record faces

Clementine woke up this morning with a great costume idea for next Halloween. She wants us to go as, “a family of record faces.”

Posted in Mark's Life | 9 Comments

lessig in congress, and not just the rich in college

A new report released by the Brookings Institution today warns that, “widening gaps in higher education between rich and poor, whites and minorities, could soon lead to a downturn in opportunities for the poorest families.” Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also reported today that Stanford University plans to make a huge announcement concerning the way financial aid is administered at the institution. According to sources at Stanford, the University will no longer charge tuition to students whose families made less that $100,000 a year. One suspects that other private institutions with large endowments will likely follow suit.

Also in higher-ed news today, it looks as though copyfighting Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig, looking to bounce back from his recent defeat before the Supreme Court in a big way, is contemplating a run for Congress. According to Lessig, he wouldn’t just be running on a platform of technology and open-culture, but one of ethical reform. Specifically, he says he intends to help remove the corrupting influence of money in politics. And, given the enormous amount of support he enjoys online, it’s not hard to imagine that he’d be able to raise a shit load of money to do it.

Posted in Other | 3 Comments

in defense of food

Michael Pollan, the author of the brilliant book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” has a new book out on processed food called “In Defense of Food.” The following is a clip from a new interview with Pollan conducted by Onnesha Roychoudhuri for AlterNet:

OR: You talk about how corn, soy, wheat and rice account for over two-thirds of the calories we eat and how these crops have taken the place of more diverse crops. What’s ironic is that while we’re seeing a shift to nutritionism — as we try to supplement foods with the supplements naturally found in foods — supplements in natural foods are declining.

MP: Over time the nutritional quality of many of our foodstuffs has gone down for a couple different reasons. One is we have been breeding for qualities other than nutrition. We’ve been breeding for yield, looks and ship-ability. Also, over time, our soils have been simplified by the use of chemical fertilizers. For plants to create all these interesting phytochemicals that nourish us, they need a complex soil. So crops that get lots of nitrogen fertilizer and little else tend to be less complex and less nutritious. In a way, this gives the advantage to the food scientists because they can add as much nutrients as they want to their processed foods. But on the other hand, there is this trend towards organic foods, which restore a lot of those nutrients partly by nourishing the soil with organic matter and party by using older varieties that are often more nutritious.

OR: You explain that weeds are actually some of the most nutritious plants because they haven’t been cultivated and that the natural pesticides they develop can be converted into positive qualities once consumed.

MP: They don’t even have to be converted. The defensive compounds that plants produce to deal with diseases and pests turn out to be some of the most nourishing things in them. That’s what a lot of those phytochemicals are. They’re plant pesticides, in effect. They happen to be very useful to us and our bodies. One theory is that since organic plants have to defend themselves, they produce more of those compounds. Whereas, if a plant is pampered and gets lots of pesticides, and the farmer takes care of the pests and the disease, the plant doesn’t produce all these chemicals that are good for us. There is a theory that stressed vegetables in various ways are more tasty. If you stress a tomato and don’t give it enough water and make it fend for itself, it will taste better, and those compounds that make plants taste good are also the same ones that we’re talking about here. A certain level of stress in the plant kingdom is good for us…

OR: In some ways, this book seemed to make the case for the “shock doctrine” of the food industry. There’s this notion that what’s bad for us is good for the industry.

MP: There is a disconnect between the economic imperatives of the food industry and the biological imperatives of the human eater. You make money in the food industry by processing food as much as possible. It’s very hard to make money selling whole foods as they grow. They’re too cheap and common; farmers are too productive. The price of commodities is always falling.

But if you process food, you then have a way to add value to it. For example, it’s very hard to make money selling oats. Very simple grain, really good for you. I can buy organic oats for .79 cents a pound. That’s a big bag of oats. But there’s little money in it for anyone. If you turn those oats into Cheerios, there’s a lot more money in it. Suddenly, you have your intellectual property, your little design, donut-shaped cereal, you have a convenience food, you just have to add milk, you don’t have to cook it anymore and you can charge about four or five dollars for much less than a pound of oats. So that’s a good business.

But in fact, over time, those Cheerios will turn into a commodity, too, and all the supermarkets will have their store brand and it will be hard to expand your market and grow. So what do you do? You go up the next level of processing, and you make honey nut Cheerios cereal bars. These new bars that have a layer of synthetic milk through the middle and the idea is that it’s a bowl of cereal that you could eat dry in the school bus or in the car…

I’m sure it would cost something to get him here, but it occurs to me that Pollan would make a great keynote speaker for a Growing Hope event. Is it too ambitious to think that we could get 250 people to pay $25 bucks a piece to hear him speak, with the proceeds going toward the new Growing Hope Center?

Posted in Agriculture | 7 Comments

old school athens night

I just got an email from my friend Vanessa, who sings in the influential Athens, Georgia band, Pylon. Apparently their recent reunion show at New York’s Mercury Lounge was recorded with the intention of showing it later on the web. Well, it seems that later is right now. According to Vanessa, the show starts in a few minutes at MTV’s Virtual Lower East Side website. The show starts at 8:00 EST. It’s free, but it requires registration. (If you miss it, Vanessa tells me that it’s going to repeat sometime this weekend.) Not having seen it, I can’t speak for the quality of the recording, but every Pylon show I’ve ever seen has been outstanding.

And, if Pylon’s not your thing, or if you just don’t want to register, check out this archival documentary footage of one-time Athens native Dexter Romweber and his band, the Flat Duo Jets, that was just sent to me by my friend Patty in Chicago… Apparently there’s something weird going on in the universe tonight. Things are conspiring on behalf of the old Athens scene.

Posted in Art and Culture | 6 Comments

beer with bloggers: this thursday evening at frenchie’s

Just a reminder that several of us local Ypsi/Arbor blogging types will be getting together for a few beers this Thursday at 7:00 at Frenchie’s. All bloggers and blog readers are welcome to attend… So, if you’ve got an hour, and a few bucks, drop by and hoist a happy hour beer with us, your invisible internet friends.

Now I just need to find someone to make a “Lurkers Welcome” banner.

Posted in Special Projects | 11 Comments


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