Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And Another Thing I Read...

Groundhog's Day having come and gone, and the football season now over (having ended as well as it could have), my as-of-late blog-angst, that we haven't really been blogging enough to maintain even our modest goal of mild interestendom, I am further motivated to, like, blog about other stuff. Which may involve recourse to blogging about things which I generally mostly hold off from doing; that is, blogging about, say, Literature. But, as I've already mentioned in recent weeks, basically all I do all week is read, no less than 8 hours a day. No kidding. Motherfucking Grad School, right there.

That being said, I did finish reading Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma yesterday, so thanks, Nate for gifting it to me for Xmas. Interesting reading, especially given that I'm already a vegetarian, and generally a snot about it when pressed (I would describe my own attitude as a vegetarian to be "laid back and nonjudgmental," which basically means that I don't really care to share my opinion about the stuff, and prefer just to default to joke-y answers to the meatlessness questions like "The moral highground must be maintained at all costs!" But, of course, it was and is an ethical decision for me, so it is nice to pick up some more fodder for the cause.). (Incidentally, since I haven't brought it up for a while, since I've also had to be writing more for in-class context this semester, I've been trying to wean myself back off of multiply-embedded parentheses, in favor of a broader application of dashes, though I do find it to be impossible not to state items parenthetically, even in papers that I have, like, turned in for a grade and stuff--though, clearly, still one of my favorite things to write about is the writing itself (of itself).)

So, what did I learn from reading Pollan's book? Eating industrially produced meat is disgusting and wrong. I already felt that way, but reading about feedlots reinforces that notion. Damn. Generally speaking, the state of most farming in this country is atrocious and rampantly destructive. Again, something I've more-or-less been aware of. But this leads to the biggest aspect of the book that I had to spend a lot of time thinking about, namely the modern vegetarian's problem of relying on monocultures of soy plants. There was, back in the Winter of 2007 a huge expose in National Geographic magazine about the soy highways in the Brazilian rainforest, which was about one of the most depressing things I've ever read (it passed around the break room of the Trader Joe's where I worked, depressing in sequence every co-worker that read it). Ever since then, I've been worried about how much of the soy I consume is arriving to my gut by way of devastated rainforest (and to be sure, I eat a shit-ton of soy products (though, since starting to read Omnivore's Dilemma I have cut back on novelty textured soy protein products (like Morningstar Buffalo Wings (so(y) delicious...)) (oh shit, I'm breaking my own above-mentioned attempt to de-parentheticalize my writing

(incidentally, a couple of weekends ago I went to a sequence of poetry events in Palm Beach, which capped off by a "slam" poet, who was about the most annoying a-hole man of a poet I've ever witnessed, who "read" a "poem" about how much he hates, as a teacher (I think the target audience of his spiel would be a conference of middle school teachers in central Jersey), that his "kids" [students] use, like, "like" and "um" so much, and his interpretation of why this sort of language behavior takes place is that people are taught nowadays to be insecure with their own ideas--this seems completely wrong to me, you know? I think any kind of historical look at the issue would find that humans have always used little gap-filling words conversationally, and that trying to come off as, I don't know, non-authoritarian, might actually be, like, a good thing. Remember that students, "kids," first and foremost are trying to be good students relative to their peers, and that means adopting the language habits of that community--douchebag teachers aren't necessarily in much of a position to make changes to their discourse (especially "teachers" with charismatic-white-male-with-a-ponytail ethoses) (Wow! This is a pretty pure digression here, as I have no idea at this point what it was that got me started on it (must've been something about the parentheticalizing... oh yeah, I think, maybe, the parentheses has to do with my own personal sense of my blogthenticity; that is, there's some kind of hierarchializing going on here too, in terms of the ideas, beyond the general stabbing-at-simultaneity reasoning that I usually give for my excessive parentheticalizing)).).

But Pollan's book reminds me that there are destructive monocultures of soy in, like, Iowa, so maybe I should be even more concerned about the modern version of vegetarianism that I practice, which is mainly identifiable for its reliance on fossil fuels for getting calories and nutrients to me. It's still better than being a meat-eater in the industrial system, but far from being good enough to be sufficient, in terms of being actually better for the planet. I had some sense of the problem with what Pollan calls the "Industrial Organic" market which has been blossoming through companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, since that shit really pissed me off when I worked at TJ's (incidentally, again (I know, I know...), I finally did step foot in a Whole Foods for the first time while I was in Manhattan over my Winter Break, though not for long, and only to a) check out the beer selection and b) wait for my friend to use their toilet; I did not buy anything). The basic fear is that something which is "better" winds up being seen as "good enough;" another good book to read on this topic is Curtis White's The Spirit of Disobedience wherein he talks very well about how the "spirit" of radical living is decimated as its ideas are transformed into commodities.

So I can kind of talk to myself about reconsidering my consumption of things like pre-washed bagged salads, and look into finding some local farmer's markets to deindustrialize my consumptive patterns, but I still won't eat meat (or fish) until I'm living someplace in the vicinity of one of the quasi-utopian farms that Pollan visits an example of in his book. And I have no problem with the carbon footprint on my ethically-traded teas and coffee. I'm not sure how actual it is, but I do see some amount of pattern between my intellectual habits and my habits as a consumer, but its quite difficult (as much as I wish that (my) poetry is "anti-capitalist") to actually become post-industrial as a consumer and anti-professional as an intellectual. There's just not that much of a market for it, and it's hard to believe that there ever will be.


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