Thursday, July 28, 2011

When society favors the geek

Some say that all narratives ultimately tell only two stories. One: Someone goes on a journey. Two: A stranger comes to town. The summer before my eighth-grade year, when I was 12, I experienced the intersection of both. In other words, I learned how to escape.

This was 1979. My mother had been home from the hospital for a few months, and my sister, brother and I were just coming to understand her. Our "new" Mom.

The new version of my mother was a changeling. At 38 years old, she had suffered, and barely survived, a ruptured brain aneurysm. The head injury caused her to be mostly paralyzed on her left side. Her brain became scrambled. She limped around the house, couldn't tell time and didn't know the day of the week. Often, she'd make inappropriate remarks, swearing at the slightest provocation or making some lewd joke in front of friends. At times, she scared me.

"Ethan!" she'd yell from her lair. "Help me get up!" She might be half-dressed in her bed, or on the toilet, or on the floor, or in the bathtub.

Years before my mother's "accident," as we called it, my dad had moved several hours away. We saw him regularly, but he and my stepmom were largely out of the picture. A family friend had moved in to help take care of my Mom, my siblings and me. The theory was, Sara Gilsdorf might make a miraculous recovery, and the friend would move out. We eventually discovered this would never come to pass.

It didn't take long to figure out I couldn't tame my mother, not this beast. I knew I couldn't save her, either. I fought with her for a while, usually battling over her inability -- what I mistakenly read as her refusal -- to regain her old life, be it making a cup of coffee or making a family decision. After a while, I gave up. And kept my distance. I was stuck with a mother I was afraid to love.

We began calling her the Momster.


[. . .]

Then, later that same summer of 1979 when my mom came home from the hospital, a stranger came to town -- a new kid moved into the neighborhood. And a new path appeared to me.

[. . .]

I hung out a lot at JP's house that summer. After a few weeks of watching "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," listening to Electric Light Orchestra's "Discovery," and programming primitive video games in BASIC on his TRS-80 Radio Shack computer, JP told me about Dungeons & Dragons.


[. . .]

That summer, I kept making Super 8 movies, but D&D soon took over. It quickly became more than a game: It became a vital experience that let a geeky, introverted, non-athletic kid -- a kid who felt about as powerful as a 3-foot hobbit on the basketball team -- take action, be the hero, go on quests, and kill monsters. Not that all guys (and they were mostly guys in those days) who played D&D were geeky, introverted, non-athletic kids, but enough were, and at least this one felt invisible. With everything going on at home, perhaps I was the perfect candidate for escape. But I was also drawn to the idea of this game. I had always sensed that something was missing from the real world. My no-budget movies were one Band-Aid. But shooting my "Star Wars" remakes and clay monster battles took weeks and resulted in three-minute movies. Entering the D&D fantasy was effortless, instantaneous and endless. Epic.

I now see it was no accident that the year I found D&D, or it found me, coincided with my mother's return from the hospital. It took courage for a teenage boy to deal with the Momster -- more courage than I could muster at the time. I couldn't face down the creature that plagued my own house. But playing D&D let me act out imaginary, possibly symbolic battles instead, and distracted me from the prospect of facing the real ones waged within my family's four walls. In the D&D playscape, I learned to be confident and decisive, and feel powerful. Even cocky. Some of the guts and nerve and derring-do I role-played began to leak into my real world. By the time I graduated high school, I had transformed. I had used fantasy to escape but also to gather strength for later, when I could face and embrace my mother again. Which, as an adult years later, I finally did.

But in the summer of '79, I was but a newbie. I needed to gain experience. I had only tasted the power Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't know that game was about to save my life.

Back to those two archetypal narrative plots: someone goes on a journey; a stranger comes to town. That summer, two strangers came to town: JP, and my mother. Three, if you count me. I would become a stranger, myself, again and again. I would play many new roles. I would go on incredible journeys to imaginary lands. And I would defeat many monsters.

When I got home that night after my virgin D&D session, after slipping past my mother, I headed straight for Webster's. "Cleric |ˈklerik|, noun. A member of the clergy; a priest or religious leader in any religion." The next day, back at JP's for another adventure, I would learn that in the D&D game world, clerics weren't just priests. They were characters who had dedicated themselves to a god or perhaps several gods. They could cast spells such as "cure light wounds" and "protection from evil." They could dispel the undead.

Surely those powers would come in handy, at home, or in my head, or in whatever life I would choose to live that summer, or in some realm far away in the future. (Ethan Gilsdorf, “My Summer of Dungeons and Dragons,” 18 July 2011)

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Zero plus zero equals the infinite, apparently

How does hanging out with other geeks end up making you less somehow of a geek (giving you true courage, of the kind that applies to the "real"world, etc.)? How does zero plus zero generate anything?

I'm wondering if the truer story is that somewhere along the line society decided geeks were preferable to healthy self-esteemers, for their preparedness to take shit, bow to bullying power, and in service to it, humiliate others with more true backbone: that is, for having no real self-respect. In preverse times, their disadvantage, their malformation, actually rendered them more fit, and they ended up with subsequent life stories that allowed them to believe their adolescent escapes had been subsequently revealed as healthy, even leaderly, pasttimes. Rather than socially retarded, time has apparently shown them they have as much a claim to being vanguard!

And, oh, the part about his mom becoming “the momster,” principally owing to her illness, is foremost a lie: he'd have been hiding away from a tyrannical mom, battling her bulking likeness in the form of dragons, demons, and whatnot, regardless. That despite everything he has accomplished and come to realize, he still cows to her and has therefore in some profound sense barely moved an inch, is evident in his emphasizing the illness so you don't think momster was due to make her years-long appearance in any case. "It wasn't YOU, mom; it was just the illness: I'm still your good, loyal, appreciative boy – brave knight to your cause, tending cleric to your maladies."

The cruelest fate for fabulous endeavors which would make YOU part of the tale, is that its history is largely about compensating for a bullysome world, or rendering it more appropriate for trauma-satured minds, rather than about boldly encroaching upon an insufficiently magicked one – even when it shines golden, as it did during the ’70s when D & D was born.

Link: My summer of Dungeons and Dragons (Salon)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Young predators, and the greens & beans crowd

It was always something: glossy garnet plums, candy red romas trucked from Mexico in the dead of winter. I wanted to eat a local, seasonal diet, I really did. I liked the idea of buying all my produce at the farmers' market, or joining a CSA, or growing most of our food. But somehow I never got around to joining the CSA, and the weekend crowds at our local farmers' market kept me at bay. We did garden, but Seattle's seasons were not conducive to a high yield: Some years our tomatoes never ripened beyond dark green. In the end, I bought most of our produce at the local grocery store, where I tried to do my best.

Our local supermarket was an overpriced yuppie mart with a good selection of local, organic, seasonal produce. I had the opportunity to use my buying dollars to support small local farms, but it was rough to shell out $4 for a bunch of kale. I'd read Michael Pollan's argument: "We [Americans] spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than any other industrialized society; surely if we decided that the quality of our food mattered, we could afford to spend a few more dollars on it in a week." As much as I admire Pollan, there is something cavalier in his dismissal of the problem of price. Does Pollan really remember what it was like to struggle financially?

[. . .]

My husband and I were both laid off in October of 2008, and while we've worked on and off since then, we've keenly felt the economic crunch. For the past three years, our lives have been an exercise in reduction. First we stopped eating out, then we stopped buying specialty items, then we found ourselves unable to afford items that had once seemed basic: peanut butter, bacon, grapes in February. We moved to the country in order to cut our expenses, but our move coincided with the end of my husband's unemployment benefits, and our budget dwindled more quickly than our expenses.

[. . .]

Unfortunately, I'm a little late. Many of the mushrooms are fuzzy with white mold or crawling with black flies, and a few have been chomped by slugs. I'm knocking a slug off the log with a stick when I'm startled by a giant mottled salamander, which seems more annoyed that alarmed by my presence. It stares at me with obsidian eyes, unmoving. In all my years in these woods, I've never seen this species before. And the salamander isn't the only one laying claim to this territory: A few feet down on the same log, cougar scat sits like a warning. I think twice about continuing on, but I can't quite tear myself away from the bounty of mushrooms.

Despite my bad timing, I find clusters of fresh new mushrooms here and there. The pell-mell arrangement of logs requires me to duck and stretch in order to get at the most promising patches. I am crawling across a particularly precarious log when I hear a heavy thump in the woods above me. I freeze. A cat wouldn't make any noise if it was stalking you, I comfort myself. It's probably just an elk ... or a bear. My heart is hammering. I hop down, dip under the salamander log, and scramble down the hill to my bike. I set my bag of mushrooms in the basket and hightail it for home. (Felissa Rogers, “When eating local is the cheapest option,” Salon, 16 July 2011)

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In the last couple years I have put a commercial kitchen in a barn. My business has a 3 acre orgranic farm where the kitchen get its ingredients to make locally grown, locally processed products like roasted tomato sauce; marinated mushrooms; pestos; jams; dehydrated herbs (and kale and apples); pickles galore... the list could go on an on. It is delicious and fun -- but as you might also guess, expensive! It just kills me to read (constantly) that foods priced right (even underpriced!) are considered "elitist" or whatever. Does it ever occur to anyone how expensive it is to grow and process locally? We pay local (fair!) wages. We pay payroll taxes out the wazoo. Workers Comp. About 4 other kinds of insurance. Plus, I think our kitchen is the only building in town up to code. Then property taxes and on and on.

I'd like to ask these people who think our products are elitist, "How much do you think quality, traceable food is worth?" If the answer is, say, more than your latest tech gadget, then what's the problem? No, you can't have it all and you have to make choices. Back in the 1900s when people paid the true cost of their food there weren't fancy ipads to tempt them toward frivolous spending while still needing to eat. If you're so outraged by price then you should be doing something about farm subsidies -- which go 99.99% to commodity producers of corn, wheat, cotton, soy. NOT fruit and veggie farmers!! If that box of twinkies was actually priced to reflect the true cost to make it, then a $4 bunch a kale would seem a lot more reasonable.

Producing food (organically, esp) takes a lot of work, a lot of energy (human or otherwise) and a lot of money. So if you care about the food your family eats then stop complaining about the price, and start feeling lucky there are farms out there willing to undertake the substantial financial risk to make it available.

I will be lucky if my business ever breaks EVEN let alone makes any money for me. I fully expect never to recoup the kitchen construction costs. (And yes, this irrelevantly means that I have off-farm income somewhere. So I do this work at great cost to my family.)

Good food costs a lot to produce -- it's just that our country has been conditioned to think otherwise. Get used to it. (nycmom)

- - - - -


I fear for your heart. You took a simple comment about a grocery store's prices and took it in all sorts of directions. I shop monthly at Puget Consumers Coop in Seattle which is likely the store she is referring to. I paid $2.59 there the other day for a can of black eyed peas. Ihe discount grocery outlet sells them for 79 cents. Sure 79 cents doesn't buy organic. But that is still a helluva price disparity.

I recently retired early on social security alone. Needless to say I'm not living fat on the hog. I'm a vegetarian anyway. But not eating out and watching prices closely on everything allows me to be done with a job that was killing my soul and not doing anything positive for my body. And my weight is going down and I am much more cheerful and aware.

nycmom-I recommend that you do some soul searching. To spill so much bile over her comment about grocery prices does not indicate a happy life being lived. (Ccommentator)

- - - - -


Thank you, but you do not need to worry about my heart or soul. They are just fine because I AM taking action about the issue most important to me.

Yes, my post was frustrated, and probably misdirected at this particular article. But it happens to be about the 1000th time I've read that good food is "elitist" or overpriced. I speak from a producer's perspective about the cost of production. It is not for the faint of heart, or faint of wallet for that matter.

I'm not sure where that $2.79 can of beans you bought came from, but I can tell you with some certainty that the $.79 can came from somewhere like China where the workers who produced it do not enjoy the same Social Security benefits that you are.

By the way, I'm a vegetarian too and have been since I was a child. I have a farm and a personal garden. I am on the board of a very active nonprofit that works specifically on food justice issues. Previously, I worked very hard for a grassroots nonprofit to organize sustainable ag groups to achieve sane federal farm policies. (THAT was and remains depressing). So please do not say that I am "spilling bile". I know whereof I speak.

I think the truth is that I offended your wallet. But you made your choices: you chose an ill-fitting career and then chose to quit and live on social security. Good for you, I try not to judge.

I am working hard every day to create a local food economy and GOOD JOBS(5!). I am very proud of that. A by the way, just for a fun tidbit of info, the employer contribution to Social Security is 2x the employee contribution. So I am doing my part. Are you???

Admittedly I may be over-passionate about my work. Here I am in my few free minutes (I have little kids too!) putting in my $.03 on a silly article and responding to you! I need balance, yes, but not soul-searching. And frankly, I think you could use some meaningful work. Oh, and if you're worried about the price of beans, why don't you just by some very inexpensive dried ones, and plan ahead.

Good Food for All,

NYCMOM / Entrepreneur / Local Food and Farming Activist / Very personally-satisfied-person-who-is-not-satisfied-with-our-country's-food-system (nycmom)

- - - - -

@Susan Wood: Felisa is making CHOICES and some of them are impractical

Or even self-destructive.

She and her husband lost their jobs in late 2008; they had two YEARS to reduce their yuppie standard of living and put something away for the "hard times" in case they didn't find new jobs (which they did not). They choose to move to a VERY remote rural area (her parent's vacation cabin) KNOWING that her husband's UI had just been cut off (after 99 weeks, ahem -- 4 times the former average).

What kind of person says they can't afford PEANUT BUTTER -- a big jar of the generic stuff is $2.50, less on sale -- but in other articles tells us she buys KEY LIMES (imported from Key West, no doubt) and COCONUT OIL (at something like $15 a jar -- and if it's the highest quality organic, $30 a jar).

Felisa is this kind of scary broke and near hunger NOT SIMPLY because of the economy but because of HER CHOICES. She did not have to move to a remote cabin where THERE ARE NO DECENT JOBS WHATSOEVER (even if things improved). She did not have to forgo applying for food stamps. She did not have to spend whatever windfalls she gets from relatives or the odd Salon gig on key limes and coconut oil.

And it doesn't have to be like this, but she STILL SAYS she won't apply for the food stamps SHE IS ENTITLED TO, because "she just doesn't feel right about doing that" -- she'd rather be hungry, or forage for food, than have a pantry of healthy, fresh, natural basic foods that would last her through a long hard spell.

I've read a LOT about "foraging" but nothing about why she chooses not to get the food stamps she is entitled to NOR anything about canning or preserving or "putting food by".

Susan, you stated that this is a political problem and would never happen in FRANCE, because France has a superior social safety net. I can't answer for that -- I don't know what kind of unemployment programs France has -- but I DO KNOW that we HAVE a safety net, and it's called FOOD STAMPS and Felisa won't use them. SO I assume even if she lived in France -- even if we adopt more comprehensive safety net programs (universal health coverage) SHE WON'T USE THOSE PROGRAMS.

She wants to live like this. That's what I have concluded. She likes foraging. She likes feeling sorry for herself. She must get some "mileage" (sympathy? Checks from the 'rents? stories published on from making herself poorerer and more desperate than is remotely necessary. (_bigguns)

Oh, and this:

I shop at local farmer's markets and await the first really local produce with great anticipation each year. In Northeastern Ohio, we have a lot of farms but a very short growing season (compared to places like California or Florida). We do get some amazingly great local produce -- organic and conventional alike -- from local farms (some Amish).

I have personally found that GREAT, fabulous "family farm" produce is CHEAPER than anything they drag up (unripe) from Chile or elsewhere. I am confused why it would be different where you guys are; I suspect you are being ripped off (maybe by "Whole Paycheck").

The only slight exception is our local strawberries -- fabulous -- but the growing season is a pathetic 3-4 weeks (less if the weather is bad). A pint of superb local strawberries was $4.49 this year (up from $3.99 last year) -- the tough mealy imported ones were $2.99. I gladly pay the extra for this rare and short-lived treat.

But in general, the local stuff is CHEAP. Not as insanely cheap as in the past, but affordable EVEN by people on food stamps, or the working poor.

The local squash, onions, peppers, tomatoes, corn -- it just goes on and on. The summer is a wonderful time here where we CAN eat locally, every day, for very little.

So I buy LOCAL KALE grown on local farms and it doesn't cost anything like nycmom's $4 a bunch (yikes! that is seriously a lot for kale). It used to be around 79 cents; now it's running $1.19. Again, this is family farm stuff, sometimes Amish grown -- within 50 miles of my home.

In addition, we have several superb local farmer's markets; two are within 3 miles of my house. The other is a giant ethnic food market (delightfully free of yuppie pretensions and high priced stuff) downtown. There are also a few "farmer stalls" here and there, like at the local garden center -- some sell "backyard" produce that is the rival of any boutique farmers (its where I first got to taste locally grown "San Marzano"-type tomatoes FRESH, not canned).

And on top of THAT, the local SNAP (food stamp) program HANDS OUT gift certificates of $5 to $15 of FREE PRODUCE for anyone with SNAP card (or on SSDI). At one stand, they have reclaimed several old empty lots around the market and turned them into "urban farms" growing raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers and corn.

The rain made our corn crop late, but we are currently enjoying awfully good California corn instead. (We'll get our local corn, just late. When it comes in, it is 10-20 CENTS an ear. Lordy, people, how much cheaper than THAT could it get????)

I admire people who farm and produce stuff, but frankly some of them (loony, self-important, entitled lefty organic ones) are impractical and just can't figure out how to make/grow a GOOD or GREAT product and do it at an affordable price -- and being angry and entitled doesn't translate into "we are bad people if we won't buy the $4 kale".

Maybe we are just middle class or working poor and trying to feed our families at a reasonable cost. That we can't afford your "baby boutique heirloom veggies" or "$40 truffle oil" does not translate into "we don't appreciate good, fresh, healthy local foods". And no, I won't even buy DOG FOOD that has been made in China; their standards are so abysmal I can't trust any foodstuffs from there. (I caution people to avoid Chinese garlic, when we have splendid, vastly superior American garlic, at all price ranges. CHECK THE LABELS.) (_bigguns)

- - - - -


Good for you! You're buying direct from the farm. Better prices for sure. Again with the judgment for zero reason. We do not make truffle oil. We do not grow heirloom baby vegetables. We do, however, make an amazing Roasted Tomato Sauce that we sell at farmer's markets for $10. Zucchini relish. Bread and Butter Pickles. Marinated Mushrooms. Holiday pies made with 100% local fruit (that we freeze for the winter). We farm and we buy from other local farms. You make a lot of arrogant assumptions.

We farm and process in New York. Not Ohio. Does that make me "angry and entitled"? Yes, I'm dyed in the wool lefty. But I have to admit that starting a business has given me a different perspective on the cost of doing business. How nice that you can quote the prices of the produce you buy. Bet you have no idea of the costs to produce.

Here in the northeast, we have a VERY short growing season. So preserving that produce for the off-season is important.

I NEVER said anyone is "bad" for not buying $4 kale. I never said we sell it for that price. What I said is that I understand the actual costs involved in growing, and getting produce/products to market. Retailers take their own cut, remember. We operate a low-income CSA. We take food stamps. We have a farm store. We sell to restaurants. We do farmers markets. We know a lot about growing (organically) at as low a cost as possible. It's still not that low to hire local labor, and pay them fairly and legally, no matter what you all prefer to think.

So you can make all the assumptions you like about something you know nothing about. I would love to hear from other growers and producers, but hey, I don't think there are too many of them on Salon. I am not angry, I love my work. I am often frustrated at the expense and red tape involved. Don't call me entitled. I work around the clock and invest money in the food system when I could be vacationing and wearing Prada.

I am not the one being judgmental. I am offering a perspective that is not offered often. I can promise you your local (fruit and vegetable) farmers in every state agree with me. It is unfortunate that food, and especially processed products are so expensive. God knows, I wish they weren't. But the reality is that they are. Should I offer a product below the cost of production? There are not many other businesses doing what we are doing, and those that are feel the same way: that consumers must learn to pay more for local, sustainably-produced food. That's all.

The fact that the economy is in shambles is not our fault. The unemployment rate and income disparity is not our fault. That fact alone ought to convince someone like me not to do what I'm doing, but I do it anyway because it makes me happy to offer a product that doesn't exist elsewhere. So yeah, I guess I'm loony.

I am truly sorry and sad if that offends. (nycmom)

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Rest assured that plenty of people appreciate what you've written here. Farming is hard work, and your commitment to organic farming says much good about you. I would buy your stuff in a heartbeat.

One more thing, since you seem to be new here. There are two Salon letter writers with similar names. The first is Bigguns, a longtime Salonista who I and others like and respect, and then there is _Bigguns (note the dash before the B), a troll. For the sake of the former, whom you might meet if you stick around here long enough, please don't confuse her with the latter. (Beans&Greens)

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Thank You!

Thank you Beans&Greens and XyzzyAvatar. Thank you so much. And many many apologies to the real Bigguns.

Yes, I am new to commenting and do not know the rules. I read Salon occasionally but it takes something really big or something about local food to really feeling active.

I am doing the best I can, as I'm sure we all are with what we're given. I do not intend to seem angry, but I feel attacked. And I feel attacked not for what work I am doing, but because a few people have made some very large assumptions. I suppose that impulse is the same one that has caused me to jump into the issue with full abandon.

I appreciate those of you who've expressed understanding. It means a lot. I was briefly tempted to give my company's website so everyone can see the good things we are doing -- not for more sales because we do not ship -- but I have too many people who are invested in the work (employees) to invite hatefulness on my account.

And I just have say. If there is one issue that liberals and conservatives ought to agree on, it's local food. It's good for economies, the environment, public health, employment. It preserves land, prevents sprawl, gives families good clean fun in the spring and fall (berry picking, pumpkins).

One person's "grocery prices" are another person's "revenue". It is not so simple and not so small a thing. Low price is not the only important thing in the world. I think we all know we vote most strongly with our dollars, no matter how many we have.

Again, I am passionate not angry (although my husband might say zealot). Whatever. I still feel pretty good about it all. (nycmom)

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@nycmom: I'm not the "enemy"

Oh - -and there is no "real bigguns". It's just a username. Anyone can use it (or a variation on it). Even you.

The big mouth "beanbreath" (Beans&Greens) used to be Durian Joe, but he doesn't acknowledge that. He gets to change his username, but in every thread, he has to be SURE to let people know "I am not the real bigguns" (though there is no real bigguns...never was, never will be).

I can prove that. HELLO??? hello? bigguns? BIGGUNNNNS? (See? she isn't here.)


I was commenting that you are angry about customers (or potential customers) who criticize your high prices. (I am sure your roasted tomato sauce is delicious, but that is FIVE TIMES the cost of an ordinary jar of bottled tomato sauce; what makes yours worth 500% more?)

You mentioned kale, which is why I commented on its price (I love kale!).

In the final analysis, you seem to be saying "good food has to cost a great deal more than low quality food, and if you want HOMEGROWN STUFF, it by necessity will be very costly". I dispute that.

As I stated, I buy a LOT of local farmer products. My region (Great Lakes) is not a lot different than yours -- long cold winters, short growing seasons. So the costs should not be too different.

The farmer products I buy are either WAY cheaper than the standard fare from Chile or Mexico OR they are just slightly higher for a dramatically better product. NOTHING LIKE FIVE TIMES AS MUCH. I mean like 50 cents extra for amazing local strawberries vs. awful mealy unripe ones from Chile. I happily pay this tiny difference.

But if the good local strawberries were (like your roasted tomato sauce) FIVE TIMES what the Chilean ones were -- like FIFTEEN DOLLARS A PINT -- I couldn't afford to eat them. (Beanbreath could. But not me. I don't earn $240,000 a year.)

I do not know all the details of how these family farms (some Amish) grow this amazing, gorgeous produce -- honestly, it's like something out of Dutch still life masterpiece! -- and sell it for peanuts, but they do. Every year. Its' one of the great, incredible blessing of living in an ABUNDANT, food-sufficient culture. The good part, we often do not talk about. (We'd rather snark on the failures.)

They also are not POOR doing this. Farmers in this area are pretty affluent. (Time Magazine did a recent piece on "Go into farming and get rich!") The Amish are very, very self-sufficient. They reside in large numbers just an hour south of me, and it is a great treat to drive past their beautiful, tidy farms and acres of corn, wheat and soybeans and other crops, or the barns of beautiful animals.

So maybe we could take a minute, and stop whinging and celebrate the great, wonderful abundance of American farming. It is truly a great thing. (_bigguns)

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I like you very much, sir. You are indeed an inspiration. But you are also such a tool for calling _bigguns a troll. She moves quick, has things to say, and can do magic ... and you make her seem as dullard as your diet, as unappealing as your hobbitan smugness. To some of us you're BOTH the best and the worst of the baby-boomers. To be nice, I'll just say you're both inspiringly full of life (truly, you are), and soon -- to be not so nice -- hopefully, full of the holes some of us will put in you, to help finally rid you out of our way.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston: I can never make much sense out of your letters

But this one is short and sweet. And thanks for saying that I am not a troll (which is true).

A troll is something specific, like that loser vasumurti, who cuts and pasts HUGE LONG multi-part screeds on veganism, in threads that are totally unrelated.

My posts are always on topic. I also have to deal with a LOT of Salon anger at anyone who dares to defy the "lefty liberal politically correct meme".

Also you get huge creds in my book, Patrick, for the term 'hobbitan smugness". Wish I'd thought of it myself! You NAILED that ridiculous, preening hypocrite!

Unfortunately, you also seem to be suggesting you are going to shoot both of us. That's troubling. You might wish to ring the nurse, and ask her to up your meds. (Let her read the last line of this post, too.) (_bigguns)

- - - - -

Has anyone else noticed a disturbing trend?

I follow Felisa Rogers' columns. I also follow the comments -- all of them.

Has anyone else observed that Patrick McEvoy-Halston (spelling is probably off) has been sounding like that state senator who pointed a gun at a reporter?

In the comments on one of Felisa's columns (possibly the one where she got the bicycle and saw cougar scat), he was comparing her to a predator herself. Someone joked that it was a werewolf. He seemed, however, to be saying that she was preparing herself for the day when she and people like her -- or, more to the point, like PM_H -- rose up and attacked Baby Boomers.

He's just talked about "putting holes" in people in this lettercolumn.

What do people have to do around here to violate the terms of service and/or creep people out? There are a few people -- both on staff and in letters -- whose comments on sexuality make me want to bleach my brain. There are some master sarcastics and our resident bullies, trolls, and MRAs.

I don't think even joking remarks about "putting holes" in people are funny, cool, or remotely safe.

Mister, if you're joking, you're not funny. If you've got firearms, you're talking about them in an abusive and unprofessional manner. And this is just a rabid case of "epater le bourgeois," knock it off. (Greeneyedkzin)


The essential part of the post you are referring to is not really the part of wishing them (baby boomers like laurel and G&B) full of holes, believe it or not, it was actually the part about them being so full of substance, holes become more notable for their working more as marked inversion. I'm actually not truthfully interested in even disposing them -- not even just to let some other generation have their chance: the idea of making anyone shut up, live life with a shrunken, diminished status is obsene to me: the idea really is just to enfranchise everybody, and I'm glad I don't think that this is only accomplished violently, by finding some way to disenfranchise, discredit or monument and/or "etherealize" (as by, for instance, making them Elders, Emeretuses -- people already half-way shuffled off to a higher plane and half-way otherwise sedimentation) the already strongest voices on the scene. I think baby boomers have yet more to say, and I would have them say it: but only if it means fighting through an enfranchised, accustomed way of looking at the world that actually mostly does them credit -- you are mostly great, world builders! of the great-Eden-within-a-rock-from-Wrath-of-Khan type -- but that still prevents them from doing the good they could to generations after them that are suffering and are determined to suffer far more yet.

People like Felissa are my more natural true opponents. What she is up to is I think predatorial -- she is making the worldview of baby boomers, she is making baby boomers, seem discard-worthy, right even before them, knowing that because of how she presents herself, because of their own desire to fit her within their preferences, and because of their flacid ability to recognize alien viewpoints for so ably and for such a long time dominating the world scene that epistemological alienness, true difference, can hardly now even be seen, her efforts aren't likely to be spotted. Felissa isn't though just a younger version of most of you -- dashed with the slight, not-much-aggrieving difference that informs you you made sure her generation developed their own voice. Her small asides aren't so much potential draw-aways from the main point as they are actually distinctive tells. She isn't quite so much taken to Pollan, the whole farmer's-market scene, vegetarians because they're, though her "friends," and however much truly admirable, just for one reason or another beyond her lesser or restricted capacities, but because "they're" all part of a stupid, indulgent, actually counter-human scene, of the dumb touristy kind she rejects while out of country. Baby boomers, she believes, created a world that is removed from struggle and which has come at the cost of making them ridiculous. They have domesticated everything around them, removed from view all true disquiet, all true agitants, making it seem as if the whole point of the universe was to float up a gargantuan spread of grazers who have gobbled up every outside affront and are without any otherwise natural inner spur.

Felissa considers this "claiming" a vulgar affront to generations that struggled their way through their lives, against worlds quite ready to claim them without hesitation or grief, and who proved with every true effort -- even if after successive generations there wasn't sign that these efforts were all that much building on one another -- that human beings are about some kind of purpose far grander than that. Trust me, that salamander that didn't daunt to Felissa, that, diminutive as it is, still would have disproved its claim to its spot, has to her more worth than a whole cattle farm of Pollan-worshipping farm-market shoppers.

Her voice is the conservative one, the one that appears at the end of all good times that believes that buldging flacid excess is about to get its comeuppance, that it will be finally be showed that difference does indeed exist out there, is and was always ultimately stronger, and that it wants to -- quite rightly -- dine on you. Voices of this kind appear at the beginning of liberal times, but have little weight because their carriers are too readily made to seem the ones lacking in invigorating spirit. When they appear at the end of liberal times their weight is considerable because the mood shifts so that when people compare foragers and isolationists to domesticators, exchangers, shoppers, markets and crowds, "domestication" less seems where civilization finally got its start than where mankind must have first lost its fighting spirit and soul.

Though she here and there makes herself seem akin to the Michael Pollan crowd, I wish it were more obvious that when people tell Felissa to start greenhouse-farming and going on food stamps that this is just so laughably something she is building herself to naturally consider more unwelcome than spotted cougar scat. What she is up to now is hurriedly doing the struggling, the daily encounters with survival that surely made her and our ancestors hard but reverant and spritually great, so that she can feel through accumulation, in constitution more akin to them. She's effortlessly becoming the story of how she puts food onto her plate, while you bait her with remissions that just ensure her course.

Even if the world ensures that there continue to be means for Felissa to get better foodstuffs, and to get it easier, there is a sense she would actually take ultimate withering over such easing: it would firmly include her within a harsh but awesome universe that would recognize, understand, welcome and incorporate her, in a way it would surely not if she had allowed herself to become what she is accused by the ignorant of being: a hipster foodie, whose life is fundamenally about fun and play rather than … really just surviving. But Felissa and a generation that is mostly like her, because they want civilization to be shamefully shown up as unequal to the ground it built itself upon, will ensure politicians happen to get in power that can't but further wreck it, wiping out social programs that, ostensibly -- but to her, fully debatably -- help the weak. Eventually social programs will find their way back in, but only when they point to the considerable fibre built into a nation of hardy survivors, not to their absence or fast dissolution, and this is going to take an awful lot of suffering and fear-encountering/battling days to ensure.

If I could wave an all-powerful magic wand I would have Felissa and her generation know that the kind of conversation and company you get amidst those farmer crowds, the pompous hipster foodie scenes, should actually mostly draw you to them. Only because "you've" come to draw pleasure from suffering and scarcity, from daily proving victorious over demons that really could full-on devour you, only because you've surely been relentlessly abused and have become quite mad does the life you're living now seem such a compelling draw to you. For of course having no such wand, I gesture to a near equal-though source of future-altering power: Blessed Baby Boomers, please start really looking at people like Felissa and recognize the difference between you and them. They're more brutal and savage -- considerably so -- and you've got to step in, somehow give them more life, and make it harder for them to demarcate the line they're already far-along in establishing between themselves and those like Michael Pollan who've sadly forgotten what it is to struggle, and are forever damned for it.

Link: When eating local is the cheapest option (Salon)

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