My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

The Bachelorette: Haiku Recap for May 27, 2013

roseDesiree proclaims,
“I feel like Cinderella!”
A million tears fall.

Shiny silver dress!
Bangs: like Sean, a memory.
Des: dressed up for love.

Meet the new suitors!
Bryden: Montana Marine.
Will: token black guy.

Drew: fan of hair gel.
Nick: Chi-town magic tailor.
Zak: Naked Texan.

Robert: spin that sign!
Mike: dentist, blinding white teeth.
Brandon: has baggage.

Twenty-five bachelors
All here for the “right reasons.”
(Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Time for the limos.
Humiliation contest?
The contenders are:

Zak, minus his shirt.
Diogo: armor? Really?
Nick: token poet.

Dr. Larry: rrrrrrip.
Kasey: hashtag #wtf?
Jonathan: horny.

Ben brings his cute son.
Questionable parenting,
but he gets a rose.

Cocktail party time.
Zak takes off his pants this time.
Potential husband?

“Fantasy suite time,”
cries Jonathan. “Love tank full!”
Des: “Begone, frat boy.”

Rose ceremony.
Sorry, rejects. Journey’s done.
Next week: more fun, Des!

Watching the Media Report on Our Own Local Tragedy

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This was a terrible week here in St. Louis Park, Minnesota that I will never forget.  On Wednesday, two fourth grade boys at Peter Hobart Elementary School, where my daughter is a second grader, were killed on a field trip. They were at Lilydale Park, a popular local field trip destination, hunting for fossils.  To everyone’s shock, there was a landslide, burying ten-year-old Mohammed Fofana and nine-year-old Haysem Sani under multiple feet of sand and gravel. Two other boys were injured, one of them seriously.

As soon as I heard what happened, I sat there at work trying not to cry as I tried to remember which of my daughter’s friends have older siblings in fourth grade. At home, I burst into tears and held my daughter as she comforted me, and then proceeded to spoil her for the evening with McDonald’s and TV and a super late bedtime and endless snuggles.

When something like this hits so close to home, it means something different than other news stories.  Of course I was in horrified when a madman killed a room full of first-graders in Connecticut, and when I stared at photos of that eight-year old boy who was killed at the Boston Marathon bombings.  This very week, ten children were killed in an Oklahoma tornado, many of them at their elementary school.  When the news brings us word that children have died, we pause in horror, and those of us who are parents know that somewhere, there’s a parent who’s experiencing the worst possible thing imaginable. But our lives go on, because awful as it is, we couldn’t function if we let every story in the news affect us as much as it could.

Community memorial in front of Peter Hobart.

Community memorial in front of Peter Hobart.

When two children from your child’s school die on a field trip, suddenly it’s not just another news story anymore. Suddenly your child’s school is being flashed across the screen as the region’s top news story for three days.  Suddenly, the worst possible thing imaginable is not so hard to imagine.  In my very community, two families sent their little boys to school, and they never came home.

I don’t watch the local news very often, or even read the local paper as much as I should, but of course we were glued to the local news the first few nights.  At first I felt grateful for the news for providing us with information, what little there was. But over the course of the next few days, I quickly stopped thinking of the local media as a friend of our community.

The scene in front of my daughter’s school:  media vans everywhere, taking pictures, and aggressively trying to speak with anyone child or parent or teacher they could find.  When the school bus returned to the school with the uninjured children, the staff had to be on hand to shield the kids from the mobs of reporters trying to sneak photos.

The worst of it was the next day, when the principal gave a press conference in front of the school.  Some of the reporters were there to play the blame game — and namely, point the finger at the principal for sending the kids on a field trip to the bluffs at Lilydale Park after there’d been a lot of rain this week.  After answering some angry questions, the frazzled principal ended the press conference abruptly and walked away.  One reporter yelled at her as she left, “Seriously?  This is a press conference!” On Channel 9 News, there was no pretense of “fair and balanced” that evening when they reporters expressed their disgust at Principal Nielsen for resisting their attempts to sensationalize this tragedy.

Sorry, Fox 9 news.  The people in my community do not blame the principal for a landslide at a park where children have gone on field trips for decades.  Rather, the people in this community know how much pain this woman and her staff must feel.  It’s just like the news reports of the Oklahoma tornado this week, where reporters have been asking whether or not the principal and teachers were at fault at a school where children were killed.

When it comes to an F5 tornado, or a landslide, the scary truth is that there’s no one to blame.  Sometimes life just sucks.  But when you’re a corporate media outlet trying to hook as many viewers as possible, why not try to sensationalize a tragedy as much a possible?  Random tragedy isn’t nearly as newsworthy as a scapegoat.

I also had a weird encounter with the media of my own, when I got a call from someone at the Star Tribune. He’d seen a post I’d made on Facebook in a public St. Louis Park school room.  I considered ignoring his message, but called him back only because I have respect for the Star Tribune.  (I wouldn’t have called back Fox 9.)

The conversation we had was puzzling.  The reporter been assigned to write a story on parents’ reaction to the event, and he told me that he was “going at it blind” and didn’t know how to start.  Feeling oddly like a teacher helping a student with a difficult assignment, I suggested that he call the head of the parent teacher association. He informed me that he already had and that she had screamed at him for 45 minutes (or so he said) because someone else had misquoted her in the paper.  He asked me for other parent’s phone numbers, which of course I did not give him.

I kind of felt sorry for the reporter — but only a little bit.  I knew where the frustration was coming from:  he desperately wanted to talk to frantic parents and children who had a direct connection to the event, and no one was willing to talk to him. But imagine that.  If your child witnessed a terrifying fatal accident on a field trip, would you want reporters talking to her that evening?  Of course not.  But in our corporate, ratings-driven media system, there’s no healthy balance between “what people want to see” and the privacy of individuals and a community.

I can only hope that this is as close as my family and I will ever get to a tragedy that dominates media coverage.  The next time there’s a horrible story about a child in the media, I’ll have a greater frame of reference for understanding the magnitude of what happened.  And sadly, I’ll have a greater frame of reference for understanding the irresponsibility of the news media.

“Bacon Pride,” or, Why is Bacon In Vogue?

Sign seen at the Commerce St. Creamery and Coffee Shop.  Courtesy of Mary Baschoff McCarthy.

Sign seen at the Commerce St. Creamery and Coffee Shop. Courtesy of Mary Baschoff McCarthy.

Why is bacon in vogue?

I asked an office friend this question, and he said it’s because bacon is easy to use, versatile, and most of all, very tasty.  But I don’t think that’s the whole story.  This explanation describes why bacon is popular, but not why it’s become a stylish and quirky trend.  Milkshakes are tasty too.  So are French fries. But neither of these unhealthy treats are in vogue.

Rex Roof, Wikipedia

The Elvis Sandwich.

So, in what way is bacon in vogue?  For one thing, food establishments of all “brow” levels are ramping up the decadence level on their menus with bacon.  Check out this list of New York’s Most Insane Bacon Dishes to see everything from a kimchi bacon rice bowl to bacon donuts.  Elegant steakhouses, like Manny’s in Minneapolis,  are serving gourmet bacon as an appetizer.  More casual eateries, like Centreville, Maryland’s Commerce Street Creamery, boast about the addition of bacon to their sandwiches (“We Have Bacon and We’re Not Afraid to Use It.”)  State Fairs are selling concoctions like country-fried bacon, and upscale weddings are featuring bacon bars.  And the Elvis sandwich–peanut butter, banana, and bacon–has made a resurgence.

In the world of geekdom, bacon has become as trendy as Game of Thrones. Walk around a science fiction convention these days and you’ll see a plethora of “bacon pride” T-shirts proclaiming  sentiments like “Come to the Dark Side–We Have Bacon” or “I Find Your Lack of Bacon Disturbing.”  On, shoppers can express their love of bacon by purchasing a full line of bacon-themed products, including bacon wrapping paper, bacon strips adhesive bandages, and a frightening-looking food substance called “baconnaise.”

But you don’t have to be a science fiction fan or a self-proclaimed geek to love bacon.  Bacon blogs and bacon-themed products are all over the Web.

A bacon bouquet.

A bacon bouquet.

Check out BaconToday for your one-stop shop for bacon news, recipes like bacon margarita cupcakes, and a ridiculous selection of bacon-flavored edibles like bacon brittle and bacon pickles. And you can learn how to make a bacon bouquet.

Now, in the interest of full-disclosure, I need to confess:  I don’t like bacon. I know that makes me an unusual American, much like my daughter’s sweet friend down the street who doesn’t like chocolate.  So why don’t I like bacon?  It’s not because I’m a semi-vegetarian.  It’s not because I’ve been making an effort to eat healthier. It’s not because I’m Jewish.  (Side note: only about 15 percent of American Jews keep kosher–so please don’t be one of those people who assume I keep kosher because I’m Jewish.) I’m just one of those weird people who think that bacon doesn’t taste good and has an icky texture.  Not that I don’t eat plenty of other foods that aren’t good for me.  It’s just that bacon isn’t one of them.

So, as a non-bacon eater, I am even more perplexed.  Where is this emphatic love of bacon coming from?

Some of it certainly has to be a backlash against the movement in our culture towards natural, healthier foods that aren’t chock full of nitrates and pork fat.  Of course, there are healthier bacon options out there, like turkey bacon and nitrate-free bacon.  But somehow, I don’t think these are the options that bacon-lovers are heralding.

Our culture is full of messages–and perhaps pressure– about the benefits of eating more healthfully.  Once it was just alternative granola-types who shopped at co-ops and farmers markets and touted the merits of natural foods. These days, you no longer have to go to Whole Foods or a co-op to see aisles full of quinoa and organic veggies, as everyday grocery stores are stocked with these options.  On the news, we have Michelle Obama rallying for healthier school lunches, and Michael Bloomberg legislating against Big Gulps.  We keep hearing that processed meats are really, really bad for us, like in this NPR report.  And of course, everywhere we look are messages about how we’re all getting fatter and fatter.

The result?  People latching onto the growing Bacon Pride movement.  Bacon, the poster-child of the unhealthy food that’s making us fat, has found itself a cult following. “Screw you, Michael Bloomberg!”  the bacon lovers declare.  “I’ll give you my bacon when you pry it away from my cold, dead, greasy hands!”

So, is this a bad thing?  On the one hand, I love a good oppositional movement that challenges cultural norms.  Women refusing to shave their legs?  Awesome.  Gay people coopting the word “queer” and the pink triangle?  Awesome.

People eating bacon to rebel against changing norms about our diet?  I hesitate to embrace this in the same way.  Bacon isn’t exactly a grassroots thing.  Sure, once upon a time it was the product of small farmers.  But more often than not, today’s bacon is a product made by the food corporations who have made a fortune off of the obesity epidemic and our dependence on processed foods.  Wearing a Bacon Pride T-shirt is a little bit like wearing a Nike swoosh or an Abercrombie T-shirt.   You’re advertising a corporate product, and one that’s hurt our collective health.

And yet, well, I suppose there is something to calling Bacon Pride a rebellion of sorts.

And of course, there’s the plain old decadence factor.  When you declare that something is really unhealthy and a bit taboo, people want it more.  It becomes sexy.  It becomes bold and daring to throw caution to the wind and eat bacon.  Serving gourmet bacon appetizers has become the equivalent of serving “death by chocolate” for dessert.  It’s about treating your dining guest to a unforgettably decadent experience.  It’s food porn.

So, is the Bacon Pride movement here to stay, or is just a fad?  It’s hard to say.  It seems to me that bacon will always be a beloved food, so while we might be eating less of it in the future, I doubt it’s going anywhere.  But how much longer will bacon be in vogue?  Only swine will tell.

Feminism and Processed Foods (and Breastfeeding): A Conundrum?


So these days, in my kitchen, I’m making an effort to use fewer processed foods. I’ve read my Michael Pollan and I’m sold on the concept that we should be eating things that would be recognizable to our great-grandmothers as “food.” Moreover, I’m thoroughly disgusted by the ways that the American food industry has transformed the way we eat by normalizing processed, unhealthy foods that are full of fat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and an array of unpronounceable non-food substances.

1950s Housewife in KitchenBut here’s the conundrum. I’m trying to eat more like people in my great-grandmother’s day. But would I trade places with her? Of course not. My options would be so much more limited than they are today. If I were my great-grandmother, I’d probably be a full time homemaker, whether I wanted to be one or not.

Much of my “decision” to be a homemaker would be dictated by social pressures. But some of this would have to do with food. One hundred years ago, food preparation was a whole lot more time consuming than it is today. I’d be baking breads, cutting apart whole chickens (if not slaughtering them), rolling out pie crusts, canning vegetables, and whole lot of other tedious tasks. I probably wouldn’t even have a refrigerator.

These days, many women work because of changing social norms—but also because of changing domestic duties. Thanks to modern conveniences, taking care of a house and cooking no longer has to be a full time job. My husband and I work full time, and at the end of the day, we have time to cook a healthy meal together. (Of course, the “cooking together” part is one luxury my great-grandmother didn’t get—and that many women today still don’t get!)

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