Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vegetarian intestinal distress leads to insightful thinking

I have discovered an excellent reason to stay vegetarian.

After a decade and a half, if you inadvertently eat anything made with meat, you barf your guts out.

I have been sick for several days... and my husband, who ate the same thing (and is not vegetarian) is just fine. It was not food poisoning... or rather, IT WAS, but not the usual kind.

For ME it was.

I guess there is no going back!

The item was already-prepared "chicken-fried tofu"--which I assumed (and you know what they say about that) was not actually fried in chicken. (After all, as Mr Daisy said, frying it in actual chicken fat kinda defeats the whole purpose of eating tofu in the first place, doesn't it?) It seems I have eaten it before (although hardly ever) and did not have this cataclysmic, days-long reaction... but I did eat a significant amount on this occasion. It has been horrific. I am genuinely surprised at my body's response.

It could also be that the person frying it, in this particular instance, went ahead and actually chicken-fried it and didn't consider trying to make it vegetarian. I have often tasted Chinese and other foods, duly advertised as technically "vegetarian" (as in, no meat in the actual recipe) but tasted suspiciously as if possibly dumped into the same wok as the chicken-fried rice, made earlier in the day... after a long time without meat, it jumps right out at you. But imitation-meat flavors are, admittedly, much harder to gauge... the whole focus of the flavor profile is the imitation-meat flavor.

I am not a purist, and I have eaten imitation-bacon-flavored potato chips and so forth, with no negative reactions. I read labels! (Of course, with prepared hot-bar foods, you can't do that.) A "flavor" is usually a chemical, and real meat is not the same as chemically-enhanced "meat-flavor" and never the twain shall meet. So, I assumed I was eating the equivalent of tofu fried in chicken flavors.

Wrong. My ailing intestines and tummy say otherwise.

As I said, sick for days. I even recorded my radio show while still suffering (the show must go on, and all that), so my pissed-off ranting came much easier than usual. Have a listen!

And pity the poor vegetarian who no longer has the 'choice,' as one always likes to think one does.

Perhaps this is a lesson about all such choices: after a certain point, you can't undo that choice, it is permanent. It is not simply a choice of the mind; the body, the life, is irreparably marked with it.


I have been reading Susan Sontag's diaries... and I am just so jealous of her brilliance. Her one-and-two-sentence observations, just while she is sitting on a beach or whatever, are far more brilliant, incisive, and genius than anyone else's (even as they congratulate themselves for their limited brilliance and clarity). My goodness, how I miss her. I always idolized her, and now I know why: this is the kind of public female intellectual that simply does not exist anymore. She was a pure product of her time.

One thing I did, was trot out to buy a little notebook and resolve to scribble my own (decidedly non-brilliant) observations in it. I can see that she would write lines that later ended up in her other books; ideas that would later direct her thoughts and passions. I can't tell you all how many times I have tried to remember what I was thinking back on Tuesday, only to forget all about it... one thing I have liked about blogging is how it is an accurate, uncensored record of our thoughts and feelings. I have decided keeping a notebook, even of one and two line-passages, is a way to make that even more detailed, more comprehensive, more precise.


Whilst recovering from my epicurean disaster, I watched TLC network, and although its hard to avoid the constant commercials for Honey Boo Boo (saints preserve us), I was very interested in the new show about conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel. The TLC documentaries about their lives were well-received and popular, and I watched them a couple of times; this show is not surprising. They are extremely likable, smart, capable... and they don't seem at all disturbed that other people are disturbed by them.

In a very real sense, their lack of being disturbed is part of their unique condition: they are together. They are not alone. A person defined as "a freak" by our society, left all alone and gawked at unmercifully (i.e. the Elephant Man), tugs at our heartstrings in an almost-excruciating way. That poor soul, we think, nobody will ever understand him. But Abby and Brittany have each other, and they understand what the other is experiencing. Their very difference itself, makes them strong together. They murmur to each other, they make inaudible one-word remarks and grin. They are able to make fun of us right back. Therefore, they plow onward, unperturbed and undaunted. You can't help but be drawn to them.

And you know, the fact is, it is going to be hard for these girls to make a living in the regular ways. It isn't like they are going to get hired for the local Burger King or Dairy Queen. They are very logical and realistic young women, and at some point, I can see them sitting down for the cost-benefit analysis: okay, how are we going to make money? The Salon article I linked above, asks the obvious question, IS THIS A FREAK SHOW?--but forgets an obvious historic reality: people went into freak shows to be able to eat and find a warm place to sleep. Many of the people in the shows took the proverbial bull by the horns and started running their own shows and were able to retire in relative comfort. Others were exploited by ruthless circus-ringmasters. It was not always obvious which was which, simply by looking.

To me, as in the prostitution business, the question is: who is making the money? The fact is the exploitation, not necessarily the "freak show" aspect. After all, people surround these girls everywhere they go. They might as well start charging. How to do that in a civilized fashion? Reality TV seems to be the ticket. After this TV-series, people will surround them as celebrities, not (only) as 'freaks'. Also, people will have heard of them. They will know who they are and not drop their iced tea in the mall, and start following them around to be sure they saw what they thought they saw, as some reporter did some years ago in Minnesota's Mall of America. (And then, writing a really rude, gee-whiz-guess-what-I-saw article about them, that of course, I cannot readily locate now to properly link.)

Instead, they might actually get some respect, since Reality-TV celebrity is one of the few ways physically-different people can get some respect these days.

And may I also say: Its also very nice to see a whole Reality-TV show in which so many young women are portrayed as decent for a change, instead of the usual nasty, mean-girl bitches. It is heartening to see Abby and Brittany's female support network; when the gawkers descend, they close ranks around them and don't allow them to take unauthorized pictures and videos.

Now, that's something to be proud of, too:

[The TLC show] is unrelentingly positive, and at times flatout heartwarming. In the documentary about them at 16, their mother explained just how protective their friends were, closing ranks whenever anyone would stare at them. In college, the twins seem to have duplicated this kind of sheltered social environment. Unlike so many TV shows — reality and otherwise — “Abby & Brittany” is a kind of soothing ode to the niceness of 20-year-olds, and especially of 20-year-old girls. The women who live with Abby and Brittany [in their college dorm] are normal in that explicitly Midwestern way, which is to say, normal to the point of notability, grounded, smiley, well-adjusted, well-behaved, just like Abby and Brittany. The roommates are a sort of Greek chorus, supplying the audience with the information it needs — about the girls’ physiological differences, how much tuition they pay (one and a half) and the differences in their personalities — and also expressing their endless, genuinely heartfelt admiration of the two and their astounding simpatico.
I won't be able to stay away from the show, and ain't ashamed to say so.

Note: In keeping with the disability-rights concept that disability is a social construct, as I believe it is, I am tagging this blog entry with "disability"--although it is pertinent to note that Abby and Brittany are not "disabled"--as dwarves also are not. But their man-made environment (car seats, college desks, etc) DOES disable them, as it does very small people. People are "disabled" by environments and their minority status, even if they are in perfect health. (i.e. Severely scarred individuals are disabled by other people's reactions to them, not usually by the actual scars.) Just wanted to do a quick commercial for this radical perspective, since Abby and Brittany are a perfect example of it.


Other links inspired by my new notebook habit:

The Death of Sun Ming Sheu: A Government Sponsored Assassination? Thanks to Onyx Lynx!

William Gibson on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’ Required reading!

As regular readers know, I am fascinated by the multitude of changes wrought by our relatively new internet culture. And so is Gibson:
WIRED: In your essay in the new book Punk: An Aesthetic, you write that punk was the last pre-digital counterculture. That’s a really interesting thought. Can you expand on that?

GIBSON: It was pre-digital in the sense that in 1977, there were no punk websites [laughs]. There was no web to put them on. It was 1977, pre-digital. None of that stuff was there. So you got your punk music on vinyl, or on cassettes. There were no mp3s. There was no way for this thing to propagate. The kind of verbal element of that counterculture spread on mostly photo-offset fanzines that people pasted up at home and picked up at a print shop. And then they mailed it to people or sold it in those little record shops that sold the vinyl records or the tapes. It was pre-digital; it had no internet to spread on, and consequently it spread quickly but relatively more slowly.

I suspect — and I don’t think this is nostalgia — but it may have been able to become kind of a richer sauce, initially. It wasn’t able to instantly go from London to Toronto at the speed of light. Somebody had to carry it back to Toronto or wherever, in their backpack and show it, physically show it to another human. Which is what happened. And compared to the way that news of something new spreads today, it was totally stone age. Totally stone age! There’s something remarkable about it that’s probably not going to be that evident to people looking at it in the future. That the 1977 experience was qualitatively different, in a way, than the 2007 experience, say.

WIRED: What if punk emerged today, instead of in 1977? How do you think it would be different?

GIBSON: You’d pull it up on YouTube, as soon as it was played. It would go up on YouTube among the kazillion other things that went up on YouTube that day. And then how would you find it? How would it become a thing, as we used to say? I think that’s one of the ways in which things are really different today. How can you distinguish your communal new thing — how can that happen? Bohemia used to be self-imposed backwaters of a sort. They were other countries within the landscape of Western industrial civilization. They were countries that most people would never see — mysterious places. You’d pay a price, potentially, for going there. That’s always cool and exciting. Now, where are they? Where can you do that? How are people transacting that today? I am pretty sure that they are, but I don’t have that much firsthand experience of it. But they have to do it in a different way.
He's totally nailed it... and I think this explains why I am so startled by the lack of "loyalty"--the lack of "investment"--that young people have in the ideas and lifestyles they adopt today.

That's because they ran across it on the internet, exactly as if they were leafing through a catalog.

I realize now, this is what is behind my constant requests for "cred" in young internet-denizens who challenge me... their challenges are just another fun thing to do, whereas I take them very seriously as challenges to my self. That's because I take such aspects of MY SELF seriously; I sweat for my ideas and experience. I didn't just thumb through some catalog and decide, "I believe/like this; its cool, so its me."

This may also be the reason they rarely ACT on their political ideas, since no ACT was required to gain the knowledge, other than sitting and clicking. Back in the day, you had to work hard for your counter-cultural knowledge, and thus, for some inexplicable reason, you therefore felt obligated to act.

Yes, I know, this whole post is "tl/dr"--as the kids say. (stands for "too long/didn't read"--you didn't expect them to read anything LONG, did you? Is it longer than a soundbite? Fuhgeddaboudit!)

The protracted length is precisely because: I didn't really write it for them. ;)