7.30.2007

an open letter to a snotty lady

i went to BEA a few months ago and, rounding a corner near the Perseus Group booth, nearly smacked bodily into a large yellow pantsuit inhabited by Nan A. Talese. you don't know who she is, unless you are the sort of person who breathes gawker like air, or works in publishing, or watches Oprah and retains every episode.

Nan Talese was James Frey's editor, and by most accounts the woman who insisted that he repackage into a "seriously, it really happened" memoir a book he was trying--unsuccessfully--to sell as fiction. Everyone knows what happened next. Oprah picked A Million Little Pieces for her omnipotent book club, it sold a million little copies, everyone got all weepy over the ravaging horrors of addiction and this poor man's struggle with pain and misery and how powerful love is and how sweet and humble poor James Frey was when he appeared on Oprah all curly-haired and soft-spoken.

And then it turned out the book was, um, fiction, and Oprah had James and Nan on her show, and she ripped them both new excretory orifices, and she was so, so, so angry. And there was lots of media coverage and now if you send in page 24 of a copy of AMLP, you get a refund from its publisher because they lied about its truth. And I posted about truth in publishing, and blah blah blah.

This is a long intro to a short point: Dear Nan Talese, please get over this.

An AP wire piece that came out, like, four minutes ago (an aside: not only does Nanhave a hilariously dated name, her husband's name is Gay. as in, I am not using that word to hilariously insult his name, the word "gay" is actually his name.) has Nan saying she is still mad at Oprah for her "fiercely bad manners," and that she - Nan - would still have done everything exactly the way she did.

I wonder about the psychology behind this. For all that I am bothered by Oprah's pervasive brand of mediocrity, I agree with pretty much everyone that her book club is a really good thing. And part of the desire of publishers everywhere to have Oprah pick one of their books for her club is that, um, it will cause the book to sell forty-seven billion copies and become a touchstone of cultural awareness. Basically Oprah is agreeing to shill your book in exchange for you agreeing that the book you let her shill is not, to put it mildly, a sack of crap and lies.

What did AMLP turn out to be? A sack of crap and lies. And Nan, sweetheart, when you knowingly misled Oprah, when you knowingly allowed her to use her godlike powers to get your book onto the nightstands of every third housewife in the United States, you knew what you were getting into. Oprah exercises her influence in an admirably conscientious way,* and when you lied to her you made her less credible. And credibility is her currency. When she reamed you on her show, she was just strengthening the Oprah dollar, which you had caused to take a serious hit.

Anyway, since the publishing world is what it is, you haven't lost too much of your power and influence. Lucky you. So you know what I would advise? Shut up, please. Lay low. Stop trying to poke the dragon in the snout. Remember what Oprah did to the beef industry? I'd be wary. She has a beef with you.

*except that moronic recent embrace of The Secret. ugh.

prediction: i will one day be up for a position working with Nan Talese, and i will be googled, and I will not be offered the job based on this post.

7.27.2007

chicken nuggets: the end, i swear

a followup on the chicken nugget concern of last week:

I finally got around to reading the chapter on McNuggets in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I approached with quivery trepidation since, as google informs me, there is one ingredient discussed there that will blow your mind!!! and I didn't want to get knocked too far off my oh-so-high chicken nugget horse (note: that is an awesome mental image).

anyway here's what the book has to say about it:

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

Dun dun dunnnnnn. TBHQ, in sufficient doses, makes you die.

So what? So does table salt. Fun game? Feed twenty grams of Morton's to a toddler and then flee the country.* And, as wikipedia tells us, TBHQ is not a "form of butane" in the sense that, say, a mcnugget is a "form of chicken." it is a form of butane in the sense that a human being is a form of carbon. which is to say, it is ultimately comprised of some fundamental elements, but in fact it is a hydroquinine that has butylic elements, and if you still know what I'm talking about at this point I'm just going to turn the floor over to you.

Anyway, all the is a very roundabout and overly obsessive way of getting to the point that: chicken nuggets are delicious and will not kill you. please consume them. but not with ketchup, because that is disgusting.

*please do not actually kill children. they are cute.

i've got another post up over at the consumeblog. check it out now.*

*funk soul brother

7.24.2007

aesthetics

why is it that when i zombie-trudge around the office on 3.5 hours of sleep, smelling like febreze with a top note of complimentary jetblue doritos, everyone keeps saying i look really nice today?

i must be doing something wrong the rest of the time.

7.18.2007

westward, ho!

what's better than legoland and euchre? nothing, that's what. so in that spirit i am jetting of to LA tonight to spend five days alternately building things out of bits of Danish plastic, and getting progressively drunker as I play an old-people-and-canadians card game with my boyfriend and his college buddies (and, as he helpfully pointed out, "their wives and stuff.")

some parting thoughts:

1. how awesome would it be to text all your harry-potter-loving friends at 12:04 on saturday morning saying "OMG did you get to the part where Hermione dies yet!??!?!" answer: significantly awesome.*

2. i am very sad about the horrible plane crash in Brazil last night, but i am going to take comfort in the unlikelihood of there being more than one giant flaming horrific aviation-related tragedy within the same 24-hour period, and feel safe on my flight this evening.

3. while the woman whose chin and white blouse are visible in this picture is Arianna Huffington, from this angle she looks eerily like my mom:



*dear crazy people who read this and emailed me yelling about a lack of spoiler warning:

dude. no. this is not a spoiler. this is me hypothesizing about the potential hilarity of a fake spoiler that could be positioned, temporally speaking, in such a way that the recipients thereof would not realize it is fake. sorry if that was unclear.

sincerely,
helen

7.17.2007

golden nuggets

a lady accused me, in the comments to my earlier post, of not knowing what is in a mcdonald's chicken nugget. this is true. the internet tells me two things: one, there is a comprehensive discussion of the mcnugget's ingredients in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which i really want to read. two, the following list of ingredients:

the mcdonald's chicken nugget, dissected
  • chicken
  • water
  • salt
  • modified corn starch [ed: "modified" in this case meaning god knows what. most commercial corn starches are tweaked in some way. there is no cause for alarm.]
  • sodium phosphates [ed: for those of you keeping score at home, this is an emulsifying agent, helping all the above ingredients blend smoothly so that you don't bite into a nugget and get a concentrated pocket of corn starch]
  • chicken broth powder (chicken broth, salt, and natural flavoring (chicken source))
  • seasoning (vegetable oil, extracts of rosemary, mono, di- and triglycerides [ed: one, two, or three (respectively) fatty acids, attached to a glycerol molecule. they're used as surfactants--lowering the viscosity of the vegetable oil so that it blends more evenly with the other non-seasoning ingredients (fun fact: this makes the vegetable oil behave with properties more similar to those of lard)], lecithin [ed: another emulsifyer, in this case making sure that the vegetable oil consistently blends with the glycerides])


so, neat! it looks like chicken nuggets are flavored with what essentially amounts to rosemary-infused oil. tres gourmet. but what about the batter? i can hear you clamoring for this information. like, literally there is a noise right now of people outside my building shouting "for the love of god, what about the batter?!" it's intense.

  • water
    enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • yellow corn flour
  • bleached wheat flour
  • modified corn starch
  • salt
  • leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate [fun fact: the preceding four scary-sounding ingredients are like the Planeteers: with their powers combined, they are baking soda!)
  • spices
  • wheat starch
  • dried whey
  • corn starch
this is an astonishingly inoffensive list of ingredients. it is also worth noting that in neither the interior nor the exterior of the chicken nuggets are there added sugars.

in the interest of not being a complete and total McDonald's apologist, i will read the Pollan book and report back. in the meantime, i offer the following totally true* food fact:

sometimes you will see liquid-transporting trucks branded with the mcdonald's logo. ninety thousand gallons of ketchup? nope. liquid chicken, to be sprayed using a giant fireman-style hose into nugget-molds and turned into those friendly little boot- and circle-shaped pieces of deliciousness that i spend far too much time writing and thinking about. true story. tell your friends.

*meaning, i heard it once and really really really want to believe it.

playing chicken

my love affair with chicken nuggets is a well-documented phenomenon. even though it's been almost two years since those golden pieces of heaven were discussed here, my affection hasn't waned. let it be known: helen thinks chicken nuggets are awesome.

but as i become an old hag who is, as of two weeks ago, officially twenty-five-and-a-half, i realize i am closer to being 50 than i am to being born. and this makes me worry about things like wrinkles and my waistline and getting enough calcium, and whether i should start dyeing my hair blonde now so that when i am fully gray-haired and go blonde to cover it, people might actually think it is natural. this also means i am worried about my already molasses-slow metabolism sputtering down to the approximate speed of a wheelless pickup truck propped up on cinder blocks, so i am trying (ok, thinking about trying) to eat healthyishly and not let myself be swayed by the siren call of the mcdonald's across the street from my office.

but i just learned a fact.

according to jezebel, there are fewer calories and more protein to be found in a mcdonald's four-piece chicken nuggets than in a luna bar. plus a luna bar costs three bucks and tastes like a bicycle tire, whereas a four-piece costs one dollar and tastes like happiness.

true love never dies. that is what i have learned today.

7.12.2007

puppy love

a puppy in britain japan was born with a perfect heart-shaped spot on its back. enjoy your thursday.

7.11.2007

get out of town

when i consume too much media, i start thinking of my life in terms of thematic chunks of time: it's The Year Of The Dress! it's National Glaucoma Awareness Month! i'm sorry, i can't come over for dinner, because it's All Things Meat Week on the food network and i've been informed that i can't miss a minute.

it's possible that the period from July 10, 2006 to July 10, 2007 has been, for me, The Year Of Obsessing About Travel. here's why: on last year's July 10, I bought a plane ticket to San Francisco in order to go do glamorous things next to a different ocean than the one next to which i normally do glamorous things.

no, wait, whoops, I accidentally clicked "buy" twice, and bought two plane tickets to San Francisco (exciting side effect: newfound inability to purchase anything using my credit card, due to maxedoutage). so i called, and complained, and they gave me a credit that would be good for a year, and i started planning.

and planning. and planning. and then suddenly it was three days ago and i had to buy my ticket immediately and i arbitrarily decided to go to a small town in Ontario, Canada where my parents inexplicably have a second home, and i cleared the dates with all relevant parties (boyfriend, parents, boss) and, deepbreath, called yesterday to order my tickets.

you already know how this ends. my ticket not only had to be purchased before yesterday, but the travel had to begin before yesterday. and despite my brilliant plan of buying a ticket to Phoenix that would leave at 7pm, and which I would cancel immediately after buying in order to reup my credit for another year, I was foiled. but the nice Expedia representative was so moved by my pathetic inability to actually function as an adult that she gave me a $200 coupon good for any hotel purchase booked online.

which expires in a year.

i'll let you know how that one turns out.

7.06.2007

me, consumed

your intrepid blogeuse has been suck city at posting lately, but that's only because i've fallen out of love with you and gotten attached to another corner of the internet.

i jest, i jest, i love you as much as ever. but i have started contributing the occasional bit of rampant object lust to consume, the "buy things!" bloggy offshoot of a former internet haunt of mine, where i remain in the top 20, despite not having signed in in approximately nine thousand years.

i'm posting to consume (how on earth is that pronounced? and do i have to bold the "me" every time i write it? stay tuned for the answers to these and other exciting questions!) under my consumating username, Elliterate, so feel free to finally realize what a giant nerd i am.

ConsuME!