Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Junk Food

The other night I attended a hockey game—NHL, go, Sens, go—you know the routine. It was held at the new Canadian Tire Centre, which was the old Scotiabank Place a few months ago, which at one point had been called the Corel Centre, which originally boasted the name Palladium when constructed in 1996.

I hate all those names, except perhaps Palladium. I reflect on that name with some fondness, even though it’s an insurance company, because it’s also an element in the periodic table with a fanciful history.

Palladium is a chemical element, a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas.

I enjoy hockey. I consider it an honourable tradition in our country, although it's suffering rapid decay into cheap shots with the resulting serious injuries, and a lackadaisical attitude towards enforcing the rules.

But that’s not what bothered me the most that night. It was the name change, all reflecting an age that’s riddled with advertising—junk food—and this is what the establishment is feeding our brains. And don’t kid yourself, big business, small business, “industry” is the establishment, not government.

Everywhere we go, a constant bombardment. Everywhere we open an Internet page, we’re force-fed another commercial. Even when we pay a premium price, like at the theatre, where once you could assume it would be commercial-free, an endless parade dances across the screen of cell phone comparisons, Coca Cola endorsements (oh, you’ve been around a long time, haven’t you?), car ‘zoom zoom’ enticements, until the movie finally begins. Is there any wonder people pull out their tablets whenever a commercial appears on television, or we attempt to circumvent the feed by taping and fast-forwarding through the empty garble.
File:Coca-Cola 24 Can Pack.jpg

But the feed never ends.

Have you read the book Feed by M.T. Anderson? If you have, did you feel a deepening chill the more pages you turned? Did you see the society in this book as futuristic, or did you see it as commentary on the ‘here and now’?
The feed in this story is directly uploaded to the characters’ brains through a surgically implanted chip. Our chips are in our hands, on our screens, not in our heads, yet. And in the book everything is disposable, just as all our household items are designed to fail or become outdated within a few years. We’re programmed to eagerly embrace the 'next best thing,' and cavalierly discard our two-year-old laptop,  our three-year-old toaster, our five-year-old car—and of course our debt accumulates as we happily or miserably pay the price for these shiny new treasures.

If you start eating a bag of chips, it’s hard to stop, isn’t it? But eventually you’ll feel bloated, nauseated, and it leaves a coating in your arteries that’s almost impossible to remove. Physicians often need chisels and blow torches. Junk food is delicious, but it’s also addictive and sometimes a killer. 


How do you stop the feed? Switch it off? It’s not that simple, because we’re governed by modern technology, we crave entertainment to release us from daily toil, and all our entertainment is tangled with the feed. But perhaps we can change our values, little by little, and that will spill over into our lives until industry will have to pay attention.

When I flip through albums I discover photographs that are just as beautiful created with my old film-dependent camera, or even a point-and-click, as those made with a DSLR.

When I walk in the woods I feel sustaining vigor and inspiration, rather than that initial spike after a shopping spree, like a sugar rush that eventually comes crashing down.

When I find special people, I want to keep them in my life, no matter how the years make their skin sag, their hair lose its luster, their minds wander, because I know their hearts will endure. 

We still own a functional toaster oven that’s 20 years old. It’s a relic I treasure, even though it requires some supervision. I will keep it until it shorts out and dies. And even then, I might keep it longer to remind me how much I need vegetables and fruit and long-lasting protein. To remind me that junk food will always be empty calories.