Monday, August 22, 2016

Dirt: Cure or Love Story?

Found this dirty little gem in the *NEW* section of the library's offerings. (Gem means book, not dog.) This is one of the most ambitious books I have ever read. Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD undertakes a massive project in The Dirt Cure (2016).

In 332 pages, we review all the environmental, supply-chain, attitudes and ethos, additives, media-influences, family and cultural pressures, recipes, menus, kitchen layouts, camping, shopping, thinking and issues of emotional landscapes..... (breathe).... that result in our ruined gut-bacteria, cause headaches, allergies, and behavioral, neurological, hormonal, mental, emotional, endocrine/pancreatic, and cardio-vascular problems.

Beginning with a quote from Albert Einstein, we move to the revised "you are what your food eats," which points us to our first philosopher/foodie, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (3, 6). Then comes more.

Marcel Proust, Hippocrates, John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson, (John Muir again, then Albert Einstein, again), A reference to PETA with "Chapter Ten: Meet Your Meat," Henry David Thoreau, Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson (20, 61, 131, 159, 167, 169, 181, 233, 271, 297). Everyone from the bookshelf above, minus Beowulf there on the bottom. Ambitious.

If your home/office bookshelves look like mine, you are likely not the target audience for this book. But if a diet of take-out and soda makes you feel gross and you legitimately don't know why, or if you are more familiar with literary pigoons (from Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake), than their real-life facsimiles, then this intense book is a good intro of all the things!

(Yes, those are Beanie Baby Pigoons. Limited mash-up edition, 2004-ish. My dad made them for me after my first conference presentation. Believe it or not, my presentation was on Oryx and Crake. It all started there, I suppose.)

If you see some repeats on my bookshelves and yours, I'd point you instead to the documentary "Dirt! A Love Story!" [That one is more about dirt, and not, well, everything. Even though dirt is everything.]

Or I'd point you to Helene A. Shugart's Heavy (2016). Heavy takes us through the stories about obesity that we've naturalized. The thing about those naturalized stories, though, is they aren't just about obesity, they're about eating in our rhetorical situation in general. They explain what's going on in The Dirt Cure. But more on this later.

If you've read Heavy, then the place to point you is back to Das Kapital. Light summer reading, and trust me on this: NO ONE will bug you if you have your nose in that while you're at the coffee shop. The Dirt Cure? You will make friends. I speak from experience.

Read on, comrades, read on. Yes, that is a piggy bank. A Pigarx!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dirty Books III

It's that time of year again. We've hit the 100 book mark. Time for a Party!

 Many gems, and as usual it is tough to narrow down a slice of them for this. So I'll let Caleb help (#99 Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey). Top Ten Dirty-Tweety Dog Books of 2016!

10. Another Person's Poison. Matthew Smith (#100)
9. Blue Angel. Francine Prose (#7)
8. The Psychology of Overeating. Kima Cargill (#88)
7. Beasts of No Nation. Uzodinma Iweala (#75)
6. Between The World and Me. Ta-Nahisi Coates (#27)
5. The Flame Alphabet. Ben Marcus (#12)
4. Drinking with Men. Rosie Shaap (98)
3. The Size of The Universe. Joseph Cardinale (#87)
2. Everything, Everything. Nicola Yoon (#94)
1. Drop City. T.C. Boyle (#77)

Book #6, Randall Horton's  2006 poetry collection, The Definition of Place, is where I found #souphound: "...pain gnawing my stomach like a tick/ sucking blood on a lazy soup hound" ("Memory: Elvie Three Months After Rosetta's Funeral, 1954," p. 53).

A soup hound is a beggar, staring up at that soup pot waiting for something, with those big puppy eyes that they developed in their quest to domesticate us to their needs. Caleb is my souphound. You can find him on twitter as #souphound, with pictures of what I've read, a #bookselfie.

Something started happening. Those big puppy eyes, and that scruffy scruff scruff started getting some attention. First, a single like, #7 Francine Prose's Blue Angel. A dream of a book for anyone who has ever run a writing classroom. And all the nightmares!

Then two likes, Kima Cargill's (#88) The Psychology of Overeating. Souphound is not convinced by the argument about neoliberalism being related to overeating (he blames the parents, read: me). I am, however, convinced. He and I don't always agree on readings of contemporary capitalist formations.

Then three, Italo Calvino's (#91) Marcovaldo. Calvino's Invisible Cities is my soul-mate of a book. This one is pretty damn good, too.

We got some retweets. Uzodinma Iweala's (#75) Beasts of No Nation. A hard read. Have not yet watched the Film. Don't know if I want to.

Fellow readers commented on the books. Jeet Thayil's (#93) Narcopolis. I loved this book, too. It was The God of Small Things meets A Fine Balance. Caleb seems to have squished himself into proper languid position for reading this one.  

Part of me wanted to believe it was simply out of a love for the books. But the biggest part of me knew that it was that face, those souphound eyes. The way his posture told the story of the of the stories. Ta-Nahisi Coates, (#27) Between The World and Me.

It started to grow. I looked at the analytics. Hundreds of people were seeing these tweets. Ben Marcus' (#12) The Flame Alphabet, one of the most challenging post-apocalyptic parables I've ever encountered.

A publisher (Alabama Press) responded *and* retweeted a post with my furbabe. Joseph Cardinale's (#87) The Size of The Universe. In this home, we're happy to endorse all we read with adorable dogness!

Authors started responding. Nicola Yoon's (#94) Everything, Everything. OMG authors are checking out my adorable souphound--my everything, my reason for being brave in the outdoors, for reading The Little Prince with a full heart. (This paragraph makes more sense if you've read Yoon's book.)

Perhaps the croutons on the soup floated along when T.C. Boyle, (#77) Drop City, got into it with a souphound tweet:

I was humbled that such a well known author would take the time to tweet back about dogishness, and reading. And he did it again! (after I mentioned something about Caleb liking Neruda (#85: The Lost Poems).

So, from this sample set of the twitter-love for #souphound #bookselfies, I know this. Everyone loves adorable pictures of dogs with books. Or at least a lot of readers, and the writers I'm drawn to, are ones that like souphounds. Like Rosie Schaap (#98 Drinking With Men):

And Matthew Smith (#100 Another Person's Poison):

Set let us debunk the myth that readers and writers are mostly cat people.... Or let us continue the myth that Caleb is part cat. Or both. Caleb is lovely, and so are these books. 

The 100 Book Party happens soon, I promise. PM me if you want an invite. I also always welcome suggestions for my continuing reading list. If you want to see more #souphound #bookselfies let me know. Caleb's been making noises about putting out a calendar. What a ham.

But for now, he's got tired eyes from reading. Let's let him sleep. Total Book List Follows below. (or you can find it on Pinterest).

  1. all about love. bell hooks*
  2. Press Yourself Against a Mirror. Janelle Adsit+
  3. Coyote At The Kitchen Door. Stephen DeStefano~
  4. City of Thieves. David Benioff*
  5. A Little Life. Hanya Yanagihara*
  6. The Definition of Place. Randall Horton
  7. Blue Angel. Francine Prose*
  8. The Best American Comics 2015. ed Jonathan Lethem*
  9. Pitch Dark Anarchy. Randall Horton
  10. Fear of Dying. Erica Jong.~
  11. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo+
  12. The Flame Alphabet. Ben Marcus
  13. The Making of Home. Judith Flanders*
  14. The Road. Cormic McCarthy~
  15. The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov>
  16. Selected Shorts: Food Fictions*
  17. Everything I Never Told You. Celeste Ng*
  18. This is a Book. Dimitri Martin*
  19. Mycophilia. Eugenia Bone*
  20. Gold Fame Citrus. Clare Vaye Watkins*
  21. Welcome To Braggsville. T. Geronimo Jackson*
  22. The Hunger Games. Susanne Collins~
  23. On Chesil Beach. Ian McEwan*
  24. The Grownup. Gillian Flynn*
  25. Missing Mom. Joyce Carol Oates~
  26. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. Salman Rushdie*
  27. Between The World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates*
  28. A Great Idea At The Time. Alex Beam.~
  29. Go Set a Watchman. Harper Lee+
  30. Illness as Metaphor, and AIDS and its Metaphors. Susan Sontag~
  31. Slice Harvester. Colin Atrophy Hagendorf *
  32. Moral Disorder. Margaret Atwood*
  33. Twilight. Stephanie Meyer~
  34. The Curious Case of The Dog In The Night-Time. Mark Haddon~
  35. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Yiyun Li~
  36. Delicious! Ruth Reichl*
  37. Flight Behavior. Barbara Kingsolver*
  38. The Remains of The Day. Kazuo Ishiguro ~
  39. Open City. Teju Cole
  40. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. Sarah Knight*
  41. Sleep Donation. Karen Russell
  42. The Vanishers. Heidi Julavits*
  43. Buffalo Noir. eds Ed Park & Brigid Hughes*
  44. The Hottest State. Ethan Hawke~
  45. Little Bee. Chris Cleave*
  46. Foxfire. Joyce Carol Oates~
  47. Prodigal Summer. Barbara Kingsolver*
  48. A Hologram For the King. Dave Eggers*
  49. Election. Tom Perrotta*
  50. Looking For Alaska. John Green*
  51. Where'd You Go, Bernadette. Maria Semple*
  52. Anansi Boys. Neil Gaiman
  53. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Aimee Bender*
  54. The Lime Twig. John Hawkes+
  55. Horrorstor. Grady Hendrix~
  56. Farewell My Subaru. Doug Fine~
  57. Beet. Roger Rosenblatt~
  58. Ready Player One. Ernest Cline*
  59. Delicious Foods. James Hannaham*
  60. Brain on Fire. Susannah Cahalan~
  61. The Colossus of New York. Colson Whitehead
  62. Honeymoon. Patrick Modiano
  63. So You've Been Publically Shamed. Jon Ronson*
  64. Bartleby The Scrivener. Herman Melville~
  65. Incendiary. Chris Cleave
  66. Get a Life. Nadine Gordimer~
  67. Anagrams. Lorrie Moore~
  68. So Much For That. Lionel Shriver~
  69. A Tale For The Time Being. Ruth Ozeki*
  70. The Vegetarian. Han Kang*
  71. Not Dark Yet. Berit Ellingsen*
  72. Good Girl. Mary Kubica*
  73. Succulent Wild Woman. Sark>
  74. The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern*
  75. Beasts of No Nation. Uzodinma Iweala *
  76. How We Write. ed S.C.A.
  77. Drop City. T. C. Boyle~
  78. The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell*
  79. Chester 5000. Jess Fink *
  80. We Can Fix It. Jess Fink*
  81. Every Day Is For The Thief. Teju Cole~
  82. Caucasia. Danzy Senna~
  83. In Food We Trust. Courtney Thomas*
  84. In America. Susan Sontag~
  85. The Lost Neruda Poems. Trans Forrest Gander*
  86. The News: A User's Manual. Alain de Botton*
  87. The Size of The Universe. Joseph Cardinale~
  88. The Psychology of Overeating. Kima Cargill
  89. The Professor is In. Karen Kelsky*
  90. How Starbucks Saved My Life: a son of privilege learns to live.... Michael Gates Gill~
  91. Marcovaldo, or Seasons in The City. Italio Calvino~
  92. A Gate At The Stairs. Lorrie Moore ~
  93. Narcopolis. Jeet Thayil~
  94. Everything, Everything. Nicola Yoon*
  95. Pandora's Lunchbox. Melaine Warner*
  96. Men We Reaped. Jesmyn Ward*
  97. Writers Gone Wild. Bill Peschel>
  98. Drinking with Men. Rosie Shaap~
  99. Dirt Candy. Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey>
  100. Another Person's Poison. Matthew Smith*

50* borrowed from the Library
31 ~ purchased from the Library book sale
4+ gifts
4> lent from friends
11 other. Wow. Is my math right?


Thursday, July 28, 2016

CSAs and Their S(p)oils

I woke up late today, exhausted and buzzy from an intense seminar about Teaching Food Systems at Columbia University the past couple days (post to follow soon). Like too many of us, the first thing I did was check my email.

Among the others was the weekly email newsletter from my CSA, Fox Creek Farm . Paragraph two worried me:

"In this newsletter we elaborate a bit more on the consequences of the third-party produce delivery services like Field Goods for our farm. It’s getting harder and harder for us to find CSA members. As a result, there’s a lot of pressure on the economic viability of the farm. More details about this in the attached newsletter, as well as a plea for help."

Well, crap. I had just finished writing the section in my dissertation about CSAs being in trouble, but
I didn't actually want to think about it happening to *my* CSA.

So I followed the link to the newsletter.

Here is why they need help:

They link up to the recent NYT article, "When Community Supported Agriculture is Not What It Seems."

So the immediate answer here is to ask this community of readers, would you consider a, pro-rated, CSA for the rest of the season?

I can say, for myself, half a share over-feeds me for the week. I can only imagine what to do with a full share! I've been freezing a lot. I haven't taken advantage of the opportunity to visit the farm yet, but I think that's in order.

These blog posts have been pulling in between 150-200 readers a week, 50-75 of which are of American readers. I would guess that of those American readers, most of them are people I actually know. I don't know.

So if you're "local" (more on that word later) please spread the news, spread this post around, think about getting a share. Click here for info on getting a share.  Send me a message if you have any questions about any of this.

And p.s. the 100 book party is Friday, August 5th. Get ready.

Friday, July 22, 2016

netflix and "dirt! a love story"

I'm sick. Not enough brain power to do proper brain things, but I can reflect on Netflix. While watching "Food Inc." for the millionth time.

As a part of prep for my dissertation defense I've been using the hot, slow afternoons (too hot to weed, and brain needs a break from morning writing) to watch the food documentaries on Netflix. All of them. And the ones from my library. (including "dirt! a love story." Library, not Netflix)

Many of them are based on books. Many of them are based on Michael Pollan's books. "In Defense of Food," "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation," "The Botany of Desire."

Others just have cameos with Pollan (the Hitchcock of our food systems murder mysteries) like "King Corn," "Food Patriots," and "Food Inc.," (both in Film and Book).

Other Book/Films, like "Fast Food Nation," turn into narrative films. I've fallen down that rabbit hole, too. And that has how-many-degrees of bacon to "Super Size Me."

Surprises from this enterprise: "Crafting a Nation." The story of craft beer redefining local national space. "Somm," and "Somm 2": The story of hardworking wine bros (mostly) that use rhetoric of the political left and right to define attitudes towards oaking or not.

Not surprises, but still shocking: * "Soul Food Junkies"- a good reminder about how pissed we should be about the exclusion of the history of race in food movements. Elijah Muhammed vs. Michael Pollan.

* "Bite Size"- aside from using kids as metonymic figures for whole racial groups, the shaming of over-weight kids is not self-reflexive. If you send your child to a weight-loss school, never NEVER EVER emphasize how it better work because you cashed out your IRA for it.

What are ones I have watched so you don't have to? That's tough to say. The only one that rubbed me in such a wrong was "Foodies." Synopsis: watching food bloggers eat, take pictures, travel, have experiences, emphasize their importance... yet not sense of what their blogs are like, or actually do. They weren't likable enough to look them up.

So, as I drink my beet smoothies while watching, there are trends to notice. They are highly pedagogical. They teach viewers about undecipherable food rules, choices, and food chains. They (mostly) end with gestures towards "this is what you can do to make a change." They show kids learning about tomatoes and growing things.

[beet smoothie: 1/4 roasted beet, 1/4 c frozen blueberries, 1/4 c yogurt, 1/4 c milk (of any kind). Add maple syrup and cinnamon to cover up the taste of beets and spike your blood sugar in ways all these documentaries warn against. Blend. Drink quickly so you can't taste the beets.]

Other things I've noticed: Watching 15+, and adding 30+ to my queue, Netflix no longer recommends interesting things like "Indie Gay/Lesbian Rom-Coms," "Classic Apocalyptic Dramas," or "Dark Comedies Featuring a Strong Canine Lead." I've hacked my logarithm.

Now I only see recommendations for documentaries. "How To Survive a Plague" is amazing, as is "Planet Earth." But it's going to take some time before Netflix shows me anything fiction-heavy again. A very different experience from the AFI 100 Binge.

Also, go home thermometer, you're drunk.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Upcycling Dirty Bags and Recycling Writing

I bought a messenger bag at the Slow Food headquarters in Bra, Italy (see the bad trip blog post, it was then: Dirty Laundry). It was an *upcycled* grain bag. Bits of plastic quickly crumbled and dandruffed all down me. On 2/9/13 I turned it into a notebook. I preserved the penholders/pouches, used the straps for straps.

I took old drafts, old paper work, old paper that had some crap on one side of it, and sewed it into a kind of binding into this book. This became my Pomodoro book.  I’m a devotee to the Pomodoro method. Google it.

This is the gist- pick a task that is reasonable to do in about two hours, do that task in 4 sets of 25 minute intervals. Mark each interval. When 4 are complete, you’ve done a “pom.” A thing to understand about the time-pom continuum: they get you going and most days you (or I) end up working past the pom-boundaries. All of the following counts are structural minimums.
It’s also important to note that I teaching as many classes as the uni will let me, plus working as many hours as possible as an ESL consultant. It barely pays the bills. Driving around has been a big chunk of my life. On average, I’d put this work and travel time at 45-50 hours a week. That’s important context.

From Italian for “tomato.” Dude that invented it used his kitchen timer that, allegedly, looked like a tomato. Here is mine. The tomato-looking ones are too rich for my blood. I do, however, have a pile of sticker that began with a Christmas tradition—I’d get stickers in my stocking if I had been good.

The stickers didn’t stop. As a woman in my early-30’s I had no idea how to use them in my life. (Didn’t feel right using them whilst grading college papers.)

Since 5/31/13 It has been my rock. My dates, times, durations, who, where, and what with. Defeats and successes, the place of my menstrual cycle in my writing process (if I’m being honest about biology), and souvenir stickers from friends that I may or may not have entrapped into doing poms with me).

This is what I know from my records: I began preparing for my PhD exams *on the record* as of  Friday 5/31/13 and ending on Sunday 11/10/13, I did 59 ¾ poms in prep. That’s 1,500 minutes. 25.833 hours. My exams took 24 poms. 600 minutes. 10 hours. A lot of Math follows.

I “officially” started my dissertation on 1/7/14 at 2:16 pm. In 2014 I did a total of 142 ½ poms. 3,562.5 minutes. 59.375 hours. Some of that was writing conference papers. Some of it was a chapter on Beowulf in Lessons in Disability . A large chunk went toward dissertating.
2015: 139 poms, 4,475 minutes, 57.91 hours. Just shy of 2014, but pretty much the same (142 ½ vs 139 poms).

 [That summer I only took 8 full days off of writing. I thought that was unhealthy, and determined to take more “time for me” this summer. I took two FULL days off recently (Sunday and Monday), felt like shit, and decided not to do that ever again.]

So far in 2016 I’ve done 103 poms. 2,575, 42.91 hours. And today I retired the pom book in favor of a recycled marc jacobs’ purse from sal-val, this time with binder rings so I can add more recycled-draft-pages as needed. My first stickers are ones I brought back from the Oxford Library gift shop.

This year I’ve revised a dis chapter into an article, completed the draft of my dissertation, wrote more conference papers, prepared a grad-level-seminar that I taught at Kent University, and upcycled an old seminar paper into an article called "Tales From Nowhere: Burma and the Lonely Planet Phenomena") in Antae .

Out of context, this time looks like nothing. “2016: 42.91 hours?! How is that anything?” I worked longer weeks in summer jobs in high school—let alone from Jan to June! But there’s the time the stickers don’t count.

They don’t count the time spent thinking and talking things out. The over-writing like over-running a base.  Presenting at conferences, travel time to libraries, gearing up to write, and cooling your brains off. The writing time of not writing. I have not marked that. Reduce/reuse/recycle it when you can (without self-plagiarizing, obvs).

I respect people that are transparent in how much time it takes to get shit done. And those that make the time to get shit done. Getting the butt in the chair (using stickers or not) and doing the work is the hard part. I respect people that have an honest dialogue with themselves about their time.


Author's Note: no blogging is counted in pom time. Ever. There are rules!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dirty Mycophilia and Crop Dusting

What to read if you have Mycophobia? Mycophilia; Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms.(2011) By Eugenia Bone. I learned a lot from this book. Most importantly, I learned that I am best conquering my fear when I focus on a different one.

Also, there are a lot of scary proverbs about them worth noting! “No Mushroom is poisonous until you eat it” (6); “Any mushroom is edible once” (20); “There are old mushroom eaters and bold mushroom eaters, but no old, bold mushroom eaters” (34).

Then there are piece of information that *aren’t* sayings, but should probably have one to catch the idea: “Fungi love to grow on cotton shirts but are less likely to grow on a silk blouse” (61). Please, Victoria’s Secret, take all of my money now. Take all the cotton. Take it and burn it.  

But then, in this big beautiful book, full of all the information, I stumbling upon this footnote. And it breaks my brain, and then my spirit, in that order. I stumble and I couldn’t get up:

              “*In 2010, Taliban insurgents and angry Afghan farmers accused the United States of dusting their poppy crops with F. oxysporum, affecting up to 50 percent of their opium crop. A program (funded by the USA) within the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime did seek to develop F. oxysporum to battle pot and poppy fields, but the project was terminated in 2002 without ever being used, the result of warnings from scientists that the fungus could mutate into hardier strains that could attack nontargeted crops. The poppy crop failure was likely the result of a natural fungal blight, possibly Macrosporium papverus, a type of root rot.” (87)

Ok, this isn't a bio-terrorism lab--it is from the botanical gardens in Atlanta. But scary image of growing maybe-fungi-in-containers, right?

So how would the fungi do the thing to take down a whole field? Well, “”Imagine you are lying on a giant steak. Your stomach enzymes seep out to predigest the steak, and then you absorb the steak through your skin” (49). This is how mushrooms get their nutrients. We have the disturbing video from the Planet Earth Series, “where life is built on decay.”

In the space of my brain devoted to food security and land rights, things still are not quite okay. Biological warfare scares the fungi out of me. I honestly cannot wrap my head around the above quoted idea, even though I know that it happens. All the time.

From time immemorial, people have attacked enemies’ crops. I know this. But if there is any unfair fight, it is fighting with fungus. Take other things that should have sayings, but aren’t: “mycorrhizal fungi function as a giant communications network between multiple trees in a forrest…. “nature’s internet”” (71). I’m glad we haven’t penetrated that underground cloud….

Or, “the cell walls of fungi are made of chitin—the same substance as crab shells and squid beaks—which doesn’t exist in plants” (42). They’re one step away (using my bad-science-logic) from having exoskeletons! I jest, but in seriousness, I do not like, and do not know how to proceed.
Mushrooms and scallops. Perhaps "Chitin" is why it works? IDK....

I do not wish to come off as a mycoalarmist. After all, “saprophytic fungi have been key to the civilizing process, if you consider good wine as an indicator of civilization” (81). Yes, that’s a fairly Eurocentric worldview, but damnit I like wine. And we need the myco for wine.

So in conclusion, in attempting to learn more about mushrooms I got sad about bioterrorism and scared about non-silk underwear. I still like porcinis, I think…. But those are 90 % water, and we clock in at about 80 %. Even they are better at being us than we are at being water. Hell thy mushrooms, indeed.