Bureau of Waste Management

My cur­rent respon­si­ble life-improv­ing project con­sists of avoid­ing plas­tic bags as much as pos­si­ble. It is actu­al­ly much broad­er than that, since I’m recy­cling plas­tic, met­al and card­board and try­ing to reduce my paper con­sump­tion as much as pos­si­ble, but plas­tic bags are the most obvi­ous thing to avoid. They are every­where too. Most of the time when I go to the store, I tell the clerk that I don’t need a bag, since I can either car­ry the things out eas­i­ly by hand, or stick ‘em in my back­pack. A lot of times they seem a bit sur­prised, as if I’ve wok­en them out of their cashier-trance briefly. Hope­ful­ly they, and the peo­ple in line behind me, might stop just long enough to think about how easy it is to not take a bag if it is unnec­es­sary. I still take my bags from Tar­get though, they are high­er qual­i­ty than oth­ers and make per­fect trash bags for my bath­room trash can.

And I still end up with ten or twelve bags when I stock up at the gro­cery. Once I get home, they go into the recy­cling bin imme­di­ate­ly though. Sep­a­rat­ing my trash has shown me how very lit­tle I toss can’t be recy­cled. Most of what ends up in the garbage is food, which, if I had my own abode, could be com­post­ed. I’m even try­ing as hard as pos­si­ble to reduce my food waste, which main­ly con­sists of not over­buy­ing on per­ish­ables when I’m at the store. It is a del­i­cate bal­ance. The best case sce­nario for me would be to have a cor­ner mar­ket with fresh pro­duce, so I could buy what­ev­er I need­ed that day. It is good to know that I don’t pro­duce that much waste. Except for paper. I’m real­ly try­ing to cut back on that as well. I’m no longer buy­ing paper nap­kins, or facial tis­sue, instead I use hand­ker­chiefs. I’m using note paper until it resem­bles the score charts my grand­fa­ther used to keep while play­ing his intri­cate form of soli­taire, and I’ve decid­ed to dis­con­tin­ue my Nation­al Geo­graph­ic sub­scrip­tion and try to get my fix online instead. But I still waste too much paper and my excuse is very lame. I don’t have a box to put it in. If I had a box I could haul it down to Tremont school and dump it in the paper recy­cling dump­ster. Instead, all the junk mail I get, and all my oth­er paper waste just ends up in the trash can.

I’m try­ing to reduce at work as well, but it is hard­er there. The process is two-fold for me. First, I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on keep­ing recy­clable goods sep­a­rat­ed from the rub­bish and then haul­ing them to the recy­cling drop-off points [which isn’t hard because they are con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed] Serv­er-side recy­cling. Sec­ond, I’m reduc­ing the waste on my end, using less paper, avoid­ing plas­tic bags, rid­ing my bike the mile to the mar­ket. Client-side sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Reduce, Reuse, Recy­cle always sound­ed too catchy to me, too much like a slo­gan which los­es all mean­ing, but now, for­ev­er and a smoke break since the first use of that phrase, I actu­al­ly under­stand what it means. And it is start­ing to feel good to be respon­si­ble. That must be what it means to be old.

Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Double Beef Stacker with Cheese

Since I have appar­ent­ly cre­at­ed some expec­ta­tions among you far­thur­dlers regard­ing my gus­ta­to­ry fetish­es, I went down to the dun­geon for round n with the vendy. I picked up Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Dou­ble Beef Stack­er with Cheese, one of the orig­i­nal items in the vendy that has recent­ly made a come­back. I’m quite sure I’ve angered the burg­er deities by buy­ing a $1.65 dou­ble deck­er ham­burg­er out of a vend­ing machine. I’m prob­a­bly banned from Stevenson’s. In any case, I did it. Before I get to the burg­er though, I should tell you this:

I met the woman who stocks the vendy. She had just filled it up with con­coc­tions from her caul­dron. She was short and squat and pigeon-toed with frizzy grey hair and slight­ly myopic owl eyes. When I told her that I was going to get some­thing out of the machine, she watched me make my deci­sion. It was obvi­ous that she took great pride in the qual­i­ty of prod­uct she stocks that thing with. This week she added pud­ding. You can buy a 3 ounce con­tain­er of pud­ding for a dol­lar! Big AZ Bub­ba Twins have returned as well. She said that she has, unfor­tu­nate­ly, had to throw lots out, because, get this, no one has been buy­ing any­thing. Crikey lady, I won­der why. On the plus side, she did add a dol­lar coin dis­penser to the machine, so next time I pay with a fiv­er, I won’t get $2.95 in change in nick­els.

The burg­er, of course, what shit as burg­ers go. As an item from the machine, how­ev­er, I would def­i­nite­ly buy anoth­er one. I am try­ing to fig­ure out how some­thing that is most­ly TVP could sup­ply me with 47% of my RDA in sat­u­rat­ed fat. It must have been the cheese, which, post-burg­er, is now being cut quite often. I’m quite sure that noth­ing in this sand­wich actu­al­ly came from real plants or ani­mals. It required vir­tu­al­ly no mas­ti­ca­tion, which was good since the “cheese” dis­in­te­grat­ed my teeth upon con­tact. So, basi­cal­ly, oth­er than the fact that it tast­ed like shit and is cur­rent­ly mount­ing a simul­ta­ne­ous breach attack on my stom­ach and colon, it wasn’t that bad.

Link of the day: Joe’s Worth­less Base­ball Card Col­lec­tion

Damn Indefinite Article

Quick, explain any dif­fer­ence you see between being “drunk” and being “a drunk”. Not much, is there? Just one let­ter. Per­haps I am excep­tion­al but I would be will­ing to wager that many peo­ple do not con­sid­er how indef­i­nite arti­cles can dras­ti­cal­ly change read­ing com­pre­hen­sion. What, exact­ly, does “a” do? In my drunk exam­ple, “a” turns adjec­tive into noun; my descrip­tor cod­i­fies into tan­gi­bil­i­ty by adding one let­ter. This is dan­ger­ous, I think. I have been, on record, resis­tant to labels from near­ly webl­o­go­ge­n­e­sis; I believe I have final­ly dis­cov­ered that this resis­tance resides in “a”.

It makes things too strong for me. Per­haps I have lit­tle faith or much arro­gance in think­ing that real­i­ty or noun­hood can­not with­stand this weight of being, but words don’t describe real­i­ty; so it should be no sur­prise if the vest­ment of “a”, when worn by adjec­tives, takes peo­ple fur­ther from fact. I have been through most of this before. Some­thing new: Using “a” in ref­er­ence to spe­cif­ic per­sons, includ­ing one­self, is noth­ing more than sub­tle vio­lence. It pigeon­holes and sin­gles out for more pigeon­hol­ing. I’d much rather be described as “some­thing” than defined as “one of some­thing” Using “a” in this man­ner; “I’m a Catholic”, “She’s a fem­i­nist”, “He’s a black”, has dis­tinct “Oh, one of those peo­ple…” over­tones. Say­ing “I’m Catholic”, “She’s fem­i­nist”, “He’s black” gives equiv­a­lent fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion but avoids any sort of pigeon­hol­ing.

Or not.

I believe I used no arti­cles [except as exam­ples] while writ­ing this post.

Links of the Day: Gallery of Regret­table Food and The Com­pa­ny Cook­book.

Boom Bip and Interpol at the Agora Ballroom

Let me shoot straight with you. Boom Bip sucks. After hear­ing them play, I wasn’t sur­prised that I’d nev­er heard of them and I ful­ly expect to nev­er hear from them again. In fact, that’d bet­ter hap­pen. Boom Bip [stu­pid name] is one dude, appar­ent­ly, and if you took all the band mem­bers and squashed them togeth­er, you might have one dude who could play one instru­ment. The drum­mer beat the same damn rhythm on the high-hat and snare for their set, the bassist played the same two notes on the top two strings on his bass, the lead gui­tarist played the same chord on the bot­tom two strings of his gui­tar the whole time and, by far the worst, was the key­boardist, who had a mobile com­mand cen­ter of gad­getry and lap­top­pery, but seemed to only play a mid­dle C in every song. Beat-inten­sive instru­men­tal noise-rock is bor­ing. Unless you are Ratatat, lyrics are good, moth­er­fuck­ers. I’ve had more fun with cafe­te­ria food than watch­ing Boom Bip. I do not rec­om­mend them.

Inter­pol could have had the worst show of their careers last night, and no one would have noticed, not after Boom Bip [I mean, seri­ous­ly, you can’t come up with a bet­ter name than that?]. Full dis­clo­sure: I didn’t like Antics at all, and still love Turn on the Bright Lights. Inter­pol in con­cert was what I had expect­ed Inter­pol in con­cert to be like. My friend Phil said that he’d heard they are great live, and if you like your live bands to sound just like they do on their albums, Inter­pol is great live. They set down sol­id lay­ers in their rhythm sec­tion and the vocals are fraught enough to over­come any redun­dan­cy in the sound [Boom Bip, take note!]. So, Inter­pol plays like a well-oiled machine. And there­in might be my prob­lem with them. When I hear a band live I like crowd inter­ac­tion and a lit­tle bit of improv, the lyrics sung a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent­ly, a gui­tar solo now and then; with Inter­pol it is almost mechan­i­cal, they are just com­ing out and doing their job, they keep them­selves too tight­ly reined in for me.

I had a pret­ty decent time, they played my favorite song of theirs, Spe­cial­ist, and my third favorite song, Roland, dur­ing their encore, but didn’t play my sec­ond favorite, Obsta­cle 2. They, expect­ed­ly, played a bunch of songs from Antics, but I like their ear­li­er stuff, which doesn’t bode well for a band with only two albums under its belt. The Ago­ra is pret­ty sweet though. This para­graph has three sen­tences and too many com­mas.

Here ends this elit­ist music review, but I had no need to say it twice.

Weathervane Glory

some peo­ple some day
will get togeth­er and
weld a great white egret
out of what ever ideas
are still left over
and they will seat it some
where and oth­er
peo­ple will fight over
it or rather fight over
what they think it
may or may not

          [the egret being
          too itself to see
          its own evil]

at some point it
will be cast down by
some one full of

weath­er­vane glo­ry or
an excess of rel­a­tiv­i­ty

there is some thing to
be said for equiv­o­ca­cy
          some oth­er time
          by some one else.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Weath­er­vane Glo­ry”

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora

Dark Mat­ter: A Cen­tu­ry of Spec­u­la­tive Fic­tion from the African Dias­po­ra is right up there with Dan­ger­ous Visions in terms of qual­i­ty and per­spi­cac­i­ty in sci­ence fic­tion antholo­gies. I could go spout­ing off on how won­der­ful it is to see black writ­ers grow­ing in a field nor­mal­ly dom­i­nat­ed by white guys, but all the is addressed in the book, espe­cial­ly in Samuel R. Delany’s essay “Racism and Sci­ence Fic­tion” at the end, which is one of the most cogent and thought­ful essays on racism that I’ve ever read. [excerpts at the bot­tom]

Instead I’m going to briefly delve into the qual­i­ty of the sto­ries them­selves, as works of craft, and then give some thoughts on my own reac­tions to some of them. Briefly, the qual­i­ty of the sto­ries is very high. The first half dozen or so required me to put some time aside after read­ing them for mas­ti­ca­tion and diges­tion. They are potent tales. W.E.B. du Bois, Octavia But­ler, Amiri Bara­ka, Samuel R. Delany are just a few of the slew of folks who have tales in this book. I now have a bunch of new authors to check out as well, espe­cial­ly Nalo Hop­kin­son. For me, the qual­i­ty slow­ly tapered off after the first few head­chew­ers, again much like DV. Not to say that any of the sto­ries were bad [none of them are], but amidst the mas­ter­pieces the oth­ers don’t shine as bright­ly.

Since I’m a crack­er from down­coun­try Indi­ana and attend­ed a pri­vate Catholic col­lege whose per­cent­age of black stu­dents sus­pi­cious­ly match­es up with the per­cent­age of non-Catholics on cam­pus and the per­cent­age of non-white ath­letes, I don’t have a whole lot of expe­ri­ence when it comes to diver­si­ty. Hell, I don’t think I even met a Jew until I was in my twen­ties. The clos­est thing I knew to a minor­i­ty grow­ing up was the old coun­try Ital­ian grand­moth­er down the street. Basi­cal­ly, I’m say­ing that what I’m about to say is most like­ly going to be some­what igno­rant.

It seemed like many of the sto­ries could be eas­i­ly inter­pret­ed as ful­fill­ing black stereo­types. For instance, prob­a­bly a good half of the sto­ries have music and rhythm as cen­tral themes and tropes. Thank­ful­ly they are often used to high­light oth­er con­cerns, avoid­ing a tru­ly shal­low and unpro­duc­tive inter­pre­ta­tion that black folks can dance and sing while white folks have rhythm like a fat man’s heart­beat [although Evie Shockley’s “sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety” doesn’t do so well at that]. Sim­i­lar­ly, there are con­stant ref­er­ences through­out of slav­ery and the slave trade, often with anger still seething under the sur­face. This is some­thing I can’t under­stand at all, and I’ve tried. My ini­tial reac­tion to the resent­ful men­tions of slav­ery was “Man, that was over 150 years ago, you should be over it by now.” Unfair to say the least, since I can have no idea how long it takes to heal the eth­nic trau­ma of hun­dreds of years of slav­ery. I also don’t have any per­son­al expe­ri­ence with con­tem­po­rary race rela­tions from the black side of the equa­tion. What I’m deplor­ing here is my igno­rance and also my inabil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly find sources to alle­vi­ate that igno­rance. I learn best through empa­thy, but how can a priv­i­leged white boy empathize with black­ness?

I guess I had the expec­ta­tion that black sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers would be more like­ly to avoid what I per­ceive as a heavy-hand­ed use of America’s less than savory past. I think I expect­ed to engage in exam­ples of black­ness that wasn’t defined by dis­en­fran­chise­ment and ostra­ciza­tion. Instead I felt that these writ­ers don’t have much hope that things will get bet­ter for them and theirs. For us. But then, maybe I was expect­ing black writ­ers to write like white writ­ers. I don’t real­ly know. Dark Mat­ter is the per­fect name for this anthol­o­gy on a whole bunch of lev­els [dark­ness of con­tent, dark­ness of out­look, dark­ness of the authors, not to men­tion the main metaphor of the anthol­o­gy; that black influ­ence is the dark mat­ter of our soci­ety] and it is def­i­nite­ly some­thing I want to add to my sci-fi book col­lec­tion.

These are some of my imme­di­ate reac­tions, tem­pered a bit by sub­se­quent thought. Obvi­ous­ly I’ve not been able to untan­gle the skein of my soci­etal pre­con­cep­tions. I’ve known I’m nev­er real­ly going to do that on any top­ic, which is why I try to ignore the sub­con­scious mur­mur­ings of sex­ism and racism that bub­ble up from time to time and deal with each per­son as a per­son and not some spe­cif­ic thing in a pigeon­hole. Every­body seems to live much hap­pi­er that way.

Excerpt from Racism and Sci­ence Fic­tion by Samuel R. Delany [via]

Racism for me has always appeared to be first and fore­most a sys­tem, large­ly sup­port­ed by mate­r­i­al and eco­nom­ic con­di­tions at work in a field of social tra­di­tions. Thus, though racism is always made man­i­fest through indi­vid­u­als’ deci­sions, actions, words, and fee­ings, when we have the lux­u­ry of look­ing at it with the longer view (and we don’t, always), usu­al­ly I don’t see much point in blam­ing peo­ple per­son­al­ly, black or white, for their feel­ings or even for their spe­cif­ic actions — as long as they remain this side of the crim­i­nal. These are not what sta­bi­lize the sys­tem. These are not what pro­mote and repro­duce the sys­tem. These are not the points where the most last­ing changes can be intro­duced to alter the sys­tem.

[…]I don’t think you can have racism as a pos­i­tive sytem until you have that socioe­co­nom­ic sup­port sug­gest­ed by that (rather arbi­trary [place­ment of walls]) twen­ty percent/eighty per­cent pro­por­tion. But what racism as a sys­tem does is iso­late and seg­re­gate the peo­ple of one race, or group, or eth­nos from anoth­er. As a sys­tem it can be fueled by chance as much as by hos­til­i­ty or by the best of inten­tions. (“I thought they would be more com­fort­able togeth­er, I thought they would want to be with each oth­er…”) And cer­tain­ly one of its strongest man­i­fes­ta­tions is as a socio-visu­al sys­tem in which peo­ple become used to always see­ing blacks with oth­er blacks and so—because peo­ple are used to it—being uncom­fort­able when­ev­er they see blacks mixed in, at what­ev­er pro­por­tion, with whites.

[…] As such, [the sys­tem] is fueled as much by chance as by hos­tile inten­tions and equal­ly by the best inten­tions as well. It is what­ev­er sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly accli­mates peo­ple, of all col­ors, to become com­fort­able with the iso­la­tion and seg­re­ga­tion of the races, on a visu­al, social, or eco­nom­ic level—which in turn sup­ports and is sup­port­ed socioe­co­nom­ic dis­crim­i­na­tion. Because it is a sys­tem, how­ev­er, I believe per­son­al guilt will nev­er replace a bit of well found­ed sys­tems analy­sis.

Links to oth­er stuff on DM:ACoSFftAD:

SciFi.com- Makes the DV com­par­i­son right off the bat too!
The AALBC has an excerpt of W.E.B. du Bois’s “The Comet” and a Table of Con­tents.