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Book Review: Fast Food Nation

by Lang Reid

The book reviewed this week, Fast Food Nation (ISBN 0-141-00687-0) proclaims on the front cover that it “could make a difference to the way we eat. For ever.” It was written by Eric Schlosser and published last year.

The latest edition of this book is from the Penguin paperback range. Divided into ten chapters, it has two main sections - called the American Way and Meat and Potatoes. The former is mainly politico-sociological, while the latter more on food technology.

The cover is unfortunate. While it catches the eye, it immediately gives the impression that it is another of those books exhorting us all not to eat ‘junk’ food because it will clog our arteries and chop down the rain forests in Patagonia or somewhere similar. This is not one of those books, but a serious look at the sociology of life in the 20th and 21st century. And by ‘serious’, I mean well-researched sociology.

Contrary to what you might imagine, the McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc were not the first hamburger chain, but a group called White Castle in the 1920’s.

The history of the billionaires in the book I found quite fascinating. People such as J.R. Simplot, the potato baron with the license plate ‘MR.SPUD’, who at the age of 16 managed to make 1,200 percent profit on selling pigs. Being someone who has managed to lose money on almost everything I have bought and sold, I take my hat off to Mr. Simplot and his ilk, who have made profit-making an art form.

The ‘smart’ people have been the ones who predicted what technology could bring and were geared up to cater for the new demands. For example, frozen food which was available in the 1920’s did not boom until households had their own freezers, which was post WW II. Author Schlosser has made all this sociology into very easily readable and understandable logical entities.

In the chapters dealing with what might actually be in your food, it is incorrect to place ‘blame’ for contamination at the international chains’ BBQ broilers. Hygiene issues are problems in any kitchen, be that fast food, hotel, restaurant or home. It was interesting to see that meat supplied by the American government for consumption by school children was also contaminated. In fact, one meat processing plant that was found to have 47 percent of its meat tainted with Salmonella by the government’s inspectors, continued to be the supplier to the American school meals programme. And the fast food companies were not involved anywhere in this. Salmonella, according to author Schlosser, causes 1.4 million illnesses and 500 deaths a year in the US.

Like all good research papers, at the back are several pages of bibliographical references plus a multi-page index.

This is not a book for the Mills and Boon set, but a serious volume of work which should be made compulsory reading for all our children, so that they can grow up understanding just why they ordered the “fries to go.”

The review copy was made available by Bookazine and it carried an RRP of 450 baht.


Muttley's CD Reviews: Metallica - St. Anger

Pawed by Muttley Re-mastered by Ella Crew

Rating: One star *

Muttley’s back and I’m not happy! With my acute sense of smell something’s a bit off. It’s Metallica’s recent release - St. Inker (oops that should be St. Anger). Now, before all you Metallica groupies out there (both of you) send me rude letters suggesting very painful surgery to my nether, let me explain. I don’t share the same negative view of Metallica with my canine colleague Mott the Dog. The black album or self-titled ‘Metallica’ was a classic groundbreaking metal album. Unfortunately, despite much commercial success, the band has not achieved the quality of song writing since then. St. Anger is awful.

Metallica was formed in 1981 when ex-Diamond Head drummer Lars Ulrich, ex-Obsession/Leather Charm, vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, and lead guitarist Dave Mustaine got together. Bassist Cliff Burton was recruited the following year. Before the first commercially released album (Kill ‘Em All) hit the streets in 1983, Mustaine had been fired amid much acrimony and was replaced by ex-Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett. Mustaine went on to establish his Metal credentials by forming the excellent Megadeth. Ride the Lightning followed in 1984 and confirmed Metallica as the pioneers in the burgeoning speed/thrash metal market.

Most of 1985 was spent on the follow-up album Master of Puppets, which hit the top 30 in the US and #41 in the UK charts despite the absence of any hit singles. Unfortunately, in 1986 Burton was killed instantly when the band’s tour bus overturned. He was replaced by ex-Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted and the classic Metallica line-up is formed. Their first release is the cover-oriented - $5.98 EP - Garage Days Revisited. It reached #27 in the UK and prepared the way for the release of ... And Justice for All in 1988. The album hit #4 in the UK and spent a year in the US charts reaching a peak of #6.

After some shows and numerous awards during 1989 and 1990 the band released Metallica in 1991. It entered both the UK and US charts at #1. Over the next year the band released no less than five singles from the album including top 10 UK hits - Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters - firmly establishing the band in the financially lucrative metal/heavy rock market. Looking back, listening to any of the bootlegs of this era, the band had reached its creative peak - though more commercial success followed.

Subsequent releases revealed serious song-writing deficiencies although Load in 1996 reached similar commercial heights with the single Until It Sleeps, hitting #5 in the UK. Re-Load in 1997 comprised un-used sessions material from the Load album and Garage Inc in 1998, largely comprised covers. The Live S&M double album with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1999 was an interesting, but unconvincing experiment. It has been said that bands collaborate with orchestras for one of two reasons - money or no new ideas - or both.

Some four years later, we are presented with St. Anger, arguably the first studio release with original material for seven years. Since S&M, Newsted left in 2001 citing a desire to work on other projects, Hetfield entered re-hab, and Ulrich spent much time in a legal battle with Napster. Given the excesses of success the band has experienced, it is a wonder that the band is still recording at all. However, St. Anger does not do the band’s name justice. It’s a collection of indistinguishable thrash tracks, the quality of which you would expect from a nu-metal band just making its way in the business. Although Hetfield’s voice is pretty good, the lyrics are tedious and unoriginal. Ulrich’s drumming is too prominent and Hammett is just going through the motions. New bassist Robert Trujillo hardly makes an impact at all. There is little noticeable guitar and few solos, one of the band’s past strengths. Perhaps this is the way metal music has developed in recent years, but Metallica should be able to sit above all this. Of the few credible tracks - the title, St. Anger, is good with strong vocals backed by some hard riffing, and Purify has a good rhythm.

Why ‘one star’? Well, if you are one of the few that actually likes the album, the free DVD of the band playing the same bad songs is right up your street. When first released in Thailand, it was available for THB 399. Now it’s priced at THB 499. My ‘one star’ is really for the band’s legend that was cultivated by their first five or six albums.

Musicians

James Hetfield - vocals & guitar
Lars Ulrich - drums
Kirk Hammett - guitar
Robert Trujillo - bass

Tracks

Frantic
St. Anger
Some Kind of Monster
Dirty Window
Invisible Kid
My World
Shoot Me Again
Sweet Amber
The Unnamed Feeling
Purify
All Within My Hands

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]