Rage in the Age of Mechanical Twinkies

Cross posted on the the Lobster Brain: Mixing Food and Ideas

 

Are you a Fried Twinkie?

Corporate America fills us with FDA approved créme filling, but Hunter Thompson explores the chemical meltdown aftermath in Hell's Angels

The fried Twinkie, is both authentic and in-authentic, a paradox of our post-industrial economy and thus, yet one step beyond it.   Twinkies are a symptom of what it means to be an American today, commodified, categorized, balanced...

Fried Twinkies are the evil twin.

Fry a Twinkie and explode the inside vanilla.  Denature the breading.  Soak the enriched FDA flour with the FDA directed vitamin cocktail, and make a greasy, heart-wrenching chaos.  In other words, you return the commodified product and make a cave-man out of it, or a cave-Twinkie.  It's deliciously trashy (with powdered sugar) and ironically a commodity in-itself.  (No surprise then, that the biggest irony is that Hostess foods asked the Mullen Brothers to fry a Twinkie at that fateful Texas fair -- reinvigorating their safe foodstuff. [link: Fried Twinkie Conspiracy from Cnn.com])

Is that FDA approved?

No!  It destroys everything the FDA approved about the Twinkie in the first place!

Why do we need FDA approval in the first place?

Isn't the market place supposed to be a hell bent beat all jungle?  The best tasting shit around!  Competition to rule out the winners?  Well try this on for (super)size!...

Frito-Lay, which makes some of the most junkiest snacks of all, is going all-natural.  They tried earlier in 2010 with bio-degradable bags but failed because the BAGS WERE TOO LOUD.  They are going again now, careful not to draw attention to the lowered sodium... Now while the FDA doesn't have definition of what is natural, Tim Fink, director of Frito-Lay's seasonings team, clarifies what some of the criteria for Frito-Lay's choice of ingredients: "If the ingredient isn't in a consumer's cupboard, can we get it off the label?" [link: Frito-Lay's Organics from Wall Street Journal]

Who gets to decide what we eat?

Twinkie, DeconstructedAfter Eddlinger's book, The Twinkie DECONSTRUCTED, I began to understand that the food processing industry has permeated the entire chemical process, wrapping careful steel tubes, mixers, blenders, ovens the size of buildings to control the process per chemical/food item.  Eddlinger's book is an odyssey of the miracle of food/chemical science -- developing through need to construct the most balanced and wholesome diet for the american consumer... at many points eradicating once common diseases like pellagra beriberi and iron deficiency anemia.

The flip side is that what isn't food grade gets shuffled up, locked out, thrown away, "bur[ied] back in the mines" (160).

So much as the Twinkie is the epitome of what it means to be a wholesome all American all white-meat glee-clubbing teen, so fried Twinkies reveal to us the dark underbelly of the same -- a denatured product of our age, but with the relations all wrong.  Controlling and combing the populations to homogenize us is just one aspect of what the state does through food science.  Food science though is just one area which the state practices biopower.

Coined by Foucault, control of bodies and minds yields each of us a kind of Twinkie -- public education, mass media, the bombardment of policies that push us towards work and jobs... the institutions of which require work attire, work etiquette, the hours of which require self-caffeination and subjugation of our mental and social facilities.  The regulations of bodies, families, human sexuality--

If we are Twinkies then who is the fried Twinkie?

hells angelsHunter S Thompson calls them HELL'S ANGELS.

Hell's Angels are the modern day equivalent of a survivor of the Great Society. Between guns and butter they are the discarded whey, the misshapen shells that don't fit in chambers.  Hells Angels fell out of the cracks, living a wild animalistic life, homeless and displaced, a product of social machinery railing against social machinery.  In our processed lives, regulated by public policy, measured out in 9-5 work days, something called identity or 'politically correctness' is cultivated out of the uncarved block.  When we see ourselves a kind of identity, homogenized so that our individual selves, what makes us human is left out, domesticated and breaded.  Our vanilla is the creamy center, contained.  Hells Angels no longer have a creamy center -- they have an exploded middle -- permeated chaos.

That Frankenstienation is what Thompson found so eerily familiar, a fascinating trainwreck, our image but in the reverse.
Now, looking for labels, it is hard to call the Hell's Angels anything but mutants. They are urban outlaws with a rural ethic and a new, improvised style of self-preservation. Their image of themselves derives mainly from Celluloid, from the Western movies and two-fisted TV shows that have taught them most of what they know about the society they live in. [. . .] Their backgrounds are overwhelmingly ordinary. As people, they are like millions of other people. But in their collective identity they have a peculiar fascination so obvious that even the press has recognized it, although not without cynicism. In its ritual flirtation with reality the press has viewed the Angels with a mixture of awe, humor and terror -- justified, as always, by a slavish dedication to the public appetite. (331)
This is what we find in Charlie Sheen's public break-down, his ranting, his lack of perspective on reality, abhorrent and if anything, an expression of the grotesque 'feel good culture' of drugs, sex and alcohol that so many people think ideal (when in fact it's quite selfish) -- the many 'go Charlie's that so many people think awesome and empowering is in fact an expression for them, the absolute defiance of the consistency that is demanded of us day in and day out inasmuch as our shame at his fame is a reinforcement of Symbolic injunction inherent in each of our daily routines.

We cannot escape our own lives, the carefully constructed identities be it yuppie, hipster, or be it immigrant or foodie.  We find difficult an expression of ourselves placing an excess of meaning instead, in the little rantings and slippings of our celebrities who we take for us, a release of what is otherwise a dogmatic existence of the work year -- spotted with the individual hotspots of
  • April 15 -- Tax Day
  • Halloween
  • Summer Vacation
  • Christmas
  • Thanksgiving
  • Easter
  • 4th of July
  • Valentines Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Spring Break
  • Election Day,
wedged between two political parties that are increasingly one political party... that our insistence on things like Tea party, on stances like Green Peace, the War against Drugs, Teen Abstinence that I want to drink normal/ organic/ non-DDT/ whatisnormal milk the only non-expressions that we are allowed are small rebellions, our limited 'choices' in the free market that are in fact the stand-ins for actual way self expression, 'have it your way' thankyouverymuch Burger King.

In the end, the little that steps out of the carefully preserved line is the only resistance we have left, embracing the combine through commodity-identification.  As if the knee jerk reactions of politicians and the willfulness of individuals to be themselves in the face of irrationality -- the absurdist cartoons on politics -- is the only thing that can give us the illusion of control.

This sounds like a Hell's Angel, whos only measure of existence is their own internal clock.  Irrational Irrationality.

Yet on the other end, you get the insensible rational rationality that sees only dogmatic values applied consistently in the most logic expression of political speak. Sarah Palin may find the National Endowment of the Arts to be a was..., but her position isn't so much like the serious mechanisations of someone to become President -- because the numbers against her speak for themselves -- any pollster can see what positions most of us take -- but rather, she rallies a people who otherwise can no longer seriously begin to understand what it means to be themselves in the face of unending concoction and regulation.  Who find their end nestled in the unending hoards of difference, not polite like aisles of alternate foodstuffs, but threatening like "I am really in the same boat as the 'other guy'".  And what is other?  We are other.  We reserve the right of citizenship to those who want to be like us; where diversity in the club is more people like us!  Let us weed out all the dissidents, terrorists, activists and lobbyists!  What's frightening about this is much like at the end of all this processing, careful preservation -- we aren't even sure if Twinkies really are bread anymore.

They came out of a vat, the mess of horror and oppression, Fight-Clubbing their way from their picket fence, Nintendo-inspired musings to find themselves "white collar slaves", promised freedom, rockstar status and finding only at the end, more taxes, "flare", politics and uniforms.

Which brings us to the last question.

The real bread.  Where is it and Who eats it anyway?

Who, like a Hell's Angel, rebels against the aisles of carefully commodified stuff, with a desire, a rage, a yearning to be unique and genuine?

hipster kittyHipsters.  It started with music. To find real bands.  To find bands that aren't over played.  To find bands that aren't part of the corporate Radio machine.  If Kurt Cobain was alive, he would have a following of hipsters (so his music isn't part of the combine).

Repeatability.

Walter Benjamin in Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction called it first.  The only way you can sell a Twinkie as a commodity is to make it repeatable.  To guarantee a taste.  To chemically control the formula so that it's the same everywhere.  This is the chaos of frying a Twinkie, of making a supernova of its insides.  That's why Hells Angels aren't controllable.   They be made of the machine, they be formed from it, but as its misshapen children, they aren't to be controlled.  Oppression squashes a Twinkie, and it goes all over.

What Hunter S Thompson saw in Hell's Angels, what he found appreciable in their existence is beyond what any one Hells Angel stood for.  They didn't stand for anything, but it was in their authenticity that Thompson connected with, a truth of a human existence beyond commodification, beyond biopower or state regulation.

The core of a Hell's Angel is the same as the core of any of us; beneath their wild exterior, their perversions and inane helplessness, powerlessness, beyond their show of toughness, of weather beatenness -- they are human.  Still in a way that each of us are, although we of the supermarket aisles with our FDA approved groceries hide our being-human much more so; we don't wear on our sleeves... unless we are hipsters and want to find a continuance of meaningfulauthentic experiences.  Not meaningful because each of us want meaning in our lives, whether you be God's Child or an Atheist Existentialist... but what defines a meaningful experience must be for a hipster, a measure of authenticity, of what is not defined by a 'bland' corporate vision.

So who are these hipsters?

Well, aren't you one?

That is why you've read this far...

You want to dig deep and find that bread again.  To step out of bounds and say, Fuck you FDA with your lack of disease, and your vitamin cocktails.



So why not take the plunge?

 

I know, I know.  You're a vegan.  Or you're a yuppie.  Or you can't quit your job at the accounting office to ride a motorcycle and go on drunken benders up and down the great state of California.  Your insurance would skyrocket.  Plus Lyndon Baines Johnson wouldn't approve anyway.

But the least you can do is fry a Twinkie.  Hostess Food understands.  They spent a fortune making it safe, fitting FDA rules and buying pure chemicals to make it right.  And then asked people to undo all of it, negating their ROI.  It's much like Frito-Lay and their low sodium, all organic junkfood.

It's no longer junk.

You eat organic to avoid the chemical cocktails.  These multinational companies want to be your choice of product in your individualist rebellion.

Why not let them?

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Comment by Alexander Lee on June 30, 2011 at 5:25am
Thanks, I'll check him out.
Comment by John McCreery on April 25, 2011 at 10:30am
Could be argued, I suppose, that the question, "What does it do to our subjectivity?" assumes an elite position at or near the top of the Maslow pyramid of needs. It's the sort of thing we only start to worry about when we are fed, sheltered, safe, and, at least relatively speaking, socially secure. Thus, it may seem more important to us what McDonald's is purportedly doing to our minds than noticing that the fast food industry reproduces low-wage assembly line labor conditions or asking why McDonald's became so popular with consumers as well as its imitators. Hunter Thompson is a cool model for a certain kind of "fuck the system" rebellion. George Ritzer is, perhaps, a better model if you want to know what's going on.
Comment by Alexander Lee on April 24, 2011 at 9:08am

Thanks, guys.

 

@John I don't know about the state of Hell's Angels today... but many of those misfits were from the military as well, back when Thompson wrote the book.

 

I guess class is a concern -- hipsters aren't generally from the lower classes.  But if anything there are motorcycle gangs today.  1%ers, so to speak, who are are motorcycle enthusiasts but do not follow the law.  Here in SoCal, most of them are Latino but definitely lower class... run drugs, prostitutes and so on.  Much different from the Hells Angels of Thompson, these guys are criminally organized even if they still are out of control.

 

There is a larger issue with this, this kind of commodification and packaging of our every-day products and experiences and what it does to our subjectivity.  I couldn't think of a 'solution' at the end though, so I twisted it back around.  I do really feel that many of the hipsters that some of my friends hang out with are terrible.  They come from elitists art colleges (Cal Arts) and rage against suburbian housewives as though those women are the problem with society.  All the while, their education, their elitism and their 'art' is supported by suburbia itself.  In fact, Cal Arts is located in the middle of the VERY suburbian neighborhood of Valencia.  I guess I fit in with these people (even though I don't feel like I do) as some have admitted to each other before me that they loved 'Twilight' and even read all the books (before it was popular) but since its popularization have had to forgo their enthusiasm.  Likewise, with bands like Arcade Fire, Muse and Mgmt.  UGH!

 

They really are the colonizers of capitalism, inasmuch as they separate themselves from it.  Their presence in certain ethnic neighborhoods like Highland Park and Eagle Rock is leading to the gentrification of those areas as much as it has happened in Echo Park and Silverlake....  The irony is that many of them are unaware that their role as cultural elitists lead to the continual popularization that they seek to remove themselves from.  You can ironically call them the avant-gaarde of commodification.  I wouldn't say they are the avant gaarde of much else, even if they want that term... since their art and music is generally TERRIBLE.

Comment by M Izabel on April 19, 2011 at 7:55pm

"Even the Hell's Angels are now mainly an image demographic for Harley-Davidson, an excuse for fat, fifty-plus guys to think they're still hot."

 

Nice one, John.

 

Comment by John McCreery on April 19, 2011 at 9:31am

Marvelous rant, very much in the Great Gonzo tradition that Hunter Thompson created/exemplified. But—asks the old curmudgeon—what ever happened to class? The post-WWII baby boom and reaction to the Great Depression and the war that created the market for Twinkies, McDonald's and the whole great apparatus of the junk and fast food industries also set the stage for the slow and organic food movements and the you can eat incredibly well if you can afford it worlds of Gourmet, Bon Apetit, and Saveur magazines and the Epicurious app on the iPad. All part of the polarization of opportunities and incomes that followed the Reagan and post-Reagan dismantling of the social compact forged by the unions and the veterans of WWII,  for whom meritocracy and considering the collective good were part of what the conscript military pounded into them. Even the Hell's Angels are now mainly an image demographic for Harley-Davidson, an excuse for fat, fifty-plus guys to think they're still hot.

 

 

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