For three weeks in a row I’ve overheard someone at my local farmer’s market whine about the price of the produce. Frankly, I’m tired of it.
Every Saturday morning I drag my lazy, love-to-sleep-in-late ass out of bed and hustle on over to the market, various and sundry cloth and recycled plastic bags at the ready to haul home the beauteous, tasty produce. Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100. In return I get enough food and more for a week’s worth of meals for two and often am able to prepare some things to save or freeze for later meals. A sampling of what I can choose to take home on any given week: delicious yogurt, fresh raspberries, blueberries, juicy flavorful peaches, fragrant cantaloupe, watermelon, crisp greens (arugula, Swiss chard, kale, several kinds of lettuce, spinach), pears, apples, heirloom carrots, tender cabbage, yellow summer squash and zucchini, green and yellow beans, beets, turnips, salad turnips, potatoes (purple, Yukon gold, fingerling, red, baking), radishes, sweet corn, cucumbers (regular, pickling, yellow, curlicue heirloom ones), peppers (red, yellow, green, hot), sweet potatoes and yams, garlic and garlic scapes, fresh herbs, onions (yellow, red, sweet, and white and red scallions), several kinds of squash…ah, there’s way more, I can’t remember every single thing, but let us most definitely not forget to mention the TOMATOES!!!!
Of course not every item on that list of produce is available all year ’round. One of the pleasures of the farmer’s market is learning to eat seasonally, to savor each item as it appears on the stands, re-learning to eat food that tastes as it is supposed to taste, not as it must taste when it has been engineered to survive mechanical harvest and long transport and storage times. Oh, the wild pleasure of local strawberries with actual flavor! Such a brief season! But the grief of their passing is fleeting, for the next things are coming along, and one knows that soon blueberries and then peaches are on the horizon, and so it goes along.
I don’t spend much money at all in the supermarkets for food items during farmer’s market season. We eat meals made out of what I can create from the bounty of produce I haul home each week, and as a consequence we are much less likely to eat fast food or take out, so we save money there. I could probably shop more frugally at the farmer’s market – we don’t need the raspberries or the cantaloupe each week, but I like fresh fruit, and maybe I could get by with less yogurt, but I like that, too, so I splurge. You could grow your own herbs and not buy them at the market, and I probably don’t need to buy a bouquet of cut flowers, and maybe the eggs are cheaper at the supermarket, but I really, really like the taste of the eggs from the pastured chickens.
So yeah, maybe the farmer’s market produce costs more than the local mega supermarket, I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t buy the flavor you get at the farmer’s market in the local mega supermarket. In the local mega supermarket, your food dollars generally don’t do squat for sustaining local agriculture. If you need or want to shop there, that’s your choice, but if you show up at the farmer’s market, please leave the whine about how expensive it all is at home. I’ve seen people shopping at the farmer’s market using food stamps and, interestingly, they’ve never been among the whiners about the price. Maybe they are more interested in value.
We have to replace our furnace/ac. The AC is dead as a doornail, both are over 20 or 25 yrs old and horribly inefficient. So we’ve been getting quotes. Got two that came in at $6500 and $6800 for 3 ton 100,000 BTU 95% efficient 14.5 SEER variable flow and all that jazz. Third dude came today and did a long presentation after having measured all sorts of shit and went on about importance of proper installation, bla bla, explained all sorts of bla-di-bla about the equipment, how their employees are carefully screened and drug tested and they don’t allow any convicts to work for them because in prison they teach convicts plumbing and HVAC and here’s a picture of brown dudes in prison uniforms studying to come rape and kill your wife in your own home under the guise of installing your new furnace and ac, and you can get a heat pump too to further reduce costs, and bla bla more tech stuff, and voila! four options for your consideration, good, better, best, wow, ranging from $11k to $16k.
And I said, “WTF?”
But wait, don’t answer yet, there are rebates, and we can take this and that off, and discounts, and I can come down on price, and so on, and now the four options range from just under $9k to $11k or something like that.
And I said, “dude, you might want to rethink that one part of your sales pitch where you subtly scare me about the brown prison dudes coming into my house.”
And he said, “well, yes, but Ashton Kutcher’s ex-girlfriend was killed by an ex-con, and there are white guys in that photo too.”
I do not think we will be buying the fancy expensive heat pump furnace from this dude with the laminated pictures of scary brown men in prison uniforms studying earnestly to come rape and kill me in my own home.
“The Same and Not the Same” is the title of a fantastic book by Nobel Prize winning chemist Roald Hoffman. It’s a great place to get a hearty dose of science + culture. Part Eight of the book is titled “Value, Harm, and Democracy” and has all sorts of interesting stuff in it on chemistry and industry, environmental concerns, chemistry, education & democracy. It does not have a section on what to do when you are running a media empire and your advertisers want you to censor your writers because they are still feeling a bit touchy over that whole messy Bhopal business, but you can’t cover everything in one book.
I have been extremely sad the past few days as I watch the Seed/ScienceBlogs Pepsigeddon nightmare unfold before me. Being part of ScienceBlogs has been extremely important to me, and something I’ve always been proud to claim affiliation with.
In my last post, I sought to draw an analogy between what I thought I saw happening with the now defunct, ill-fated PepsiCo blogvertorial at ScienceBlogs, and the previous struggles Ms. went through in the days it accepted advertising. Feminism and science are uneasy bedfellows at best, but they have this in common: most citizens are ignorant or ill-informed at best about them; are subjected to vast amounts of dis- and mis-information through highly effective marketing and propaganda machines that are better funded that the authoritative sources; and don’t always know where to go look when they do decide they want some reliable information on the topic. In addition, they are not the kinds of topics that advertisers flock to in droves. So funding a witty, attractive, meaningful, public-serving, truth-telling enterprise devoted to either subject is a daunting enterprise.
That’s what’s the same.
Here’s what’s not the same between the editors of Ms. and whatever passes for editorial ethics and guidance at Seed:
Ms., in 1990, at the time of going advertising free:
It’s been almost three years away from life between the grindstones of advertising pressures and readers’ needs. I’m just beginning to realize how edges got smoothed down–in spite of all our resistance. I remember feeling put upon when I changed “Porsche” to “car” in a piece about Nazi imagery in German pornography by Andrea Dworkin–feeling sure Andrea would understand that Volkswagen, the distributor of Porsche and one of our few supportive advertisers, asked only to be far away from Nazi subjects. It’s taken me all this time to realize the Andrea was the one with a right to feel put upon. Even as I write this, I get a call from a writer of Elle, who is doing a whole article on where women part their hair. Why, she wants to know, do I part mine in the middle? It’s all so familiar. A writer trying to make something of a nothing assignment; an editor laboring to think of new ways to attract ads: readers assuming that other women must want this ridiculous stuff; more women suffering from lack of information, insight, creativity, and laughter that could be on the these same pages.
I ask you: Can’t we do better than this?
We’re not running the bhopal piece, and we’re passing on the Maldive shark ban (a bit late now… Too bad it got caught up in prod week… ). As for Bhopal, it’s a cautionary call on our part as we’re in the midst of advertising negotiations with Dow (who have been inspired by Seed’s photography in their own brand campaigns). RE: the payment, as you’re on a scheduled direct-payment, the bhopal fee covers the Kerry/Carbon trading news piece fee that was outstanding. Let me know if that’s clear.
It’s clear that twenty years later, we really can’t do any better. We’re not just agonizing over toning down a word choice, we’re killing whole articles so that Dow doesn’t get its fee-fees hurt over that whole regrettable Bhopal thingy. Not because we already have an advertiser we don’t want to lose, but one we hope to gain. We’re shutting our mouths before anyone has even asked us to.
Read that Ms. editorial, and see what they went through, what their willingness to speak out cost them in terms of advertising dollars, the contortions they went through to hang on to the few advertisers they were able to coax to the table. Adam Bly, you really couldn’t have tried even half as hard as Gloria Steinem? Really?
Zuskateers, I believe this is my last straw. I’m leaving tomorrow for a week with Z-Mom, and there is supposed to be a conference call this week that will mollify all my concerns. I am ruminating, and will make an announcement when I am back from time with mom about my plans for the future.
UPDATE: response here and comments that follow.
Ladeez! Please remember not to be too fat, because James Watson doesn’t want to hire your ugly ass. Everybody knows fat people can’t do science. But they don’t care if we say so, because they are so jolly, and lack ambition!
Likewise, it is also not good to be beautiful and curvaceous, and wear clothes that fit you. For alas, Citibank will have to fire you. Your tailored clothing is “too distracting”. You distracting ladee, with your distracting turtlenecks!!! Begone from our stolid gentlemanly banking establishment!!!!
Too thin, too thick, too sexy, not sexy enough – clearly, there is no good way for you to appear in public, ladeez. Why do you even leave the home? Unless you are on your way to a gentleman’s club to do a pole or lap dance. (Thin ladeez with double D’s only, please! All others, please stay home and mind the kids.)
Jeebus, people, you have GOT to get some new whiney whines, you Whiney McWhinersons.
I’m talking about you, you whiney whiners. Those of you who get all whiney and defensive whenever anyone dares to point out that you have stepped in the dogshit. Stepping in dogshit is an accident and it is something that all of us do upon occasion. Now, when you step in dogshit, do you want to just go blithely prancing about the place, spreading the dogshit hither and yon, stinking up the place to high heaven? Or do you want someone to point out that, jesus h. christ, there’s a great big steaming heap o’ smelly dog turds trailing off your right shoe, why don’t you go scrap ‘em off? Or better yet, just get yourself a whole new pair of shoes, for sure Isis can recommend something stylish.
What you do not what to do, under any circumstances, is trot out that old whiney whine about “oh noes! a witch hunt!” Because now, not only do you have dogshit on your shoe, you have “I am an ignorant fool” tattooed on your face. Perhaps you are not familiar with the google? Try typing “witch hunt” into it. Your friend, Wikipedia, says:
A witch hunt is a search for witches or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching, but in historical instances also legally sanctioned and involving official witchcraft trials.
Crying “witch hunt” every time someone points out that you stepped in the dogshit is an insult to the horrific suffering and deaths of the thousands of women who truly were persecuted just because they were women. It’s also an insane mockery to liken people speaking up for diversity and social justice to killers of women.
Have you been burned at the stake? Drowned? Pressed to death with stones? Hung? Tortured? Forced to give false witness identifying other “witches” who will subsequently be questioned, tortured, hung/drowned/burned etc.? Is mass hysteria sweeping your local village or region, and hundreds of women are being killed? No? I do not think, then, that you are part of any “witch hunt”.
No. I think you have dogshit on your shoes. Which is a lot stinkier than some poor grad student who doesn’t share the U.S. obsession with showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away every last trace of normal body odor Real Americans find so disgusting. Still, stepping in the dogshit, as I said, happens to us all now and then. It’s not a measure of our character or our self-worth. How we react when it’s pointed out is a different story. Do we cling to our shitty shoes, track the shit all over the place, and then point at some foreign brown dude who, you know, you can hardly understand, and his food smells funny, and he just won’t use Axe body spray? Or do we stop a minute, lift our foot, and look at what we’re unintentionally dragging around with us? Oh shit.
Oh, I know. You’re just trying to help them deal with The Way Things Are. And those idealistic diversity nuts just don’t understand How Things Work Around Here. But the issue is not, how do things work around here. It’s how are you going to work around the things that are here.
You can help people negotiate their way through a treacherous, oppressive, racist, patriarchal hierarchy in a way that lets them come out the other side with some part of their soul still intact. Or you can apologize for the oppressor. Whiney “oh noes! witch hunt!” McWhinerson, are you aiming for the former? Or defaulting to the latter? Are you somewhere in between? Do you even know? Maybe you should take some time and think about it.
I wrote this all in English, the official language of How Things Work Around Here. I hope that’s not a problem for you.
As you know, it was just over a thousand years ago this past March that I defended my dissertation. As I recall, I picked up a dozen bagels and some cream cheese on the way to the defense, and the department
secretaries administrative assistants brought in an urn of coffee. It was me and my committee. My advisor made some exceedingly brief introductory remarks and then the semi-bored, semi-hostile committee allowed me to launch into the show-and-tell of What Did You Do These Last Five Years. A few hours later it was all over but the revisions and shouting. Literally. Revisions completed, signatures of committee members collected…and then, suddenly, Advisor wants to make changes. Big changes.
A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of yet another of the “death by a thousand paper cuts**” craptastic things I used to hate dealing with in my days in the scientific workforce. You know what I’m talking about. Could be a retreat, a workshop, a seminar, a meeting, a program, maybe even just a discussion, but whatever it is, diversity is the subject, explicit or implicit. On one occasion it was a discussion about whether a tiny little space should be set aside for students of a certain group. On another it was a pizza party for women students. But ever and anon, at such occasions, you will hear the plaintive wail:
“Where is the [meeting/retreat/study room/pizza party/program] for white men?”
At K-State, where I was for a time director of the Women in Engineering and Science Program, I was asked not once but several times “Where is the program for men in engineering?” I had various answers. Sometimes, when I felt pissy, I would say, “That would be the whole College of Engineering.” Sometimes when I felt polemical, I would say, “You know, that’s a good question. It’s good for us to think about why we need a program for women in engineering. Women can do engineering work, but engineering is not as successful in attracting and keeping them as it is with men. So in a sense, the program is more for the college of engineering than it is for the women.” Sometimes, when I felt Socratic, I would say, “That’s a good question. What do you think men need that they aren’t getting, that a men in engineering program would provide?”
But all times, this is what I really wanted to say:
Jesus H. Christ! Every time I hear that “where is the whateverthefuck for white men” I want to say “seriously? Seriously? you think you are the first motherfucking white d00d in the whole motherfucking world to come up with that acid riposte in a diversity-related seminar/meeting/retreat/discussion? SERIOUSLY? Go away and come up with an ORIGINAL white d00d whine and we will think about giving you a diversity cookie. Until then, open up your motherfucking white d00d eyes and take a look around at how the whole entire world is plastered with signs that say ‘White D00ds ‘Specially Welcome Here!’ ‘K? Thx.”
**(The) Knight Higher Education Collaborative (September 2001). Gender Intelligence. Policy Perspectives, 10(2), 1-9.
I was making a quick jog through the local supermarket the other night, seeking out cough drops and a few other things for a sad soul at home with the croup, when I rounded a corner and came upon this fresh new vision from hell:
And here I am wasting my extra cash on donations to food pantries for hungry humans in the greater Delaware Valley area. You, poor sap, may be throwing away cash on stupid causes like earthquake relief in Haiti, or trying to save birds from extinction. Let’s just all live it up and make sure Fido has a nice Fresh Meal. Maybe we could give the leftovers to the hungry in Philly, or send them off carefully wrapped up to the Haitians. I don’t think they’d fit well in a bird feeder.