Friday, November 06, 2009

Race Against Time, Stephen Lewis
"It seems to me that those of us who care about the United Nations have an ethical responsibility to point out its failings and to suggest constructive alternatives. There is a tendency to think that dissent should be contained or that self-censorship is to be applauded. I regard both sentiments as the last refuge of an intellectual wimp."

"The Bank and the Fund were fully told about their mistakes even as the mistakes were being made. It's so enraging that they refused to listen. It's so enraging that they refused to listen. They were so smug, so all-knowing, so incredibly arrogant, so wrong. They simply didn't respond to arguments which begged them to review the human consequences of their policies. The fact that poverty became increasingly entrenched, or that econmoies were not reponding to the dogma as the dogma predicted, made no difference. It was a form of Capitalist Stalinism. The credo was everything; the people were a laboratory."

"Three years ago, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere asked the question "Must we starve our children to pay our debts? That question has now been answered in practice. And the answer is "Yes." In those three years, hundreds of thousands of the devleoping world's children have given their lives to pay their countries' debts, and many millions more are still paying the interest with their malnourished minds and bodies...
The fact that so muc hof today's staggering debt was irresponsibly lent and irresponsibly borrowed would matter less if the consequences of such folly were falling on its perpetrators. Yet now, when the party is over and the bills are coming in, it is the poor who are being asked to pay.
Today, the heaviest burden of a decade of frenzied borrowing is falling not on the military or on those with foreign bank accounts or on those who concieved the years of waste, but on the poor who are having to do without necessities... on the women who do not have enough food to maintain their health, on the infants whose minds and bodies are not growing properly... and on the children who are being denied their only opportunity ever to go to school." Peter Adamson, UNICEF State of the World's Children, 1989

"There's just no way around the constant neglect in addressing the priorities for women. Perhaps the most recent glaring example of that truth is the report on the celebrated Commission for Africa, appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair. I can't get over it. Let's start with the commissioners. There were seventeen in total, three of whom were women. Three, or 17 percent. Prime Minister Blair had the whole world to choose from, and he could come up with only three women... That commission was fatally flawed from the outset, simply by way of gender representation."

"It was evident to the mission that although the prevalence of HIV infection is highest among women and girls - who also take on nearly all the responsibilities of caring for the sick and orphaned, in addiction to their regular obligations such as proivideing food for the households - very little is being done to reduce women's risks, to protect them from sexual aggression and violence, to ease their burdens or to support their coping and caring efforts." Paula Donovan,

"We're in a desparate race against time, and we're losing. It's simply impossible to reduce poverty, hunger, gender inequality, disease, and death significantly at the present pace, and other than the contrapuntal beat of hyperactive rhetoric, the necessary acceleration is nowhere evident. Alas, man and woman cannot live by rhetoric alone."

"In 2005, the world will pass the trillion-dollar mark in the expenditure, annually, on arms. We're fighting for $50 billion annually for foreign aid for Africa: the military total outstrips human need by 20 to 1. Can someone please explain to me our contemporary balance of values?"

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

omnivore's dilemma - the anxiety that comes from deciding what you should eat when you can eat just about anything nature has to offer (compared to specialized eaters.)

- industrial - corn farm George Naylor in Iowa, organic industrial, Joel Salatin grass farm, boar hunting, mushroom gathering, fruit from tree in the city, yeast from the air

"I wanted to look at the getting and eating of food at its most fundamental, which is to say, as a transaction between species in nature, eaters and eaten."

"The whole of nature is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and passive." William Ralph Inge

"The fact of our omnivorousness has done much to shape our nature, both body (we possess the omnipotent teeth and jaws of of the omnivore, equally well suited to tearing meat and grinding seeds) and soul. Our prodigious powers of observation and memory, as well as our curious and experimental stance toward the natural world, owe much to the biological fact of omnivorousness. So do the various adaptations we've evolved to defeat the defenses of other creatures so that we might eat them, including our skills at hunting and cooking with fire. Some philosophers have argued that the very open-endedness of human appetite is responsible for both our savagery and civility, since a creature that could conceive of eating anything (including, notably, other humans) stands in particular need of ethical rules, manners, and rituals. We are not only what we eat, but how we eat, too."

"By replacing solar energy with fossil fuel, by raising millions of food animals in close confinement, by feeding those animals foods they never evolved to eat, and by feeding ourselves foods far more novel than we even realize, we are taking risks with our health and the health of the natural world that are unprecedented."

"What is perhaps most troubling, and sad, about industrial eating is how thoroughly it obscures all these relationships [between species] and connections... But forgetting, or not knowing in the first place, is what the industrial food chain is all about, the principal reason it is so opaque, for if we could see what lies on the far side of the increasingly high walls of our industrial agriculture, we would surely change the way we eat."

-corn feeds cows, chicken, pig, turkey, lamb, catfish, tilapia, salmon
-eggs come from corn
-milk, cheese, yogurt come from dairy cows that used to graze on grass and now eat corn
-processed foods corn starch, corn flour, corn oil, leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, coloring, citric acid derived from corn
-soft drinks high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) "To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn.

"By evolving certain traits we happen to regard as desirable, these species got themselves noticed by the one mammal in a position not only to spread their genes around the world, but to remake vast swaths of that world in the image of the plants' preferred habitat. No other group of species gained more from its association with humans than the edible grasses, and no grass has reaped more from agriculture than Zea mays, today the world's most important cereal crop."

all-purpose fast-food flavour "Overall the nugget seemed more like an abstraction than a full-fledged food, an idea of chicken waiting to be fleshed out."

"That perhaps is what the industrial food chain does best: obscure the histories of the foods it produces by pocessig them to such an extent that they appear as pure products of culture rather than nature - things made from plants and animals."

supermarket pastoral - the narrative of the farms that organic is grown on, reminds us of farms we read about as children "I suspect that's because it gratifies some of our deepest, oldest longings, not merely for safe food, but for a connection to the earth and to the handful of domesticated creates we've long depended on."

"This was when I began to appreciate what a morally powerful idea an open-air abattoir is. Polyface's customers know to come after noon on a chicken day, but there's nothing to prevent them for showing up earlier and watching their dinner being killed - indeed, customers are welcome to watch , and occasionally one does. More than any USDA rule or regulation, this transparency is their best assurance that the meat they're buying has been humanely and cleanly processed... Imagine if the walls of every slaughterhouse and animal factory were as transparent as Polyface's - if not open to the air then at least made of glass. So much of what happens behind those walls - the cruelty, the carelessness, the filth - would simply have to stop."

"the typical item of food on an American's plate... is frequently better traveled and more worldly than its eater."

" one would ever mistake these people for the well-heeled urban foodies generally thought of be the market for organic or artisanal food."

"Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water - all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap."

"As a society we Americans spend only a fraction of our disposable income, feeding ourselves - about a tenth, down from a fifth in the 1950s. Americans today spend less on food, as a percentage of disposable income, than any other industrialized nation, and probably less than any people in the history of the world. This suggests that there are many of us who could afford to spend more on food if we chose to."

- why does only price matter with food, and not quality, like with cars? grass fed animals are more nutritional

- Denmark bar codes that show monitor images of farm, detailed info on genetics, feed, medications, slaughter

- farmed salmon fed on grain have less omega-3 than wild fish

- salmon better than beef - maybe not. "The species of animal you eat may matter less than what the animal you're eating has itself eaten."

- "It is becoming increasingly apparent to anyone with an electron microscope or a mass spectrometer that, truly, this is not the same food."

-"the social contract is a great boon to omnivores in general, and to mushroom eaters in particular." edibility questions

- "cooking something thoughtfully is a way to celebrate both that species and our relation to it."

- the pleasures of the one [meal hunted, gathered, and farmed by himself] are based on a nearly perfect knowledge; the pleasures of the other [McDonald's meal] on an equally perfect ignorance. The diversity of one mirrors the diversity of nature, especially the forest; the variety of the other more accurately reflects the ingenuity of industry, especially its ability to tease a passing resemblance of diversity from a single species growing in a single landscape: a monoculture of corn."

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

"Stop your nonsense, Wilbur!" said the oldest sheep. "If you have a new friend here, you are probably disturbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friendship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he is ready. How can you be sure your friend's an early riser?"

Wilbur admired the way Charlotte managed. He was particularly glad that she always put her victim to sleep before eating it... "Yes," she replied in her sweet, musical voice, "I always give them an anesthetic so they won't feel pain. It's a little service I throw in."

"Well," said the spider, plucking thoughtfully at her web, "The old sheep has been around this barn a long time. She has seen many a spring pig come and go. If she says they plan to kill you, I'm sure it's true. It's also the dirtiest trick I ever heard of. what people don't think of!"

Wilbur burst into tears. "I don't want to die," he moaned. "I want to stay alive, right here in my comfortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun."

"Your future is assured. You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur - this lovely world, these precious days..."

The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold - very annoying book. loved the lovely bones and lucky. unable to make sense of this book.

Remember Me? Not impressed. Lexi forgets that she hates her "perfect" life with Eric, ends up with Jon, who embodies a really perfect life.

The Man of my Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld - after Prep, disappointing, but entertaining. Hannah has no idea how to find a healthy relationship, "Hannah will think of her glasses on the floor of the North Pacific. It is dark and calm down there; fish slip past; her glasses rest untouched, the clear plastic lenses and titanium frames. In the stillness without her, the glasses see and see." She ends up single, teaching at a special ed school.

Sex and the Single Vampire - hilarious, romance, vampires. fewer pages to get to the happy ending than having to plow through four books in the Twilight series and almost as engrossing.

The Audacity of Hope, Barrack Obama
"our democracy not as a house to be built, but a conversation to be had... what the framework of our Constitution can do is organize the way by which we argue about our future. All of its elaborate machinery... are designed to force us into a conversation, a "deliberative" democracy" in which all citizens are required to engage in a process of testing their ideas against an external reality, persuading others of the point of view, and building shifting alliances of consent."

- presumption of good faith in those who don't share your beliefs

- prochoice

- chapter on faith: "In judging the persuasiveness of various moral claims, we should be on the lookout for inconsistency in how such claims are applied: As a general rule, I am more prone to listen to those who are as outraged by the indecency of homelessness as they are by the indecency of music videos.

Cafe Europa:Life After Communism, Slavenka Drakulic

"Individuality, the first-person singular, always existed under communism, it was just exiled from public and political life and exercised in private... it is very difficult to connect the private and public 'I'; to start believing that an individual opinion, initiative, or vote really could make a difference. There is still too big a danger that the citizen will withdraw into an anonymous, safe 'us'... So in Eastern European countries, the difference beetween 'we' and 'I' is to me far more important than mere grammar. 'We' means fear, resignation, submissiveness, a warm crowd and somebody else deciding your destiny. 'I' means giving individuality and democracy a chance."

"The fact remains that, after fifty years, it was possible after all to have another war in Europe; that it was possible to change borders; that genocide is still possible even today. This should be enough to scare us all. This, and the fact that 'Europeans' - that is, people in France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, or Spain - watched all this, paralyzed. It was all there, on the television screens in their living rooms, shells, bombs, slaughter, rape, blood, destruction -the entire war unfolded in front of their eyes. Everybody knew what was going on and this, in a way, is the curse of the war in Bosnia, in the Balkans, and in - well, in what is called

Jodi Picoult novels are a bit of a guilty pleasure. The first one I read, "My Sister's Keeper" touched me. After that I've read several that I found entertaining enough, but nothing special, like Vanishing Acts. Plain Truth and the Pact felt like reading almost the same book. And then I read "The Tenth Circle." The story of Trixie and her boyfriend and the rape she accuses him of, upset me. First of all, Trixie lies to the police, several times. She herself brought the date rape drug to the party - though she doesn't know how she ended up consuming it. There is no suggestion that her ex-boyfriend had any idea that the drugs were even at the party, much less gave them to her. She didn't say no. A tie was made in the novel to the Yup'ik natives in Alaska, amongst whom her father was raised, and how to them, wishes unspoken were still real. However, the ex-boyfriend kills himself when his whole life disappears in front of him - he loses his scholarship to play hockey and finds out he will be tried as an adult. With the tendency in society for people to disbelieve accusations of rape, I found the plot line of this novel a disturbing one.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

"Lana wasn't about to buy a book, even a used one."

"The power-crazed leaders of the world would certainly be surprised to find that their military leaders and troops were only masquarading sodomites who were only too eager to meet the masquarading sodomite armies of other nations in order to have dances and balls and learn some foreign dance steps."

After Dark, Haruki Murakami

"The room is dark. Only the area around the man's desk receives illumination from the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. This could be an Edward Hopper painting titled Loneliness. Not that the man himself feels lonely where he is at the moment: he prefers it that way."

"But it's possible for people to draw closer to each other even while they keep a reasonable distance between them."

"Of course it's possible," Takahashi says. "But what seems like a reasonable distance to one person might seem like too far to somebody else."

Takahashi gets all upset because a criminal gets the death penalty and wondered why: "any single human being, no matter what kind of a person he or she may be, is all caught up in the tentacles of this animal like a giant octopus, and is getting sucked into the darkness."

"It's my motto for life. Walk slowly; drink lots of water."

One night in Tokyo, various characters thrown together.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

J18202 "J because I am - like you - a Jew. The 1 is for me because I am alone. The 8 is for my family because there were eight of us when we lived in our village. And the 2 because that is all that are left now, me and Wolfe, who believes himself to be a 0. But I love him no matter what he is forced to do. And when we are free and this is over, we will be 2 again."

How I Became Stupid, Martin Page

"He would be an alcoholic - in other words, someone with an illness that is recognized by society. Alcoholics are pitied, they are cared for, they are thought of in medical terms, humanely. But no one thinks of pitying intelligent people: 'He watches human behavior, that must make him very unhappy'; 'My neice is very intelligent, but she's a really nice girl. She's hoping to grow out of it'; 'For awhile there, I was afraid you might become intelligent.' Those are the sort of well-meaning and compassionate words he should have been entitled too if there were any justice in the world. But no, intelligence is a double curse: it makes you suffer, and no one thinks of it as an illness."

"A learned person taking part in a discussion will think they're simplifying things, and all they really want is to make deletions and alterations, sticking asterisks at the ends of words, putting footnotes at the bottom of the page and endnotes at the end of the book to explain what they're really thinking, and from where it stems. But in a casual conversation at the end of a corridor, at a sparkling dinner party, or in the columns of a newspaper, that can't really happen: there's no room for rigorous accuracy, objectivity, impartiality or honesty. Virtue is a rhetorical handicap, completely inefficient in a debate."

Fury, Salman Rushdie

"Professor Solanka, who thought of himself as egalitarian by nature and a born-and-bred metropolitan of the countryside-is-for-cows persuasion, on parade days strolled sweatily cheek by jowl among his fellow citizens. One Sunday he rubbed shoulders with slim-hipped gay-pride prancers, the next weekend he got jiggy beside a big-assed Puerto-Rican girl wearing her national flag as a bra. He didn't feel intruded upon amid these multitudes; to the contrary. There was a satisfying anonymity in the crowds, an absence of intrusion. Nobody here was interested in his mysteries."

"Rome did not fall because her armies weakened but because Romans forgot what being Roman meant. Might this new Rome actually be more provincial than its provinces; might these new Romans have forgotten what and how to value, or had they never known? ... Who paved Paradise and put up a parking lot? Who settled for George W. Gush's boredom and Al Bore's gush? Who let Charleton Heston out of his cage and then asked why children were getting shot? What, America, of the Grail? O ye Yankee Galahads, ye Hoosier Lancelots, O Parsifals of the stockyards, what of the Table Round?"

"Everywhere on Earth - in Britain, in India, in distant Lilliput - people were obsessed by the subject of success in America... British levels of hysteria were even higher. British journalist gets work in U.S.A.! Incredible! British actor to play second lead in American movie! Wow, what a superstar! Cross-dressing British comic wins two Emmys! Amazing - we always knew British transvestism was best!"

"It was a perfect April day at the height of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. The government was simultaneously ahead in the polls and unpopular, and the prime minister, Tony Ozymandias, seemed shocked by the paradox: what you don't like us?"

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky

2 June 1942 Never forget that the war will be over and that the entire historical side will fade away. Try to create as much as possible: things, debates... that will interest people in 1952 or 2052. Re-read Tolstoy. Inimitable descriptions but not historical. For example in Dolce, the Germans in the village. In captivity, Jacqueline's First Communion and Arlette Corail's party.

Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, Mark J. Penn with E. Kinney Zalesne

"The perverse and unorthodox thesis of this little book is that the voters are not fools." V.O. Key, Jr.

Korea has 1,200 plastic surgeons, the highest per capital in the world.

In so many areas now, women are the majority, but men and the system are slow to recognize it. Women are the majority of students in college and in law school. Women are the majority of voters. Joining that list, while no one seems to be recognizing it, is also that women are the majority of car-buyers. That may be the most over-looked marketing statistic in America.

Liu Xiaodong, Man with Two Women
Zhang Xiaogang, Tienanmen Square

"must study Politicks and War, that my sons may ... study ... Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poerty, and Porcelain." John Adams

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"He was still too young to know that the heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past."

"...his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth do them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."

Dr. Urbino would say: "The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast."

In the Native story, the conversational voice tends to highlight the exuberance of the story but diminishes its authority while the sober voice in the Christian story makes for a formal recitation but creates a sense of veracity... Of course, none of you would make the mistake of confusing storytelling strategies with the value or sophistication of a story... nonetheless, the talking animals are a problem."

"A theologian might argue that these two creation stories are essentially the same. Each tells about the creation of the world and the appearance of human beings. But a storyteller would tell you that these two stories are quite different, for whether you read the Bible as sacred text or secular metaphor, the elements in Genesis create a particular universe governed by a series of hierarchies - God, man, animals, plants - that celebrate law, order, and good government, while in our Native story, the universe is governed by a series of co-operations - Charm, the Twins, animals, humans - that celebrate equality and balance."

photos of Richard Throssel

Robert Alexie and Harry Robinson, Ruby Slipperjack and Eden Robinson - "These four are creating their fictions, I believe, primarily for a Native audience, making a conscious decision not so much to ignore non-Native readers as to write for the very people they write about."

Porcupines and China Dolls

Ben Okri: "In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted - knowingly or unknowingly - in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaningless. if we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives."

"Of course, written stories can be performed orally; although, apart from authors on reading tours to promote their books and parents reading to children, this seldom happens... But the act of reading is a private act. And no matter how many people may have read a book or an article or a poem or a short story, each person reads that story themselves, by themselves, whereas oral stories generally have an audience in which there is a group dynamic."

"The oil industry and our oil-based economy, not just in Canada but in the world, depend on two things for their continued existence. The ability of geologists to find new fields of oil and our willingness to ignore the obvious, that, at some point, we're going to run out of oil... It's not that we don't care about ethics or ethical behavior. It's not that we don't care about the environment, about society, about morality. It's just that we care more about our comfort and the things that make us comfortable - property, prestige, power, appearance, safety... Perhaps we shouldn't be displeased with the 'environmental ethics' we have or the 'business ethics' or the 'political ethics' or any of the myriad of other codes of conduct suggested by our actions. After all, we've created them. We've created the stories that allow them to exist and flourish. They didn't come out of nowhere. They didn't arrive from another planet. Want a different ethic? Tell a different story."

"Perhaps we do have the kind of ethics we imagine we have. Maybe they're just not steady. Not dependable. Ethics of the moment. Potential ethics. Ethics we can draw on when we feel the need to do so. Ethics that can be wrapped in newspaper and stored in the freezer. Season ethics. Annuals rather than perennials."

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