Thursday, May 11th, 2023


MSG Free For All

Monosodium glutamate. When you call it by its full name, it doesn't seem to cause nearly the same maladies as it does when referred to by its abbreviation, MSG. For decades, it's been linked to symptoms and side-effects ranging from headaches and numbness to dizziness and heart palpitations. But was the anti-MSG hype based on reality? "The concerns with MSG originated in 1968, when someone purporting to be a Chinese American physician, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, described feeling generally ill after eating Chinese food, which he suggested could be because of MSG. Other researchers quickly produced studies that seemed to substantiate this claim, and MSG became a public-health villain. In the '70s, the Chicago Tribune ran the headline 'Chinese Food Make You Crazy? MSG Is No. 1 Suspect.'" These and other related health concerns have long since been debunked. Not only is MSG safe, but as Yasmin Tayag explains in The Atlantic (Free Article), it may be the perfect flavor enhancer to help us lower our intake of a table staple that really is bad for us: Salt. MSG Is Finally Getting Its Revenge.

+ MSG is the most misunderstood ingredient of the century. That's finally changing.


Inmates Running Asylum

As Title 42 ends, we can expect more chaos at the border — and more chaos in the political response. The NYT (Free Article) has a good look at the root causes (largely ignored in the debate) that have led to the surge. What's Driving Record Levels of Migration to the U.S. Border? In a nutshell: "While migration to the U.S. southern border has always fluctuated, the pandemic and the recession that followed hit Latin America harder than almost anywhere else in the world, plunging millions into hunger, destitution and despair. A generation of progress against extreme poverty was wiped out. Unemployment hit a two-decade high. Russia's invasion of Ukraine choked off a key pipeline for grain and fertilizer, triggering a spike in food prices. Economic shocks were worsened by violence, as conflicts between armed groups festered in once relatively peaceful countries and raged in places long accustomed to the terror."

+ So who gets in? The NYT (Gift Article) has a really clear selection of charts that explain the rules. Enjoy the clarity of these two articles. It's about to get obliterated by political messaging machines. A Guide to America's Chaotic Border Rules.


Cable Nonsense Network

CNN's townhall slash Maga rally with Donald Trump was a terrible idea poorly executed. The notion that the hour of familiar lies and a reintroduction to the DSM's greatest hits of mental disorders was newsworthy is laughable, self-serving hogwash. You don't need to waste any time watching it or reading outtakes (or CNN's follow-up efforts to explain why it had news value and went well). Charlie Sykes sums it up: "Critics had worried that giving the indicted, twice-impeached, coup-plotting, chronically lying sexual predator an unedited, live television forum might turn out badly. The reality, however, was far ghastlier: a sh*tshow for the ages, and a moment that captured the thorough degradation of both our politics and the media."

What's critical to remember is that CNN really isn't a news network at all. It used to be, when anchors threw it to far-flung reporters and attempted to cover as many big stories as possible. Now CNN is just a combination of opinion panels and freakish sideshows designed to entertain and inflame. That's why they gave Trump the free informercial last night (and why they covered every second of his campaign leading up to the 2016 election).


Vision Quest

Here's an idea: Turn off cable news networks trying to turn shoddy, boring, tired political messaging into riveting entertainment and watch content that intended to be entertaining from the outset. Here's a visual breakdown of Everything to know about the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. (Check out the visual breakdown, ignore the mental one.)


Extra, Extra

Succession: "Collectively known as Los Chapitos, or 'the little Chapos,' the four siblings were once mocked by adversaries as entitled princelings more concerned with flashing their wealth on Instagram than the grubby work of moving tons of cocaine into the United States. Yet the brothers have resuscitated a drug empire teetering after their father was locked behind U.S. bars and diversified the business by embracing a new line of synthetic drugs." How El Chapo's sons built a fentanyl empire poisoning America.

+ Under the Influence: "Montiel is among the lucky beneficiaries of a strange form of seeking justice that is gaining popularity in Venezuela, where access to formal legal channels has become increasingly limited." In Venezuela, crime victims turn to influencers to find justice.

+ Dooce: A major voice from the long gone web has passed away. RIP. "The pioneering mommy blogger Heather Armstrong, who laid bare her struggles as a mother and her battles with depression and alcoholism on her site and on social media, has died at 47. Armstrong died by suicide." (So many people - myself included - spend so much time trying to amass followers on the internet. Heather achieved that. It's not the answer.)

+ Bolly Pulpit: "As the most popular actress in the world's most populous country, she's often asked if she's going to move to Hollywood. 'My mission has always been to make a global impact while still being rooted in my country.'" Deepika Padukone Is Bringing the World to Bollywood.

+ You Hear It First: "In the late 1980s, a group of grumpy music journalism vets and fresh-faced 20-somethings came together for a radical media experiment: the launch of a cable news division programmed for, and largely run by American youth." (Ironically, it had a lot more of what you'd describe as news than today's 24-hour news channels.) "It Was Lightning in a Bottle": An Oral History of MTV News.

+ Bo ... Boo! "I have done everything — scare me, hang upside down, drink water, smell the ass of a porcupine. It doesn't work." Bo Jackson Has Had Hiccups for Nearly a Year.

+ The Cost a Pasta Has Crossed a Line: "Whether rising prices are cooked in from production cost increases or are a byproduct of corporate greed has become a point of contention among Italian consumers and business owners." Italy calls a crisis meeting after pasta prices jump 20%.


Bottom of the News

Slate has an interview with the author whose novel is rocketing up the amazon charts thanks to a tweet from someone called Bigolas Dickolas. As a fellow book author, I feel like I've been given the shaft.