Sunday, May 16, 2010

A (Bon)Soiled Reputation

I found out something interesting today.

Apparently, all Bonsoy soy milk was recalled not too long ago. Something to do with iodine which has apparently caused thyroid problems in a bunch of people. Naturally, when I heard the news I had a minor panic. I had to have some blood tests this morning to check my parathyroid and I used to work in a café that served Bonsoy as its primary soy option. I had coffees with the stuff most days. Not because I thought it was healthy or any of that but because damn, that stuff is tasty. But don't worry, further research has revealed that the thyroid and the parathyroid are completely different things and, as previously hypothesised, I'm a complete and total hypochondriac.

But I'm glad I read about this Bonsoy thing. As you probably know, I spend a lot of time reading. One area I'm interested in, being a vegetarian and all, is the ethics of food production, including organic foods and genetic modification. It's a very interesting subject. I've read a lot of arguments against genetic modification in food products and, as with most subjects, some are more convincing than others. But there's one argument I've never liked that keeps coming up. When certain strains of fruit or vegetable are modified to, let's say, became more resistant to pests, they obviously test them to see whether they have any serious side-effects on people who consume them. When the modifications are shown to be harmless you often hear someone saying that sure, now it seems like there's nothing wrong with it, but hey! You don't know if it will turn out to hurt us in the future!

I hate this argument. For those against genetic modification I would hasten to bring up the fact that the work of scientists like this excellent dude have meant that crops have been able to be provided to buttloads of people who would otherwise have died of starvation. But whether GM foods are good or bad is not the point here. The point is that if you're going to try and ban something based on a completely hypothetical future where it might turn out to be bad for you, you should apply it across the board. Ban everything that could maybe one day turn out to cause some kind of problem. Oh wait, that's EVERYTHING.

And this Bonsoy thing proves a neat little point. You see, the kind of people who use that argument are usually the kind of people you see drinking soy milk. And no, that doesn't apply to all soy milk drinkers. As I said, there are some of us that just drink it because it's super delicious. But there is a specific sub-section of soy drinkers that can be summed up with one word: hippies.

I'm sorry hippies, but you know it's true.

You see them when you do café work. They come in groups for their soy chai lattes, always with their babies in hand-made booties. I sometimes wonder if those babies are present because the parents also hand-crafted their own condoms. There was a drink at my favourite little café in Newcastle that was a latte with soy milk and dandelion extract, written on the menu as an L.S.D. If that's not aimed squarely at this exact demographic, I don't know what is.

Some of them drink it because they're vegan, some of it drink it because maybe they heard it has some kind of health benefit (I also see that a lot with gluten-free products). Some drink it because, well, maybe it's just the culture. They're the type of people who only buy food with the word 'organic' on the label. And don't get me started on that old pearl. The problem is, you can define 'organic' as any product derived from a living organism. Technically, it's true. It may have been ground up with the hooves of a thousand mutated puppies living their lives in a perpetual hell, but if it comes from a living organism, it's technically organic. Then you can sell that product with the word 'organic' on the label. Maybe you're not supposed to, but nor are you supposed to use misleading pictures to make your food more appetising than it is. If it's technically legal and it can rake in the dollars, people will do it.

Then they bring out 'certified' organic. There are actual certifications that you can get that your food is organic. The ACO certification is, I believe, a good one. But unfortunately, these certifications aren't compulsory for any food using the label of 'organic'. And as a result, there's nothing stopping some marketing genius from making up his own certification to make it look genuine. The word 'certified' means nothing if you don't know anything about who is doing the certifying. You can't just take their word for it. It could just be some guy in a factory taking the packaging and saying 'This bread is organic, as certified by my dick.' That'll be $15 a loaf, don't forget the canvas bags.

But now, as if specifically formulated for me to prove a point, it turns out that of all the things that are making people sick, it turns out it's the soy milk. Even better, the ingredient in Bonsoy that was causing all the trouble? It was the SEAWEED EXTRACT. If you're eating something that contains anything derived from a plant that was grown underwater, that's instant hippie credibility. And then it turns out THAT'S what's bad for them.

And no, it's not all soy milk that was harmful and Bonsoy is back on the shelves now, the problem having been rectified but, really. You can't help but love that sort of irony.

-Smackie Onassis

P.S. There is a new poll, based on the results of the last poll. As requested (by Vegatrain) I am keeping this one open for a bit longer.

Snakes On An Everything

I actually haven't seen Snakes On A Plane. It's not that I wasn't interested. It's just that I saw a lot of the meme action leading up to it and by the time the movie came out, I felt like I'd pretty much seen it already.

To be honest, the idea of snakes on a plane isn't the most bone-chilling plane scenario I can think of. I quite like snakes. Even when I was a kid, trips to the Reptile Park were the highlight of any holiday period. Personally, I've always found the idea of Outbreak of Gastroenteritis On A Plane to be a whole lot more terrifying. What would you do?? There's only those two tiny little cubes of bathroom space for the whole plane. There would be bodily emissions going everywhere. And not in a good way.

ANYWAY. Snakes.

Liking snakes in Australia is probably not the most intuitive thing. If you see a snake in your backyard, you're not really supposed to want to touch it. You're basically supposed to get as far away from it as possible, because that bitch can and will straight up murder you and then slither home to laugh about it with its little snake friends.

One of the best news stories I can remember happening in my home town took place in our local David Jones. It was unfortunately timed; the store was located on a strip of mall where all the shops were closing down and being replaced by crackheads dragging their girlfriends along the ground by their hair. The council had this big campaign to try and encourage people back into the CBD. I remember writing a bunch of letters to the editor trying to explain how putting more meter parking on the street (without any parking garage options apart from the David Jones carpark) while at the same time talking about cutting the public transport options really isn't the best way to attract people to any given area. Unfortunately, it is against the law for a local council to do anything that falls under the categories of 'logical' or 'productive' so the CBD was in pretty bad shape.

It was around this time that they had to temporarily shut down the David Jones unexpectedly one day. Because there was a brown snake hanging out (literally) in the automatic door. Just dangling there, setting off the sensors, preventing anyone who wanted to continue living from shopping for perfumes and such. In the end they had to get animal control in to remove it, where they discovered that a family of the bastards was living in the roof. Not the best for business.

But still, I love snakes. The venomous ones aren't so much my favourites, but that doesn't mean I can't have a soft spot for the ones who don't do all the killing. My old friend, who I have referred to in this blog as 'Binny' on the insistence of my housemates, had a snake in his care for some time. It wasn't his; his old housemate had absconded to Queensland for a job, but had left a great majority of his things in Binny's house. Including his pet snake, Precious.

I loved that snake. I can't count the number of times Binny and I came home drunk and decided to get the snake out to play. I also can't count the number of times I said that to people who asked what I'd done the night before and then refused to believe that it wasn't an innuendo.

Precious did bite me once. Apparently she was a bit temperamental that day. When I reached into the tank, she reared up and fanged me. I showed off that wound for as long as it lasted.

"Oh what's that? Oh, just a snake bite. Venomous? Well technically yes, but I'm so naturally hardcore that I already have venom running through my veins instead of blood and it doesn't have any effect on me."*

Precious was not venomous. Sadly, I am not really that hardcore. I am not even a little bit hardcore. But Meattrain, if you will recall, is made of nothing but steel and brawn and testosterone. He is part Dr House, part Indiana Jones, part guy from one of those CSI shows that I have never watched and thus cannot efficiently reference. As part of his big fancy job, he had to do a component of 'snake awareness' training, which turned out to have nothing to do with how to pick your hookers in Bangkok, as I first assumed.

He recently undertook a series of tests out in the outback which I believe also included driving cars off cliffs. I'm assuming, as with all of these tests, it was considered a pass if he was still alive at the end. The snake test also sounded pretty intense. Basically, my understanding of what happened is they gathered a bunch of Australia's Most Venomous (including one pissed off python they'd simply found on the road on the way to the test) in a small room and threw them at my housemate. They chucked a bunch of snakes at him, and he had to deal with them without dying.

I'm assuming he passed.

-Smackie Onassis

*Disclaimer: this is not true in any way, not by any definition of the word 'true'. Except perhaps where 'true' is defined to mean 'false'.