Playing Film Critic Again

A film critic is not something I’ve ever aspired to be.
However, I have played the part before, and when you stumble upon such gems as the two movies which my eyeballs have recently digested, it’s practically criminal to not share your experience and to not urge others to view them for their own interpretation.
Last night, I was visually spoiled by The Great Beauty, and today, I was witness to the workings of Citizenfour.
Rather than in the order of social significance, I’ll address them in chronological order, by which I viewed them.

The Great Beauty, in essence, is a sumptuous film.
The story follows an aging Italian gentleman, who wrote one novel in his youth which was so well received that he was allowed to spend the rest of his life as a socialite, hosting grand parties and developing relationships with wide varieties of artists and aristocrats in Rome.
Beginning at his 65th birthday party, the subsequent 2 hours and 20 minutes are an assault on the senses of the most pleasing kind.

The film is an exemplary portrait of the Italian nature: “la dolce vita”, the sensibility for fine clothing, furniture, and art, the inherent lust for naked flesh, melding modern life around Roman ruins, the ever present veins of Catholicism… and that’s the film in a nutshell.
The point is, you have to watch the film to be so fantastically immersed in it all, in all its majesty and occasional absurdity.

With all of this filling every visible minute, the plot is hardly important. Yet, it is still a poetic and fantastically comical beauty.

I am not sure I have ever seen such an astounding film.
It takes patience and such an acute awareness to enjoy it, because it is so finely detailed and nuanced, and just plain enticing compared to the high action and shallow, simplified dramas of today.
Even compared to the great feats of the past.
The director, Paolo Sorrentino, plays with light the same way Bergman so masterfully did, and uses intense facial expressions like Kurosawa managed to extract from his actors… but does it all at once and more (that’s not a claim that it is better than The Seventh Seal or Seven Samurai).

The Great Beauty is spectacular, it’s like candy for the modern human’s appetite for aesthetic. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood to delight a few of your senses.

Now, back to the real world.

Citizenfour is the exciting spy genre drama we all love so much, except it’s played out in real time, in our legitimate world.
There is perpetual paranoia, encrypted messaging, the involvement of foreign embassies, surveillance bases in the UK and Germany, footage of lying organization representatives (with ticks so clear it’s pathetic)… Which allows Citizenfour to far surpasses any Hollywood concoction, especially when considering that it chronicles the enlightenment of the American (and international) public rather than serving as a far-fetched distraction from reality.

We all remember the revelations regarding the NSA’s actions against the American public (and other targets) as they were released last summer, so the content of the film is nothing new.
Instead, it shows the delicate process required to reveal secrets that question the intentions and legitimacy of governing bodies.

It also serves to remind us of our modern technology’s influence.
The internet, mobile telephones, the evolution of banking, are all magnificent advancements, but they are fast becoming dark and quietly treacherous tools.

Keeping all that in mind, there are two great takeaway’s from this film (and the actual events that played out last summer): journalism serves as a cure for “evil and ignorance”, and if you think, as an American, you are free, you are very wrong.
What we used to label as liberty and freedom, we now call privacy.
We haven’t had to worry about forces invading our soil and affecting our way of life for a very long time now.
So our “freedoms” have manifested as, being able to discuss freely, being the sole agent of our own actions, and being aware of what our governing officials permit as normal behavior.

Instead, we act as the world’s policeman, invading other peoples’ soils, sticking our fingers in EVERYONES’ pies, and “for the sake of freedom and democracy”, we thank our soldiers for their service in our most recent military involvements, all the while our own governing bodies freely allow such comprehensive privacy infringements into our own lives.
It’s hypocritical, and even worse, damaging to our quality of life.

That is Citizenfour, it serves as a reminder, and it shows the personal struggle involved in challenging the system even with the intentions to benefit the greater good.

p.s. congratulations, by clicking this link and scrolling through the whole post, you can assume you are now on the NSA’s watch list ;)

We the (Broken and Benighted) Economy

Among the perpetual outpouring of sh*t music videos, mind-numbing buzzfeed articles, and streamable escapist TV series a rare compilation of sheer brilliance has been released for our viewing pleasure using the same medium .
Ladies and gentlemen, We the Economy:

Two production teams, Vulcan Production and Cinelan, have collaborated with 20 renowned film directors to make this collection of 20 shorts, each aiming to illuminate a perhaps confounding or unknown aspect of our American economy, and therefore an intertwined aspect of our American lives.
20 short films, that don’t take any significant amount of time or effort to peruse, but still provide essential information in convenient and very comical ways.
It’s a really nice idea, I like it, and am therefore stamping Abigail’s seal of approval.
In regards to this project, it looks like there are two big names to thank.
Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and an executive producer of Vulcan Productions, as well as Morgan Spurlock, an executive producer of Cinelan and of Super Size Me fame (why don’t we thank Spurlock his effect on the fast food industry as well, their revenues just don’t rise quite like they used to).

Favorite films (1 of 3):

Where was this when the vaguely affecting Affordable Care Act was being put into motion? Just so we’re all clear, our healthcare system needs plenty more work before it can be considered satisfactory,  when comparing it to other systems in the developed world.

So is this release belittling?
Honestly, I do think so.
These 5 chapters (What is the Economy? What is Money? What is the Role of our Government in the Economy? What is Globalization? and What Causes Inequality?) are all basic concepts.
It’s a joke that the American public could be so clueless about such essential information that some outside, unrelated source sees a clear need for this knowledge to be delivered and therefore feels compelled to spend the time, effort, and expense to create a delivery method.

Favorite films (2 of 3):

Don’t worry though. This is not me bashing on the average American.
We are all in the very same boat.
As soon as I achieved that “critical thinking badge” from my university experience and discovered the incredible self-enlightening capabilities of the internet, I realized I’ve been cheated from a quality education (something I am in the pursuit of repairing).
I’ve had some phenomenal teachers and professors who have had profound influences on what I know and the way I think today, but I’m also severely disappointed with my K-12 public education.
There are just too many gaps in the communication of relevant knowledge to be forgivable.
I will not descend too deeply into this pit of forgotten and ignored information, but hopefully you, too, can think back to distinct examples of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of a specific topic, or event in history long after we donned our graduation robes senior year of high school.

And with this, I come the most significant message of this post, perhaps one of the issues I feel strongest about when it comes to human rights: education is the most important tool in the advancement of any society.
Yes, if you’re born in such a prosperous country as the United States, an encompassing and empowering education should be considered a human right.
If our country can afford a military which so severely dwarfs a large assemblage of other countries combined, the least we can expect is that every citizen understands their place on Earth, in history, and in their local economy.

Inspired enough yet? Go on, give the videos a try.
I guarantee they’re both funny and eyeopening, even with their occasional liberal slant. Plus, they’re chock full of popular celebrities, which is always fun.

Favorite films (3 of 3):

I fangirl-ed over this one, Werner Herzog has become an odd favorite of mine… what can I say, his eccentric character and often bizarre subject of film is very captivating, something I say much more about here.

Until next time,
Abigail

Sugar: Nutrient and Drug

With Halloween being just a day away, now seems a fitting time as ever to talk about disguises and poison.

With that particularly vague statement, I am addressing “sugar”, by which you can assume I am referring to any number of widely used, added sweeteners: cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, etc.
Sugar is ambrosia, the sweet nectar of the Greek gods.
It’s instant energy without the hassle of thorough digestion.
It very well may be one of the key participants in human evolution and advancement, along with beer and wheat (similar products I know, but I’m referring to their applications).
In short, sugar has become a very valuable ingredient in our modern diets.

It is a double edged sword, however, in that excessive amounts of sugar cause serious health issues and in extreme cases cripple people with diet-related diseases.
Ah, to be blessed with these “first world problems”, of literally having too many options when it comes to food, rather than starving from a lack of basic nutrients.
Back to America though… land of plenty: the most widespread manifestation of excessive sugar intake is cavities.
Turns out bacteria love sugar just as much as we do. Then there’s the assemblage of life threatening consequences: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and suggestions of increased cancer-risk.Heart disease should probably be listed first, seeing as how it is the leading cause of death in the United States (shortly followed by cancer).
Not Ebola, or Marijuana overdose, or terrorist attacks… it’s heart disease, which has now become so commonplace, something we have succumbed to living with rather than desperately trying to change.
If these concepts are unfamiliar, clearly someone has been living under a rock.
These links of diet to health are essentially basic knowledge because they are discussed constantly and intensely on all forms of media… the issue lies within the fact that so little is being done to improve our situation.
Instead, most of the energy in this debate is dedicated to keeping things exactly the way they are.

I don’t intend to turn this into the indepth, shaming type of rant I directed towards Monsanto last December, but if my subject’s actions deserve shaming, well there’s bound to be some of that going on.
One of the dirtiest words that exist in our vocabularies today must be lobbyist.
I just can’t help but imagine some greasy dude with the pockets of his suit filled with bills, enticing our representatives to do his bidding.
Quite like directing a rabbit by a carrot hanging on a stick.
Too much money is being siphoned into shaping policy, like those motions that keep school lunches the way they are (key ingredients being those flavored milks and juices, just dripping with sweeteners), that extinguish proposals intended to tax “sugar sweetened beverages”, and that dictate the amount and direction of subsidized funding in agriculture.

Lobbyist-List

click to see some other brilliant lobbyist themed cartoons

The FDA (the organization which bears the responsibility of regulating the information on nutritional labels) has yet to establish a daily value for sugar consumption.
Which means we are perpetually left in the dark regarding this single ingredient of “sugar” on nutritional labels.
Instead, we’re left with an obscure gram measurement.
Problem is, this is America, we do not use and therefore do not understand (on average) the metric system like every other civilized country.
Meanwhile, the WHO, USDA, and AHA have all set recommendations for sugar consumption at one point or another.

John Oliver, in his typical absurd, yet illuminating fashion:

There are too many arguments to be made here.
The ridiculousness of it all, however, is one I would like mention now.
We won’t institute any sort of regulation on sugar but we refuse the widespread legalization or at least decriminalization of (medical) marijuana.
Basically a leaf, that is not manipulated beyond any state than a leaf, and which does considerably less damage than sugar.
This constant ghostly presence of sugar in our beverages, processed foods, and vague yet clearly abhorrent amount in candies and baked goods, is killing the bulk of us in the States.
There are essentially only two things that can be done about the matter either to demand more transparency (if you feel like bothering), or just denouncing these riddled products.
I might guess the supporters of the other cause mentioned probably wouldn’t feel compelled to support me suggesting to ease up on the candy, and other munchies suitable foodstuffs.

I, in particular, have always been partial to Twizzlers – those strawberry/cardboard flavored sticks of plastic, as well as Reese’s Pieces – lacquered bits of pulverized peanuts with just a touch of the brown tinged sugar-sludge Hershey’s likes to call “chocolate”.
So perhaps, based on my history, I am not one who should suggest the complete abandonment of these products.
But believe me, now that I have grown up, and have naturally gained an understanding of what it means to care for my body – such a dismissal of those products is not that difficult to endure.
Instead, as with life in general, we must seek balance.
The hardest part is re-accustoming the palate to flavors without being assaulted by the sensation of sweetness.
Yes to sugar, but in conscious moderation. Perhaps in a delicious caramel sauce with some apples (given that absolutely beautiful and delicious apples are in season!):

caramel dip

So go on, be that house.
The one that gives out apples, fresh from the farmer’s market if possible, to those kiddies bedecked in their adorable handmade or Asian factory-made costumes.
It’s a good thing we don’t get many trick-or-treaters down my street, cause I would not like to be you!

p.s. There is plenty that inspired this post, significant background knowledge gained from curiosity, experience from a nutrition class, working with and learning all about food at school… but most recently, I watched Fed Up. It’s concise and nicely put together: so give it your attention if you eat, and live in America, or anywhere really:

Economics: A Story of My Niaveté

My original understanding of economics went something like this: “well it’s like a more practical philosophy”. I don’t mean “practical” as more valid, but naturally more applied rather than perceptive. Seeing as how our lives revolve around money and the exchange of it for goods, experiences, services, social needs etc., economics seemed to be all about the fine details of how this money is shifted around and how people, companies, organizations, governments, etc. decide where it goes.

For a while, I felt this definition perfectly encompassed Economics, so much so that I was suddenly very turned on to the subject and felt a compulsion to dedicate further study to it. I ended up researching some books that would introduce me to this relatively foreign realm and rented Mark Skousen’s “The Making of Modern Economics” from my local library. This only perpetuated my simple understanding. I didn’t make it through the whole book, of course not, but it was a beautiful analysis of the lives and theories of the people (fair enough to just say men) who shaped economics as it is defined and functions today. My interpretation was as follows: “look at all these brilliant guys with their creative interpretations of society!” Taking my interests to current publications, I even started following some popular economists. Paul Krugman of the NYTimes and John Cassidy of the New Yorker were quick to land on my twitter feed, and I gradually began to admire Jeffrey Sachs and read all of his Project Syndicate contributions (went so far as to participate in the 2013 Millennial Development Goals Conference – something I was barely aware of previously and did not have any direct connection to… besides being human and understanding the significance of reaching such basic objectives). Here again were some astonishing minds, getting me to think about the world around me in ways that I just hadn’t considered before.

In my initial experience with economics, I was not enlightened to how it is really taught and what makes up its essence. I started to get a slight idea when I took my [VERY rudimentary] Macroeconomics class. This though, was still perfectly approachable. Sure, analyzing CPI with inflation, production possibility graphs, flow models, the banking system, etc. didn’t exactly strike a fire in my belly, I wasn’t put off at all… I actually was never more proactive in a class of mine than that one. Then: I started to research master’s programs. Here was my wake up call. I knew I would face certain obstacles, seeing as how I am coming from a COMPLETELY different discipline, but I didn’t expect to be quite so off base in my comprehension of what is taught as economics.

These days, academic [and realms of professional] economics is basically a pseudoscience. It is so strongly dependent on mathematics, it is isolated and claims to be capable of working in certainties and sure fire predictions. I can’t speak from first hand experience; however I can see, in my casual and civilian perspective, how this is largely a fallacy. I have seen my fair share of “Great Recession” themed documentaries, and have spent plenty of time reading article after article recounting and analyzing the events that occurred. Each chronicle has a similar theme… “well, now we know how it happened, but no one saw it coming.” There were so few predictions that we were nearing a cliff, and yet the purpose of economics is to understand the nature of the economy, perhaps predict such events as they develop? Anyways, that’s all very vague and maybe I’m being more mystifying rather than illustrative, so let me provide an example:

The weekend before last, from September 12-14th, I was in New York City for the Rethinking Economics conference. Essentially, Rethinking Economics is a community of student groups from universities all over the world that are calling for a reevaluation of the economics curriculum, or said in their nice words: “We are an international network of rethinkers coming together to demystify, diversify, and invigorate economics.” I can’t remember how I discovered the group, a post of theirs was undoubtedly shared on one of the facebook pages I follow and it managed to draw my attention. So I have been following their activity on social media for the past few months, and just for kicks, I decided to participate in their conference (hosted at NYU, Columbia University, and The New School). I do not have the same background as many of the participants do, but it was still enlightening and great insight into the field which I intend to immerse myself in.

The session that really exemplified the grand issue that is found with economics today, was the workshop, Sunday morning, titled: “On the Nature of Exchange”. There were two speakers. The first, Kamilla, gave us the classical definition of exchange, as developed over the years by various prominent minds. Basically, it went something like this: Exchange is the action of giving something (goods, services) in order to obtain another thing (money, other goods or services), as carried out by 2 rational parties. Following Kamilla, was Charlie, who then presented the faults in this definition. The first simple note was that we humans are not consistently rational beings. Sorry for the shock, but it is very true. Rationality would suggest that we should all work to obtain a fair amount success and financial stability, and yet we are faced with statistics that iterate points like: the top 20% of the population in the U.S. posses more than 80% of the wealth and the top 1% take home 24% of the income… for what purpose? Certainly not for the greater good, rationality would insist that the income of the average CEO should not so vastly exceed the income of the average worker (300x more, or so), to the point that the average worker is unable to support their basic needs with their single income. And yet, say hello to one of the most important social issues we face in the United States. Then there was the argument against actual exchange, which Charlie used a few anthropological examples to invalidate (I cannot recount exactly, and therefore will not attempt to explain). These examples demonstrated exchange as a means for emotional reward (giving another person your time and attention for friendship), as participation in cultural customs (giving gifts at significant life events), and for the sake of personal gratification (to posses things that we believe have value, yet could mean exactly nothing to others). Certainly, there is a defined distance between analyzing market behavior and the nature of these interpersonal exchanges; however our world would undoubtedly be a more wholesome place if we took a more humanistic approach and consideration to the sterile topics of economics. This is another petition of the Rethinking Economics organization, to relate economics to the other social sciences, rather than making it stand starkly alone. It is foolish, or wishful thinking, to discuss the behavior of markets without acknowledging the behavior of people – markets and economies are “a form of social organization”. They do not occur on their own as some sort of phenomena. An economy is created by and for society, an organization of human beings. The relationships between human, society, and economy cannot be ignored, they are intrinsic to the operation. To better incorporate the behavior of people into the way economics is regarded would create a stronger discipline, something based in reality.

So it was good to get the memo, and once I join the ranks of students pursuing graduate level economic degrees, I will immediately join this coalition called Rethinking Economics. I’m looking forward to tackling this strange, and isolated, and definitive yet flexible subject. Obviously, I have more societal-oriented intentions with the qualifications I will attain, but they will be “economics” nonetheless!

Why we should care about the World Cup

from fifa.com

from fifa.com

We’re in full swing now. Kick off was on Thursday, we’ve already had a major upset, and everyone is gradually tuning in.

But why should we care about the World Cup?

It’s quite simple really; a very large proportion of the world watches this single event, and participates in one manner or another, therefore it is the closest thing we have to the concept of world peace. Hefty claim, I know, saying that a sports competition is the most constructive diplomatic tool we have in this 21st century, but it is. Let me take you on a journey through the logic:

First of all, you could damn near say that the whole entire world watches the World Cup. Not literally, because of the variances in living standards, but when it comes to the digitally connected population of Earth, it’s closer to everyone. Soccer, or football – as the rest of the world calls it, is definitively the most popular sport on Earth (most watched, most played, most fans), and the World Cup is the most watched event with an estimate of 700 million people who viewed the final in 2010. My point here, is that events like these unite populations, the citizens. The people who quietly live their every day lives, and whose attitudes affect the way nations interact with each other. Here’s the thing, there are a lot more citizens then there are authorities (politicians, representatives, monarchs, authoritarians, etc.). So if a month long event is capable of educating its audience about other nations or at least providing exposure to the other participating countries, and changing people’s attitudes toward them, even just a little bit, that makes it all worth it. Truth be told, I am rooting for maybe 4 teams in this single competition (and if Poland had qualified, the number would be 5).

If nations can play fairly together, just like little kids on the playground, they can work together more constructively. It’s incredible sometimes, to see how the players interact with each other. Sure, they want to demolish their opposition on the pitch, but all that animosity is left on the field, because these players are, more often than not, friends. They play on the same teams throughout Europe and there is visible affection when they line up before entering the stadium, throughout the match, and when it’s over. It’s adorable and slightly astounding to watch, but I am quite sensitive that way. My father would say something when I first started watching, to really exemplify why soccer has such profound relevance, he would say that in Europe, football replaced war.

Also, it’s a “beautiful game.” Though it’s not for everyone, I realize. But please, take a look (poor sound quality, just mute it):

What some of these guys are capable of is astounding. If an hour and a half is too long to watch a few guys run around a grass field, only scoring once or twice, just not providing enough excitement, I get it. It takes the accustomed eye to notice the intricacies and breathtaking possibilities, and once you’re able to recognize them, it’s an incredible pleasure to watch.

Spain, by the way (dudes with the white kits in the first video), is one of the teams I am rooting for. That country is home to the marvel that is FC (football club) Barcelona (dudes in the second video). These are the guys who first got me invested in soccer and they’re the only team I really watch, though I follow their season “religiously”. Acknowledging the fact that the Spanish national team is composed of nearly a third of FC Barcelona players (7 out of 23), my aspirations for this team are very understandable. Hopefully they can get their sh*t together and get their game back on the number 1 ranking level, because that 1-5 clobbering they got from the Netherlands yesterday was just painful to watch. It was top notch football on the Dutch team’s part, but a really sad sight for a Spain fan. Then of course, I’ll be keeping a close eye on how my boys from the U.S. will be doing, because if we can advance far in this competition, soccer has the potential to gain a stronger fan base in the U.S. (and we’ll get on the same page as the rest of the world)! Then there’s Brazil, they have been the most successful country in the World Cup’s history, and seeing as how they are hosting this year, you just naturally want to see them win the trophy. Finally, there’s Argentina. Lionel Messi is incredible, and he’s built his fame in FC Barcelona. He’s one of the best ever, and if he can win the cup with his team for Argentina he will get even closer to the legacy of THE best ever.

Now I’m not saying that we must all become diehard soccer fans, goodness knows I am hardly so. I don’t really watch any other soccer matches besides what Barcelona is up to, and I very likely will be missing most of the matches for this World Cup. What I am trying to communicate is this: Let us recognize what is going on in Brazil right now, this event that knocks on our doors every 4 years, it’s revolutionary in humanity’s history and it deserves respect and admiration.

p.s. There is a lot more to international football than what is alluded to here. For the purpose of casual consumption, I have laid out all that you need to know. Just keep in mind, that it is an industry. One where the players are rewarded extremely well for their performance and one that is just chock full of corrupt governing officials. For example, I am glossing over a lot of the twisted mess that FIFA brings about as a result of the World Cup events, so let it be known that we could make soccer even more constructive:

Personal account from a Millennial

There are a few social issues that have been circulating around for the past few years, that are gaining a lot of traction recently.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski
The Unbelievers (2013)
Religulous (2008)

I find all this very strange, because these hardly seem like “issues” to me, as in “an important topic or problem for debate or discussion”. While there are riveting conversations on panel discussions, bestsellers based on these topics, “exposés” on the news and in incredibly well made documentaries, and in common conversation with my elders… They just seem to already be figured out in my brain and in the brains of the bulk of my friends.

You see, I am a Millennial. That is what they’re calling us, and we’re either overstimulated and lazy, or passionate and ambitious… it depends on who you ask and which article you read. More so than Millennial, however, we are the information generation.

We’ve grown up with cellphones in our pockets and can navigate a smartphone like no other. We demand instantaneous answers when we have any question. Google maps has meant that no location is out of reach. It’s very likely that the bulk of us own at least 3 technological products (laptop, cell phone, tablet… television, music player, desktop, gaming device…), capable of connecting us within our own nation and to the rest of the world like no one has ever experienced before.

Because of all this, I attest that we are aware, unlike anyone has ever been before, such is the nature of evolution and development. We are so exposed to different values, beliefs, and the many ways lives are lived in various societies, that the bulk of us have developed profound understandings of the world around us. Which brings me back to the social issues of late.

*First thing’s first, I have to attach an enormous asterisk to this whole article. I was born, raised, and continue to reside in Massachusetts (one of the most progressive states in the U.S.), and grew up in an incredibly liberal household.

the gays:

Same-sex marriage was legalized in my state in 2004, when I was merely 12 years old – too young to have any concept of love to begin with – so I grew up without any reservations to homosexuals. In truth, I have frequented Provincetown, the Summer season’s gay capita of the States, whenever I visit the Cape since 2001, and it is one of my favorite places in the world. Keep in mind that I have been to Paris, and Edinburgh, and London, and Santorini… To believe that one person’s love for another is any less valid than your own, and that by some wacko justification, is sin, is preposterous by my logic. Any aversion to a gay man or a lesbian is preposterous.

religion:

Here is an instance where how I was raised may feature more of an influence than accessibility to information. Anyways, in my life, religion doesn’t exist. It is completely absent from my concern, and instead exists solely in the form of protestors in front of planned parenthood clinics or science related gatherings depicted on tv, news stories of fundamentalists murdering people in the name of their lord… and then simply by knowing a few people who would describe themselves as religious.

The closest I have ever been to joining a religion was when I almost started Sunday school. You see, I wanted to have communion like my friends… I decided to not even bother with one class. That, and I sat through mass at the Polish church in Dorchestor when I was staying with my aunt during school vacation. So while the Pope is praised for his progressive views, I find it simply frustrating that he is being revered for apparently novel ideals that should have been changed long ago, and it is in fact because of his institution that they are taking so long to evolve.

guns:

I do not live in an area where people keep guns, so I have no need to own one myself. Also there are a few supermarkets in my vicinity, so I do not need to hunt for my own food… I am also a vegetarian, therefore choose not to inflict any unnecessary harm or untimely death on any creature besides myself… The closest I get to hunting is planting a few vegetables in my own garden every summer. And also, I realize that a gun is a weapon capable of injuring and killing and therefore do not want to see such a thing in the same room as I.

best clip from The Daily Show yet.

women:

This bewilders me the most, because of the frightening range of the spectrum of women’s rights around the world. A woman cannot drive a car in Saudi Arabia. Forget about women not being in as many management positions or the fact that there are so few women in congress and the senate… there are parts of the world where a woman cannot show any part of her body besides her eyes and instead must live her life covered by a sheet. What the hell? Here’s the thing, I am a very tall woman – so it is rare that others try to force my submission. I know how to cook and entertain but was never taught that those skills should be my life’s purpose. Instead, I have been granted the freedom to pursue my right to education, to marry whenever the hell I want – if ever, and it is completely absent from my mind that I should accept any position less than the one I want because I happen to be a lady.

climate change, pollution, and resource depletion:

Sigh.

This is my world that is being f*cked up. And my children’s world. So maybe the President of BP, and the current generation of commercial fisherman don’t have to worry about what kind of state Earth will be in, 30 years from now. But I do, in fact, my generation is going to have to be so incredibly innovative to not only develop the technology that will be less impactful on the earth in every extent of business and basic human operations, but we are also going to have work on repairing the damage that has already been done (if it’s even possible) that will soon enough displace whole communities and put everyone under pressure to modify their quality of life.

This is all I have to say for now. I am certain that I represent, perhaps not completely, but the bulk of the members of my “millennial” (information) generation.  I have had enough of sitting at the kid’s table, can we take over yet??

Agricultural Industry Equation, and I Suggest We Reinvigorate the Victory Garden Campaign

My studies at JWU, while composed of many wine tastings, plenty of time in front of a stove, and too many “pretend you own a restaurant” projects, were independently supplemented by research inspired by my own intense and possessing curiosity.  I found myself sincerely disappointed that we rarely took a glance at the agricultural industry. Our scope, as food industry professionals,  began at the inventory list of a supplier and ended with what we place on the plate of the customer. True, there are plenty of intricacies in between and there is so much to learn in that cross section of the process, but it’s still a limited view.

Anyways, learning about the agricultural industry (subsidies, industrial farming, companies who run the show, distribution systems, etc.) became a hobby of mine. A hobby that is still going strong, and yet I feel as though I have just brushed the surface in regards to the information available on agriculture in U.S. Of what I have learned thus far, I feel compelled to share. I’m going to break it down into an oversimplified equation (forget about actual numbers, I haven’t taken a Math course since high school). Also, keep in mind that I am only addressing plant agriculture, to begin a discussion on animal agriculture would be destructive to my sanity and the stability of this blog – basically, factory farming is so f’ed up that I do not have the conviction to tackle the subject in an inconsequential way, a lot of time and research would be needed for that post.

Back on track, the agricultural equation:

+ Land, buildings, and machinery (a depreciation expense)
+ Rental costs for machinery not owned (the type of equipment that is to expensive to purchase out of pocket, and better off not attained through a bank loan)
+ Fertilizer (nitrogen) + costly pesticides and herbicides
+ new seed [may be harvested from previous season (not likely), bought from a catalog, or dispensed by a biotech company (insert Monsanto, DuPont, Symantec)]
+ general operational expenses (taxes, salaries…)
= cost of production

Now try to make a profit accounting for all of those expenses after selling your crop for cheap cheap cheap. That is, after all, what the consumer and food industry has learned to expect. But if you’re lucky, you produce one of the “golden” crops (corn, soy, canola) that certain companies and industries determine are most useful to them, enough so to provide a bit of incentive, maybe you will get a bit of that subsidized funding from the government. The issue here lies with the fact that a diet reliant on corn, soy, or canola is nonsense.

Personally, I need a mix of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables as the basis for my diet.  So who’s interests are really being served by this system? Producers of processed foods of course, because their products are fried in canola oil, sweetened with corn syrup, and bulked up with soy. I don’t want to get too political though, this is an appeal for recognition of the importance of the people who grow fresh fruits and veggies for our hearty consumption not an attack on the leeches that are processed food companies.

A farmer is a person who has dedicated their professional life, their personal life, their whole bodies to providing FOOD for us. Food, you know, the kind of thing that we consume, one of the basic requirements for life, without which we would not be able to survive… Why farmers and public school teachers aren’t some of the highest paid members of society defies logic, and allows a systemic disregard for intrinsic versus determined worth.

How to move forward from this? Be the change we wish to see in the world, so to speak:

For a start we can all begin (or continue) shopping at our local farmer’s market. Cut out any middle men, put the money directly in the producer’s pocket, get to know the guy or gal who grew your potatoes and green beans, learn the incredible value of farm fresh produce. Find your farmer’s market at Local Harvest.

Be more conscious of where we eat out. We probably all remember “locavore”, it’s a ridiculous name for the movement that has been gaining way over the past few years in the food industry. I never hear the term used these days but so many fine dining restaurants, bistros, cafes, etc. have learned the value of incorporating local foods in their menus. It’s more common than you think and there are probably a few spots around that are making killer meals, because naturally they’re more invested in creating an awesome dish with superb ingredients. Give the Eat Well Guide a try, to find businesses near you.

Forget about processed foods! The stuff will eventually clog your arteries and arrange a heart for your future, or give you cancer and kill you… All the while making you fat while it gradually poisons you. The base of these products (corn syrup, canola oil, soy, etc.), ultimately demand more effort be placed on growing the kinds of foods that serve as minute ingredients rather than the crops that serve as contributors to a healthy diet.

GROW A GARDEN! Elevate farm culture into something of daily recognition, of experiential appreciation, learn the pleasures of self sustainment and banish any affections for store-bought meals. #DirtyHandsAreCaringHands

a small selection of last year’s bounty

This is all circumstantial, not everyone lives in a rockin’ city like Boston where the chefs are mad about local produce and products, not everyone has yard space for a garden plot, plenty of the U.S.’ population lives in “food desserts” where access to fresh food is practically mythical, and too many of us cannot afford to shop at a place like Whole Foods Market, where any sort vegetable is at arms reach. But everyone is capable of changing their attitudes, altering their consciousness a little to be more appreciative and more demanding.