Posts Tagged ‘America’

I Demand More Potato Chip Flavors!

Posted in Ridiculum on November 3rd, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Oh how I wish we had the Walker's flavors in the USOn a recent trip to London, I consumed more than my fair share of Kettle Sweet Chilli [sic.] & Sour Cream crisps, as they were plentiful at several bars I visited after work. The sweet chili was quite nice, as were other flavors I managed to try, including Walker's Prawn Cocktail. Years ago, on a visit to Canada, I enjoyed many interesting flavors of Lay's potato chips, including Dill Pickle and Ketchup, both of which eventually made it to the US years later, but not without some delay. The Dill Pickle flavored potato chip was by far, at that point in my life, the best chip I'd ever had, and I still mourn the loss of them in the US after a short-lived chip career.

All of this is to say: America, we are being cheated, bamboozled, and robbed, by BIG CHIP, in their withholding of amazing flavors. Most Americans probably cannot fathom that another country could beat the US in the realm of gluttony, but this certainly appears to be the case. Not only are we being beaten by our neighbors to the north and our former oppressors across the pond, but also by other countries unrelated to American history or geography at all! This is a travesty of epic proportions. And worst of all, the greatest offender is Frito-Lay, a company headquartered right here in the US. Frito-Lay, of course, owns Lay's, which are marketed in the US and Canada as such, but elsewhere under slightly different names with the same logo.

Though we have been blessed in recent years to see an insurgence of Lay's flavors in the US, including such specialties as Greektown Gyro, Chicken & Waffles, and even, though I never saw this anywhere,  Cappuccino, there is a serious potato chip-flavor gap between the US and other countries. This is an abomination, and I hope you'll join me in demanding that Frito-Lay bring some of their interesting flavors from other countries to the US. We should not stand idly by while other countries get to enjoy these amazing flavors, while our American taste buds remain unsatisfied. Here's just a small sample of what we are missing out on:

  • Belgium: Indian Curry, Hamburger w/Mayo & Onions & Pickles, and Cucumber & Goats (what an amazing combination)
  • Canada: Tzatziki, Bacon Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, Perogy Platter, and Cinnamon Bun (!!)
  • China: Cucumber, Kiwi, Blueberry, Cherry Tomato, Italian Red Meat, Mexican Tomato Chicken, Texas Grilled BBQ, Black Pepper Rib Eye Steak, Hot & Sour Fish Soup, Finger Licking Braised Pork, Seafood Barbecue, Spicy Seafood, and Numb & Spicy Hot Pot (again, !!)
  • India: Magic Masala, Spanish Tomato Tango, Swiss Grilled Cheese, Macho Chilli, and Sunkissed Tomato (incredible naming over there)
  • Netherlands: Bolognese, Bell Pepper, French Fries w/Joppiesaus, and Stokbroodje Kruidenboter Smaak (Dutch is so awesome – this is a baguette with garlic butter)
  • Russia: Mushroom & Sour Cream, Crab, Red Caviar, and Salted Cucumber (though I bet that last one is just Dill Pickle)
  • Thailand: French Mayonnaise, Garlic Soft Shelled Crab, Soy Sauce, Salmon Teriyaki, Lobster, Bacon & Cheese, Tom Yum, and Thai Seafood Dip (seriously, Asia is KILLING it in the potato chip flavor game)
  • The UK: Lamb & Mint, Worcester Sauce, Beef & Onion, English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, Sizzling Steak Fajita, Australian BBQ Kangaroo, and Ranch Raccoon (wut)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There's seriously tons of potato chip flavors denied to Americans, and I say it's enough. Frito-Lay, I demand more potato chip flavors!

On Voter ID laws

Posted in Opinion on March 31st, 2014 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

If I'm gonna continue blogging, I'm gonna go full nine. Politics this time around.

"We need to ensure our elections are fair" – Tom Corbett, PA Governor who signed the state's Voter ID law.

"I think any person who does not want to see fraud believes in having good, open, honest elections. Transparent. One of the ways to do that, one of the best ways to do that, is to have an identification, photo identification so that you prove who you are and you keep those elections fraud-free." – Rick Perry, TX Governor who signed the state's Voter ID law.

I don't have too much to say on this topic other than that I think voter ID laws are political power plays (possibly with racist and definitely with classist implications) that do very little to combat "voter fraud," a menace that I do not believe exists.

I do however think it's very interesting that those in power are the ones alleging elections – those elections that got them into power – are unfair. I also think it's interesting that these laws are fought for almost entirely by one specific party, and only when that party is in charge.

And finally, I think it's interesting that with so few voters in each election, anyone would do anything to try to decrease that number. If we are going to require an ID to vote, maybe we should take it another step and require everyone to vote. Of course, the political landscape would massively shift if every American voted, and I guarantee those who support voter ID laws would find that shift hateful.

It's time to care about politics again

Posted in America on July 4th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

I often hear, "I don't want to talk about politics but…" or "I don't care about politics but…"

And I think it's time for that to stop.

You do care about politics. But somehow, you've been fooled by someone into thinking it's wrong to do so. You've been misled into thinking that you're less of a person if you have political opinions. You've been tricked into believing that political opinions are uncouth and should be avoided if at all possible. And all this serves to do is keep in charge those people with whom you'd vehemently disagree if you allowed yourself to do so.

Last week we saw a heroic effort from Texas Senator Wendy Davis, the TX Democratic Party and an "unruly mob" (read: the voice of democracy) that ultimately led to the death of a bill that, under normal state political rules, never had a chance to pass. Because Governor Rick Perry can suspend some of these legislative rules, he was able to skew the system to push forward an agenda shared by few outside of his fringe circles. And yet it did not come to pass, because a large enough group of Texans cared enough to stop it. Because they cared about politics. Because they cared about their lives and their future in this country. With Rick Perry at bat again, with the same agenda in another special session, will it pass this time, or will Texans care enough about politics to ensure a similar outcome?

The discussion about Edward Snowden has been skewed to be entirely about his asylum. Somehow we've ignored the topic of privacy. Of constitutional rights. Of how our forefathers would feel about the NSA spying on every American. "Don't tread on me," it seems, would easily adapt to "Don't spy on me," but somehow we've allowed ourselves to "not care about politics" long enough for the discourse to move away from that and toward the sensationalist flight of the whistleblower.

You're not wrong for having an opinion on these or other political things. Even if it's an opinion that I would find objectionable, I would not find it more objectionable than you pretending to have no opinion whatsoever, or suppressing what opinions you have.

You do care about politics. You care enough to vote. You care enough to call your elected representatives, even if you didn't elect them specifically. You care enough to make your voice heard. You care enough to share your opinions. These aren't just facts, they are encouragements and reminders to do so. Don't forget how you feel right now about political things, make sure you don't have to wait until November for positive change. But when November comes around, and I mean every November, not just every four years, go to the polls with this July 4 in mind.

Make a change in our country by making your voice heard. Make a change by being more than the water affected by the ripple of the drop, but rather, part of the drop itself instead. Happy Independence Day. Make the Founders proud by doing your part in progressing their vision. Make them proud by being an American who cares about politics.

Don't tear down Houston's Eiffel Tower

Posted in Opinion on June 11th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

The Dome stands in disrepair, but don't let it suffer the same fate as the Oilers...The Astrodome's fate will be decided some time shortly after (or on) June 25, officially, though cynics would suggest it was already decided years ago. Demolition seems to be the most likely end for the Eighth Wonder of the World, as those with the most to gain, primarily the Rodeo, have wanted for years. But in the mean time, there's still a few weeks before the county weighs the nineteen proposals that have been suggested. My personal choice of the handful that have been made public (all will be made public on the 19th) is the "skeleton dome" plan that would strip the Dome down to its steel frame, repurposing the base as a park.

On April 9, 1965, the Harris County Domed Stadium opened for the first time, the brainchild of Judge Roy Hofheinz, a man clearly ahead of his time. It immediately became synonymous with Houston, a symbol that would stand for our city for nearly fifty years. The skeleton plan not only restores a great symbol, but allows that legacy to continue. As many before me have stated, it makes the Dome into the Eiffel Tower of Houston.

Houston is not just the fourth largest city and one of the fastest growing, it's also a city growing in culture and fame. It's a city whose restaurants are receiving national recognition, whose economy is a beacon to others in the recent times of economic turmoil, whose sports teams are present on the national stage (except for the Astros…), and where transplants (who are Houstonians upon calling themselves that and no later) who thought they'd be here only "as long as they have to" realize they don't want to live anywhere else. But it may soon be the largest city in America without an Eiffel Tower to call its own. Frankly I think that's unacceptable.

New York has the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many other landmarks. LA has the Hollywood sign and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Chicago has Millenium Park, Navy Pier, and the John Hancock Center. Philly has the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. San Antonio has the Alamo and San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Seattle has the Space Needle. Even Saint Louis has an Arch! Saint Louis!

It would be insane to suggest that those cities would demolish those symbols or any other symbol of such magnitude. If Houston does so with the Astrodome, we will not have just torn down an old stadium. We'll have torn down a part of this city's soul.

America cannot move from crisis to crisis

Posted in America on March 3rd, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

During this ongoing sequestration debate, President Obama said something that I particularly liked: “the greatest nation on Earth [cannot continue] careening from crisis to crisis.” Whether you agree with Republicans or Democrats on the sequestration issue, or even if you’re in the smaller third group of people who think the trigger of immediate across the board cuts is the real solution, you have to admit, Obama has a point.

We cannot continue to move from crisis to crisis, but it seems like for the last five years, and possibly much longer, we’ve been doing exactly that. Each crisis is real, though not necessarily in the sense the government or media would have us believe, and each crisis is present, though not necessarily with the immediacy and urgency that those same stakeholders would insist.

For the most part, it seems that many of these crises are manufactured. It’s easy to see what the media gains by such scaremongering, but not as simple to see what others gain. Washington’s approval ratings have steadily decreased after each election, with more and more citizens pointing at the government as unable to accomplish even the most basic compromise to solve the problems that the same government would have us believe are apocalyptic.

Frankly, I don’t think the sequestration will end up being that big of a deal. At least not as big a deal as the rhetoric, from both sides of the aisle, made it out to be. And I don’t believe that the debt ceiling is as big a deal either, though it certainly would have ramifications. Nor did the fiscal cliff seem that important to me. Sure, each of these things will have consequences, but not at the level that some news organizations would have you believe.

But I do think we have one major crisis that America is still in the middle of: extreme partisanship. The gridlock results in these mini-crises that I refer to above, and the inability to compromise pushes them into the spotlight. Government is not supposed to work this way. Our government especially.

America cannot continue to move from crisis to crisis. Especially when those crises are easily resolvable with only a modicum of modesty and deference to others.

Ending my discussion on Israel

Posted in Opinion on February 2nd, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

It’s time to close this up. I might have more to say but I’m not sure it’s worth saying, at least not in written form. I’m going to finish where I left off on my last post and then in the future will go in a different direction.

The politics

America, as anyone on any side of the political spectrum will admit, is in trouble politically. Things are getting more partisan and more extremist. Thus far, that has not affected Jews. Both sides of the spectrum seem content in partnering with the American Jewish community, and both sides go far to profess their love of Israel, Jews, etc.

But very soon, this may change, and in a way that could be dangerous of the American Jewish establishment insists on a support for Israel that means only a right-wing support, or fails to realize that the dream of Zionism is here, not there. That’s not to say I suggest Jews divorce themselves from Israel entirely, but it might be time for organizations such as J-Street to get more time in the spotlight instead of AIPAC.

The victims

The other day I had a conversation with a woman who was clearly very set in her ideas, which started with Christianity. Her beliefs, as became obvious during a discussion of the Middle East, seemed to center around these ideas: Jews are always victims, Muslims are all evil, and Christianity is the best thing to happen to the world.

Of course, it’s not too hard for ultra-conservatives to believe these premises. But it’s extremely hard for anyone else. Other than the right-wing, Americans are starting to feel that Christianity, or religion in general (I said I’m done with Israel after this post but I may go into religion later), has a more multifaceted impact on the world. That while there is good, there is bad as well.

Similarly, most Americans view Muslims as just another people. Some bad, some good. The group itself is not evil, nor is the religion that the group shares. And finally, it’s increasingly hard to look at the Middle East and still hold by the idea that the Jews are always victims.

It’s that victimhood complex that drives the success of groups like AIPAC or the ADL, but it’s also that victimhood complex that will cause problems as it becomes increasingly difficult to believe. When a country occupies another people and denies them democratic rights, all the while harboring nuclear weapons and a military rivaled only by a few (America included), the label “victims” doesn’t really fit.

The worry

Outside of Israel and the right-wing American Jewish partnership, no one views Jews as the victims anymore, but rather, the aggressors. And this is a label, as I hope I’ve pointed out in the last several posts, that does fit a lot more easily. Still not perfect, because there is no black and white, but a lot closer to the truth.

My concern is this: America is the reason why Israel still exists, and that may change. But before that changes, or perhaps in tandem, America is the true Zionist home, and losing that would be, for me, worse than losing Israel. At some point, America is going to change rapidly and suddenly, because of the strain that partisanship is placing on our system. When that happens, it may be that the status quo for Jews and Israel remains the same. But I doubt it.

Much more likely, I envision a scenario in which America distances from Israel, and that will put immediate pressure and strain on America’s relationship with Jews inside. Jews, as I stated last time, are insiders in America, unlike ever before in any country. But that relationship is a two-way street, and it’s not enough for America to have the interests of Jews in mind. Jews must have the interests of America in mind. First.

If America turns against Israel, which I anticipate is likely at some point, or even just sours the relationship, the American Jew must side with America, not Israel, in order to keep having a home. If it’s not too late.

The view of Zionism, to me, was to have a democratic home for the Jews. If the ‘democratic’ part of that dies, then so does the ‘home for the Jews’ part. They go hand in hand for a reason. If Israel does not turn around (and that seems highly unlikely to me), then American Jewry needs to start distancing themselves from the right-wing politics that rule Israel today. Racism, oppression, occupation, anti-democracy: these things are not good for the Jewish American.

The conclusion

This then, is my public disavowal, though I’ve certainly made this disavowal in the past, of Israel, its right-wing political leadership, the direction the country is heading, and the blind support that comes from American Jewish organizations who would sooner see war than peace.

I am an American. And part of being an American is because I believe in democracy. I grew up a Zionist, and I am not separating that part of my identity. Being an American, to me, means being a Zionist. But not how that word is used today. It means that all people, regardless of religion or color or creed or gender or sexual preference or whatever else we have yet to think of, have a home here. A democratic home. An equal seat at the table.

I mentioned J-Street above and think that if such an organization or something similar could take a serious foothold in America, I’d be willing to revisit the discussion. But for now, the established lobbyists have set up an attitude on Israel that handcuffs those who want change and peace. It is driven on fear and hatred. And it’s despicable.

The heroism that Israel once meant for me is, I know now, long gone. Part of me hopes that one day Israel can reclaim it. But I don’t plan on holding my breath for that. And if that day never comes, and the predictions above come true instead, know now: I am an American. I repeat what I said in my last post: American Jew or Jewish American? America never makes you choose.

The American Zionism

Posted in Opinion on January 29th, 2013 by Nathan – 1 Comment

Over the past week I’ve spewed forth opinions on Israel that I had not before really put in words. This has been useful for me and hopefully interesting to others, but it’s all gradually headed toward a two-part conclusion. This is part one.

The burden

I want to start by saying this is in fact a burden for me. Having grown up an ardent supporter of Zionism and Israel, having served in various leadership positions to that effect, having spent summers there, and finally having lived there for a year, it would be foolish to suggest I have no emotional connection to the country. Of course I do. Thus the difficulty at having to turn my back, turn my heart, on something that meant so much to me, because it was not the country I thought it was or the dream I thought it could be.

The dream

Zionism, for me, is the idea that there be a democratic nation where Jews, among their neighbors, are safe and at home. I do not believe this means that such a nation should be majority Jewish, nor should it necessarily not be. It must be democratic though, as all people must be equal. This is not just a tenet of Zionism for me, it is a tenet of Judaism as a whole. Ideas of humans being created in the image of God, or the idea of loving the strangers among you are strong in Jewish tradition. That should be no different when Jews are in charge.

The realization

Growing up in America, I was frequently asked by Jewish adults, “are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?” For a while I had an answer. Slowly that answer shifted toward the other side. And then while in Israel, the true answer occurred to me: “America never asks me to choose.” Throughout history, the Jew has been the outsider in society. Always trying to be the insider, and sometimes coming close enough that it looks like the Jew is the insider. But never actually.

That changed with the birth of America though. From day one, the Jew was the insider, financing the revolution, fighting the British, and earning a seat at the table. George Washington wrote a detailed and letter to a synagogue in Rhode Island in 1790 that had served the revolution immensely. And though some discrimination occurred from people, the US government was one built on equality of religious thought, and that included Jews from the very beginning.

At no point has anti-Semitism, despite what right-wing Israel advocacy groups such as AIPAC would have older Jews believe, been as common in America as at any point in Europe. In fact, polls and research has showed that Jews are more favorably received in America than Muslims, Mormons, or even Catholics. Jews have served in high governmental positions. Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Jews have led businesses, led organizations, served the people, themselves, and each other.

The Jewish renaissance that Herzl dreamed of for Zionism has occurred, right here in the US. A quick glance at the breakfast aisle will show the number of non-Jews excited about bagels. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas will assault your ears with a “Mazel Tov” and “L’Chaim,” and for that matter, the same is true for Jay-Z, the Fugees, Lil’ Wayne, Drake (a Jew himself), and many others in mainstream culture. Michael Chabon continues to write stories with a Yiddish influence and get praise and awards. Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google, and Mark Zuckerberg Facebook. A growing percentage of American libertarians have Ayn Rand to thank for their beliefs, and no architect hasn’t been changed by the works of Pritzker prize winner Frank Gehry. The Supreme Court is 33% Jewish, and Congress is 7%. This could go on, but there’s no need.

To be continued…