Monday, April 25, 2005

What's Waiting at the Meat Market

What's Waiting at the Meat Market

What's Waiting at the Meat Market (2000)

I suppose there are two ways to look at this image. Here's the first -- from -- from an essay on novelist Upton Sinclair by Jon Blackwell:

Upton Sinclair was a desperately poor, young socialist hoping to remake the world when he settled down in a tarpaper shack in Princeton Township and penned his Great American Novel.

He called it The Jungle, filled it with page after page of nauseating detail he had researched about the meat-packing industry, and dropped it on an astonished nation in 1906.

An instant best-seller, Sinclair's book reeked with the stink of the Chicago stockyards. He told how dead rats were shoveled into sausage-grinding machines; how bribed inspectors looked the other way when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and how filth and guts were swept off the floor and packaged as "potted ham."


For two months in 1904, Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards – a place he would write of as "Packingtown." He mingled with the foreign-born "wage slaves" in their tenements and heard how they'd been mistreated and ripped off. He saw for himself the sloppy practices in the packing houses and the mind-numbing, 12-hour-a-day schedule.


Roosevelt sent his own agents to Chicago to investigate whether meat packing was as bad as Sinclair described. The conditions were actually a hundred times worse, the agents reported back.

The president invited Sinclair to the White House and solicited his advice on how to make inspections safer. By June 30, Congress had passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, cracking down on unsafe food and patent medicines, and the Meat Inspection Act. To this day, our hamburgers, chicken patties and other meats are safeguarded by the same law.

Roosevelt was so taken with Sinclair that he coined the term “muckrakers” to describe him and other reformist crusaders, even though the president’s phrase was not meant to be wholly complimentary.

Yet Sinclair considered his triumph empty. He complained that the tragedy of industrial life and his socialist preaching were being lost in the meat controversy.

"I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach," he said.

And here's take two -- from Bodger and Grift's "Medieval Pick-Up Lines":

I have the key to your chastity belt and you have the key to my heart.

Can I hose down your doublet?

Your eyes are as dark as a castle moat by midnight. Lower your drawbridge and let me cross.

You should be glad I'm not a Viking. You would have been ravaged and plundered by now.

What's a nice maiden like you doing in a dungeon like this?

Come up and see my scrolls.

You can scale my battlements any day, madam.

You scratch my boils and I'll scratch yours.

They don't call me Lance-A-Lot for nothing, you know.

My that's a fine set of chalices you have there.

Ssh, I don't want everyone to know I'm on a secret holy quest.

When the Inquisition put me on the rack, my limbs weren't the only thing they stretched.

It's hard to tell which "meat market" is worse. The one where meat is treated for you? Or the one where you are treated like meat?

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