Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let them eat gluten!

If you've recently crawled out from under the proverbial rock, the latest substance threatening the very fabric of reality is gluten. Thanks in large part to the book Wheat Belly by a cardiologist called William Davis who has convinced the world that the cure for everything from belly aches to the bubonic plague is the elimination of all things amber-wavy. 
I had the incredible misfortune to have been dealing with digestive drama last summer when the book was at peak saturation. Everybody on earth insisted I had this condition, even after I explained that I'd tested negative and that further. And also that Wheat Belly is a heaping pile of logical fallacy wrapped in a $5 gluten-free tortilla. 
Little did they know I gave these guys up years ago.

Recent studies reveal the "gluten intolerance" that Davis has diagnosed half the country with doesn't so much exist, with a lot of articles reporting that the disease was all in the sufferers' head. But that last part isn't so much true. People who gave up gluten experienced symptom relief at rates that can't be explained away by the placebo effect. 
Before I go on, I have to point out that while gluten intolerance isn't a thing, gluten allergies totally are, and they are very serious. They can be diagnosed with lab tests, and aren't in anybody's head at all. 
Okay, but back to the imaginary disease that isn't exactly imaginary. See, gluten may not be a problem, but wheat just may be. See, wheat contains a little carb that belongs to a family of carbs called FODMAPs, which nobody's intestines digest very well. For most, this isn't a big deal, but if you're already prone to digestive drama, they can take up residence and start fermenting. Which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds.
And turns out FODMAPs aren't the only beasties hiding in your Wonderbread. White flour, as it turns out, also has inflammatory properties, which can worsen aches and pains and stuff. Plus it's devoid of pretty much any nutritional benefit, meaning you're missing out on foods that actually do more in your system than ferment and inflame.
And then there are some peripheral benefits to cutting out gluten. You're paying more attention to what you're eating, and carefully checking nutrition labels. If you're being strict about it, you're pretty much cutting out all fast and fried food. Snack cakes and junk food are right out. You're stuck getting your sugar fix from the gluten-free aisle, where you won't find much high-fructose corn syrup (FODMAP), white sugar (inflammatory), sugar alcohols (FODMAPs, laxatives), or trans-fats (liquid death, apparently).
And by the by, all these poor suckers who have been duped into a life of spaghetti squash and spelt brownies have created a lot more demand for those things, meaning that people with actual gluten allergies have a hell of a lot more spelt-based products to pick from. (Yippee)
All of which is to say that gluten intolerance is compete and total bunk, but treating it can make you better anyway. I gues even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thug Life?

Melvin Santiago was a kid, only 23, when a monster, Lawrence Campbell, ended the new cop's life, apparently just for fun.
Santiago was, according to Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop, "By all accounts... enthusiastic, motivated, wanted to be in the West District because he was a true police officer and wanted to be a part of that culture in every single way... Aggressive about learning. … He just really loved being a police officer, with the brightest future possible."
It's sickening. It's devastating. Even more sickening is a memorial that sprang up for the murderer very shortly after. 

There's something else bothersome about this story, though. It's that the news coverage of this travesty is a depressing example of how the media silently, maybe even unconsciously, stigmatizes innocent African Americans alongside guilty ones. See, most of the photos of the memorial don't just show the memorial.

There are so many of these - of African Americans dressed like cartoon stereotypes of black thugs.
What? No 40 ounces?

 The stories doesn't tell us who these people are. We don't know if they're paying their respects or just walking by. But by showing us image
after image
after image

of African Americans standing in front this travesty, the media's reinforcing old lies: That black people are bad. That black people are violent. That black people will stand by their own. Before long, in the hidden pockets of our mind, we begin to embrace the delusion that Lawrence Campbell didn't commit this crime, black people did.
Do a Google search on the word "thug," and the vast majority of the photos returned are of African Americans.
And this

According to dozens of studies over the past several decades, most kids, when presented with a black doll and a white doll and asked which doll is "bad," will pick the black doll. Black kids and white kids.
I know that blurry mess in the foreground violates every rule of photography, but we've got to get the do-rag in the shot.

And I think it's all because of pictures like the ones above. It's because racism has burrowed underground and insinuated itself into our brains, and we're not going to dig it out until we face it. 
Close your eyes and clear your mind. Then picture a thug. What color is his skin?