Posts tagged society

MOVIE REVIEW: Fast Food Nation

If you’ve never read the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, get to the bookstore right now.  You’ll never feel the same about fast food again.  Or most other food, for that matter.  But I’m not here to review the book (which is wonderful), I’m here about the movie.  I was interested to see this film, because the book is written in an expose journalistic style, and the movie sells itself as a fictional account.  How do the two work together?

 Fast Food Nation

So, I put some food in my new solar cooker (more about this in my next post!) and settled in to watch.  While there are gruesome scenes that leave you depressed, the movie is not nearly so hard-hitting as the book.  It starts with a coyote leading several migrants over the border to seek a new life in America.  Predictably, one doesn’t make it (or so you assume… this is something you will have to do a lot in this film if you want any questions “answered” in your head), illustrating the risks that these hopeful workers face even before reaching their grueling factory life.  Across the country, a new VP of Marketing for the fictional Mickeys fast food chain gets an assignment to chase down rumors that there are high levels of eColi in the beef.  Basically, there’s shit in the meat, and management wants to know either why, or how that info got out there in the first place.  So he travels to small-town Cody to investigate, meeting Amber, a Mickey’s employee, when he gets into town.  She’s in high school at that coming-out-of-her-shell age, working lots of hours at the restaurant to help her mother make ends meet.  The rest of the story follows, at various points, Amber, the VP (Greg Kinnear, but I can’t remember his fictional name), and the migrant workers who are dropped off at the meat packing plant that supplies all the meat for Mickey’s burgers. 

While the information presented was factually interesting, and visually disturbing at times, I had trouble feeling like a coherent story emerged from the separate narratives.  The workers, portrayed primarily by Fez from the 70s show, his wife, and her sister, go to the factory, are disgusted by the job, but amazed by the pay, and each follow a separate path toward destruction.  The guy gets hurt and subsequently fired, the wife can’t take it and quits to go to a low-pay hotel maid job but eventually has to come back and beg for a job when her husband is fired, and the sister gets involved with the supervisor at the plant and gets hooked on speed.  All the while, Amber is learning about what it means to be a corporate cog, like her mother (Patricia Arquette) while her coworkers plan a robbery that never goes down, and her uncle (Ethan Hawke) tries valiantly to get her to follow her dreams.  She meets college students who are activists, and they plan a way to try and get back at the meat packing plants for their brutal practices.  Greg Kinnear, however, is also having an eye-opening week, talking with ranchers, factory workers, and Mickey’s employees about the rumored horrors at the plant.   Suddenly, his burgers aren’t tasting so sweet anymore.  In the end, we see a new crop of future workers making that dusty trek across the desert to replace the ones we’ve seen get used up by the system, completing the ugly circle.

It was enjoyable to watch (especially Amber’s performance), save the prolific amounts of raw meat and dead and dying animals.  Totally gross to see them get killed and chopped up, to see people mushing up pieces of bad meat to become your ground beef patties.  Like the worker’s wife, upon seeing the kill room, I cried a few tears.  And knowing that whatever was shown was likely sanitized a bit for the screen made it all the more uncomfortable.  But I never felt the same angry call to action that I felt upon reading the book.  I almost felt I’d rather have watched a documentary than a fictional account that tried to cover so much territory, albeit pretty well.  That being said, even my cooked zucchini lunch looked kind of unappetizing after all that carnage!

If you haven’t read the book, then this movie will be interesting to watch without preconceived ideas.  Watch it first, then head for the bookstore to back up the story with facts you can pull out at a cocktail party or activist meeting.  If you’ve read the book already… well, read it again!  =)  You can never know too much about the harm the fast food industry in particular but all franchise commerical low-wage industries in general do to our society

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Rogue Waves: Putting it in Motion

There is a phenomenon in the oceans known as a rogue wave. For reasons until recently unfathomable, occasionally, a single ENORMOUS wave would arise from its surrounding brethren and cause devastation to anything whose path it crossed. Sort of like a 90 foot tsunami without the underlying earthquake, and out at sea. According to the History Channel, recent advances in marine science have allowed us a better glimpse into possible causes. They theorize that these waves, defined by being more than twice the size of any surrounding wave, are caused by undercurrents which slow down the wave and basically cause water to pile up high. Other waves also overtake this slowed wave and add to its strength and content, pushing it forward with great power. Here’s my oversimplified diagram:

To me, this seems like the perfect analogy for changes in your life. We are all just flowing along like waves, each on our own “wavelength” but still in accordance with the greater tide. Occasionally, we are slowed down by currents flowing in another direction, currents which underly our own existence and form the foundation of our own flows. History, media, physical laws. These base currents are traveling in their own wave pattern, and so they interact with each wavelength, or individual, differently depending upon where in their period the two collide.

Obstacles in life be they physical, emotional, or intellectual can cause us to literally slow our roll here on earth. It can be frustrating. What I like about this analogy is that when you slow down, your momentum and that of others actually catches up with you and feeds you force and strength. What you might perceive as a breakdown in the flow is actually a period of recharge for you to gain whatever strength you require. If you are trying to get your landlord to let you install drought-friendly landscaping, and he or she insists on calling you that “garden nut” no matter how many good reasons you supply about how much money this will save their business, you can either be frustrated or you can use that to your advantage. After all, now you have a big folder of solid reasons that xeriscaping makes sense at your disposal. A folder that you can take to local businesses at which you already shop and show them why it is in their interest to consider such installations at their storefront. You can start a business that outsources the work of it, and you make money and the world gets a little more responsibly beautiful BECAUSE your landlord frustrated you by asking for fifteen sources and still saying no.

Or, if the last scenario seemed too user intensive to you, how about this one? You sit down at your computer, frustrated by the recent response, and you start searching for that perfect source. Along one of the twisted lanes that Google weaves, you discover a chat room of people frustrated just like you. You start talking about what you’d REALLY like to happen in the world. It makes you start thinking a little deeper about it, and you realize how much you love plants. So much, that you might like to get a plot at the community garden. You get one and get to know people there as well as staying in touch with people from the chat room. When a big-city developer comes in and wants to turn your community garden into condos, you rant about it in your chat room, and someone, a lawyer, offers their services to save the garden free of charge. Garden saved. A garden that you weren’t even involved with until your landlord said… NO!

Rogue waves are the result of the interaction of many different energies, just like social progress. It can feel overwhelming to think you are only one wave in a big old ocean, but rest assured, there are other forces at work that you can’t necessarily see, and that just might work to amplify your cause in strange and unpredictable ways. You’ll never know until you put it into motion.

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A little (guilty) inspiration: Chris Jordan

Whoever said that art and science must remain separate should see the statistical artwork of Chris Jordan. His pieces are actual representations of statistical usage of different products in our world. Here’s a detail from his work, “Energizer”, 2007.

Energizer, Chris Jordan (detail)

You’ll be shocked to see an ocean of soda bottles, airline cups, or plastic bags, and even more so when you realize these pictures depict only a few minutes or hours of annual consumption! Mr. Jordan stresses on his site that the pure scale of these works dictate that you should try to see them in person, and I couldn’t agree more. They are on display at Paul Kopeiken Gallery in Los Angeles, and other spots around the country. For those concrete thinkers in your life who need a visual nudge in the green direction, this may be your ticket.

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