Friday, September 16, 2005

I don't think Kanye West is an idiot.

I'd like to throw this out there: Kanye West isn't an idiot for saying, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on live national television.

It seems like everybody I talk to about it thinks that Kanye is so dumb for saying something so blatantly illegitimate, so crass, so politically incorrect. I've even gotten the impression that people feel he's done a disservice to black people.

I mean really, do you think George W., Texan, number 43, doesn't care about African-Americans?

It'd be pretty stupid to say that. But only because it's politically incorrect and he's had two high-profile African-Americans in his cabinet. No, he's probably fine with African-Americans. But I doubt he's real comfortable around black people. I have a Texan friend who had never talked to a black person until high school.

I don't want to talk tons about race here, because you're always tip-toeing the line of saying something too honest, like "George Bush doesn't care about black people," and then you're in hot water. Instead, I want to propose that Kanye West isn't an idiot, because he put his finger on the pulse of something that so many people are feeling, however illegitimate. And while consensus isn't a virtue, it's nice to see that shit actually voiced by someone with the legitimacy to voice it - through the mouth of the media monopoly itself. Not by some pundit, not by some garbage show host who blathers on so much they devalue everything else they say, but by a black person speaking not for African-Americans, but for black people. The blatant disregard for fairness in Kanye's words only holds the mirror back to the Bush administration.

I, for one, said "Amen!" Not because I think GW is racist, but because I felt Kanye played conduit for all the people in New Orleans suffering while GW took a couple extra days of vacation. I mean seriously, the guy's taken more holiday time than any other president in history. He's the ultimate fortunate son, and the spangles of his leadership really don't show unless he's following through on a family grudge. What does he care about New Orleans? Nothing, until the polls show that people care that he doesn't.

This is where I sick myself out, because I hate suspecting the worst in people, even if its as inept a leader as George Bush. But if politicians were as forthright as Kanye West, it'd be a lot easier to know the score in America.

This isn't Kanye, but the lyrics are still pretty on:


Tuesday, September 6, 2005

I've discovered Edamame.

It's time to speak of things carnal. Like Carnie's, in LA. Or con carne south of the border. (Or, actually, LA too.) Yes, omnivorous friends, it's time we talked about meat. It's a provocative topic - if you're a dedicated member of PETA - and worthy of a blog or two or countless activist websites. So allow me to brief you on how carnology weighs on my life currently.

I'm no dyed-in the wool vegetarian, and like any good American, I'm addicted to fast food and am a frequent customer of Omaha Steaks. Oh, I claimed vegetarianism for a month in seventh grade, when the Eco-club was full of delicious older women (eighth-graders), but when the Principia Middle School cafeteria dropped their vintage '91 chicken strips on that ass, I was outed. There's something about a mechanically separated strip of chicken that is just irresistable when it's been battered and fried and twice dipped in Heinz.

My family has an interesting history in meat alternatives, however. In the mid-'80s, Mom and Dad signed up for the burgeoning trend called "Royal American". As seen on PM Magazine, this freeze-dried line of soy-based meals and beverages was really taking off as a convenient, healthy alternative to KFC. We had "tasters", small parties where friends and acquaintences could come over, taste, and sign onto someone's downline for the network marketing. That's right... Royal American was not sold in stores.

Nor were they particularly tasty. In fact, their soy-based powdered milk was awful. My brothers and I used to gag on it nightly, begging our parents not to make us drink it. Somehow, my eldest brother Jon managed to convince my parents that he had become a vegetarian, and thus did not drink milk. Which included soy-based Royal American milk. Ummm, I'm not quite sure how my parents bought it, but Jon got out of drinking powdered soy milk because he was a vegetarian.

The company folded. Perhaps it was the network marketing approach, perhaps it was their dreadful freeze-dried soy stroganoff, perhaps it was my brother's cunning logic. Either way, my dad still has his navy Royal American tie, tiled with small golden sowers. He even wears it from time to time, proving that at heart, he knows Royal American was just ahead of its time. Or that he has a tremendously understated sense of kitsch.

Much of family has toyed with vegetarianism. Like most intelligent people, I think we know that vegetarianism makes more sense than the meat-heavy diet espoused by most of America. Economically, physiologically, ecologically. But hanging your hat with the herbivore party isn't a casual thing. It's a lifestyle decision, like buying a Hummer, using Emoticons, or listening to Phish. You're either in, or you're out.

I'm definitely out. I love the reasons to be a vegetarian. But I love eating cow more. Whether it's Burger Kang nationwide, Dick's in Seattle, In 'N Out in Cali, or Five Nice Guys in DC (who I've yet to try, actually), a hamburger feels like home. I'll even slum it at White Castle if the mood is right. A hamburger is just more American than, say, Lee Iacocca, or George Bush. (Not that the latter's a stretch.) And try as I may to reduce the intake of meat into my diet, I always return to a good burger.

And Taco Bell. And General Tso's Chicken. And bacon.

You see my dilemma. Recently, however, I've discovered Edemame. "Edemame" is crazy talk for "soy bean," a distinction utilized to great effect by Whole Foods to leaven the sticker price. (It might be Japanese, not crazy talk. According to, it means "Beans on Branches." I don't know.) The first time I had these, I thought, like any good American, "Why would anyone eat these?" Eating them seemed to be more about a cultural experience than any kind of savory delight.

But the taste grew on me each time someone forced the cultural experience on me. Now I've started buying them for myself, they're so good, particularly with sea salt.

This spike in edemame consumption coincides with an internal monologue I've been running. It's just struck me as odd recently that we kill an animal and eat it. Only cultural mores dictate that dog or horse is any more taboo than cow or pig. But isn't it kind of odd that we kill an animal and eat it? Like if you were in the wild, you'd have to approach an animal, kill it, peel its skin off, cook it, and eat the tasty parts. If you think about it long enough, it seems sort of koyaanisqatsi. Obviously, the opposite argument that species overpopulate without predators could seem just as well out of balance. But something don't sit right with the idea that we'd milk a cow for most of its useful life, then thank it by chowing down on the rest of it.

No easy answers tonight. Until I find some, I've got edemame and a nation of fast food at my service.