Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

I Hate “Go Green” Eco-Chique Consumerist Bullshit

July 18, 2008

As you’ve no doubt noticed, “going green” is super trendy — and annoying as hell.

Clorox has a new line of “green” products to help nature. Now you can end environmental crisis (and be a better person) simply by purchasing a different type of chemical to clean your house! Wow, thanks Clorox Company.

A story: a few weeks ago I was watching PBS and I saw a commercial for a global warming documentary sponsored by the Shell Corporation. Let me tell you, I was *so* pleased to discover that oil companies are now on the front line of the crusade for ecological awareness! Wonderful.

Another story: Recently the Adult Ed program where I work had its annual graduation ceremony at a church in Bay Ridge. Being a forward thinking community organization, the theme chosen for the event was (you guessed it) “go green” and it featured projects and decorations that the students had put together in class to express this idea. I helped take care of kids during the show, I served food afterwards, and at the end of the event I got saddled with trash duty.

(…dramatic pause…)

The mountain of trash! Uneaten food, plastic tablecloths, cups, and silverware, paper cups and napkins, balloons, etc. Bags and bags of it, straight into the landfill where it will remain long after you and I are dead.

Go Green?

Fuck you!



June 27, 2008

What is the point of the Supreme Court? Is it to push political ideology down people’s throats? Or to interpret and uphold the Constitution?

Recently the Court struck down DC’s ban on handguns. All of the press coverage on this centered around the question of whether this decision was morally reprehensible — which is not the right question to ask.

Is it a good idea to have a special law against handguns in the murder capital of the nation, my hometown? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “Yes.” (Feel free to disagree.) Does the supreme court have the right to erase that law from the books if they find it to be unconstitutional? Also, “Yes.” Will that have negative effects? That’s not really an appropriate question for this particular judicial apparatus to be asking! (Think: “Did you have sex with that woman?”)

Recently Justice Scalia wrote (falsely, as it turns out) that Guantanamo detainees tend to end up back on the battlefield if they get released, hence it is a bad idea to grant them habeus corpus. That’s not the point! The question is not whether more Americans will die as a result of the decision. The question is whether denying habeus corpus to suspected terrorists is constitutional.

Today the NYTimes came out with an editorial that starts off like this:

“Thirty-thousand Americans are killed by guns every year — on the job, walking to school, at the shopping mall. The Supreme Court on Thursday all but ensured that even more Americans will die senselessly with its wrongheaded and dangerous ruling striking down key parts of the District of Columbia’s gun-control law.”

Again, that’s not the point. Neither side is addressing the issues in a straightforward way. I suppose that when crazy judges do stupid crap, the press is bound to react in a stupid way…but this only serves to feed the endless cycle of political bullshit.

I have as much loathing for the arch-conservative and famously failed Reagan SC appointee Robert Bork as the next liberal type — but in his book The Tempting of America (which I was forced to read in high school) Bork comes out against judicial activism and I wholeheartedly agree. Judges shouldn’t push their political agenda. That’s what Congress is for. When abortion activists march in front of the courts rather than rallying their local legislative assembly, something is definitely askew.

Obama is a former Constitutional Law professor and his book The Audacity of Hope addresses these issues pretty clearly. I’m not saying that I want to have Obama’s babies or anything (he’s nowhere near progressive enough for that kind of adoration…) But I can’t help it! In all my cynicism I’m holding out a tiny, timid ounce of hope that maybe having a reasonable person in the White House will increase the likelihood that sensible judges will be appointed to the highest court in the land.

This in turn might give the NYTimes editorial board less incentive to spew their brand of ultimately distracting middle class polemic quite so often and we’d all be slightly happier! 🙂

action not debate

May 28, 2008

Bill writes:

“Making child labor legal is better than the alternative, because making it illegal doesnt prevent it from happening. It simply forces children who would have worked in factories to work as prostitutes instead.”

Let me take a philosophy class trick and put it into practice here: argument by analogy. What if the morally suspect practice at hand were abortion? Then the statement would read: “Making abortion legal is better than the alternative, because making it illegal doesnt prevent it from happening.” Indeed, abortion is an ancient practice in many cultures and it will definitely happen, legal or not. So by this argument a sane society should permit it without a fuss.

You can take this analogy even further, and see that Bill and I would both be arguing for the sake of political ideals. I am actually in favor of abortion being legal because I disagree with the idea that governments should be able to legislate or restrict a womans body, including the termination of fetuses. Bill is actually in favor of child labor being legal because he disagrees with the idea that governments should be able to legislate or restrict profitable activity, including this kind of labor practice.

In my opinion, however, political ideals tend to be roiled with bullshit. It is better to look at the facts straight on. When you see child labor and do nothing, you are complicit. When you see the killing of fetuses and do nothing, you are complicit. You do have real options though. And they dont necessarily have to do with the political apparatus. You can take action to encourage the sacred bond between mothers and their daughters, raise awareness about the patriarchy, promote sexual education and family planning in the community. You can take action to protest the WTO, raise awareness about consumerism, the sinister labor practices of rich corporations, and the military support of the imperial United States. You can boycott Nike and Kathy Lee fucking Gifford.

Or you can sit there. And watch TV. And blog. And talk about your high-minded political ideals.

Food For Naught: Oil, Capitalism, and difference

April 8, 2008

In my post about pimps (below) I was trying, albeit in an extraordinarily silly way, to allude to a troubling systematic problem which I will now proceed to talk about in a more sober fashion.


The ready availability of cheap oil, upon which the entire edifice of contemporary civilization rests, is no longer dependable.

While this fact is connected with a whole host of emerging problems, I find it particularly alarming that agriculture, which is perhaps the deepest and richest connection between mankind and the planet, is now almost entirely bound up in the oil economy. The globalized, mass production model of agriculture leads to infamous policy snafus (like farming subsidies) as well as dependency upon (petroleum-based) chemical fertilizer, which is unbelievably bad for the flora and fauna. More importantly, it ignores bio-diversity, which is crucial to any natural system.

Pesticide and toxic herbicide (weed killer) are needed to sustain mono-culture crops like rice, wheat, soy, and maize (which together now constitute 60% of the world’s food supply). Not only does this lead to more chemical toxins in the ground water, it also encourages poison-resistant pests and weeds. When weeds naturally evolve pesticide/herbicide resistance, grains themselves must be genetically engineered to be toxin resistant just to survive. So you see, genetic engineering of crops is touted as a fabulous new technology, but it is instead a corporate quick-fix effort to sew up larger, systematic problems rather than really addressing them.

I admit that industrial agriculture has been successful for decades; at enormous costs in soil depletion and pollution. Also, since it is totally dependent on energy-intensive machinery, fertilizers and irrigation, industrial agriculture will become increasingly expensive as the price of oil continue to rise. (Indeed, Paul Krugman points out that food prices have soared)

Sustainable agriculture methods offer another way: rebuilding soils with compost and mulch, conserving water through ecologically intelligent landscape design, and replacing monoculture by planting mutually beneficial crops together. With permaculture, we can create sustainable farming jobs and abundant harvests, while rebuilding ecosystems. (See here for permaculture issues and ideas specifically for New York City and Brooklyn. Incidentally, I saw the author of that article speak at the Friends Meeting House near Union Square last month…fascinating stuff.)

Sustainable food production is now all the rage as a political issue– there are widespread calls to localize, regionalize, and diversify agriculture. Which is fantastic.

But for me, this is not enough. The oil-dependent food production system, which extends worldwide thanks to the efforts of agribusiness, represents just one facet of a deeper cultural issue endemic to modern Western civilization. This is difference. Capitalism, science, fossil-fuel-burning, nationalism…all are based on the illusion that human life is *not* primarily and most importantly dependent upon the biosphere, a fact which connects your interests fundamentally with mine. The crucial mechanism of difference is cutting an analytical slash between subject and object and passing it off as common sense. One of the most dangerous corollaries of difference is the idea of profit, the notion that you could be entitled to reaping *more* than you input into a system. This encourages narrow-minded individualism and ignores (or purposefully obfuscates) the real sources of wealth.

Why did I choose pimps and hoes as a metaphor? Because the expansion of colonialism, capitalism, science, and technology have historically been couched in the language of sexuality, sexual conquest, and sexual difference.

But that’s a whole ‘nother story, folks.

Subway ads: the tragicomedy of urban life — addendum!

March 27, 2008

As the weather continues to improve, it becomes more and more obvious that “tragicomedy” is a winter genre. As spring is noticeably in the air, the “everything-is-hopeless-but-amusing” feeling gives way to the “zippadee-doo-da” feeling. “Waiting for Godot” is replaced by “Charlie’s Aunt.” Heavy, slow-cooked winter meals are gradually supplanted by lighter, summer fare.

Before I lose my wintertime appetite for melancholy *completely*, though, I thought I’d address another source of urban malaise: subway ads. The fact that subway ads are usually garish and idiotic comes as no surprise, really. Like laundry, it’s just a fact of life!

Repeat offenders of late include: “Lil’ Bit of Luck” for the NY lottery, “$1,000 Cada Hora!” for a popular Hispanic radio show called “El Vacimilon” and, of course, the hideous Dr. Zizmor ads.

They’ve been around for a while it seems–
[from “New York City subway ads, deconstructed” which appears to be a few years old]


“Ah, the nefarious Dr. Z, we meet again! Do you think I would entrust my skin care to a guy who doesn’t have a basic sense of design… or grammar? That client of his is hardly a recommendation, and the rainbow just scares me.”


“Would you let this man put acid on your face? WOULD YOU?!

My follow up question: What do Dr. Zizmor’s friends and family really think about him?

I was on the Franklin Avenue shuttle recently in a car sporting one side of all Bahamas vacation ads, the other side all multilingual Continental airlines ads. I guess it makes sense that denizens of Crown Heights might long for a Caribbean escape from the grind…
But the Contiental ad reads:

在 Beijing 做生意?
Fly Non-Stop with Continental!

So that’s “zai Beijing zou sheng yi?” = “Doing business in Beijing?”

Do you think that your average Hassidic Jew or West African store owner schedules face-to-face meetings with business associates in China? What the hell is going on here??

The most nausea-inducing subway ad that I can think of comes from the good people over at Icon Parking. It’s a pretty subtle design; matte black background with white lettering and the little orange Icon logo. Nothing offensive there. No, it’s the content that repulses. On the left is an ad for their theatre parking deal, accompanied by a picture of an elegant table setting with a place card indicating “theatre parking” in elaborate calligraphy. On the right is another ad (in Spanish) advertising hourly work parking cars IN MANHATTAN! along with a picture of a grinning multi-ethnic family with infant child. Some nerve!!

Counseling the absent and hopeless?

March 3, 2008

Being a good career counselor is tricky: You want to be a goal-oriented, action-focused, “active listener”. You want to be savvy and professional, but also sympathetic and understanding. You need to be culturally competent and universally approachable (as clients range from Arabic speaking housewives who want to become nurses to Puerto Rican kids spitting hip hop lingo and trying desperately to stay in GED class) yet you must be conscious of boundaries. (see ‘The peculiar case of Mrs. H’)


Time and time again you see the same behavior: Clients are looking for a way out of the tough situations that have befallen them, they display initial enthusiasm, perhaps they even have an appointment or two of working with you, but then they up and disappear. Then I end up posting on my blog instead of doing other stuff I have to do, because it all consists of busy work. I’m unhappy because WORST CASE SCENARIO I should be getting paid AT LEAST twice as much to do busy work. Meanwhile, clients are unhappy because they are jobless and confused!


UPDATE: OK…I’ve calmed down now

The client whose absence sent me into psychotic spiral (see above) finally showed up, albeit 2 hours late. Resume was prepared, other clients were seen, I am now busy at work and as such most conclude this sad and rambling blog post. Phew.

Before I go, I should take a sober moment to talk about learned helplessness. This is the behaviorist theory that people can lose motivation after life has shat upon them for long enough. Perhaps, once they’ve succumbed to this feeling, showing up on time feels pointless.

I can understand that. It’s still annoying though.