Good Eats

NYTimes.com | E. Coli Tainted Meat Recall is Expanded 

Update: Topps goes out of business

Many frozen beef products produced by the Topps Meat Company of New Jersey have been discovered by regulators to be tainted with a nasty strain of e. coli. The products that are being recalled are identified as such:

The recall, by the Topps Meat Company of Elizabeth, N.J., covers a wide range of frozen hamburger patties and other products manufactured over the last year and bearing a “sell by” date or “best used by” date between last Tuesday and Sept. 25, 2008, along with the United States Department of Agriculture designation EST 9748.

The big question is why the hell would anyone eat shit that does not expire until 2008? As always, what is shocking about the United States is not what is illegal to do. What is legal to do is what is shocking. It is frightening what is allowed to enter the food supply.

Muenster, Germany

LambertikircheI remember my time in Germany fondly. Life in general is easy. Everything is organized, cities are clean, public services are outstanding, and people are generally quite energized, albeit in an understated manner. After over two years, I have managed to get these photos up. With (very little) thanks to Apple’s brand new iWeb application, my magnificent photos of Muenster can now be viewed online. They include spectacular night scenes from the Altstadt (the old city enter), and some nifty pictures of the Eurofest, which was a fairly new excuse for a big city party.

Drama in the Morning

Today’s morning walk went far to clear my head. At 10 a.m., I passed by the Belmont Cafe on La Cienega. On their beautiful patio, David Spade was engaged in a rather heated and emotional exchange with an absolutely stunning waitress. It is difficult to posit any reason other than hubris for a celebrity to be bothering a common citizen at her workplace at ten in the morning.

Then again, in the primordial soup, the title of “celebrity” seems to be sufficient license for many to do as they please. The tacit acceptance of such license is the reason why so many wish to be celebrities, and why the rest wish nothing to do with them.

Balls of Fury

I had a nagging suspicion that this turkey of a movie was written by members of my generation with my generation in mind. A quick check with IMDB revealed that my suspicions were correct. In fact, the “creative” forces behind Balls of Fury, Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, are exactly as old as I am. We were all born in 1970. Obviously, we were all obsessed with Def Leppard while we were growing up in the 1980s (I saw them in concert), and we all developed an absurdist slapstick sort of comedy that was an amalgam of Eddie Murphy and Airplane.

I abandoned all of them.

Garant and Lennon continued to embrace these useless qualities and even managed to convince some studio executives that the number of our generation, generation X (or gen-xers, for the many who insist on contraction of meaningless ascriptions) who will be suckered in to see this movie will be sufficient for a hefty profit. They must have been right. After all, the movie was clearly done on a shoestring budget, in complete haste and with a largely amateur staff. So, getting a fraction of us Gen-xers would be enough for a profit.

In my case, it was not the 80s factor that drew me to the movie. It was the fact that I wanted to see a lighthearted movie, and The Simpsons Movie was not playing in my vicinity. Balls thus became the natural choice for an evening of mirth. Mirth was not achieved, however, because Lennon and Garant elected to fully deploy 80s nostalgia probably because they were convinced that the pitch that got them the project remotely contained merit.

In that regard, they were utterly mistaken, and, consequently, they developed the germ of a potentially funny idea into a nostalgia movie for a generation that is incapable of feeling nostalgia. After all, how does one create a feeling of nostalgia when the old music and old TV shows never die. TVLand keeps playing the shows on which we grew up. Umpteen radio stations in each radio market still play Def Leppard and every other hair band from the 80s. The “alternative” radio stations keep playing the alternative hits of the 80s. Motown and 70s disco and rock are permanent fixtures on the radio dial of every American. How could we miss the past when we are bombarded with it daily?

So, why waste an opportunity to make something funny by appealing to fictive nostalgia?

Despite all that, it does not seem as if this team of people could have made a funny movie at all. Although Lennon is hilarious on Reno 911, he gives a less than inspiring performance of the German stereotype. Garant’s framing and timing in the direction are always off, and the editing stretches what should be two-second jokes into 30-second attempts at humor that ultimately fail because one is too bored at that point to laugh at all.

In all, this was a poorly conceived and poorly executed movie that was marketed well. It is difficult to tell if this team has any potential for future success because there are far too few moments that inspire genuine laughter in Balls.

All I can say is nice try, guys. I want my $9 back.

Chopping Truth to Bits

Top BBC factual series including Rough Justice face axe | Media | MediaGuardian.co.uk

The old adage says that truth is the first casualty of war. The new adage might say that truth is the first casualty of the profit motive, too. The absurd obsession with cutting costs and maximizing profits has already decimated an entire generation of journalists and transformed many venerable news sources into mere instruments of propaganda. Does the BBC’s elimination of its most expensive program and reputedly its best investigative program put BBC News on the same road to irrelevance that American commercial news broadcasts have been traveling for the past two decades?

Perish the thought.

Divine Ink and Toner Cartridges

lasermonks.com: Divine Solutions for Your Printer

Belgian and German monks (“München” means “monks” in the Bavarian dialect) spent centuries perfecting the art of brewing beer. American monks are now bringing morality to the business of selling ink and toner cartridges for printers. Beer and toner have little in common, but in both cases, the monks are doing much to help humanity. So, chug a good German or Belgian beer, and print something.

Failing Infrastructure is not News

Online NewsHour: America’s Infrastructure Needs Crucial Repairs — April 4, 2006

Ever since one of the major bridges connecting Minneapolis to suburbs across the Mississippi river spontaneously collapsed, considerable time has been spent on the discussion of the state of the American infrastructure. In all of these discussion, little mention was ever made of the bipartisan report commissioned by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The results were released over a year and a half ago, and the commission endorsed the findings of the Association of Civil Engineers’ estimates.

What the association of civil engineers has done — and they do this every two or three years — is they do some kind of a balance sheet of the nation’s public assets. And they give it a grade, about A, B, C, D, on the level of being adequate.

And they’ve come up — their latest figure is that it would take a $1.6 trillion dollars to bring the infrastructure of this country up to an acceptable level of decency. We’re falling another $300 billion every two or three years behind because we don’t provide adequate support to this problem.

Now, I can also tell you that it’s very difficult to do this if you religiously think that you can’t raise taxes, and that you can’t raise revenues, and that fees are a problem, and, certainly, taxes are a problem.

Future failures of the sort that unraveled so dramatically in Minnesota in August of 2007 should therefore come as no surprise to anyone. We were all adequately forewarned, it would seem.

Apple’s Ace in the Hole: Music Industry Stupidity

Technology News: Music: SpiralFrog Hops Into Digital Music Pond With Free Downloads

Undoubtedly, the greatest challenge to Apple’s dominance of the digital music market has come from the Russian pseudopirates allofmp3.com. Fortunately for Apple, allofmp3.com was shut down recently by a Russian court responding to international charges of piracy, but unfortunately for Apple, another Russian court recently ruled that allofmp3.com’s operation are legal, and allofmp3.com will be operational again, soon.

In the meantime, the American record industry has been wasting its resources with perhaps the dumbest idea ever to emerge from this industry: www.spiralfrog.com. According to the article linked above:

Once downloaded, the user can play the songs via a PC through Windows Media Player or a portable player that supports WMA files. SpiralFrog doesn’t support playback on Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPod line or even Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Zune, nor does it provide a solution for Mac OS X users. The service only works via Windows XP or Vista PCs.

Furthermore, the user must remain active on the web site while songs are downloaded one at a time.

In other words, the recording industry has elected to challenge Apple’s service–which is functional and portable on Mac and Windows platforms–with a service that is functional only on the Windows platform and portable on no platform: the songs cannot be transported even on Microsoft’s Zune player. Spiralfrog.com seeks to challenge Apple by offering none of the features for which iTunes users are willing to spend hundreds of dollars (on an iPod, iPhone or other media player), and then charging the users by taxing their time in front of the computer.

Virtually all economic systems–barter, capitalism, communism, etc.–are based on the principle of quid pro quo, exchanging this for that. In total ignorance of the centuries of economic development that have resulted from the acceptance of this principle, the American recording industry is putting its weight behind a system that gives users absolutely nothing in exchange for their time and trouble. If spiralfrog.com is to be in anyway construed as a symbol of American capitalism, then heaven help the United States. The country will collapse under the weight of such stupidity long before any terrorist group can dream of executing another well coordinated attack.

As long as Apple’s iTunes Music Store is countered by such moronic efforts, buy Apple stock. 🙂

PS Universal Music has an inkling of business savvy left in its brain trusty by virtue of the Gbox service that it started in collaboration with Google. Unfortunately, this service is still for the Windows platform only, but it does sell DRM-free music in mp3 format. So, it may well become a viable challenge to Apple. PNM

“Bush is a Moron” Declares Alan Greenspan

Greenspan Is Critical Of Bush in Memoir | washingtonpost.com

The meaning is quite unmistakable. The implicit comparison between Clinton and Bush (W) made by Greenspan in the following paragraph (page two of the article linked above) necessarily leads to the conclusion stated in the title of this post.

However, he calls Clinton a “risk taker” who had shown a “preference for dealing in facts,” and presents Clinton and himself almost as soul mates. “Here was a fellow information hound. . . . We both read books and were curious and thoughtful about the world. . . . I never ceased to be surprised by his fascination with economic detail: the effect of Canadian lumber on housing prices and inflation. . . . He had an eye for the big picture too.”

In the rest of article, of course, Greenspan lambastes every Republican official from Bush down to Hastert and DeLay. His acerbic language (in the context of Greenspanese like “irrational exuberance”) leads one to think of how incredibly poorly these politicians must have acted in order to draw the ire of the most stolid man on the planet. Greenspan’s reaction is not just extreme by Greenspan’s own standards. It is unprecedented in American history.

Is it not?

A Hopeless Cause?

Presidential Approval Ratings Since 2001


If politics is a popularity game, then this graph paints a rather hopeless picture for the future of warmongers.

And a hopeful one for humanity.