Monday, July 28, 2008

Funny Things from the Newspaper [The original “Mike Royko” column]

Recently I spotted two things in the paper that were so outrageous, and so offensive to common sense and decency, that I just knew they'd make great column material. The first was an advertisement by the Colorado Beef Council promoting the cow as "Mother Nature's Recycling Machine." Make no mistake about it, this ad was so full of untruths and half-truths it should be framed and sent to New York, where it can serve as the inspiration for future generations on Madison Avenue. The beef industry types will want to quote verbatim from this one at the next Congressional hearings on grazing leases. They'd better have their lawyers with them.

The other thing that caught my eye was a piece by Mike Royko, the syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He decided to lash out at vegetarian activism and healthy foods generally, and at Jeremy Rifkin and McDonald's phenomenally unsuccessful McLean burger in particular. Mr. Royko is a humorous guy, but what comes screaming out of his writing is the image of an aging good-old-boy threatened by changes in our society he refuses to understand. It almost makes you lose sight of the funny stuff.

For those of you fortunate enough to have missed these two journalistic classics, I quote liberally below.

First, Enlightenment from the Colorado Beef Council

[I swear they're serious about this. I'm not making these quotes up!]

"Cows make the most of our food production resources,"

Yeah, sure. And everyone who eats beef has an IQ of 200. I'm a millionaire with the bronzed body of a Greek god, and the Pope reads this column "religiously." Isn't fantasy wonderful?

"...healthful, nutritious, low-fat beef."

It's all in your frame of reference, I guess. Everyone knows the beef folks have financed carefully controlled tests of their product's nutritional value. When pitted against such popular foods as suet, fried "pork" skins, Ben & Jerry's double chocolate fudge ice cream, and wood alcohol, beef came out looking like a nutritional winner!

"Like mowing a lawn or pruning a tree, cattle grazing promotes plant vigor and diversity."

Anyone who's ever looked at a fence line in the American West knows this is true. Those darn "diverse" and "vigorous" plants sure are clever, too. They have a charming way of disguising themselves as erosion and mud.

"Cows are also environmental protection machines."

And how could they not be when they're managed by today's socially-responsible, food conglomerate, factory farmers! Yes, on the old environmental friendliness scale herds of cows rank right up there with the B-l "Stealth" Bomber, Mount Pinatubo, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. Give them all Winnebagos for an even bigger "green" factor. Only Soviet atomic energy scientists could have come up with anything better.

Now, Words of Wisdom from Mr. Royko

"...veggie burgers, tofu burgers, seaweed burgers, cabbage burgers and other healthful delicacies. They could call them Twitburgers."

I suppose. Of course, if "they" were just a bit more mature and/or enlightened they might prefer to call them "Socially-Conscious Burgers," "Morally-Inspired Burgers," "creative," "visionary," "compassionate," or just plain "tasty." (This last adjective doesn't necessarily apply to the seaweed burger—I'll reserve judgment. And it assumes, of course, that "their" taste buds haven't already been deep fried in the last batch of hot grease out of Burger King or KFC.)

"America does not want a Twitburger. It prefers something it can really chomp on. Damn the cholesterol, full speed ahead."

For me, Mike's wartime imagery really captures the essence of the American eating experience. We can all join the Marlboro man—looking macho as hell in our hospital beds.

... "goofball"... "peepingTom"... "dimwits"... "public nags"... "common scold" ... "public nuisance"... "compulsive busybody" ... "intellectual gnat" ... "aging hippies"...

Choosing his words with the precision and accuracy of a skilled surgeon, Mr. Royko uses a number of adjectives to describe individuals and groups of people espousing vegetarianism and healthy eating. Of course Mr. R is merely demonstrating one of the golden rules of persuasive writing: When logic fails to advance your position, resort to name-calling. For obvious reasons, this technique is often used by those opposing the vegetarian cause.

"Now I must go have dinner. Steak tartare. That's raw beef, ground up. I prefer it on the hoof, but it's a chore chasing the critter."

Finally, at the end of his column, some levity! It's not too funny, though, if you're an individual of the vegetarian or bovine persuasion. I have to believe that despite the sarcasm Mr. Royko probably does eat the way he preaches, in which case he may not be around for too many more years of wit. It's a shame. If there's any justice, he'll be reincarnated as a cow.

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