Dear Serena: Skip the 2020 U.S. Open

I listened to the press conference where the United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced plans to hold the 2020 U.S. Open. While many questions can be posed about the public health measures the USTA has put in place, I’m going to assume that the workers in the players’ hotels and the custodial crews & security personnel & transportation & delivery workers at the grounds and the security will be protected.

Still, Serena, if you skip this event, you will rise from Sports & Culture Icon to Hero of the People status.

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Many Audiences Could Benefit from Reading Marion Nestle’s “Unsavory Truth”

I’m going to get what I didn’t like about Marion Nestle‘s book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat out of the way first: the seemingly endless number of astroturfed, captured and blatantly biased organizations with objective sounding names whose primary purpose is to make sure agribusiness and food processing corporations can continue seeking maximum profit without regard for public health, worker safety and the environment. Dr. Nestle provides so many examples of this that I began skimming as soon as I saw words like “Board” & “Council” and “Association.” The second thing I didn’t like was that the author limited her suggestions to reforms within neoliberal capitalism, where educational institutions, governments and publishing media are basically for sale to oligarchs.

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Notes from Eric R Wolf’s “Europe and the People Without History”

The first edition of Eric R. Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History was published in 1982. I read the version with a new preface published in 1997. The book is a fine example of the application of Karl Marx’s ideas to the study of history, and, while difficult, comes together well to convey important ideas about our world.

Here are some passages:

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Aunt Lydia is a Centrist Democrat

Aunt Lydia is a notorious villain in Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale and in Hulu’s TV series of the same title. In the sequel novel, The Testaments, we readers hear from her directly as she, from the pinnacle of power in a decaying Gilead, pens a memoir which tells us her backstory and how she rose through the ranks to near sainthood. On page 215, she writes, pondering her methodology in managing the Aunts:

I’m a great proponent of better. In the absence of best. Which is how we live now.

This should be the motto of Centrist Democrats, since the only claim they ever make is that they are better than the grifters of the Republican Party.

P.S. I finished the book. Without giving away spoilers, I don’t believe Margaret Atwood’s character arc for Aunt Lydia.

Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” Reveals the Voice of the Bewildered Who Are Now Fascism’s Supporters

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Cormac McCarthy‘s No Country for Old Men is essentially two novels which briefly intersect towards the end in a motel parking lot. One novel is the story of how a combination of greed and an urge for self-destruction prompts Llewellyn Moss, a retired Vietnam War veteran working as a welder, to steal a satchel with more than two million dollars from the site of a heroin exchange where the two parties ended up killing each other in the desert. Of course, representatives of the two corporate entities in the failed exchange make attempts to recover this money, which include sending Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells, two hit men with contrasting styles and philosophies. The body count rises as employees of the “rival parties” kill each other and innocent bystanders. Eventually, Mexican employees of one of the parties kill Llewellyn but are forced to flee before a thorough search can reveal the location of the money. Later Chigurh recovers the money from Llewellyn’s hotel room. Before he can leave the parking lot, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell arrives to the room and realizes Chigurh has just left, but prudence and cowardice persuade him not to attempt to arrest or confront Chigurh, and Chigurh escapes. Months later, Chigurh kills Llewellyn’s wife to make good on a threat he had conveyed to the by now long-dead Llewellyn.

The other novel is the inner life of Sheriff Bell. Bell is decent enough, but he demonstrate how people of a similar mindset, who wouldn’t identify themselves as fascists and may, like Bell, have even fought in World War II against German fascists, could end up many years later supporting fascism.

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Harry Ambrose Plunged Further into His Psychological Abyss in Finale of Season 3 of “The Sinner”

Harry Ambrose murdered Jaime Burns in the Season 3 finale of USA Network’s The Sinner. Ambrose wanted to see if killing, which I don’t remember him doing before, would free him. And Ambrose wanted to see if Burns had made the breakthrough he had claimed Nick promised him through killing. The final scene shows that (1) Ambrose sees that Burns died “scared & alone,” in other words, he didn’t make any kind of breakthrough to Ubermensch-ness & (2) Ambrose realized that his murder of Burns won’t do anything to solve his own psychological problems.

Immediately after watching the episode, I felt disappointed that Jaime Burns, the criminal, never reached a state of understanding to mitigate his/her crimes, as Cora (Season 1) & Julian (Season 2) did. There was no big reveal which explained Burns’s crimes. It turned out he was just an asshole.

The Sinner in The Sinner is Harry Ambrose. The show is about him. If & when there is a final season, it needs to be about uncovering & healing his sins.

Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Show “Farm Monitor” Promotes Big Pharma Ag & Erases POC Workers

I am as far removed from agricultural production as one can be. Due to my recent appreciation of the centrality of agriculture to our life, I began watching Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Farm Monitor (Twitter & Facebook & YouTube) to learn more. I’ve really enjoyed the show, and I’ve been telling people about it & sharing clips on social media. Nevertheless, recent episodes have promoted industrial/pharmacological agriculture, and I’ve begun to think about the show more critically.

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Playlist of Songs Featured in AMC’s Series “Hip Hop”

AMC’s series Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America consisted of 6 episodes in 2019. Each episode examined a “text” which tells how Hip Hop/rap music grew into the art form we know today and reached its current popularity. The fifth episode introduced the “rap battle,” so I’ve included 3 songs for that episode. So here’s the 8-song play list I made using Spotify.

I’m no rap aficionado, so the series exposed me to much I hadn’t known.

BTVS “A New Man,” S4E12 Anticipated GITMO

Ethan Rayne, played by Robin Sachs (d. 2013), was a recurring human villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Seasons 2-4. In his final appearance in A New Man (S4E12, January 2000), when Buffy captures him after his latest round of malevolence, he taunts her by reminding her that the Slayer is not allowed to kill humans. He doesn’t realize that the Slayer has become ensnared in the national security state, personified by Riley (played by Marc Blucas), her new significant other and a high ranking officer in the Initiative, a secret project which, we learn later in the season, is developing a part-demon parts, part-machine, part-human super soldier. Continue reading

As You Enjoy the Bounty of #USA Food Production, Think About #WeFeedYou & United Farm Workers

I created a Twitter Moment from some of the United Farm Workers‘s status updates with the hashtag #WeFeedYou. As I went through these tweets, I thought about all the products that end up on my table which are mentioned: cilantro, sugar cane, apples, mushrooms, celery, lettuce, chicken, grapes, pomegranates, artichokes and bell peppers. Of course, since I don’t grow any food, everything I eat has been harvested, processed, transported and sold to me by workers. These workers, just like I do, have families. They have health issues. They have hopes for themselves and their children. They smile. And, whatever some know-nothing politicians says, they have skills! Don’t let bosses make all the money off of these workers. Support agricultural labor.

 

You can find all Twitter status updates from United Farm Workers with the hashtag #WeFeedYou here.