can I get some fries with that shake-shake booty?

How long’s it been since a media blow? Too long, I fear.

Fast Food Nation: Informative and entertaining. The author wears his politics on his sleeve, sometimes to his discredit as an objective source – decrying the politicians that subsidize agribusiness then, less than a page later, calling for “more regulation” as a solution. And he occasionally goes on weird tangents, like the paragraphs he spends on telemarketing jobs and Walt Disney. These quibbles aside, the facts are solid, presented well and damning.

Everyone gets horrified by a different part of this book. For me, it came with the aggressive marketing of fast food and soft drinks to public school students. Nothing illustrates the failure of public schools to provide a cost-effective education better than their eager willingness to accept Coca-Cola dollars and McDonalds’ sponsorship.

Well, that, and the horrific working conditions in modern meatpacking plants. And the irresponsible farming practiced by the largest farm corporations. And the risks of e. coli. All right, it’s all bad.

You may disagree with portions of it. But you owe it to yourself to learn what America’s largest producers, employers and providers of food do behind the scenes.

Prime Suspect (S1): Pretty good. Helen Mirren plays a police inspector put in charge of a difficult case. She battles with skeptical superiors, institutional sexism and a lack of tangible evidence to track down a prolific serial killer. It was a little jarring to watch male officers openly scoff at a female in charge – I don’t know whether this is an artifact of London’s differing attitudes toward the sexes, or of the early 90s vs. the late 00s. But the police proceduralism is taut and well-managed.

And Helen Mirren, of course, is perfect. She plays a role typically reserved for males – the obsessed law-enforcement officer who throws himself into his job, forsaking family and personal attachment with autistic abandon. Think Al Pacino in Heat: all she is is what she’s going after.


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