Then I happened to read a charming, albeit nauseating little news item that tried to skulk by unnoticed recently, wherein is was announced that the Huntington Meat Packing Co. of Southern California was expanding its recall of possibly E. coli-tainted meat, from just over 860,000 pounds to ... wait for it ... five million pounds.
Five million pounds of bad meat. Sounds like a fun movie title. Or maybe a nickname for Congress. While pondering the number, I did some quick math. But being lousy at math, I also did some quick research.
All-knowing Google informed me that the average head of cattle, say a 1,200-pound animal, results in something like 500 pounds of usable meat, give or take. Interesting! Or not.
Ergo, five million pounds is the rough and chopped-up output of about 10,000 animals. Ten thousand head of cattle is, freakishly, only about a tenth -- if that -- of what the largest industrial feedlots in Idaho, Texas, California, Nebraska and elsewhere have on their tortured and tormented, methane-choked properties at any given moment (Broken Bow in Nebraska can hold 85,000 head. Simplot in Idaho can process up to 150,000. ConAgra's frightening Montfort lot in reeking Greely, Colo. is so big it chokes your very soul). Which is just all sorts of disgusting. But there it is.
(Oh and btw, five million pounds of meat is also the equivalent of about 30,000 average-weighted humans, or one big, sold-out Dave Matthews concert in San Jose. Hey, we're all dead meat in the end).
It gets so you lose sight of the scale of things. Five million pounds? Seems like a lot. It seems epic and sickening and a little horrifying.
And then you realize that it's not. Really it's just a drop in the giant meatbucket that is the Western diet, a thimbleful of the staggering tonnage of industrial foodstuffs we consume every day, much of it loaded with poison and antibiotics and hormones and environmental burden; that includes millions of enormous animals that should be eating grass but are instead being force-fed land-ravaging grains and 10 billion gallons of drugs per year so we may satisfy our ravenous appetites for far, far more unhealthy meat than we actually need.
Which in turns makes you sort of amazed that there aren't more meat recalls, more epidemics and outbreaks, more McDonald's restaurants spontaneously combusting from all the chemicals. It makes you wonder why the hell we aren't all dead right this very moment. Perhaps we are? Wait, is this heaven? Nah. Just the Internet.
Speaking of McDonald's. Did you hear? A woman was sitting in the McDonald's over in the Great Mall in Milpitas just recently, consuming her capitalism-approved portion of hormone-blasted industrial feedlot beef and HFCS-injected everything (though, to be fair, it could have been one of their "healthy" prepackaged nuclear salads), when, of course, she went into labor.
And she gave birth, right there in the food court, in the McDonald's, in a giant suburban shopping mall, because there is possibly no more quintessentially American scenario than birthing a human being in a fast food outlet in a shopping mall food court, unless she also happened to be thinking about firearms, watching "American Idol" and listening to Dave Matthews whilst something something NASCAR.
Reading that story, it was impossible for me not to note how this woman, this divine fertile feminine life force, was likely consuming some of the worst possible processed foodstuffs imaginable right up to the moment she birthed a human baby -- a child, we can politely surmise, that had been nourished though much of its gestation by a veritable pharmacy of bloodstream toxins, fats and salts and corn syrups, synthetic flavorings and hormones from that selfsame feedlot beef.
Do you think this new mom was also was perhaps drinking a fine beverage made by the Coca-Cola corporation at the moment of labor pains? Sipping maybe a Dr. Pepper or a Sprite? The odds are reasonably good she was, a Coca-Cola product being something of a prerequisite to browsing Champs, Foot Locker and Kay Jewelers in any shopping complex in modern America.
Mmm, soda. Have you heard that soda is the new tobacco? A demon in angel's clothing? Well, it is. Quite the sickening swill, really, far more unhealthy and dangerous than we readily acknowledge because gosh, how can something so happy, so all-American, so polar-bear Christmastime Homer Simpson I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing wonderful, possibly be all sorts of cancerous and sickening and Sarah Palin-grade wrong? Well, it is.
Like cigarettes, they say soda is in dire need of regulation, heavy taxation, warning labels, the works. Do you imagine Coca-Cola cares all that much about the anti-soda campaign being waged against its wares right now? Hell yes, it does. But maybe not as much as you think, given how it has pretty much maxed out the U.S market anyway. After all, how many blue sports drinks, pink energy beverages and nefarious Coke Minis can you cram down one country's gullet? We simply can't get much less healthy. Time to move on.
And so it did. The Coca-Cola company just reported big profits last quarter, despite how there's no one left in America to poison (except the tiny, precious children). Do you know how it did it? Can you guess how it made more millions? That's right: by slowly poisoning India, China and Brazil.
They call them "emerging markets," because these countries are just now emerging from millennia of drinking various liquids that were not exceedingly good at killing them by way of high fructose corn syrup and unpronounceable chemical additives. What, the western gift of fast food, industrial meat and oil dependency weren't enough? Let's give them all diabetes and obesity and even worse teeth? Fabulous. Have a Coke and a smile, indeed.
It doesn't really matter. Might as well eat that industrial burger and inhale a giant Coke as you speed down the freeway in your tiny Japanese car. Do you know why? Because your airbag may kill you anyway.
Amid the furor over Toyota's massive recall of stuck accelerator pedals, a lesser-seen item about Honda Motor Corporation, itself quietly recalling about a half-million Accords and Civics over dangerously high airbag pressure, which they say could knock you dead if deployed.
Wait, what? Death by airbag? Isn't that just a little bit of irony overload? Isn't that a comedy routine somewhere? In hell, perhaps? Then again, it would be a simply spectacular way to go, really, if you think about it, if you really love irony, if you think God is basically just a wickedly devious cosmic trickster. I mean, why the hell not?
It all balances out in the end, anyway. It's all just the grand and dreamlike circus spinning and laughing and churning its cotton candy profundity into the Void. For every adult human ironically sent to the great feedlot in the sky by a misbehaving automotive safety device, a child is born in a shopping mall food court, pre-addicted to Quarter Pounders, ready to take on the overheated, surreal world all over again. And lo, the great play continues ...