Saturday, June 18, 2011

More Tomatoland

An excerpt from Barry Eastabrook's book Tomatoland, which I wrote about a few days ago. Chilling stuff and definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Praise of Left Conservatism

The last time I heard the phrase "left conservative," it was
being used by Norman Mailer, who was was describing, a little fuzzily, his political views. (These seemed to include being in favor of the existence of God and against the corporation, but he wasn't entirely specific.) In a recent essay in the The Point, Jonny Thakkar revives the idea. "If they want to be consistent," Thakkar writes, "conservatives really ought to be anti-capitalist." 

Thakkar's rationale is  straightforward. Capitalism is predicated on an expectation of endless growth. Capitalists are forever trying to out-innovate and out-produce the other in the hopes of making money. In the process, they develop new forms of technology, which necessarily change the social relations within the society. "In every single generation," Thakkar writes, "certain institutions will become obsolete, and with them their attendant practices and values." 

For classical conservatives, who believe, as Edmund Burke did, that progress should be slow, modest, and above all incremental, this should present a problem. A society which reinvents itself with each passing generation is by nature a progressive one. The existence of capitalism assures such reinvention. Why then, in modern times, have conservatives aligned themselves with capitalists?

Thakkar believes it has something to do with the Cold War, when communism presented an existential threat to the United States and patriotism, typically a conservative virtue, was made inseparable from capitalism. Thakkar, however, is no communist. "No one believes in a planned economy anymore," he writes. "Most anti-capitalists now believe in the sort of regulated capitalism one finds in Scandinavia, where government intervenes only in the modest goal of making a country's economy serve its citizens and not the other way around."

You should really read
the whole thing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shout Out

A little shout out at the Atlantic -- from the great Ta-Nehisi Coates, no less -- about my recent Rumpus piece. Worse things have happened.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Cost of a Tomato

A nice counterpoint to the Village Voice "price gouge alert" of our perfectly organic -- and perfectly expensive -- beefsteak tomatoes is this Salon interview with Barry Eastabrook, author of the new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Eastabrook informs us that roughly one third of our tomatoes are grown in Florida, "the worst place in the world," he says, to grow them. It's a bad environment for a number of reasons, including year-round insects which make the use of chemical pesticides especially necessary, rampant fungi growth, and sand-like soil which makes the use of chemical fertilizers especially necessary. The tomatoes are clipped off green, shipped hundreds, or thousands, of miles, and bathed in hormones until they turn approximately the right color.

And people wonder why tomatoes don't taste like tomatoes anymore.


So yes, $6.99 is a hefty price to pay for a pound of tomates. But that's also about what it costs to grow (in a greenhouse), harvest, box, bring them to market, and still turn a profit. 

There's an alternative, of course: 
Grow them yourself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where I Write

The Rumpus has posted my contribution to their recurring "Where I Write" series. It includes a photograph of my old writing closet in Portland!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tastes Like A Tomato

The Village Voice has called out a "gouge alert" on the tomatoes Jenne and I have been selling for McEnroe the last few Mondays in Union Square. The pictures -- and "story" -- are here.