Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reality Check

August can be something of a sleepy month during which we regular folks are getting in another swim, putting summer's last ribs on the grill, and buying school clothes while those-in-the-know are selling off their stocks, buying precious metals, and putting in extra provisions for some sort of autumn meltdown.  At least, it seems like that sometimes.

It used to be that we (as a family) spoke of leaving, of going off someplace else if whichever Presidential candidate we didn't want actually won.  In fact, some of those candidates did win, though we stayed put.  Later, alone, I thought again about living in another country.  But either a place was too expensive, or it had creepy bugs or the flying sort that gave you dengue fever, or its attraction was simply a good beach and brew, or it didn't want oldies like me coming in and taking advantage of its healthcare system.

The nice thing about having a blog is that I can write about whatever I want.  Though this blog's raison d'ĂȘtre is to reflect on what one of the older set thinks (namely, what I think), since we're all up to here with bad news of one sort or another, I tend to want to provide somewhat gentler topics.  But I also follow three social activists. 

One is Chris Hedges, a divinity student-turned-journalist who speaks of "human needs before corporate greed."  He believes in peaceful demonstration, in getting out into the streets since, as he says, voting misses the mark.  "To place faith in electoral politics is extremely naive," he said in a talk.  And, in his 1/23/12 Truthdig column:  "Voting will not alter the corporate systems of power.  Voting is an act of political theater.  Voting in the U.S. is as futile and sterile as in the elections I covered as a reporter in dictatorships like Syria, Iran, Iraq."  It was in his column, too, ("Criminalizing Dissent" 8/13/12) that I learned more about the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama recently signed into law (also called The Homeland Battlefield Bill) whereby we can be incarcerated with no legal charges filed and no trial.  Those arrested are labeled terrorists or terrorist-friendly, but since no one is defining what that means, it could well include peaceful dissenters.

Another activist I follow is Stuart Bramhall, an American woman, a psychiatrist, who did, in fact, leave the country and move to New Zealand.  She writes on a wide range of topics:  the FDA's approval for putting micro-chip sensors in pills so that someone can monitor whether or not we take our meds ... banking executives resigning and buying what's known as "prepper properties" in the country where they can (they would hope) become self-sufficient.

The third is James Howard Kunstler who first attracted my attention when I read his book, The Long Emergency, about the perfect storm we face upon reaching peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation, and financial collapse.  He began his career at Rolling Stone and now salts his blog with highly colorful, articulate prose about how The Powers That Be are trying to sustain the unsustainable with a large mix of magic and falsehood.  His thesis is:  "We're going to have to learn to live totally different lives.  We have no idea what that will look like, but it's as necessary as rain and will take time."  He also says that "none of [the Democrats or Republicans] has a clue that reality has other plans for the U.S. economy which is to contract, de-globalize, downscale, and go local.  That so-called economy they're trying to bring back?  It's gone, baby, gone."

Anyway, August or not, it might be time for a reality check.  Here's mine.  I live within walking distance to town though not as close as I would prefer ... so I'm not absolutely dependent upon the car.  I have a lawn that can be turned into a veggie garden.  I've put aside a fair amount of non-perishable food (though Chris Hedges says that the Patriot Act says that anyone who has more than seven days of food is suspect).  We have a small town with a sense of community and a good batch of individualists who've already set up a preliminary barter system.  We have water and wood.  If totally dependent upon the grid (such as those with pellet stoves or oil furnaces), one needs a back-up source of heat.  And we mustn't forget a good stash of cash tucked under that proverbial mattress. 

So, yes, I'm staying put.  As I see it, whatever lies ahead will be part of an on-going, creative process.  Anyway, at this point in my life--and here's my real reality check--I want to be near the family and the grandkids.  Make peanut butter cookies together.  Lend a hand ... and have it lent to me.  You know--all that good family stuff.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Let's Hear It for Organic Corn!

Disclaimer:  actually, I've been off corn for some time.  That's right:  popcorn, polenta, corn chips, corn bread, corn on the cob, and of course anything with high fructose corn syrup in it.  Which can include crackers, salad dressings, fruit juice, you name it.  I carefully read all the ingredients on anything I buy.  Just put being off corn down to an intolerance of some sort.  But, if I were eating it, I'd only pick something specifically labeled "organic" or I'd buy directly from the farmer since it's impossible to tell which is real corn and which is GMO (genetically modified organism) corn.  (There are no laws in this country regarding GMO labeling.  You can guess who lobbied for that!!  The less we know about what we eat, the more money they'll make.)

One of those same big biotech corporations was apparently instrumental in the recent coup of the democratically-elected president of Paraguay because his government would not allow them to bring in GMO seed, move family farms off the land, and install their agri-business health-destroying product with the insecticide built right in.

Unfortunately, GE (genetically engineered) products result in obesity because the body can't handle them.  This seems a no-brainer to me, but there are now valid studies including one showing that fish, rats, pigs, and mice put on weight they can't take off if fed these products.  As well, their organs are altered, they are permanently less able to digest proteins, and their immune systems change.  All life-altering effects.  All of which affect us if we eat this GE grain or anything fed this grain.

It's also a no-brainer to find that what's happening in Paraguay is happening elsewhere.  GMO seed is being pushed on various countries.  GMO corn is now the largest crop in Hawaii.  (Most pineapples got shuffled off to Central America.)  And even if farmers don't plant GMO seed, we all know that the pollen can drift over to their fields. 

Nor is this GE process only happening to corn.  The list goes on:  soy, canola, wheat, sugar, cantaloupes, etc.  (See link below if you want to read them all, except it gets a bit depressing.)  If the seed companies (who also produce herbicides and pesticides) had their way, they'd achieve a monopoly on all seed everywhere.  Not news, really.

But here's the real McCoy in all its glory at our local farm stand.

And here's the link to the study 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Connecting at Last Week's Farmers' Market

I'd just published my blog posting last Saturday morning--thinking about who might latch onto it out there in cyperspace--when I then went off to our weekly farmers' market.  As I turned in the parking lot, I spotted a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me that read, "No One Cares About Your Blog."  I have to say, that gave me a good chuckle.  I didn't take it personally.

I adore the farmers' market but admit to not doing much more than an in-and-out these weeks so have not been hitting all my usual vendors with subsequent chit-chat.  After some seventeen years, now, I'm known as a regular (and early-bird) customer and get smiles of recognition.

"I haven't seen you lately," Susan says, as I pick out a head of her garlic.  "Have you been away?"

"I haven't been feeling well," I admit.  "I came down with Lyme this summer."

"No!  Everyone's getting Lyme.  I know more people who've gotten it recently."  In fact, around here, Lyme disease is an epidemic.  I know at least a dozen people, not counting myself, who have it or have had it.  Of course, we have a plethora of deer here that carry the Lyme-infected ticks.  I've also heard that mice carry them ... and that their natural predators (foxes, coyotes) aren't as numerous as before.  And then some say the outbreak of Lyme this season relates to our having had a mild winter.  (So much for mild winters!)

After paying for the garlic and promising to relay a message for Susan, I say goodbye and go on to buy flowers, cucumbers, potatoes, sun-gold tomatoes, and Indian take-out.  It's a sunny morning and, feeling a bit perkier than usual, I make the rounds.  Vendors and I chat.  Jerry, the flower man, calls me by name.  When I inquire about one farmer's lettuce, he tells me, "Next week.  It's been too dry recently."  Another says the same thing.  A third has a basket with only a few heads.  I pick one out.  "It's only 75 cents because it's so small," the farmer tells me.  "I don't have much this week.  It was too wet at planting time."  (Too wet, then too dry, it makes for a week of little lettuce.)

As I'm about to leave the market, I find that Peter, the meat-man, is back--for the first time in a year and a half.  He smiles when he sees me:  I'm a good customer of his grass-fed lamb, his pork and beef.  But it turns out he has no lamb.

"I lost at least twenty sheep to coyotes this summer," he tells me, "including ewes, lambs, and one big ram."  And then the dead ewes' little lambs aren't doing well.  "I had to bring all the sheep down from the pasture, even though I'd put up more than five miles of 'permanent fencing' ... or so it's called.  It was a lot of work putting that fencing up," he adds.  "But after twenty years, brambles get to it.  Wild roses.  Moose ... bear ... deer.  Trees fall on it.  And limbs from all our storms.  I can't go up there and keep mending it." 

He asks after the family, then says he's glad to be back at the market.  "I realized what was important about coming here," he says.  "Meaning and identity!  I had customers come to the farm, but it wasn't the same as meeting them here at the market."

We chat on.  Since there's no lamb, I ask for the smallest packets he has of ground pork and breakfast sausage.  He knows I like small packets (I live alone) and says as he reaches into his cooler, "I thought of you this morning when I was packing these."  As he hands them to me, he returns to his meaning and identity theme.

"It's all about connection," I offer.

"We all need it," he says.  A friend of his, a nicely-dressed man who's been listening in, smiles.

As I'm about to leave, the man shakes my hand and says, "I'm happy to meet you."  He tells me his name--a European name.  Ah, those Europeans, I think to myself, and their charming manners.

"Are you Peter's neighbor?" I ask.

Peter gives a little smile.  "He married my ex-wife.  How's that for a connection!"  As I head toward my car, Peter calls back, "I'm the god-father of his children.  How's that for a connection!"  I smile and wave.

Back home, while boiling up my newly-purchased potatoes, I muse that it would have been infinitely nicer if one of Peter's coyotes had killed the mouse (or deer) that carried the Lyme-infected tick that got me instead of the grass-fed lamb that I would have bought.  I also think about connections--vendor and customer, Peter and his friend, plus blogger and any readers who happen along.  Who they are, where they are, what they've sought ... and if, in reading a blog (such as this), they've made some meaningful connections.

My morning's purchases (except for the meat).  The orange drink is mango lassi, the pastry is an alu palak.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Oh Where, Oh Where Has the Adverb Gone?

Have you noticed that our dear, sweet lovely adverb that modifies a verb and an adjective and another adverb seems to be getting short shrift these days?  To wit, overheard on the TV:

"He did that perfect."

"My business is doing wonderful."

(From an artist) "I'm laying this sky on pretty heavy."

Okay, so I'm talking about the "ly" adverbs here.  Perfectly.  Wonderfully.  Heavily.  (Not to be confused with "ly" adjectives such as, "He's a friendly lad."  Or non-"ly" adverbs such as "quite," "well," "often," "again.")

If all of these incorrect speakers were creative writers, I might get a hint as to where the adverb has gone since writing classes/workshops/teachers tell their students (and I've been one of those students) that the "ly" adverb can (for the most part) be eliminated because it speaks of amateurish writing--Trying Too Hard To Be Descriptive.  The thinking seems to be:  Why dress up a weak verb with a burdensome adverb when you can sharpen the verb, eliminate the adverb, and keep your writing sprightly?  Why say, "He walked quickly" when you can say, "He dashed"?  That sort of thing.

I even long ago copied out a fine description I read in The New Yorker in a piece by Roger Angell.  "Use the short adjective rather than the expected adverb.  'A soft owl flew over the lane.'"  For a writer, it's excellent advice.

Except how many speakers today are turning "ly" adverbs into misplaced adjectives because they've been in creative writing classes!  Anyway, they'd know better.

Some problems result because the speaker eliminates a few words.  So, as I heard on the Weather Channel, "Life started out normal ... "  Using "normal" here would work if you said, "Life started out to be normal ..."  Then, "normal," an adjective, would define "life."  But as used here, it defines "started" so needs to be "normally."  And when a cooking show's hostess said, "The chocolate angel food cake came out pretty good," she really meant to say that it came out pretty well.  It was good, but it came out well.  It's just that sticky little difference between being an adjective or an adverb.  Between modifying the subject or modifying the verb.

Then there's that sign we see everyday:  "Drive Slow"(ly).

It all comes down to sloppy thinking, sloppy educations, plus a total lack of concern for proper grammar.  So much of what goes on today (at least in this country) seems to lack structure.  Do your own thing.  Who cares if you can't speak the language properly!

Aside from the adverb problem, here are some other transgressions I've come across.

From NPR:  "So much more faster."

A recent book supposedly written in the 19th century vernacular that speaks of "the get-go."

The name of Roy Lichtenstein's 1964 painting, "Ohhhh .... Alright ...." that recently sold at auction for $42.6 million.  (At least the movie, The Kids Are All Right, got it right.  "Altogether" is one word, "already" is one word, but "all right" is two words.)

From a letter:  "I would have went ..."

From reality TV programs:  "If her and I get married ..." and "If it was really tore up ..."

From a news source:  "A dead lion lays by the fence."  There's that lie/lay thing again.  (See my December 10, 2011 posting.)

From Wikipedia:  "the eldest son" of two boys.  ("Eldest" is used if there are three or more; otherwise, you use "elder.")  

Conversely, Diane Rehm often says that she "feels badly" about something.  I was taught that feeling badly means that your sense of touch is impaired.  No:  you feel bad about something.  So, yes, verbs of the senses ("touch," "smell," "feel," "taste," "look") take adjectives.

So how do I illustrate a posting on the adverb?  How about a camel-riding tourist smiling jauntily at the camera!