In defense of pasteurization

I recently purchased a bottle of juice from Whole Foods, only to begin vomiting profusely several hours after drinking it. The juice, it turns out, was not pasteurized.

At first, I imagined that I had somehow found myself transported to an earlier century, where we lacked knowledge of the benefits of pasteurization, but the fact that my surroundings remained in full color disproved this hypothesis.

I then imagined that some catastrophic event had occurred and that fire itself could no longer be conjured. I ruled out this possibility once I successfully burned myself on a candle, which proved a useful distraction from the greater pain of discovering that my juice was left unpasteurized intentionally, and that this is evidently not a felony.

It turns out that there are people who prefer non-pasteurized beverages, and that I know (and even like) some of these people! I am unsure why they have such peculiar and masochistic preferences, but it appears that some people prefer non-pasteurized beverages because they supposedly taste better or because they contain certain nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed in the process of pasteurization.

Perhaps my tastes are unsophisticated, but it seems that pursuing a marginally better tasting juice at the cost of unnecessarily exposing oneself to a wealth of pathogens is ill-advised. Similarly, a minor nutritional benefit that may be obtained by drinking non-pasteurized beverages would seem somewhat outweighed by the mass presence of said pathogens.

I can only conclude, therefore, that those who prefer non-pasteurized beverages either actively enjoy pathogens, or live their lives in pursuit of taste and vitamins above all else. Perhaps more charitably, I can conclude they doubt the existence of pathogens altogether, and therefore believe pasteurization can have no beneficial effect, a position that is consistent if nothing else.

For my own part, I’ll keep to pasteurized beverages, which I generally enjoy, on the naïve assumptions that pathogens exist, that vomiting is undesirable, and that things originating from soil or teats are not always ready for consumption.

This post is dedicated to Louis Pasteur in the hope that wherever he is, he does not regret having saved lives with his superfluous process.

In praise of safety razors

For fifteen years, I’ve been using one cartridge razor or another to shave my face. They work well enough, but have always seemed so wasteful and expensive. Even the best cartridge generally only lasts a few shaves. And you dispose of them, not because the construction gives way, or even because the blades are no longer sharp. You dispose of them because the blades are packed together so tightly that they become blocked with hair, and can no longer function. It’s a design flaw that manufacturers probably intended, and is in any case, unfortunate as each cartridge runs two or three dollars.

My long suppressed frustration with cartridge razors has since given way, and I’ve started to use a traditional safety razor — the kind that’s been around for over a century — and I love it.

It’s easy to use, trivial to clean, and provides a very smooth shave. It doesn’t use expensive cartridges, but rather commodity blades that sell for ten cents each. It appears to have zero disadvantages.

Given this, why do any of us use cartridge razors at all? Why haven’t we all chosen the undeniably superior product, thus digging a grave for contemporary razors and all their billions of cartridges?

I think it must boil down to mass ignorance and propaganda.

The truth is, while I’ve heard of the term “safety razor”, I had assumed it referred to the modern, plastic cartridge razor. Although the cartridge razor is fundamentally unsound, I’d concede that it’s safe. Perhaps even a little too safe.

I was vaguely aware that previous iterations of razors existed, but generally understood them to be dangerous contraptions that served mainly as props in horror films. They could be used to slash someone’s throat, but not much else.

I imagine that this perceived danger has only bolstered the cartridge razor, but in these past few days, I’ve concluded the perceived danger is utter nonsense. I have yet to even nick my skin with the safety razor, and when I do, I suspect the damage will be similar to anything that’s done by cartridge razors.

However, where serious damage has occurred is in the manufacturing and marketing of cartridge razors. It’s plain enough that billions of people have unnecessarily spent many billions of dollars in purchasing an inferior product. But perhaps more importantly, a great number of lives have been wasted in engineering and developing that inferior product. A product whose total inferiority must have been known to those producing it.

I don’t believe it’s possible to improve upon the safety razor, and the cartridge razor people have been proving this for decades.

Comedians and truth

Jerry Seinfeld on advertisers at an awards ceremony for advertising:

I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy. Because a brief moment of happiness is pretty good.

Seinfeld has a real talent for observing human behavior, locating the absurdity that often underlies it, and distilling it in almost clinical terms. If an anthropologist from Mars landed on earth and studied us, their conclusions would probably be indistinguishable from Seinfeld’s. Our reaction to them, however, would be quite different.

After Seinfeld made the remarks, the audience — largely made up of advertising professionals — laughed uproariously. People don’t ordinarily laugh when someone expresses contempt for their being, unless that person is insane or a comedian.

I wonder what that means. Do we laugh because the truth makes us feel uncomfortable? Or do we laugh because we think comedians are harmless liars?

I think the latter would be a mistake. Many comedians seem to me our greatest truth-tellers.