nemesis, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, reporters who covered Mr. Bush’s five-nation trip through South and Central America could not succeed.

Mr. Bush faced at least 11 questions about Mr. Chávez either in interviews immediately preceding his trip or in the mini-briefings he held in each country he visited, including a couple in which Mr. Bush was directly asked about the avoidance.

Yet not once did he take the bait to say Mr. Chávez’s name or to acknowledge him as a person. At one point reporters considered asking him directly, “Who is the president of Venezuela?” They concluded that it would not only be too ridiculous, but that it probably would not bring the desired result anyway.

What appeared to be a decision to avoid using the name reflected a calculation by Mr. Bush that to engage in any sort of direct debate with the Venezuelan leader — who has called Mr. Bush a liar, “the devil” and a “political cadaver” — would be to encourage him that much more as he popped up throughout the week in Argentina or Nicaragua or Haiti or Jamaica to hurl still more insults.

And aides traveling with Mr. Bush this week did their best to contend that he was not paying a stitch of attention to Mr. Chávez.

But Mr. Bush undercut them by suggesting during an interview with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that Mr. Chávez was indeed on his mind. Ms. Van Susteren interviewed Mr. Bush after he visited the ranch of President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay, where his host served him Uruguayan barbecue. “Venezuela has got fantastic meats,” Mr. Bush said, then caught himself. “I mean, Uruguay has got fantastic meats.”

Why Yes, He Did Say That

Even Mr. Bush’s friends in the region displayed an uncomfortable unpredictability in their public comments this week. The prize for the most off-color commentary during one of Mr. Bush’s joint news conferences goes to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Appearing with Mr. Bush in São Paulo last week, Mr. da Silva was asked about the prospects for a conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks, important for nations like Brazil that seek freer access to American and European markets.

According to the real-time translation pumped into the ears of the American visitors, Mr. da Silva said, “We’re moving on solid ground to find a chance for the so-called ‘G-point’ to come to an agreement.”

President Bush blanched, and the Brazilians in the room broke out in uproarious laughter and gasps as the other Americans in the room puzzled over what initially appeared to them to be perhaps a local term used when speaking about trade talks. What the slightly erroneous translation meant was a certain erogenous zone in the female anatomy.

American officials said aides traveling with Mr. Bush — among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley — were initially in disbelief. But alas, it was true.

Perhaps they could have seen it coming had they seen Mr. da Silva’s quotes to local reporters the day before, when he promoted open talk about sexuality as a way to combat AIDS: “Sex is something that almost everybody likes. It’s an organic necessity for the human species and animal species.”

Another Organic Necessity

With scandal brewing at home and protests greeting him wherever he went, President Bush seemed to be seeking solace in food.

It was certainly on his mind, and wherever he went he made some reference to what he would eat, what he hoped to eat or what he had eaten.

In a news briefing in Uruguay at Dr. Vázquez’s ranch — where meats were prepared in a giant pit — Mr. Bush said: “I appreciate your willingness to cook some Uruguayan beef. You’ve told me all along how good it is, and after we answer a few questions, we’re about to find out.”

In an joint news briefing with President Óscar Berger of Guatemala that preceded a dinner together, Mr. Bush said he was hurrying his remarks, explaining, “I’m not going to talk too long because I might get too hungry.”

Toward the end of the briefing, Mr. Bush reminded his host, “This will be your last question, Mr. President, and then we can start thinking about dinner — la cena,” then asking, “Qué vamos a comer?” — or, “What are we going to eat?”

“Tortillas,” Mr. Berger said. “We have tortillas with guacamole and beans.”

“Tortillas?” Mr. Bush said, “Qué bueno.”

But in Mexico, Mr. Bush seems to have finally had his fill. Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, opened the one full-fledged news briefing he gave during the entire trip by explaining Mr. Bush’s lunch menu on Tuesday: “Three panuchos: These are corn tortillas filled with refried beans — actually, sort of layered, not ‘filled,’ your flat, round tortillas, not great, big tortillas — with pork, turkey and roast chicken.”

On top of that, he said, “There was a fresh grouper fillet, with white rice and a Mexican herb called epazote, I think, and refried beans.” Then, “papaya compote ice cream, served with a marquesita, that’s a regional crepe, quite good; grated Dutch cheese.”

Speaking with his host, President Felipe Calderón, on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush finally admitted, “Estoy lleno,” or, “I’m full.”

Few Signs of Snow

As he indicated during his briefing, Mr. Snow seemed to enjoy the food as well, as he stuck close to Mr. Bush’s side at presidential lunches and dinners and tours through Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Mexico.

But his empty lectern in the various hotel filing centers — where most of the journalists traveling with Mr. Bush worked as he toured — became something of a running joke among reporters who had little contact with Mr. Bush and his retinue and were chagrined by the absence of the man assigned to talk to them.

At one point The Washington Post posted a mock milk carton all-points bulletin on its Web site, showing a picture of Mr. Snow and the headline, “Have you seen this man?”

Mr. Snow finally showed up on the last full day of the tour, briefing in the early evening about Mr. Bush’s meetings with Mr. Calderón in a bright yellow shirt that led one reporter — O.K., this one — to shout out, “It’s like the arrival of the sun.”

Mr. Snow later apologized, saying that the president’s schedule had been more hectic and complicated than expected, making it logistically difficult for him time to brief the majority of the news media on the trip.
Could Bush and his administration seem more clueless or irrelevant? Probably. OK, given the track record, certainly. But this was a nevertheless amusing snapshot of Shrub flitting like a blissfully ignorant aristocrat around a region of the world that pretty much hates him (a group of Mayan priests even thought it necessary to break out the spiritual scrubbing bubbles after his visit), continually side-stepping any vexing topics in a single-minded quest for the buffet table. I can almost hear him advising the poor to eat cake...

This reading experience was followed by an episode of the radio show "This American Life". The theme was "What I Learned from TV".

The first act was devoted to David Rakoff's assignment to watch 29 hours of television (the average amount of TV an American household watches in a week) after 20 years away from the medium -- a sort of "stranger in a strange land" scenario. The whole segment is hilarious, but the part that convulsed me with laughter, that had me CRYING, and still makes me chuckle when I think about it, was this:
Watching TV for me is a referendum on my loneliness. Having the television on just seems like some desperate simulacrum of company, stuffing the other side of the bed with clothes.

It is a chilly reality brought home to me, with all the force of a frying pan to the face, by a small item in the New York Times on Sunday, the 18th of February. The article was about how a man, a 70-year-old widower named Vincenzo Ricardo, was found in his home dead. Officials believe that Mr. Ricardo, discovered sitting in his chair, had been dead for more than a year. He was very well preserved, mummified by the hot, dry air in his home -- air no doubt made even hotter and drier by the fact that, for the entire year-plus that Mr. Vincenzo sat stiff and expired in his recliner, his television was on.

There was apparently a study recently that showed that people who watched episodic television, following a set of characters on an ongoing basis, experienced many of the same positive effects as people derive from having friends, actual friends. TV is a friend, one might conclude. Well, call me old-fashioned, but the minimum of true friendship strikes me as being at the very least, the capacity for one friend to look over at another and be able to say, "Hey, buddy, how ya doing? You want me to call 911 or something? Cuz you're looking a little... oh, I don't know... DEAD!"
It probably says something terrible about me that I really, sincerely, found both of these items hilarious. And I am not joking.

tags: %l
Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
A couple of weekends ago, I watched X-Men: The Last Stand, the most recent installment in the X-Men movie franchise. On the same night, I finished reading Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. You might think that a 9-month-old superhero movie and a 160-year-old realistic novel don't have anything in common, but you'd be wrong... Both fictions take on the subject of women and madness, with a special focus on the split personality. The outcomes of the two stories are very different in ways that make me concerned about the direction we young whippersnappers are headed in.

I'll begin with the elder work... At the beginning of the novel that bears her name, Jane Eyre is a mild-mannered, well-behaved orphan who is horribly mistreated by her aunt and cousins. She turns the other cheek time and again, but finally snaps and gives her aunt what for.
"What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?" was my scarcely voluntary demand. I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty.
I was left there alone -- winner of the field. [...] First, I smiled to myself and felt elate; but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the accelerated throb of my pulses. A child cannot quarrel with its elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang of remorse and the chill of reaction. A ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed: the same ridge, black and blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my hated and hating position.
-- from Chapter 4 of Jane Eyre (bold text my emphasis)
Partly as a result of this outburst, Jane is sent off to a charity school where she is half-starved and half-frozen and surrounded by disease (many of her fellow students die before the year is out). Despite this punishment and her generally quiet and compliant personality, throughout the rest of the novel Jane always stands up for her beliefs when they most matter rather than giving in or keeping quiet.

In the adapted play of Jane Eyre that I saw not long ago, this "wild" and passionate side of Jane's personality was explicitly tied to the character of Bertha Rochester, the mad woman in the attic, the implication being that both characters are punished for the same reason: they possess strong feelings and express them in a way convention deems unfeminine. In the book, there is considerably less sympathy for Bertha, but the "psychic double" interpretation still has some merit.
Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it -- and, certainly, they were many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was never ended -- a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence. [...] When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh [my note: it is really Bertha's laugh, but Jane doesn't know it yet]: the same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her laugh.
-- from Chapter 12 of Jane Eyre (bold text my emphasis)
Jane repeatedly thinks of this rebellious, angry side of herself as a separate, uncontrolled entity, and she often suffers in the short run for her defiance -- yet in the end it never leads her wrong. The dark side of rebellion and selfishness is reserved for Bertha, who ends in fire and ruin. But strangely enough -- here's the psychic twin theory again -- Bertha's actions always help Jane. Her attempt to burn Rochester to death leads to the first, odd intimacy between Jane and Rochester, and the blazing collapse of Thornfield Hall leads to Rochester's blindness and humble readiness to marry Jane as an equal instead of a rich and commanding lord. In the end, Jane achieves true happiness.

Here in the present day, things look a lot more bleak. In the third X-Men movie we learn that Jean Grey is the only known "class five mutant" and thus the most powerful being on Earth. Is this a good thing? Hell, no. Professor X explains to Wolverine early in the movie that when Jean was a girl he created a series of psychic barriers in her mind, so her nearly limitless power was trapped in her unconscious. As a result, she split into two personalities:
"the conscious Jean, whose powers were always in her control, and the dormant side, a personality that, in our sessions, came to call itself the Phoenix. A purely instinctual creature, all desire and joy, and rage."
-- Professor Xavier, thinking back to Jean's youth
Wolverine, and to some extent Magneto, question Professor X's right to interfere with Jean's mind in this way, but the rest of the movie amply proves how right he was to box up her wild passionate self. Several main characters are thoughtlessly disintegrated by her in her black-eyed, possessed mode (there are some strong call-outs to The Exorcist in the film), and she bids fair to destroy all of San Francisco before her better half gains ascendancy long enough to allow Wolverine to kill her -- out of love, and for the good of us all, of course.

In several ways, Jean is even worse off than Bertha, let alone Jane: 1) there is no hint that she was given any say in her own fate -- it is assumed that a powerful woman is, by her nature, dangerous enough to be imprisoned without consent; 2) despite Professor X's claim that Phoenix feels joy, we never see any of it -- she comes across mostly as a blank when she isn't ripping scenery apart with robotic destructiveness; 3) she doesn't even have enough agency to kill herself; she has to get someone else to do it.

It is hard to imagine more disparate approaches to the subject of female power and selfhood. Have we gone downhill in 160 years? Or is this a sad sign of how bad some men still are at writing female characters? (X3 was written and directed by guys who aren't even Bryan Singer, let alone Charlotte Brontë.) I don't know, but it's depressing in any case.

tags: %l
Category: Society
Posted by: Therem
I didn't even know before this past week that there was a creator of instant ramen noodles. They seemed eternal in their delicious, three-minute glory. Surely they had always been, and always would be? But lo! I have learned that one single man was the architect of the ramen revolution that nourished me through college. His name was Momofuku Ando, and at age 96, he has gone to meet his maker.

The Economist has this to say:
For centuries men and women have turned to the east for the secret of life, health and happiness. But Momofuku Ando taught that there is no need to climb half-naked up a mountain peak, or meditate for hours on a prayer-mat, or knot one's legs round one's neck while intoning "Om" through the higher nasal passages. One should simply:

     Peel off lid.
     Pour boiling water.
     Steep for three minutes.
     Stir well and serve.
Of course, they are talking about "Cup Noodles", whereas I've always preferred the "Top Ramen" product line, which they describe as "yellowish, wormy bricks in cellophane bags". Yes, yes, I can see them now, rapidly collapsing into a soup in a pan of boiling water. Only one more minute until my MSG-laden reward! Mmmmm!

The fact that Chikin Ramen was the original flavor and has always been my favorite makes me feel a personal connection to the Creator. And the fact that he lived to age 96 while eating his own product almost every day reassures me that I'm not walking into an early grave by continuing to partake in the oh-so-convenient foodstuff. In fact, it's time for lunch, and I have some in the cupboard... my meal awaits!

Ramen Shrine
Category: Society
Posted by: Therem