Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do Seattle Public Elementary Schools Serve Real Food?

If you haven't already seen "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" show on ABC, I'd really recommend checking it out (you can watch the first two shows on Hulu here). In the show, Oliver attempts to change the eating habits of the most obese city in the United States - Huntington, West Virginia. Oliver, who's from Britain, is famous for re-vamping the British school lunch system and, since the kids there ate crap, and the kids here eat crap, and because kids who eat crap tend to grow up into adults who eat crap, the show focuses mainly on Oliver's attempts to re-vamp Huntington's school lunch program, which is filled to the brim with crap. At Huntington, they serve frozen pizza for breakfast. Lunch is chicken nuggets with a side of goop. Then the kids gulp it all down with florescent pink milk.

The visuals of these kids eating all this crap is enough to make anyone's stomach turn, because if you grow up not knowing what good food actually tastes like, how can you not get fat and end up with diabetes? The show got me wondering: what kind of meals are we serving kids in Seattle public schools? Is it real food, or does it just sound like real food? You'd think Seattle - home to farmer's markets, co-ops, and plenty of upscale restaurants that make a point about serving only farm-fresh food - would have enough people concerned about food to not serve our kids total crap.

Tonight, I took a look at the Seattle Public School's "Nutrition Services" website. There, I found a page that listed all the food given to Seattle Public Elementary Schools this month. A lot of it looks potentially yummy and healthy (fajita chicken, beef teriyaki, penne marinara) but a lot also looks dubious (chicken "drummies," fish "nuggets," mozzarella cheese breadsticks). Who ever heard of breadsticks for lunch? And where is this food coming from? What is its shelf life?

There's a part of the website labeled "nutritional analysis" with a bunch of dead links. However, I was able to find nutritional info on March's lunches. It's what you'd expect - hot dogs bad, salad good - but I couldn't find any information on suppliers, sources, or anything like that. On a good note, it looks like a lot of these meals contain a range of healthy sides, like baby carrots, grapes, even jicama salads - which is definitely a step above Huntington's pizza with a side of roll and corn syrup. Grapes are usually born on vines and carrots - last time I checked- can't be created in a laboratory (although I'm sure there are some rogue GMO carrots running around out there).

Even though I have a better sense of what kids are eating in Seattle schools, it would be interesting, and important, to hear a Seattle Public School official explain where this food is from and how it's prepared. Does the food just sound appetizing (the way school lunches always sound appetizing)? Or is it the real un-frozen, un-fucked around with food we need to be feeding our kids? In the next few days, I plan on tracking down someone and seeing if I can find an answer...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Hello. This post is brought to you by two lesbians playing catch with their dogs, a child pretending he is nauseous on a tire swing, a bench that’s half-rotted and Spring. It is finally Spring. I feel like I just got sprung! I feel like saying “I feel like” is really annoying so I’m going to stop now. But seriously, dudes. Even newspaper reporters sound more chipper in print now that the sun’s out. Something has fundamentally and seismically shifted. It’s the most dramatic seasonal change I’ve experienced thus far in Seattle. I also have this break from school and time to digest my thoughts. Perhaps too much time. Also, too much time to stare at clothing in stores and think about buying it. Uh oh. I’m feeling more honest with myself, which is really the only place to be (or not…hold me). These are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about (lists comfort me, so you only have to hold me a little).

1. I’m not so sure how to feel about this one, but my brain has become a series of witty zinger status updates. Either that or my brain is like a comments thread on the world’s most derivative blog. It just oscillates between the two, with little warning. Soon there will be an iPhone app that will pick up on our brainwaves and send our best thoughts to a status updater and we will never have to experience this oscillation ever again. This will be a joyous day.

2. I am re-evaluating situations where I literally have to take my brain out of my skull and put it in a pretty pink box (the kind for gay brains). This happens to me a lot. At work, at school, at home. I would appreciate if my job could be “sitting on my ass getting stoned and watching the September Issue.” That actually requires like 75% of my brain. Okay “god”? You got that?

3. I have re-discovered alcohol and boys. This means I occasionally transform myself into a huge queen and make out with everyone. Boys are weird. I'm not sure if I'm looking for a relationship. God do I love queens, though. And bitches. I met the fucking biggest queen bitch a few nights ago and I feel like I’m still riding high off the encounter.

4. I just saw "Greenberg". It was meh, but I think that's what it intended to be, so it succeeded. I mean, it was like one of those "important movies" people will probably talk about for a while, even though they didn't really like it. You can't really like the movie unless you detach yourself from Ben Stiller's problems and absorb it like a comedy, but I found that impossible. So I ended up both relating to and detesting the main character, coming to know my own inner asshole just a bit better. It was weirdly therapeutic, and also depressing.

5. I've been reading way too much about the health care debate. Sometimes it makes me nauseous. I literally commented on a Fox News article I thought was "fear-mongering". I think it got deleted somehow, because when I went back to check on it and see how folks had responded, it wasn't there. They can't do that, right?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today in Surviving Seattle

This afternoon, the Stranger dropped their 2010 Economic Survival Guide - which was hilarious and wonderful - but they left a few things out. As a freelancer, I'm even poorer, and I'd like to fill those holes right here (ew, sorry). These are the ways I save my monies.

I Go to Public Parks

People in Seattle often seem to forget that "West Seattle" exists. It's sad, but true. Coming back from Alki the other day, one of my roommates was all "Alki? I've always wondered what that was..." then she stared off into nothing and I had to revive her (she's from California). ALKI IS SO PRETTY, BITCHES! 'Specially right now. Beaches cost nothin', sand is free! Flock there.

I Eat Cheap-Ass "Ethnic" Food and Stuff My Face at Happy Hours

I second Saigon Deli's deliciousness. Presse is also fairly cheap for smaller, brunchier items. Ramen is a bit pricier than Pho, but more filling. Tolouse Petit's happy hour is amazing - probably the best in Seattle - and Bastille's aint half bad either.

I Use the Free Interwebs in the U-District

Did you know the interwebs are free in the U-District? They are! You can even sit out on the lawn and stay connected (I just did this!). Go grab something from Saigon Deli with fish sauce, sit on a grassy knoll and cruise Hulu on your laptop. Perfect!

But I Don't Want to Sit, Alone, With A Laptop On A Sunny Day

Walk down Brooklyn till you hit the water. It's nice down there.

I Walk in the Woods

The Ravenna Ravine is scary silent during the day. Huge trees loom over you, a babbling brook babbles and somewhere nearby you can hear medieval nerds playing with plastic sticks. It's disquieting, and quieting, all at the same time. It's also the most isolated place I've found in a residential neighborhood. I know, I know- Seattle is already isolating. But if it's not isolating enough, check out this park!
I Take the Light Rail for Fun

Take it to Columbia city, get off, walk to Full Tilt, play ice cream, eat video games, listen to music, you know...the usual. Bonus: you can laugh at all the Escalades parked outside and the fact that, a night, Columbia City means people yelling at each other for no reason and jumping into the middle of the street without an "okay" signal. It's crazy down there!

I Get Paid to Speak English

Becoming an English teacher is easy. Not the "literature" kind, silly. That's harder. But it's easy to volunteer at Seattle Central Community College, teach immigrants how to read books, and eventually get paid to do it. Show up enough and they'll start paying you. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone. It'll get you out of the house, feeling good, and making a dime.

Oh, So You're An Even Bigger Do-Gooder?

Woah there, okay. Here's what you do: you work at the Crisis Clinic. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Steven! Isn't listening to other people's problems for hours and hours totally sad?" Well, yes and no. Their problems ARE sad, but the experience actually makes you a better listener. It gives you ideas for stories. It makes you feel less alone, and useful in the best sense of the word. And, the next time a job interview lands in your lap, you'll get it because you'll have Ira Glass-level listening skillz.

I Don't Pay for Shows

Why pay for a show when you can just say you're "press" and get in for free? People rarely check because they don't want to embarrass themselves. Why should the press have all the fun? Try it!

I Started A Blog

So far, it's made me fifty cents, but maybe you'll have better luck? I Can Haz Cheesburger and Fail Blog both started in Seattle. Clearly, we're a bored city. Try and find a theme for your blog and stick to it (I've found this impossible, and that's why five people read my blog). And remember: the internet is the new Manhattan. One day you're in, the next Heidi Klum is kissing your cheek goodbye, so don't feel too bad if you're not the next youtube overnight. Eventually, people will click on your ads and you'll start making some cash.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I feel like my advice is less "how to survive in Seattle" than it is "how to become more like Steven Blum," which I'm actually totally fine with. Bye guys!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh My God, It's Allison Janney and A Llama!

No Gay Man Would Wear That Scarf

It's All Here, Baby

Find many more ways to irritate your friends here.

I Went to an Art Opening this Weekend

And it was quite good.

"Saving Private Ryan" as Summarized By the Folks at "This Recording"

Despite the fact that Jews are dying by the millions in camps across Europe, it ends up being a lot more important for everybody's peace of mind that one goy be rescued by a squadron of morons.

Read the whole thing here.

What Happens In Seattle

Seattle's never been the suicide capital of the country. That title actually belongs to Las Vegas, as explained in an article in The Believer. It's a good read, though I think you need a subscription to access the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Take Your Roller Coaster to Work Day

The object of "Roller Coaster Tycoon" was to build roller coasters on your computer that made people barf, but only a little bit, and not so much that they passed out and died.

One day I made the mistake of showing my elaborate pixelated theme park to an ex-friend who painted one roller coaster pink, called it "Steven's Gay Coaster" and made all the trains crash together.

At school, I was comforted by drawing the same roller coasters over and over again on my notebooks. While my fellow male classmates were busy drawing pictures of boobs, I was trying to figure out how best to draw a corkscrew go over a lake behind a mountain.

When I was twelve years old, I joined a fan site for a roller coasters called "Roller Coaster Enthusiasts of America." They sent me a ludicrously shiny laminated card I still have hiding somewhere in my desk.

The folks at "Roller Coaster Enthusiasts" were against government restrictions on roller coaster heights and they believed roller coasters were safe and shouldn't be regulated like liquors and cars. "Safer than riding your car to work," I'd read in forums, and I agreed with them. Like a religious nut, I was completely prepared to argue with anyone who believed otherwise.

You could split the roller coaster enthusiasts into two camps; those who liked roller coasters for the "extreme experience" and those who liked rides that were "themed" like a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. I happened to fall into the latter camp. My ultimate dream was to become a Disney Imagineer and live in the set of the Pirates of the Carribean ride and watch all the boats go by. I could have made friends with an animatronic goat and eaten food from the Bayou.

The largest theme park, the theme park of my dreams, lay in a fairly innocuous stretch of land in Sandusky, Ohio. When I was twelve I would have chopped off my arm to go to Cedar Point. The place had roller coasters everywhere. One took you to the bathroom while the other brushed your teeth. There were sprightly young launch coasters and rickety old geezers and everything in between.

Instead, all I had to stare at was the Seattle Center Fun Forest Coaster; a pitiful mess of blue steel that dove into itself a dozen times before swirling around like a flushing toilet.

All the action was in L.A. I imagined Los Angelinos laughing and drinking cocktails on the beach before strapping themselves into a nice, shiny roller coaster for relaxation after a hard day at work.

For Hannukah one year, I received a Knex roller coaster kit. I assembled it all in one glorious weekend in our upstairs. Our cat, whom I'd named Snowy but everyone had been lazily referring to as "kitty," stood guard over the loop-de-loop, swiping at the descending coaster like it was a mouse on wheels.

I was alternately upset that she might ruin the tracks and pleased that she added to the "theming" of the ride. Perhaps I could call it "The Cat" and pretend she was an animatronic cat.

Months later, our non-animatronic cat tired of chewing our rug and began chewing and then throwing up parts of the Knex roller coaster. My parents would come home and find a mound of kitty barf on the rug with little pieces of yellow track in it.

My obsession with roller coasters was replaced with a musical theater obsession and then an obsession with boys and college. But I never really forgot those wild roller coaster days

About six months ago, I drove from Seattle to San Fran to visit a friend. As I was leaving the city, I saw a sign for Six Flags Marine World and, impulsively, I took the exit, paid for parking, and waited in line at the entrance.

I giddily skipped through the turnstiles, feeling that same sense of wonder. In line for a floorless roller coaster, I watched insurance ads on a flat screen TV.

The roller coaster was fun, but it hurt my head, and I stumbled out dazedly, wondering if I'd had an aneurysm.

The kids around me looked drunk on life. Before anyone offers you a cigarette and before you've had your first rum and coke, the real sign of adulthood is getting to ride on the big kid rides. It's really the only legal high at that age.

Now I'm a big kid and, as you can probably guess, it just doesn't feel the same.