Posts from September, 2008
I’ve been saying since July that this city has been acting funny. And it’s gotten worse with the official news of our downtrodden economy. The only difference between now and July is 773 points and the fact that other people are finally noticing the strange behavior around town, too.
Even those who don’t really follow what’s going on have picked it up by now: we need to get over to the bank before everyone else and get that money under the mattress. Stat. Meanwhile, the rest of the population is gathering menacingly on street corners waiting to get their taste of the spoils from recent bank withdrawals.
Obviously, it’s a scary time. Stretch leggings are still being sold as an integral part of every fall wardrobe.
Seriously, we have an important election, a Depression-level economic crisis brewing, and human brains that are incompetent at processing the data associated with systems this large (diplomatic and economic relationships, government, war).
The on the ground atmosphere isn’t going to improve while so many people feel like they have nothing to lose, and that attitude isn’t likely to change until they can feel confident in the keepers of their money.
Ultimately, I’m just looking to avoid the feeling-threatened-outside-my-own-door part. But, crappy atmosphere aside, the other side of this coin isn’t so bad: maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for New York to cut itself down a few notches (not so much in the extreme fashion Wall Street chose), but we could stand to ratchet back the velvet rope mentality a bit.
The part of living here I’ve always liked is the access to all kinds of people and events and things to see and places to go and stuff to try. You put up with the crappy traffic and screaming sirens and tiny apartments to get that stuff, and frankly, it’s not available in the way it used to be. Or it doesn’t feel available in the way it should be.
So how about we forget the ‘exclusive access’ lounges for a while and stay home to watch Sarah Palin turn herself into a leprechaun on Thursday night have some plain old fun. (Just don’t call it a Staycation.)
Mmm… Just as I was about to have my daily 5:00 milk, I come across a story about the stuff being tampered with in Old New York, just as it is now in China.
In a city growing fast, but lacking refrigeration, it was hard to provide sufficient milk. Fresh milk was brought in from Westchester and Orange Counties, but not enough to meet demand. In 1853, it was found that 90,000 or so quarts of cow’s milk entered the city each day, but that number mysteriously increased to 120,000 quarts at the point of delivery.
Some of the increase was due to New York dairymen padding their milk with water, and then restoring its richness with flour — just like their latter-day Chinese counterparts, who increased the protein levels in watered-down milk by adding the noxious chemical melamine. But the greater part was swill milk, a filthy, bluish substance milked from cows tied up in crowded stables adjoining city distilleries and fed the hot alcoholic mash left from making whiskey. This too was doctored — with plaster of Paris to take away the blueness, starch and eggs to thicken it and molasses to give it the buttercup hue of honest Orange County milk. This newspaper attributed the deaths of up to 8,000 children a year to this vile fluid.
Do you want to eat anything ever again? Oh, you still do? Read on…
Finally, in 1858, Tammany Hall sent Alderman Michael Tuomey to “investigate” a notorious swill milk dairy on West 16th Street. Tuomey sat down with the dairy owners and drank a glass or two of whiskey. He concluded that swill milk was just as good for children as ordinary milk, and anyone who refused to drink it simply had a “prejudice.”
Again, there are echoes with China. The Chinese government had exempted several of the nation’s biggest dairies from inspections, one of the reasons the scare was allowed to spread unchecked from baby formula to yogurt to the whole of the Chinese dairy industry and its exports. (The British candy maker Cadbury announced yesterday, for instance, that it had discovered melamine in some of its Chinese-made milk chocolates.) This isn’t just laissez-faire — it’s an approach to the food supply that is so deliberately hands off that it amounts to an invitation to swindling. Heads are rolling now, but too late for the sick babies.
The similarities between China today and New York 150 years ago shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Adulteration on such a scandalous scale occurs in societies with a toxic combination of characteristics: a fast-growing capitalist economy coupled with a government unable or unwilling to regulate the food supply. In such get-rich-quick societies, there is a huge temptation to tamper with food, particularly when margins are low. The rewards are instant, and it’s not always easy for consumers to detect the difference between the pure and the doctored — particularly with a substance like milk, which we have been taught to trust implicitly.
This is a much sadder story than I’m going to admit right now. So instead, enjoy your cereal tomorrow morning!
Notice anything unusual about the text on the left?
A few days later, I skipped through an episode of What Not to Wear and found this:
In the world of fashion, they don’t have time to think. So, fine, pencil shirt. This is how new trends emerge, people.
“I heard about a pencil shirt the other night.”
“A pencil shirt? Who designed it?”
“I don’t know, but everyone’s saying it’s fabulous.”
“Say no more. We have to make one.”