Hello, some reading matter…
1) Why beef in the US is becoming more like chicken. On the plus side at least it’s not horse.
A new cattle drug called Zilmax is being widely used in the industrial feedlots where most of America’s beef comes from, but not because it produces a better sirloin. In fact, it has been shown to make steak less flavorful and juicy than beef from untreated cattle. Many feedlot owners, big meatpackers, and at least one prominent industry group resisted the drug, worrying that the beef industry would turn off consumers if it started churning out lower-quality steaks.
2) Cheap food and the horsemeat scandal. I haven’t been very worried about my accidentally eating horsemeat because I don’t eat a lot of ready meals and try only to buy meat that looks like meat but it is shocking how far food travels.
“The Findus products revealed to contain horsemeat … came from a Comigel factory in Luxembourg. Comigel in turn was supplied with meat from a company in southwestern France called Spanghero, whose parent [company] is called Poujol.” Benoît Hamon, France’s consumer affairs minister, said “that Poujol ‘acquired the frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, which had sub-contracted the order to a trader in the Netherlands. The latter was supplied from an abbatoir and butcher located in Romania.'”
3) Compulsory coupledom. Last year at a friends wedding, the registrar kicked off proceedings by stating that marriage was the most worthwhile relationship that anyone could have. My brother gets Christmas cards from my great aunts, because he’s married, I don’t despite not having lived at home for over 20 years! Single friends report not being invited to parties until they have a partner.
It is a given that people should be able to love whom and how they want and if pairing off for any length of time is what appeals, then that’s fine. But it’s time that coupledom stopped being touted as the best option, an idea reinforced not just by state approval and resource allocation, but also by religion, the market, popular culture, assorted therapists and our own anxieties.
Resisting the consolidation of invidious forms of social exclusion, it’s time to get beyond the notion that yoking together love, coupling, marriage and reproduction is the only way to achieve happiness. The scare stories about single people dying earlier or loneliness becoming a pandemic must be seen in the larger context of a social order that is hostile to non-couples and an economic order to which the collective good seems to be anathema. Our own imaginations – and hearts – can come up with better.
4) Salon asked ex Catholics what would bring them back. I don’t know if I could go back now, the quote below could be me.
“While I think of my Catholic heritage as part of who I am, the papacy of Benedict XVI sealed my departure from the church that I once loved … My conscience, my reason and my own experience of God’s love have ultimately led me to believe that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is far more concerned with the perpetuation of conservative Catholic dogma than it is to the propagation of a faith based on the radical inclusivity and boundless love of Jesus Christ. When I was growing up in the 1970s, we used to sing a song at Mass that proclaimed that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” Now, it seems more apt that “they will know we are Catholics by our adherence to the Magisterium,” adding, “I have no hope that this will change any time soon, with Benedict or without him.”
5) The impact that ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ had 50 years ago. I’ll have to ask Ma. This is one of my favourite Beatles songs, even if it was mostly written by Paul McCartney.
Exactly what Lennon contributed is unknown, though according to McCartney his partner scoffed at the George Formby-style opening lines “She was just seventeen/Never been a beauty queen,” replacing them with the streetwise “She was just seventeen/You know what I mean.” As “Seventeen,” the song became part of The Beatles’ live act in 1962 and was still listed under that title when, following “There’s a Place,” they devoted the rest of the morning session of 11th February to it.
6) Hilary Mantel gave a thoughtful speech about monarchy and how we react to it. This has been turned into ‘Mantel attacks the Duchess of Cambridge’. Not what she did, I wonder if David Cameron read the article before he came out against it.
Is monarchy a suitable institution for a grown-up nation? I don’t know. I have described how my own sympathies were activated and my simple ideas altered. The debate is not high on our agenda. We are happy to allow monarchy to be an entertainment, in the same way that we license strip joints and lap-dancing clubs. Adulation can swing to persecution, within hours, within the same press report: this is what happened to Prince Harry recently. You can understand that anybody treated this way can be destabilised, and that Harry doesn’t know which he is, a person or a prince. Diana was spared, at least, the prospect of growing old under the flashbulbs, a crime for which the media would have made her suffer. It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes. Get your pink frilly frocks out, zhuzh up your platinum locks. We are all Barbara Cartland now. The pen is in our hands. A happy ending is ours to write.