Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Copycat Media

Thursday I was at a friend's house and she had the tv on and turned to CNN. While I was waiting on her I watched a bit of that news. Now, I'm one of those who thinks that one of the biggest problems in this country is the media. And that was confirmend by what happened Thursday. CNN ran a story on GOP Presidential candidate McCain's problems with his teleprompters. I paid attention to this story out of sheer startlement that they were covering something so inane. I know, I shouldn't be surprised at this point, but I can't help. Stupidity never fails to amaze me.

Anyway, later that night, before I went to bed I turned on the local news to catch the weather because there was a chance of storms overnight and I wanted to find out what the forecast was. Around here in spring you don't take chances. I was a bit early and before the weather were a couple of other stories. One of them was the teleprompter story. This was the EXACT SAME story CNN ran. I mean identical -video clips, words, the banter between the anchors. The only difference was that it was local anchors doing the story.

What happened here? Does the media now download their stories from a central source and fill-in-the-anchor? Apparently. Whatever happened to a free and independent media? Oh right, that disappeared about the same time as many of our constitutional rights.

Without adequate information, people can not make informed choices. Given the advertising in this country, a lot of them don't make "choices" at all. We can't expect the average person to understand things like climate change, peak oil, overshoot, and the like when they get their info from copy-the-story. When they pay attention to the news at all.

Sometimes, I think the changes that are coming to this society can't come fast enough.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Simple Birthdays

My brother came down from school for his birthday last weekend. It was his 21, a big milestone birthday in this culture. We didn't throw a big party, we didn't go on a pub crawl or out partying. (Though admitedly I was more than willing to take him out to the pubs -you only turn 21 once, after all, but he didn't want to).

Instead, I cooked a big birthday dinner with all his favorite foods. Turkey cheeseburgers. Roasted root vegetables. Sweet potato fries. Steamed greens. And for dessert, instead of a cake, I made his favorite -banana cream pudding. And then we watched a movie. For the rest of the weekend we hung out and went to the bookstore and arts center.

That was it. Nothing fancy, nothing lavish. And -it worked. It was fun. It was wonderful. Voluntary simplicity doesn't mean not having any fun, or living an austere life. It just means redefining your definiton of 'fun'.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Spring is here, and now is the natural time to think about putting in a garden. Whether of flowers or vegetables, or a combination of the two, the gardening bug bites us many at this time of the year. I am no exception –by this point I have spring fever bad, and only the certainty that my tomatoes will surely be killed by a late frost if I put them out now is keeping them out of the ground.
With food prices spiraling out of sight and the prospect of famine looming on the horizon, now is the time to put in that food garden even if you’ve never grown anything before. Don’t try to grow a full size garden all at once because you will definitely bite off more than you can chew, but a small patch of veggies or a few containers are well within anyone’s capabilities. Among the easiest plants to grow are tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and greens. These are almost (but not quite) foolproof. A couple of tomato or yellow squash plants will provide you with that vegetable for the whole season. And zucchini? You’ll be giving it away with just two plants. Don’t like zucchini? The nice thing about is that it doesn’t have much taste and it’s really good for you. So you can put it in many other dishes and no one will notice. I’ve even seen it put in chocolate chip cookies –and no one noticed! No, I’m not kidding.
Now, the argument can be made that it might just be cheaper to buy tomatoes over the summer. Perhaps. But a 40 lb bag of potting soil is still less than $2, pots are cheap if you look around (especially at yard sales and thrift stores), and most seedlings are $2 each, or less. So, assuming you paid a dollar for each of the pots and you grew two tomato plants, that’s only $8. Maybe you won’t buy $8 worth of tomatoes this year, but most families do, and you’re especially likely to if you buy organic or if the prices go up much more. But there’s are two other reasons to do this –to make sure you have tomatoes this year, and that you can grow them in the future if need be. This is about developing skills as much as anything. It takes 10 years for someone to become a master at growing food. With the problems going on in the world, I don’t know if any of us have ten years to become a master of anything. Oil is now at $110 a barrel. I don’t even want to think of what that’s going to do to the rest of the economy as it trickles through –particularly the supermarket. The best way to insure your food security is to be able to grow your own. To do that, start today.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Crying Over The News

I had a strange experience yesterday. I started crying at the news. Now, this is a strange experience for me. Normally I don’t even watch the news. I get most of my news from the internet. I will admit to a bit of an addiction to NPR, but that is due to the commentary (and the sound of human voices, since I live alone). But yesterday I was babysitting for a friend, and while her toddler was taking a nap I turned the TV on. Truth be told, I didn’t feel much like doing anything else –chasing after a toddler is exhausting! Anyhow, I turned it to CNN just to see what they were talking about. After awhile they did this story on the economy and the effects of the housing crisis, etc. First there were all these pictures and discussions of the growing numbers of pets abandoned as desperate owners lose everything. Then they started talking about the food pantry problems and showed a picture of a food pantry whose shelves were almost empty.
It was too much. I lost it. Sitting on my friend’s couch, I burst into tears. Why I don’t know. Perhaps because I know that was the tip of the iceberg; that is so much worse than that. And that it will get far, far worse before things get better. Perhaps it was just seeing an actual face to the problems I understand intellectually. There is an incredibly large gulf between understanding something in the abstract, and understanding it in the human context, down deep in the gut where it hurts.
Or maybe I’m just too soft-hearted.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Exploding Food Crisis

The food crisis is exploding around the world. To say that a lot of people are going to starve or nearly so is not an exaggeration. People who were all ready on the edge are being pushed over it. This is due to many factors: rising prices, increasing demand, diminished harvests, climate change, and of course, the cursed ethanol boom. But people in the states aren’t getting off scot-free either. Our food bills are going up at 4% a month. The local news this morning said that our farmers here are hurting more than usual because fertilizer and seed prices have both more than doubled in the past few months. And some seeds –particularly soybeans –are running short.

Since so much of this food crisis is caused by ethanol (and its effects on prices and supplies) at what point does it become morally justify to “disable” ethanol plants? And at what point do hungry people start stealing those plants feedstocks, which are edible, after all?

Why Your Food Bill Is About To Hurt

Rising Food Prices Put U.S. Food Aid In Peril

Rising Prices Threaten Millions With Starvation

Without record harvests this year…famine may return. Not just price spikes, not just spot shortages, but famine.

U.N. To Ration Food Aid They just don’t have the money to keep helping everyone, with the prices spiraling out of control.,dwp_uuid=a955630e-3603-11dc-ad42-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

America’s Grain Stocks Are Running Low

Are you prepared for shortages? Or even just for prices to double this year? You might want to think about expanding that garden.