The Luxury of Canned Spam

I had to write the title like that because spam is usually something you don’t want to get, but in Hawaii and South Korea it’s considered a delicacy. To tell the truth, there was a time when I enjoyed eating it–after glazing it, sticking a dozen cloves in it, and then baking it, I enjoyed it as a tasty treat/lunch/dinner.

When prepared like that one can forget what’s in it, thank God. Indeed, the slogan on the can proclaims, “If you’ve got Spam, you’ve got it all!” That’s not really something I want to think about when I’m eating the stuff.

Since it was unleashed on the world right before WWII, more than seven billion cans have rolled off production lines. Both Joe Lunch Bucket and GI Joe would have been quite familiar with it back then. As people have become more health conscious in the West, the consumption of the food-stuff has fallen off. But before the Evil One, the discoverer of cholesterol, came along and began taking over our lives, we actually had to work at getting the damn can of spam open. I suppose it was actually a clever invention—what if you mis-placed your can opener? If you were a construction worker or someone in a fox hole, the key attached to the can and the metal strip that you would unroll with the key came in handy.

Originally, before domestic production, Koreans would have to smuggle it out of US military bases. Now, the product is made there and Korean TV uses famous actors in their commercials promoting the product and informing the audience that “Anyone who gets a Spam gift-set also gets a warm feeling in their heart.” In the US this is known as a heart attack.

Spam ad

Making heart surgeons wealthy since 1940.

Spam became, as it did in Hawaii, a comfort food; that along with its inexpensiveness made it popular. Now that there are years of plenty it has become so ingrained in the Korean culinary tradition that it’s a staple. Indeed, it’s the main ingredient in one of the country’s favorite dishes: budae jigae or army stew. Many restaurants specialize in cooking it, and the most famous is just around the corner from a US military base. One customer raves, “It’s salty, and greasy, and goes very well with the spices.” The inventor of Army Stew is Ho Gi-suk. She invented it back in 1954, when someone brought her smuggled spam, sausages and bacon from the local army base. Mrs Ho made them into a spicy soup, and the rest is history.

If you would like to be history, remember that you can always find a can at you local grocery store.


A Cold Day in May

Written on May 15, 2013

As bad as the coldblooded depravity behind the Boston Marathon bombings was the carnage could be worse, much worse. It’s difficult for a normal person to place himself in the mind of someone who has such disregard for others, to imagine a mentality where the limbs of runners are obliterated and women and children are killed by men with calculated self-interest and absolute indifference. What can we make of such people?

Consider a warm and breezy day in Florida. Let’s say that it’s a day in May. Let’s make it May 8. People are enjoying their weekend. Many are headed back home after a day at the beach, the tantalizing beach smell still lingering, reminding them of the pleasures of the day.

Others are at church, enjoying their right to worship. Among those who attended the service is the infamous Koran burner, someone whose stunts have caused him to be hated by those of another faith. He’s the target of assassination, the one the killers want dead. The men, women, and children leaving the church do not know this. Indeed the Koran burner is not in sight, having decided this day to take an alternate route home, for he and his family have decided to dine out, a real treat because it’s something they rarely do.

Yet, he is unimportant to the other churchgoers. He has gained weight and dyed his hair. He looks nearly unrecognizable to himself. He is intent on keeping a low profile and being an anonymous member of the congregation. Thus, the only concerns the other churchgoers have are those plans for the evening, now that they have fulfilled their religious duties: for many, it’s time to go home and have a pleasant Sunday supper. Many of the worshipers live within walking distance, for the church is in the heart of a well-populated US city.

Suddenly a car filled with 440 pounds of explosives goes off. The timer was set for this very moment, a time when the maximum number of casualties would occur. Dozens of women and children are emerging from the children’s school room area. They are torn to shreds instantly. The entire street of this US city becomes a sudden and unexpected part of a global war zone. Cars become heaps of scrap metal. The church and some nearby buildings are badly damaged, disjointed sections of various buildings have been pulverized into mounds of rubble. Windows in buildings as far away as two blocks are shattered. Indeed not far from where the car was parked is a small Intensive Care section of a Pediatric hospital. It receives the most “collateral damage,” for the sudden heat from the blast is so intense that infants and toddlers in its street-side section are burned to death.

In the ensuing moments and hours after the blast, news helicopters fly overhead and camera crews on the ground record the images of slaughter and devastation. The whole world is watching as these events unfold. The president of the United States makes a live televised broadcast, denouncing the ruthless terrorists who committed this atrocity. Investigations will be made, and the killers will be brought to justice. The world will never forget what happened on May 8.

The events described above are based on a true story, one that you’ve probably never heard of. The details are a bit different, because the people and the culture are different from the culture described. For instance, this wasn’t done to a church, but rather to a Mosque. It happened before the official 9/11 “war on terror” that the United States launched with its staunchest ally in the invasion of Iraq, the United Kingdom.

The irony here lies in the fact that the events described were those that took place in Lebanon on May 8, 1985 as a result of collaboration between the CIA, British Intelligence Services, and Saudi agencies. We know that reliable estimates are that as many as 80 people were killed and 240 injured.

What we don’t know are the specific details–at least I can’t seem to find them online. Did the CIA know that the assassins were going to go about their operation like this? If not, why didn’t they know? Without an answer to that second question, one can only assume that they in fact did know and agree to this horrendous Crime Against Humanity. What is the whole story behind that cold day in May of 1985?

* * *

I’ve watched many speeches by Mr. Chomsky on YouTube, and he mentioned the incident in a couple of his lectures. I was curious about what the CIA knew–that’s what prompted the story. So, I wrote him and asked for some information and invited him to stop by the site and read the article. Despite an incredibly daunting schedule, he did take the time to read the story. One sees in his reply that he thought I was talking to him when I said, “[A] true story, one that you’ve probably never heard of.” Quite understandable considering he does more in a day than most of us do in a week.

As you might expect, it’s the first two words he wrote that I’m most happy about. Professor Chomsky’s reply–

Well done.

It’s not quite true that no article addresses the story.  It was reported in the Washington Post (by Nora Boustany), by Bob Woodward (in his book Veil), by others – I’ve written about it several times.  And it’s particularly remarkable because 1985 was the peak of hysteria about Middle East Terror, the year when it was picked as the lead story of the year by annual poll of editors – always, however, excluding this case, and other comparable acts of terror in the Middle East in which the US was involved.  But you’re right that it’s basically suppressed, our standard procedure with our own crimes, and that the questions you asked are not answered, because we prefer not to look at our own crimes.  Not only in this case, nor is the deep moral flaw unique to the US.

Noam Chomsky


A Cold Day in May 2


A Cold Day in May 1



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