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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Looming Bicentennial

That's right, believe it or not, post 200 is just around the corner. (This one is #196). I've decided to revamp the blog a bit, in part because I when changed the dimensions of the main entries a few weeks ago, something with the symmetry went slightly haywire (clearly unacceptable), but primarily because I wanted to add the little label search feature up top so that you / I can choose what kind of logorhhea to ingest. The options are:

Adventures: Covers trips and travels and odd happenings of various sorts.
Ecofanaticism: Self-explanatory. But I don't think I like the self-mockery of the name. Expect it to change soon. Positive suggestions welcome.
Korea: Anything relating to Korean language, culture, customs, quirkiness, etc. Maybe work-related issues as well.
Responses: My reactions to news, articles, comments from you friends, etc.
Veg(etari)anism: Pertaining to the non-consumption of animals and animal products.
맛난 Masticatables: Long-ago promised section on Korean food as well as any goodies I fortuitously whip up.

I agonized for quite a while over what sort of background and layout to go with. I could have chosen a spiffy one with some nice completely computer generated sunset or prarie, or a photoshopped bucket of oragnic-looking veggies, or a nice wood pattern, or some bamboo, or maybe an old, classy rotary phone or train station scene, but I decided that all of them were too pretty and fake and prefab to adequately reflect the alternating bitterness, puns, ecorage, joy in small linguistic accomplishments, and predilection for asides, parentheticals, hyphenations, portmanteaus, coinages, and nerdery that keep you all (I don't even know who that refers to, really) coming back for more.

What an infathomably complex character I am! I never cease to fascinate myself. Nor does self ever cease to fascinate myI. I suppose that's why I've made it this far (wherever that is).

Hope it's easy on the eyes. I wish you pleasant reading, many a chuckle, and healthy doses of guilt and indignance.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

An Article from Anna

I am apparently the sort of guy who is lucky enough to have good male friends who find wonderful girlfriends who then later become my friends and my friends' wives. (I am apparently not the sort of guy who can express his thoughts succinctly or avoid unnecessary parentheticals, but surely you did not need to be made aware of this once again). (Maybe some day I will be able to return the favor to those male friends...maybe).

Anyway, case in point: Anna Zeide has just posted a few inspiring posts on her blog "Madison in June" (link on the left) about the work she's been doing teaching kids about food. Sometimes I really wish I were doing something like that, rather than just enjoying my cushy job and getting increasingly, uselessly furious and curmedgeonly in all my down time. I suggest you check them out.

She also clued me in to the following two articles, which together illuminate a lot of challenges that I struggle with myself and which I (yes, I know, cruelly and unfairly) scorn others for not agonizing over:

The first, "I am a radical homemaker failure" light-heartedly covers the trials and tribulations of author Madeleine Holler as she attempts to take a few steps away from the abusiveness of our lifestyles. No easy task, for sure. I suggest you read it and pay attention to how she fails, or why.

Then read this post by Sharon Astyk of the blog Casaubon's Book* (footnote to reduce parenthetical disruption...trying out a new technique here), where Astyk takes a nice, hard swing at our (I'm far from exempt) tendency to just say "I'm not good at that" or "I can't do it." As if anyone who can drive a car, operate a cell phone, chew bubble gum at the same time can't (to follow up on Astyk's example) make a batch of pickles or loaf of bread.

Is this incompetence really innate? Are there really people who simply don't have the ability to wash clothes by hand, to cook a meal from scratch, to mend clothes, or to go without the AC or a plastic bag or meat or cheese for a day, a month, a year, a lifetime? Can people really trick themselves into believing that they don't even have the capacity to learn how to do these things well, or to do without them? Are the (unfortunate, poorly paid, likely colored, likely living elsewhere) people who actually do do the work we avoid somehow inherently smarter, stronger, or more nimble than us? (As our grandparents and foreparents must also have been).

Or is it possible that this willful, defiant incompetence, which even the best-intentioned of us often express, functions as a rationalization that allows us to continue pushing the "dirty work" onto others that don't have the credentials or luck to do anything else? (could I please stop making my points with rhetorical questions? Do I even know how?) I can be reasonably sure that the people who make my clothes suffer a lot and earn little in the process, but since I just plain don't know how to make a shirt, I have no other options, and thus can't be expected to accept any share of the blame.

I should admit that, yes, of course, change takes time and is not easy. Sometimes people do fail. We just don't know enough, can't find the right resources or support, worry about what small change now might mean in terms of our future, etc. It took me years to successfully become a vegetarian, after all, and a few months to go vegan after that, and I am sure that over those periods I used false legitimizations as often as I used true ones. I still do the same in my attempts to avoid plastic and imported foods (but I seriously can't live without bananas. No joke.) So Kudos to Holler for her attempt. I just hope that rather than taking her failure as a sign that she can't possibly achieve the independence she set out for, it clues her in to the way we're taught to become (and/or believe we must of necessity be) completely dependent on people we can't see and companies we can't influence (in most significant ways) and processes we don't at all understand. I hope she (and her readers) are left not feeling satisfied at having tried, but furious at having failed. And that she (and they, and I) can find productive and meaningful ways to get herself (and themselves, and myself) out of this mess.

My resolutoin: damn it, I'm going to make some yogurt tonight, and I'm going to enjoy it for the next 10 days, even if it's revolting. Bean sprouts too. Then I'm going to candy some of my own beans and peanuts. If I'm still this incensed by the time the weekend rolls around, I'm going to make my own *EXTREME EXPLETIVE x 6* kimchi.


Clearly the 10-day silent mediation course has helped me learn to stay level-headed in all situations. More on that to come.

*actually Anna has clued me in on several good articles from this blog and I'd put up a permanent link on the left if not for the fact that there are apparently some political struggles happening on the website, leaving the blog's future there in question.