August 28, 2005

YMCA Book Fair

After the ride yesterday, Brian and I attended the YMCA Book Fair in the City. There were books everywhere, but unfortunately, many were strewn rather than stacked. Lots of paperbacks - a section I don't even need to visit. Compared to the last two book fairs I've attended, this was a bit of a disappointment, though Brian fared pretty well.

If you're a bibliophile, here's the web site to use to find book fairs:

Not pretty, but it does the trick. If you're local, notice that today is the last day of the Jewish Community Center's sale (and that one was a good one - may pop back in there while out doing other errands today). Lifting books counts as upper body resistance training, right?


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November 17, 2003

Fast Food Nation, a Review

I finished reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser about two weeks ago. It's a quick read, but I wanted to think on it a while before writing.

I picked the book up at the San Francisco airport thinking it would rail on obesity and American eating habits. That's not exactly what I got, and for that I am pleased. Schlosser discusses a lot of things - from the early days of fast food (owning a the American dream) to shifting practices of mass producing french fries and cattle to an ugly portrait of the meatpacking industry and a foray into food-borne illness.

As I got past the first three chapters of the book, I was well aware that I was going to disagree with some to possibly many of Schlosser's premises and assertions - his choice of facts to present. He irritated me constantly by ascribing "liberal Democrat" to all things good and "conservative Republican" to all things bad.

But that's about ALL he did wrong from a sense of style. He saves his judgment until the final chapters (two...there's an additional chapter in the paperback, an afterword called the meaning of Mad Cow...wherein he actually calls himself on his behavior of stratifying things on a partisan level. I actually laughed).

My favorite part of the book had to do with Schlosser's visit to a flavoring lab. This snippet alone is worth reading the whole book, which you'll want to do anyway. One, it's cheap (note the link). Two, it's a good read by a good writer, regardless of your viewpoints. The things I gig Barbara Ehrenreich for are not present in this book. You can tell the way Schlosser leans because of his tone, but you're not slapped in the face - you're spared the preaching until the end - where it belongs.

I don't want to get too deeply into the guts of this book because I want you to read it. The things it's brought to the forefront in my mind are: "What should OSHA's role be in the workplace?" The importance of balance of power in dangerous industries - such as meatpacking. Schlosser asserts that the line speeds in slaughterhouses are such that danger of injury - often serious and possibly including death - are driven by demand for cheap burgers. I had an eye scrunched while I read this section, preferring to chew on the thought for a while...two weeks. I won't spoil this for you, but Schlosser's conclusion - his particular call to action - pleased me.

The other troubling thing is the author's stress of the importance of unions and the pressure (he paints) from corporations to keep the unions out. If there are industries where unions are highly important, I would have to say it would be those that offer the most dangerous jobs. While I'm not a union fan (look up my grocery store strike post), I remember having read Power and Powerlessness in grad school, and, when the unions were not corrupt, they were a force for good for a group of people who desperately needed such a force (highly uneducated, highly exploited). Problem is, as will surface with any group of people in which there is any sort of ill intent or greed: corruption.

That's another theme of Schlosser's book. He doesn't often mention union corruption (which, of course, is documented to be rampant), but he splatters the pages full of corporate misdeeds - often cited as legally punished. That certainly gets my eye - hard facts, poor immoral decisions, and punishment.

One last thing before I leave this - the NRO reviewed the book, and I, being me, was interested in what the reviewer had to say. I read the review twice and was actually offended. Did we read the same book, Mr. Kern? I found quite a bit of it, with my five years of fast food restaurant experience, to be fairly accurate. You call it McGarbage. While I agree that arguing by authority shouldn't really buy me any credibility in your eyes, it certainly validates my own opinion. I also didn't get the same tone from the book that Kern did - the "shock," but then again this book is on the heels of Barbara's, and so perhaps it's there but muted in my point of reference. Part of the Kern's review worth quoting, though, as I tend to agree:
    Schlosser as Upton Sinclair: Fast Food Nation describes the meat industry in terms that make The Jungle read like a puff piece from the National Beef Council. He's probably right. Schlosser depicts a powerful industry benefiting from unfair laws and the shocking exploitation of desperate illegal immigrants. My solution: End corporate welfare and crack down on illegal immigrants. Schlossel's solution: Throw money at OSHA. It makes sense that OSHA should heal the beef industry, given its demonstrated skill at comforting cows.
Yep - stop shoveling tax money to corporations, please. And the beef industry chapters were very powerfully written - from the feed lots to the slaughterhouses.

Put the book on your wishlist. And switch to chicken instead of fast food hamburgers. Mark those words.


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November 02, 2003

All Consuming

I have just discovered All Consuming because I received a vistor from it.

Oooh! Aah! I think I'll enjoy this very much. My next two books to review are Ultimate Fitness by Gina Kolata and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the Schlosser book and will likely review it first. I picked it up as a whim at the airport in San Francisco for my return trip, and I've been riveted ever since. I should complete it during the week.

Go check out All Consuming - very cool.


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October 19, 2003

Dimed: The Second Half of the Book

I finished Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America today. And, to shake things up a bit, I'm going to post my analysis first and the supporting information in the extended entry.

The second half of the book is the story of Barbara's move to the Minneapolis area. This section is immediately followed by Barbara's general analysis of her experience.

In Minneapolis, Barbara has trouble finding housing. She meets almost immediate success in finding jobs - two, actually, and ultimately she decides to work for Wal-Mart. This is not without a bit of drama, for, you see, Barbara is concerned that she cannot pass the drug test, which, very quickly, you can tell she ideologically disagrees with. Nonetheless, drug tests are very prevalent in gaining employment, and I find Ms. Ehrenreich very irresponsible for "transgressing" with drugs during her science experiment, as she calls it. Yes, I realize this is dripping with distaste, but I actually threw the book after reading a few pages of Barbara's experience with this, so forgive me. (It didn't dent until I threw it a second time, at which time it made a loud SPLAT against the wall and frightened three cats).

At any rate - Barbara works at Wal-Mart. She makes about what one would expect to make at Wal-Mart. She brings to light the overwhelming prevalence of Theory X in management (my words), and I've seen this, too. It's disturbing, and I have to agree with her when she says it drags the workers down. Basically, Theory X states that people don't want to work, they'll not want to help or do anything you don't specifically MAKE them do, and that they're unwilling or unable to effect positive outcomes without intense supervision. Theory X means you have to ask management to use the restroom.

The Wal-Mart job goes about like I expect it would. It's got a bunch of corporate hoo-hah that Barbara correctly identifies, and throughout much of this section I agree with her assessment of the job as a whole.

The problem here is housing. Barbara can't find something to suit her needs at a decent price. This happens for her everywhere, though, and I'm not sure if it's just that I've only lived in Missouri as an adult, but I can ALWAYS find affordable housing. The only place I've paid anywhere NEAR $500 was when I moved to St. Louis and had a job that paid me well enough to accommodate that. On Page 170, she mentions something close to what I stated in the review of the first part of this book. Housing costs should not make up more than 30% of your income. Period.

Barbara wasn't ever able to live by that. I can't be a good judge of why without talking with her, and I may shoot her an e-mail. It's possible she picked cities without knowing enough about where to find good, cheap housing in a decent neighborhood. It's possible she was too rushed. Who really knows? This does seem to be the biggest thorn in her side in each experience, though.

The last section of the book is Barbara's analysis. Overall, I'm impressed with this. It's much less personal than the rest of the book and contains well-written analysis with cites from others regarding the points she wishes to make. One thing I must pick at. Again Barbara rails on the drug test, but she uses it as a singling-out of "indignities imposed on low-wage workers." Barbara, I hate to tell you this, but the drug tests are pretty ubiquitous across pay scales and companies. Sorry, that point fails.

All in all, a good read. It could have been done better, though, but, of course, this would have made for a more scholarly, less interesting book. Ideally, Barbara would not have moved. Ever. She would have found steady, accommodating housing, and then tried this experiment in that manner. I believe the book would have been more plausable and would more have mirrored the life of someone who is working in jobs such as these. Basically, I think I could've taken a decent stab at something like this. Of course, my focus would've been completely different - how to make the most of an experience like this (my low-wage jobs were accommodating of daytime graduate school and still full time).

Thanks for reading - individual points below.


Page 121: "Not to mention my worry that the Latinos might be hogging all the crap jobs and substandard housing for themselves, as they often do." Grr.

Page 127: Barbara basically asserts that a breathing, non-moving, non-functional slab of human cheese should make $11.77 an hour - a "living wage."

Page 129: I'm irritated that Barbara "needs" a furnished apartment. Really, one piece of furniture will suffice for a bit - bed/couch.

Page 140: Barbara rails that one of the furnished places at which she is looking does not come equipped with a microwave.

Page 147: "My watch battery ran out, and I had to spend $11 to get it replaced." (Emphasis mine). As Brian pointed out, she could have BOUGHT a new watch from Wal-Mart for far cheaper if she NEEDED the timepiece-on-wrist functionality.

Page 156: "I feel oppressed, too, by the mandatory gentility of the Wal-Mark culture." Feel isn't is, baby.

Page 163: "Melissa probably wouldn't think of herself as poor." Well, okay. Barbara then comments that Melissa knows about discounts and informs Barbara. Hey, does Barbara Ehrenreich use coupons? Scoff. I'm going to guess not. Perhaps I'll ask her that, too.

Also Page 163: Barbara seems surprised when her schedule changes from week to week. Welcome to shift work, Barbara.

Page 178: Barbara notes that the people with whom she works don't seem unhappy. That's probably because they are NOT unhappy, Barbara.

Page 187: "What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you're actually selling is your life." This may have been the second book-throwing point.

Page 196: In her analysis, Barbara believes she was thrifty enough. I agree with everything but the housing.

Page 209: Barbara explains "at-will" least the half that says your employer can let you go for any reason. There's no mention of "you can leave, too."

Page 211: "If you're made to feel unworthy enough.." (my emphasis).

Page 213: Barbara points out that most Americans earn less than $14 an hour. Well, yes. That's quite a bit of money.

Page 221: At the very end, Barbara wants us to feel shame. But I don't see hers. Isn't she an oppressor, too?

Good/Human Touches

Page 122: Barbara lives briefly at a friend's place and cares for the friend's bird. She's afraid of birds.

Page 153: Barbara coins the phrase "Wal-Martian." I laugh - that's great.

Page 158: Sewage backs up in Barbara's motel. I feel genuinely bad for her.

Page 160: She makes fun of Survivor, and she gets some points for that until she compares her situation to it.

Page 166: Barbara "takes ownership" of the clothing. It's emotional, and it's well written. I identified with her here.

Page 168: Barbara has a small run-in with another employee. Again, her mental response to it is well written, and I find it similar to what mine would be.

Page 177: Barbara thinks to the reader, "I never see anything sold." It's very insightful. I have a similar experience in working for Barnes & Noble. Straightening up books - exasperating. It never ended.

Page 204: "Employers will offer almost anything - free meals, subsidized transportation, store discounts - rather than raise wages." I agree.

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October 13, 2003

Nickels (Dimes in about a week).

As you all know if you've been visiting this site, I've tasked myself with reading and critiquing Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

This will be a long post. I plan to offer the book's premise, talk a little bit about how Barbara defines science, illustrate what I find to be unrealistic, offer places where I identify with the author, and then conclude the analysis of what I've read. I'm 119 pages into the book, which is a natural stopping point because of the book's structure.

The Premise

The author tasks herself with working low-wage jobs and then writing about how she fares. She works (so far) as a waitress, a housekeeper, a maid, and a kitchen worker in a nursing home. (There are other jobs, but I've not read that far) and then chronicles her experience for you, for me, and for anyone else who is interested.


Barbara, as I will refer to her from here on out, calls this a science experiment. Unfortunately, there's nothing scientific about it, as the setting is not real. In the illustration section, I'll point to snippets from the book that seem like vagaries to me, since I'm someone who's had to subsist on a pretty small budget for a lengthy period of time. But, I'll jump right in, in the interest of keeping the post short (HA!)



1) On page three, while still introducing the book's concept, she states:
    But if the question was whether a single mother leaving welfare could survive without government assistance in the form of food stamps, Medicaid, and housing and child care subsidies, the answer was well known before I ever left the comforts of home. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, in 1998 - the year I started this project - it took, on average nationwide, an hourly wage of $8.89 to afford a one-bedroom apartment...
Roommate, Barbara. Really, it is an option, and often a wise one. Also, briefly, children are a choice. If anyone needs that one explained, the post will be quite harsh to some and humorous to others.

2) Page 5, on setting her boundaries:
    First, I would always have a car. In Key West I drove my own; in other cities I used Rent-A-Wrecks, which I paid for with a credit card rather than my earnings. Yes, I could have walked more or limited myself to jobs accessible by public transportation. I just figured that a story about waiting for buses would not be very interesting to read.

3) Barbara also decides to spend a month in each setting. How is this realistic? I suspect this was done again for the "interest" factor, though this is not stated.

Key West

1) Page 12.
    My first task is to find a place to live. I figure that if I can earn $7 an hour - which, from the want ads, seems doable - I can afford to spend $500 on rent, or maybe, with severe economies, $600 and still have $400 or $500 left over for food and gas.
$500! When you're earning $7 an hour? That's outrageous to expect that'll work. Barbara is from Saturn, you see, where she was never taught in common sense class that you should not spend more than 25% of your income on housing. If she's bringing home $1,000 to $1,100 a month, that gives you meager accommodations costing $250 or so, or, as I mentioned before, a roommate. I understand that under the constraints of this project, a roommate was not a option, thereby, again debunking "science" and reality of how low-wage workers survive and, in some cases, thrive.

2) Page 12 again, in talking about how expensive Key West is and how she must "settle." "Still, it is a shock to realize that 'trailer trash' has become, for me, a demographic category to aspire to." Gee, Barbara. How nice of you to call your $500 a month digs, "trash." What does this serve except to anger some readers (me) and incite others with a rally cry of "oppression."

3) Page 15.
    I had been vain enough to worry about coming across as too educated for the jobs I sought, but no one even seems interested in finding out how overqualified I am
Had been - okay, debunked. Am - no, she hasn't learned.

There IS no overqualification with manual labor. I'm a software developer. I type really well - upwards of 80 to 100 wpm error free. Does this make me overqualified to be a legal secretary? Goodness, no. I go to the gym regularly and can lift heavy objects above my head with general ease. Am I overqualified to be a rearrange shelves that are 5 1/2, 6 feet tall?

No. There IS no overqualified. And that's part of the beauty of it. There are jobs available for unskilled workers who might otherwise be unable to find work.

4) Page 16.
    I want to say, 'Thank you for your time, sir, but this is just an experiment, you know, not my actual life.
To give Barbara credit, she doesn't say this again, but rather she invokes some unexpected pride in what she's doing day in day out. I'll forgive her this one.

5) Page 18. Barbara talks with pride about her father, and then, er, doesn't.
    Or so said my father, who must have known what he was talking about because he managed to pull himself, and us with him, up from the mile-deep copper mines of Butte to the leafy suburbs of the Northeast, ascending from boiler-makers to martinis before booze beat out ambition.
No, Barbara. Booze is inanimate.

6) Page 36 - 37. Barbara is talking about the crew with whom she works:
    We talk about the usual girl things - men, children, and the sinister allure of Jerry's chocolate peanut-butter cream pie - though no one, I notice, ever brings up anything potentially expensive, like shopping or movies. As at the Hearthside, the only recreation ever referred to is partying, which requires little more than some beer, a joint, and a few close friends. Still, no one is homeless, or cops to it anyway, thanks usually to a working husband or boyfriend.
What is "expensive"? Shopping runs a pretty large gamut. (I don't talk about shopping either, Barbara). Movies - luxuries, right?

7) Page 39. Barbara moves. Yes, within Key West she moves. Why? "So I take the $500 deposit I have coming from my landlord, the $400 I have earned toward next month's rent, plus the $200 reserved for emergencies, and use the $1,100 to pay the rent and deposit on trailer number 46 in the Overseas Trailer Park, a mile from the cluster of budget hotels that constitute Key West's version of an industrial park." Why does she move? Because gas is "eating up $4-$5 a day." Why is gas so expensive? Because Barbara wasn't frugal or thoughtful about where she lived in relation to where she would be working. And, quite simply, you must be if you're on a tight budget.

8) Page 41. Barbara makes me guffaw. Why, you ask? Because she says this about an accusation (possibly/probably unwarranted) made about one of the cooks with whom she works.
    So why didn't I intervene? Certainly not because I was held back by the kind of moral paralysis that can mask as journalistic objectivity. On the contrary, something new - something loathsome and servie - had infected me, along with the kitchen odors that I could still sniff on my bra when I finally undressed at night. In real life I am moderately brave, but plenty of brave people shed their courage in POW camps, and maybe something similar goes on in the infinitely more congenial milieu of the low-wage American workplace.
POW camps! Barbara - this job is a choice you have made. Writing the book is a choice. And any hope of objectivity that remained is vaporized by a comparison like that.

9) Barbara takes a second job because she is cramped for money. I've done that, temporarily. You? It makes her tired, of course, and it lasts only one day. The author walks out on her waitressing job. She offers enough objective evidence that a reader can conclude, yes, it was a hellish night. What would you or I do if this job was, at the time, our only means of viable support. Deal. Barbara does not; she leaves. This is not mature or sensible behavior. Some of my best stories from fast food are from "the night the store got hit by lightning during rush hour," etc. This does not gain her respect in my eyes. In the middle of this parting diatribe, though, Barbara invokes the name of "science" again. "I had gone into this venture in the spirit of science, to test a mathematical proposition..." The redeeming part, though, if any, is that she's not proud, in retrospect, that she walked out.

Actions/feelings. Paperrockscissors? Actions win every time.

Portland, Maine

This is really more of the same, so I'll try to pick fewer snippets, as I'm certain this is getting long.

1) Barbara begins. "I chose Maine for its whiteness." Heather rolls her eyes. Yes, Barbara snaps her fingers and another thousand dollars appears - "let's start over." Realistic? No, certainly not. Whimsy? Yes, certainly so.

2) Page 52. The rental car surfaces. I assert again that one does not rent a car for a long period of time for day-to-day living when one holds a low-wage job. It's not economical, and it's not wise. But this is "science." Talking about picking up and moving, Barbara states:
    This is, admittedly, an odd venture for anyone not involved in a witness-protection program: to leave home and companionship and plop down nearly two thousand miles away in a place where I know almost no one and about which I am ignorant right down to the most elementary data on geography, weather, and good places to eat. Still, I reason, this sudden removal to an unknown state is not all that different from the kinds of dislocations that routinely segment the lives of the truly poor. You lose your job, your car, or your babysitter. Or maybe you lose your home because you've been living with a mother or a sister who throws you out when her boyfriend comes back or because she needs the bed or sofa you've been sleeping on for some other wayward family member. And there you are.
Spurious assertion? You decide.

3) Page 53. Barbara calls the Hampton Inn a "low-rent motel." Really, I kid you not. Funny, I think they're kinda nice. And not cheap. Yes, this has little to do with the book, but I believe it says a lot about perspective.

Barbara takes a job with Merry Maids and tells a very interesting story of her life as a maid. This is much more compelling than the first section, and I'll talk about it a bit in the section where I list positives about the book.

4) Page 78. Barbara describes the lunches of her coworkers. She defines for us, her audience, a "pizza pocket."

5) Page 92. Barbara lets off a "shit tirade" (my words), making it painfully obvious she's never cleaned a public restroom before. I have. Yawn.

6) Page 100.
    Then there's the supermarket. I used to stop on my way home from work, but I couldn't take the stares, which are easily translatable into: What are you doing here? And, No wonder she's poor; she's got a beer in her shopping cart! True, I don't look so good by the end of the day and probably smell like eau de toilet and sweat, but it's the brilliant green-and-yellow uniform that gives me away, like prison clothes on a fugitive. Maybe, it occurs to me, I'm getting a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to be black.
This earned a cough. Self-oppressed. How quaint.

7) Page 107. And here's the line that sums it ALL up so far:
    Anger is toxic, as the New Agers say, and there is no evidence anyway that my coworkers share my outrage on their behalf.
Barbara, that's DAMNED pretentious of you. If I am proud of what I do, what I earn, and the way in which I live my life, I say unto you, how dare you insert your quasi-pundit statements on my "behalf" to tell me how much my life sucks. Of course they don't share your outrage. These are PEOPLE. They have bigger things to worry about. What, they don't "know any better"? How would you know?

8) Page 108. Furthering point 7.
    For the most part, my coworkers seem content to occupy their little niche on the sheer cliff face of class inequality. After all, if there weren't people who have far too much money and floor space and stuff, there could hardly be maids.
I don't even need to comment.

9) Page 117. "Work is supposed to save you from being an outcast." No, Barbara. Work isn't first about self-actualization. It's about food and shelter.


Barbara has some human moments, when individual scenarios affect her in ways that she speaks without her outrage lens. I'll stop the annoying choppy format of above and post this portion as a narrative.

On Page 7, Barbara does note that the car she'll be using does give her an advantage. This is just good writing - to recognize an asset that doesn't quite make her life an even comparison with another person working in a similar situation. On Page 17, she notes that initially she feels incompetent as a server. Again, a very human moment that anyone can relate to. A page later on 18, she states "because, to my total surprise despite the scientific detachment I am doing my best to maintain, I care." As well you should, Barbara.

On Page 34, Barbara adds a little flavor when talking about some of the interplay with coworkers. It seems real, which is what a writer strives for. I can put myself in her place as she's waitressing. And near the end of the last section, Pages 114 - 119, she describes a run-in with management for sticking up for a wounded coworker. It's there that I actually have some hope that this will take a turn for the objective - that perhaps some of the snarky asides and pretentious tones will fade back into the introduction. I won't know until I finish the book. I'll be sure to tell you later.


This book is well written. There's no doubt about that. There's nothing objective and detached about it, though, both to the credit and detriment of the subject and author. Barbara wrote the book to prove a point - there is no "science" and no "experiment." There's outrage, but it's pretentious, snooty, and carries a distinctive tone that Barbara, in her ignorance of "this life" is better than these people who live it day to day. Barbara, yes, people ARE better than other people. I believe this. Why? Because of their ACTIONS, not because of their social standing or ability to hobnob with literary and other elites.

If this book presented only facts and no commentary about the facts until the last and final analysis section (that I've not yet reached), I'd be sold. The book is fascinating when I'm not coughing and chortling. (I haven't thrown it yet).

However, I believe there's enough information within the long section of this post to show that this book, so far, is directed whim. Well-written and directed whim.

Finally, If anyone doubts the "science" aspect to this, I'm happy to author a second, separate post directed at just that issue.


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Nickel and Dimed...a Prelude

I've now read 106 pages of the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. I have another 10 or so to go before I've completed the third section - the second section that's actually about Barbara's work experiences.

Expect a long, long, long post tonight. I probably won't finish it until after the gym, though, so it may not be up until 9:30 p.m. CST or thereabouts.

Oh, and I commented on Andrew's blog about this again. Please, everyone, be the courteous and wonderful people I know you to be (and thanks for the support). Andrew is my former boss, and I believe some of this is tongue in cheek - for purposes of discussion. Anne is his wife and has done some wonderful things with educating children in other countries.

I agree that there is injustice in this world and that, as one of you said, "life isn't fair." I also believe in charitable work and charity organizations and the wonderful things they do. I just don't believe they should be run by the government and mandated thus (yours an my tax dollars).


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October 10, 2003

Now I've Done It

I have to go read Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America. Here's why. I don't think/feel I can make an effective argument until I have, and, believe me, I want to be effective.

Just grabbed it offa Brian's bookshelf.

He ranted about it for quite some time, so I suspect I'll enjoy in that macabre sort of way. And I'll head off the argument that I'm "not making up my own mind" by stating that da spouse and I don't often disagree about matters such as these, having both worked blue/pink collar while being classically educated. And made far less than $14.00 per hour.


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July 22, 2003

GMOs - An Update of my Reading

I finished Eating in the Dark and quickly picked up Pandora's Picnic Basket: The Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods, which I like a lot better. The author has managed to crack me up twice in 12 pages. Not a bad start.

I'm pointing you to page 6 of the book because of the top paragraph. I'll quote.

    Recent surveys show many people simply don't have the basic understanding of genetics required to engage in informed debate. For example, only 40% of respondents in the UK correctly recognize that ordinary, non-GM tomatoes contain genes.
Okay, I think it was the "correctly recognize" language, but I just lost it and burst out laughing.

I get the sense this guy is going to carry a light "what idiots" tone throughout the book, and I'm going to enjoy that very, very much.


Posted by hln at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2003

Eating in the Dark: An Update (Our Government is Shooting at Us!)

I'm about 80 pages from finishing the book Eating in the Dark, which I posted about earlier.

It wanders a bit more than I'd like. Also, it's so obviously slanted left that if you placed it on a bookshelf, it'd fall over.

I had only one spot where I wanted to throw it, (in the Brian J. method) though. It's a library book, and it's a hardback, so I refrained.

On page 179, in a chapter called "Global Food Fight," I read this nugget about the crowd gathered on November 30, 1999 at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. The author has just mentioned the "phalanx of police garbed in black riot gear, helmets, and face shields."

    At around three o'clock, near the intersection of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue, the highly charged mood of the crowd abruptly turned ominous. A crush of demonstrators ran down the street screaming. Simultaneously, a loud percussive boom rocked the air, coursing through my body like an electric shock. A blacket of thick white fog unfurled along the pavement as police fired canisters of tear gas into the crowd.

    Pandemonium erupted, and I joined the throngs of people streaming downhill, away from the melee. A tall, slender college-age boy ran up beside me shouting, "I've been shot. Our government is shooting at us!" Grimacing, he pulled up his pant leg and rubbed his calf. Another young man, apparently one of his companions, stopped up short behind us. "Rubber bullets!" he shouted breathlessly. "The police are shooting rubber bullets!" A third member of their group appeared, cradling a marble-size plastic pellet in his cupped hand. The police were apparently firing plastic bullets into the crowd.

    "I can't believe the government is shooting at us!" the stunned youth mumbled in disbelief. Then he rolled down his jeans and turned to rejoin his friends, who were already scrambling back up the hill into the combat zone."
COMBAT ZONE? Embrace the melodrama! Was this really worth three paragraphs of your book? Of course it is, if you want to incite the left to outrage and the right to disgust. I mean, really. What does this have to do with anything? You don't list the provocation of the police to use the riot gear it wielded.

What's Seattle's newspaper, The Seattle Times, have to say about the event?

    One of the largest protests in Seattle's history turned confrontational today as police fired paintball guns and pepper spray to disperse groups of unruly demonstrators who broke windows, sprayed graffiti on buildings and tried to block delegates to the World Trade Organization conference.
Oh. You mean there was damage? Destruction? The crowd wasn't singing campfire songs when the police dispersed it?

    Property destruction downtown was extensive. One group of about 200 demonstrators, dressed mostly in black and wearing hoods and masks, pulled out hammers and other small implements and began smashing windows, first at Nordstrom, then at other nearby stores. Other demonstrators yelled at them to stop.

    Most protesters, though, remained peaceful as up to 20,000 people from labor unions, environmental groups and local colleges rallied around the city, with the largest rally at Seattle Center. Most then marched downtown.

    The worst of the confrontations began around 10 a.m. When police fired pepper spray at protesters, they in turn threw sticks at the officers, prompting police to move an armored truck into the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Union Street and physically throw protesters out of the way.
Wow, no wonder the police had riot gear on hand. 20,000 people is an entire hockey arena full. And you have to expect that there'll be some pretty bad apples in the lot.

Book's still good, though - worth reading as long as you don't mind the bias. I should finish this weekend.


Posted by hln at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)