Archive | ranting

chicken parts, lady parts, and jonathan safran foer

I had an existential crisis in the meat section of Trader Joe’s.  I was staring at all chicken: chicken pieces packaged separately, chicken pieces in a big bundle, whole chickens, chicken boobs, “natural” chicken, “free-range” chicken, cheap chicken, less-cheap chicken.

On the one hand, I guess you could say, wow! what bounty! Look at all that protein so readily available to me, sparing me from having to get out to the back pasture with an ax and be all with the plucking and whatnot.

On the other hand, wow! look at all that cheap protein, farmed god knows where, killed god knows where by who knows what methods in who knows what layers of shit.

What should I buy? Or should I not buy it at all?

I’ve just finished reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer (not to be confused with Jonathans Lethem or Franzen; this Jonathan is the Everything is Illuminated guy).  The book is brilliant; it should be required reading for every human on the planet and excerpts should be plastered on billboards, buildings, and in the subway, forcing us to confront our eating habits.

We all sort of know about factory farms (those huge muddy shit pits that call themselves hog farms, chickens in cages not much bigger than this laptop screen) but many of us–okay, maybe only me–seem to close our eyes when it comes time to doing the grocery shopping.

Because really, who wants to know–really know–the conditions under which most of our proteins (beef, chicken, pork, fish) are produced?

Foer’s  book takes a lot of information that’s already been circulating out there, from Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, and others, and distills it into a central question: how can we allow ourselves to eat meat (and poultry and, yes, fish) that has almost certainly been produced under inhumane conditions (at best) and torturous, environmentally disastrous conditions (at worst)?

In the paperback version, Eating Animals has sixty pages of footnotes documenting its sources, but the book reads like a novel; there isn’t a dull moment.  Instead it’s a jaw-dropping account of the infuriating (dangerous, violent, corrupting, polluting) methods used in this country to produce animal protein at relatively low costs, at least in the short term. Long-term costs, of course, include environmental destruction, toxic waste, and tainted food supplies, but heck. What’s that to keeping the price of chicken at under two bucks a pound?

What about my free-range chicken, I hear you say (as I thought to myself, rather smugly, as I read).  Bwhahahaha!  Foer says that “the free-range label is bullshit. It should provide no more peace of mind than “all-natural,” “fresh,” or ‘magical.'”  Free-range, you see, is not defined by the USDA. Free-range simply means access to the outdoors–which can mean that a shed housing 30,000 chickens has one little door open to a five-by-five patch of dirt.  And the door is usually closed. Further, free-range has nothing to do with how those chickens are handled, in either life or death.

We eat lots of seafood, though, a friend of mine said when I told her what I was reading. So that’s better, right? (She sounded anxious).  Well, sorry kids, there’s no Santa Claus there, either.  Let’s choose just one factor in “farmed fish,” shall we? How about…sea lice, which thrive in the filthy water of farmed fish.  Sea lice create open sores and can sometimes eat right down to the bones.  Yummy!  And “wild-caught” fish? Let’s say your fish is caught on so-called “long lines,” which can reach out a distance of seventy-five miles.  The targeted fish are caught, sure, but so are about 4.5 million sea animals, called “bycatch”: sea creatures caught up by the long lines but not used: 3.3 million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,00 sea turtles, 75, 000 albatross, 20,000 dolphins and whales.

So much for fish. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on May 5, 2011 in environment, food, Politics, ranting

Blue Jean Blues

All I wanted was a new pair of blue jeans. I waited like a good little shopper until the post-holiday sales began and then went to the Levi’s store on 14th street, where a few years ago I scored the perfect pair of jeans. If I were a teenager, those jeans would’ve been my traveling pants, baby, oh yeah. I was smart enough at the time to buy two pairs, but I should’ve bought about ten.

I wore my perfect jeans into the store and asked where I’d find 505 jeans.

The clerk said I could have Levi’s new curve-id jeans in slight curve, demi-curve, or bold curve; I could get whiskered finish, dark finish, broken-in finish; I could get boot cut, straight leg, or skinny leg; I could get skinny boot cut; I could get boyfriend jeans in dark denim, distressed denim, gray denim; I could get boyfriend skinny boot cut; boyfriend baggy; boyfriend straight leg. I could get 501s in boot cut, straight leg, skinny leg; I could 501s in dark gray, black, deep blue; fade.

But I couldn’t get 505s.

Oh, I tried. I really wanted to buy something, so I explored every possibility.  I tried 501s and wrestled with the button fly; I tried the curve-id jeans and found that: slight curve did not go over even one thigh, much less two; demi-curve went over my thighs but were such a low rise that the simple act of walking made me look ready to work the stripper pole; the bold curve, which the clerk told me was designed for “big butt tiny waist,” didn’t work at all: I am effectively a woman without a waist. If you were to draw my torso, it would be a rectangle with boobs. Not at all “bold” (and what genius came up with that designation, I wonder?)

I tried men’s jeans. Men still get 505s, apparently, but they’re made without lycra. One reason my perfect jeans are perfect have to do with their gentlest whisper of stretch, so essential to those mornings when the jeans are fresh from the wash and you need just a little give to fasten the top button. (I mean, hypothetically speaking, of course. I never, ever need to do the suck-in-and-PULL to get my jeans on.) While sweating and tugging on the non-lyrca-ed men’s jeans in the dressing room, I realized that I’ve become a lyrca addict. Isn’t that the way addiction always starts? You buy something innocently enough–this seems nice, makes me happy, I’ll take it–and then you wake up to realize you can’t live without it.

Why, oh why, Mr. Levi Strauss did you have to mess with my perfect jeans? Now where am I going to go? Don’t even whisper the word “Gap” to me, people, because trying to find jeans there sends me into a choice-paralysis that I don’t recover from for days.

I stomped home, empty handed, wondering if it’s finally happened: have I gotten too old to shop anywhere but “lady’s stores?”  Is it impossible to buy a pair of jeans that just look like jeans, without spending hundreds of dollars? Am I doomed to stone-washed LL Bean disasters just because I don’t want to wear jeans that sit south of my pelvic girdle?

Maybe 2011 will be the year where I wear yoga pants. Everywhere, for every occasion.

Continue Reading · on January 1, 2011 in ranting, shopping

Through the Looking Glass

It’s November. Does anyone like November? It’s Liam’s birthday month, but nevertheless, November is hard: it’s getting dark earlier, it’s getting cold, winter is clearly right around the corner.  And this November–perhaps because of the election’s dispiriting results–this November seems harder than usual.

I swear, sometimes these days it’s like we’re living on the other side of the looking glass. The mayor appoints a maagazine saleswoman to run the entire New York school system.  Obama’s administration can’t quite clarify its position on the Bush tax cuts. Michelle Bachmann thinks that passing “the mother of all repeal bills” will make the US the leader of the free world. For that matter, Michelle Bachmann was elected. Rand Paul ditto.

Another looking glass moment? Ethan Hawke was named one of the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions.

And Sarah Palin has a reality show.  Although I guess that makes sense.

Here’s the real kicker: tonight I saw something that made me almost like Cindy McCain. She’s part of the NOH8 Campaign against LBGT bulling–and she’s speaking out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Cindy McCain speaking out in support of gay and lesbian troops–and thus against her husband?

Welcome to the world on the other side of the mirror.

Continue Reading · on November 11, 2010 in Gender, Politics, ranting

Are we in this together, or what?

So yesterday, you might have heard, thousands of kids in New Jersey schools staged a walk-out, as a protest against impending budget cuts. Now, okay, you know that among those thousands were probably two or three kids who just wanted to smoke dope in the park, but still, that’s a lot of kids getting together to make a statement.

The budget cuts proposed by Governor Christie call for millions of dollars to be trimmed from school budgets–all those “extras,” you know, like art and music and sports and librarians–not to mention after-school programs (aka the salvation of the working parent) and, of course, teacher jobs.

Apparently 58% of New Jerseyians decided that a tax increase for education was too much to ask in these belt-tightening times, so they voted down school budgets, in part because of anger at the teachers’ union, which refused a salary freeze. A salary freeze…maybe for the teacher in Bergen County with two years experience and a B.A. who makes a whopping $44,000 a year, before taxes. Yeah. I can see how she’s really sucking the life from the district budget–or perhaps it’s the person who makes barely $90,000 a year before taxes–with forty years of experience. Forty years teaching 8th grade math. What would they have to pay you to get you to spend ten months a year, five days a week, eight hours a day, with literally hundreds of 12 year olds? Have you met a twelve-year old lately? Monsters. Hormone-crazed monsters, even the “good” ones.

So here’s my question: does the New Jersey vote mean that the next time there’s a tax referendum on the ballot about, say, highway and road improvements, I can vote against it because I don’t have a car? For that matter, my apartment hasn’t ever burned down, so why should I pay taxes that are going to go to fire departments? And I’ve never been mugged or had to go to an emergency room, either, so I don’t want to pay taxes for those things…and I’m pretty much a pacifist, so I’d rather not pay taxes that go to the military.

Social contract, people, social contract. A well-educated population is as important as fire engines that work and armies with adequate body armor.

I’m just saying.

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Continue Reading · on April 28, 2010 in Education, ranting

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