Archive for October, 2010

One Fucked-Up World

October 22, 2010

A week after the Chilean miners surfaced, the mainstream media is reporting that at least 142 Haitians have already died from cholera.  While this information would be disheartening enough, the internet readers’ comments are infinitely more distressing.  One particularly disgusting entry traces Haiti’s history from the French point of view (e.g., the slaves revolt ruined the beautiful paradise that the French planters had created, never mentioning the word “slavery”) and asserts that all efforts to help the Haitians, including the US military’s occupation, were to no avail because the Haitians are stupid and lazy.  Most of the comments operate from the assumption that the earthquake aid was delivered to Haiti and squandered, but in the case of the U.S. government, this is simply not true.  Almost none of the promised aid has arrived.  As for squandering the aid raised by NGOs, it’s the NGOs that are to blame, as they used the funds for such things as covering their operating expenses.  None of the readers making insulting generalizations about the Haitian character has taken the trouble to find out the streets of Port-au-Prince are still choked with rubble,  that no reconstruction has begun, and that almost every refugee camp is packed, offers no toilets, no tents and no food.  Families are sleeping on dirt floors underneath sheets and shitting in bags.  It’s a minor miracle that it has taken this long for an epidemic severe enough to qualify as news in the U.S. media, itself a finely-tuned instrument when it comes to the micro-movements of DWTS and Jersey Shore.

Certainly was easier to cheer the miners who only had to survive a few months underground  (most of that time having food and diversions shuttled to them), and whose successful rescue managed to quiet any unpleasant questions about corporate, national and even international complicity in using cheap assets (e.g., a miner’s life) to extract valuable resources like coal.  Just like it’s easier to mouth off on the internet, taking the time to type in a comment that the Haitians are too stupid not to know one shouldn’t shit from the stream one drinks from than it is to search out an alternate news source that would report on the horror of what’s happening to millions of people.  Come to think of it, it looks as if the laziest denizens of the Western Hemisphere might not be located in Haiti but in a more populous country to their north.

on the right track

October 18, 2010

From one of my favorite web news sites Counterpunch comes this excerpt of a Zizek essay.  Read it when your mind is clear and your stomach is growling for some intelligent political commentary.

There’s a lot of good stuff packed thick in here, but I was hooked when I read the following:

What if, in truth, intellectuals lead basically safe and comfortable lives, and in order to justify their livelihoods, construct scenarios of radical catastrophe? For many, no doubt, if a revolution is taking place, it should occur at a safe distance—Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela—so that, while their hearts are warmed by thinking about faraway events, they can go on promoting their careers.

I think of my fellow Marxist grad students now ensconced in tenure-track jobs, thanking their lucky stars.  I’m not saying that anything I’m doing is changing the world, but I haven’t forgotten what we said we were fighting for.

Don’t try this at home

October 18, 2010

This is the time of year when my inner farm wife emerges; I think of her as a kind of angry badger, snarlly and fixated.  I’ve also been labeled a Norwegian ant when I’m in this mode, an allusion to the Aesop fable which would seem apt if I were so darned lazy about almost everything else.

Regardless of what it’s called, this is the part of me that insists nothing get wasted, that I put up/freeze anything that isn’t shelf-stable and that there isn’t any time to lose.  Of course, this kind of resource management frenzy dictates my behavior all seasons and explains why I still had a pound of broccoli from the Spring in my freezer, a quart of blackberries, a small pie’s worth of peeled and sliced peaches, two cups of sweet cherries, a gallon of sour cherries, a cup of raspberries and some black currants.  But to make room for the Fall’s bounty (to date, one wild turkey breast, a venison leg, two pounds of green beans, frozen corn, two quarts of applesauce,two kinds of tomato sauce and two kinds of red pepper soups), I’ve had to start chipping away at the prior season’s stockpile.

It was in the course of taking out the broccoli which not surprisingly had migrated to the bottom of the back that I found a quarter of a white chocolate cheesecake baked sometime before the berry season had kicked off and before summer’s heat made baking a self-punishing act.  My friend Scott was coming to dinner so I defrosted the cheesecake as well as the raspberries, thinking I could manage a raspberry coulis.  When he arrived, though, I was exhausted, so we settled for the cheesecake (a little freezer-burned) solo.

Now I had defrosted raspberries to deal with.  With the drought it had been a poor raspberry season.  One year I had gathered enough from the everbearing canes to make several jams and a fresh raspberry pie.  I couldn’t bear the thought of treating the last few I’d gathered cavalierly, but the precious cup of defrosted berries wouldn’t take long to go moldy. Plus thawed raspberries present different possibilities from fresh ones too, and I wanted to pick just the right thing to use them in.

Two days later, I found myself making dinner as well as wielding my hand-held mixer to whip up a small pound cake.  The next morning, unwilling to drive to the store for more milk, I made a cup of custard, let it cool and then assembled three mini-trifles, using the defrosted raspberries as well as the raspberry-rhubarb jam I’d made in June.  The eventual grocery store visit netted a quart of whipping cream (which I went through in less a week), and the trifles were complete.  As Scott and I enjoyed them that Saturday evening, I couldn’t help but think we were having the best dessert in Charlottesville that night.  My badger housewife/Norwegian ant behavior can be over-the-top ridiculous much of the time, but until the day my freezer fails, the moments when it pays off are wonderful to savor.

My Emotions Party

October 13, 2010

This is such an immensely hard time for everyone I know, and I’m not going to spew any platitudes that I find difficult to swallow.  Just think: the world is just letting Haitians die slowly while everyone has a feel-good moment watching the Chilean miners surface.

Where’s the outrage?!  I’m not talking about the spoof of anger that the Tea Party people represent.  All that political theater is just another form of bread and circus, keeping us distracted while our communal resources are being looted in full daylight.  All the NPR listeners keep alluding to the horrors that will occur the day after the elections, but I don’t think it will be anymore dramatic than the horror of what is happening right now, a slow shrugging off of an entire economic class while the very privileged few are further enriched.  It’s like we’re in the twilight of some outmoded stage of human existence and the only emotion that predominates is a heavy sadness.

Sometime I think I just might get some kind of part-time job soon as a kind of cosmic joke:  it will just prolong the discomfort of watching the social fabric disintegrate.  So far my only response to what I’m seeing is to cling to my friends, my cat, my little routines.  That’s probably what everyone is doing , and I should be ashamed of myself.  Lucky for me, I’m full up on shame.  But any other emotion is welcome at my Emotions Party.  Everyone comes dressed as her favorite emotion.  Should be interesting to see what pops up.


a silly picture but a decent emotion


What do people do all day?

October 7, 2010

As a child, one of my favorite authors was Richard Scarry.  I poured over his Busytown books, charmed by the clever illustrations as well as by the kind spirit that imbues them.  I think the copy I have of my favorite Richard Scarry — What Do People Do All Day? — is the same copy I owned as a child, although at this point I can’t be sure.  Possessions have flowed through my life like water in a stream.  Regardless, I loved the book so much that I continue to honor it today by snatching up copies whenever I see one and sharing all but one with any child I meet.  My friend Isaac Willis is now intimately familiar with the Busytown population even if some of the pages of his copy have been torn to ribbons.

One thing that has always stuck with me about this book is the question that forms the title.  At my advanced age, I still have a very limited idea of what people do all day.  It seems to be one of the defining mysteries of my life.  Scarry’s creatures work as farmers, bakers, construction workers, police officers, doctors, tailors, pilots and ship captains, to name just a few.  But I was one of those kids who never could get her mind around what her father did all day, and as I grew older, “work” had a grim connotation to it.  My mom and dad didn’t seem to find much pleasure in their work.  It seemed a subject best avoided.

This could help explain my current predicament, I am well aware, but that’s not the point I am moving toward.  Basically, I can still feel a childlike wonder as I learn more about the various jobs that make the world go ’round. “Really?  You do that for a living?”  True, there are many more satisfying alternatives to unemployment and the rounds of interviews I’ve been on in the past 10 months (aargh!).  But it is kind of neat to stumble across a job you never would have thought existed until you answered an ad and completed an interview.  Such experiences give me hope that there’s a perfect job out there for an oddball like me.