Thursday, March 29th

The High Fructose Corn Syrup Conspiracy

Music: Fugazi
Mood: tinfoil hat time
The other day I was at the supermarket and picked up a loaf of what purported to be "100% whole wheat bread." As is my custom, I checked to see if indeed it was made with 100% whole wheat flour. It was, but my eyes wandered for once to the other ingredients. Not too far down the list was high fructose corn syrup? WTF? What the hell was high fructose corn syrup doing in food that called itself "healthy?"

The next product I needed was some spaghetti sauce. All the non-organic spaghetti sauces contained high fructose corn syrup as well! I immediately went to the aluminum foil aisle and made myself a tinfoil hat. What was going on here at the supermarket? Everywhere I looked I realized that I had been ingesting high fructose corn syrup. I knew that it was in mass-produced junk food like soda, candy bars, cookies, and breakfast cereal, but whole wheat bread and spaghetti sauce?

High fructose corn syrup began to be introduced into the above-mentioned American junk food in the mid '70s- mid '80s, which, oddly enough, is about the same time that obesity and diabetes rates began to climb in this country. If you are interested in further reading on this subject, the Corn Refiners Association wants to assure you, the American consumer, that there is absolutely nothing to worry about and that high fructose corn syrup is totally safe. Here is a 2004 article from The San Francisco Chronicle about high fructose corn syrup. I tried to find an anti-high fructose corn syrup article that was written by a doctor or was based off of a scientific study but those proved to be harder to find.

For me, personally, this discovery has prompted me to be more careful when I go to the supermarket. I can't afford to eat an all-organic diet, but I can certainly afford to make my own food from scratch. When you buy a whole chicken, you know you are just eating, well, chicken. Same goes for buying vegetables and making your own stew instead of buying a tin of it. I also bought the ingredients while I was at the grocery store to make my own spaghetti sauce, because I sure don't have any high fructose corn syrup in the cabinet. Then again, sometimes you just have an inexplicable craving for a soda or a candy bar. Sure there's all sorts of things out there that may or may not be slowly killing us but that is the price we pay to live in these interesting times. Stay alert and keep your tinfoil hat and a towel with you at afnordll times.

santo26 on 03.29.07 @ 02:14 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

Monday, March 26th

A Few Questions About The Co$t of Environmental Living

Music: a blues compilation

I recently read an article in the New York Times about Colin Beavan and his family, who are trying to balance living for a whole year in the middle of New York without generating any trash. Beavan, a writer and self-professed "guilty liberal" is chronicling the odyssey at his blog, No Impact Man. Their rules, besides generating no trash (which includes toilet paper), involve only eating food produced within 250 miles of NYC and no modern transportation. Depsite their self-induced deprivation, their upper-middle class urban professional lives continue unabated, much to the amusement of their friends and family. And of course, a documentary crew is filming everything.

After reading about the No Impact Man, my first reaction was anger at the state of the world tempered with admiration. I think his goal is an admirable one, but the article merely reinforces my belief that environmentalism is viewed as, and is only affordable for, the wealthy at this point in time. Not too far from where I grew up in Boston, there are three huge public housing towers on one side of a major railroad line. On the other side of the tracks is a shopping center with a Whole Foods Market.

I think it is great that there has been a proliferation of small independent businesses offering environmentally friendly and healthy alternatives to many mass-produced products. Unfortunately, out of economic necessity, I cannot purchase most of them. Environmentally-friendly products and organic foods are, quite simply, out of the price range of many people who would like to consume them. For a poorer family living in the aforementioned public housing, choosing whether to buy a pound of hamburger and a box of Hamburger Helper to feed several people or going to the Whole Foods with the same amount of money and purchasing much less food is not much of a choice at all.

While it is great that Mr. Beavan and his family are not using carbon-based transportation, they are lucky enough to live in a city that has a massive public transportation grid. For a poorer family who lives in an area with no public transporation, where the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away and the father's job is 50 miles away, they have no choice but to use a car every day.

I also salute Mr. Beavan having his maid switch to using more environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Unfortunately for most families who cannot afford a domestic, after spending most of their grocery budget on food, they have very little money to choose the environmentally-friendly alternative cleaning product and purchase Comet instead.

I am not trying to tear down Mr. Beavan's noble experiment, which, after all, is attempting to prove whether a city dweller can live "impact-free" in one of the biggest cities in the world. What I want to address is the fact that if it is hard for someone of Mr. Beavan's economic resources to live in this manner, it is nearly impossible at this point in America for most people. In fact, it will be nearly impossible for every American to live "impact-free" unless it is affordable for everyone to do so. Even if it is affordable for everyone to do so, are we going to mandate that everyone live this way? Do we want to live in a world where people are forced to give up at gunpoint by a Federal environmental policeman the keys to their SUV and forced to eat Annie's Macaroni and Cheese? Is there any way, short of literally witnessing the skies tuning black and the water catching on fire for those people to change their ways?

I salute Mr. Beavan choosing to live in a manner that is consistent with his beliefs and I hope that he addresses these questions in the course of his work.

santo26 on 03.26.07 @ 07:16 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

Thursday, March 22nd

Is Blogging Protected Speech?

Music: The Minutemen
Mood: concerned
I was reading Boing Boing and came across the story of Josh Wolf, an anarchist blogger who is in federal prison for refusing to turn over the raw footage of a police car being trashed by rioters. He has been there nine months and counting and still refuses to cooperate with the Federal Grand Jury subpoena to turn over his footage, citing his First Amendment rights.

This is quite an interesting case and Wolf's refusal to comply means that this will no doubt eventually head to the Supreme Court. To me it looks like the feds are pushing around a freelance journalist. He is receiving support from many quarters, but the question is that despite all this support, will the Supreme Court rule against him? If they do, what kind of chilling effect would this have on blogging?

This is a very interesting question that I will go into more detail about in the coming posts. Stay tuned.

santo26 on 03.22.07 @ 09:02 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Sunday, March 18th

Just Say No And No

Music: Bill Hicks
Mood: frustrated but not surprised
In case you were wondering about the results of the Viaduct vote, the voters of Seattle chose No to both the surface-tunnel hybrid and the the new viaduct.

So what does this mean exactly? Well, the current plan is to fix the damage to the existing viaduct, at a cost of $915 million dollars (or, 1/3 of the cost of building the new viaduct) while all the sides have 2 years to figure out "something else." An article from the Seattle Times describing this is in greater detail is available here.

I am not surprised by the results of the vote, as "No on both" was the preferred option of many, who preferred to fiddle away while the Viaduct is one day closer to collapsing. What I do not understand is why this non-binding vote by the citizens of Seattle is being used as an excuse to not proceed with the work of rebuilding a portion of a STATE HIGHWAY (Route 99) that needs to be replaced immediately, in the interest of public safety. While the Viaduct is, admittedly, in Seattle itself, most of the people who use it do not live in Seattle and did not have a say, while people who live in the city but do not even live near it or use it, got to vote to delay the project.

I plan to write to my representatives about this issue, and will chronicle the experience in this space. I have never attempted to do this before so I am interested in seeing what kind of response I receive from the various politicians I write to. I am thinking of writing to Seattle city councillors, my state representatives and senators, and the governor. Good practice for the future or pointless exercise? Let me know.

santo26 on 03.18.07 @ 06:23 PM PST [link] [5 Comments]

Friday, March 16th

The Road We Took Led Us Back To There

Music: Cannonball Adderley
Mood: determined
First off, I want to say that as regards my post-a-day experiment, I posted for 6 days in a row, followed by two days of no posts, followed by a post yesterday and this one. I broke my promise to you, dear readers, but this is not one of those "I ate a Twinkie so I'm giving up my diet" moments. I just wanted to acknowledge what happened but I have no intention of stopping.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress...

After encountering Jimmy Carter's speech yesterday, I have been thinking about the road not taken in that instance. Carter had some great ideas, but he was President at a very tumultuous time in history, and he did not have the leadership skills necessary to either implement his ideas or convince the American voters to reelect him in 1980. Instead they chose a guy who was swept into office due to his mic skills and espousal of libertarian ideas on the campaign trail. Reagan's election in 1980 was seen as the beginning of the "Reagan Revolution," a time when conservative ideas were finally politically "cool" after 50 years of being "uncool." What is interesting is that while taxes were lowered, regulatory restrictions were largely lifted off of corporations and aid was cut to welfare programs, the federal deficit skyrocketed and the proponents of "family values" lashed out against people who weren't like them all the while supporting the Presidency of a divorced former liberal Hollywood actor.

Reagan's VP, George H.W. Bush was elected on the strength of being in Reagan's shadow and portraying his opponent, Michael Dukakis as a "liberal," which in fact he was, but it was no longer cool to be one. In an attempt to keep up with the times, the Democratic Party decided to take money from corporate donors and special interests while still claiming to be fighting for the "average person." Bill Clinton enjoyed two terms as President doing exactly this. Then came the 2000 election, with George Bush, Jr. vs. Clinton's bagman, Al Gore vs. Ralph Nader. Nader ran a campaign where he warned that there was little to no difference betwee the two candidates, and for his troubles was branded a "spoiler" who caused Al Gore to "lose" the election. This ignores the fact that, among other things, Gore did not even win his home state of Tennessee, which if he had, and still lost the recount in Florida, would have given him 276 electoral votes to Bush, Jr.'s 260.

Bush, Jr. has portrayed himself as a heir to the Reagan legacy. For 6 years his party controlled Congress, creating a one-party state, and for a brief time after 9-11, had the popular support of nearly everyone in the country and the world. Fast forward to today, where Bush, Jr.'s poll numbers are very low, his party has lost control of the House and Senate, and noone wants to listen to him. People are tired of the way things are going and are looking for something new.

Is seems like the "Reagan Revolution" is almost at an end. If you go back and listen to Jimmy Carter's speech that he delivered on July 15, 1979, the problems we are facing today are almost exactly the same. America took the fork on the right 27 years ago, and the path led right back to the same crossroads. The question that now faces us is how are we going to face these problems today in 2007 and beyond?

santo26 on 03.16.07 @ 05:35 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Thursday, March 15th

Jimmy Carter In The Place To Be

Music: Jimmy Carter's
Mood: inquisitive
My high school had this program called Project Month. For a month in March, each senior spent a month interning somewhere and/or doing a project. For my Project Month, I went to Los Angeles to work for Rock The Vote and stayed with Nick, an alum who was running the organization. It was a mind-altering and life-changing experience.

Among the things that I did with Nick was go with him to a newsstand one morning. He took all the political magazines and arranged them from left to right and said: "Read all of these and you will have an idea of what is really going on." Since then, I have always tried to keep an open mind about politics, am always willing to listen to what people have to say politically, and like to think that my politics are always evolving.

In that vein, I have been reading a lot of books lately from the left end of the spectrum: "The Corporation," "A People's History Of The United States," "Affluenza," "Culture Jam," and I'm currently reading "Crashing The Party," Ralph Nader's account of his 2000 Presidential run. In doing so, I have realized that I have a lot more in common with this side of the spectrum than I had previously believed.

In one of these books, Jimmy Carter's "Crisis Of Confidence" speech (better known as the "Malaise" speech) is mentioned. In this speech, Carter identifies the need for America to rid itself not only of materialism, but to stop our dependence on foreign oil. After reading/listening to the speech, I was stunned. For years, Carter has been mocked as a failed President. This speech has been cited, along with many other "failures," as factors that led to his loss to Reagan in the 1980 Presidential election. Looking back on it as a historical document, it is fascinating to see it as the road not taken. What if Carter's initiatives had actually been implemented?

santo26 on 03.15.07 @ 09:05 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

Monday, March 12th

My Viaduct Vote

Music: R.E.M.
Mood: being an engaged citizen
This afternoon, I finally filled in my absentee ballot on the Viaduct Rebuild. The voters of Seattle are being asked to, in a non-binding election, whether they prefer to replace an elevated highway that runs along the waterfront called the Viaduct with a larger elevated structure or a surface-tunnel hybrid. The existing structure was damaged in a 2001 earthquake and needs to be replaced. For more information on this issue, I recommend the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Page On The Viaduct Issue.

I voted against the surface-tunnel hybrid and for the new elevated structure. The first, and most important, reason for this is that the Viaduct needs to be replaced immediately in the interests of public safety and commerce. The Viaduct one of only two north-south highways in Seattle, and while it may not be attractive, it works, and is my preferred north-south route. The new elevated structure has been planned out and the costs will be funded by the state and federal governments. The surface-tunnel hybrid is an 11th-hour idea slapped together by Mayor Nickels after Governor Gregoire shot down his original idea for a six-lane tunnel. It would not only take time to design the surface-tunnel hybrid, time which Seattle does not have, but the existing Viaduct would be closed for 3 years while the new, less than a mile long tunnel would be built. Any cost overruns would be borne by Seattle taxpayers in the form of higher utilities and user taxes.

Many commentators on the issue have brought up comparisions with Boston's Big Dig. Having grown up and lived in Boston while the Big Dig was being built, I have a perspective that other Seattleites might not on this issue. The Expressway, which was the elevated structure that was partially replaced by the Big Dig network of tunnels, cut through the middle of the city. The Viaduct is on the waterfront. While it would be nice to "open up the waterfront" as the surface-tunnel hybrid supporters prefer, you can still "get to the waterfront," and once you are there, it is mostly port operations. The Big Dig was billions over-budget, poorly built, and turned Boston into a laughingstock, but in the end, it made sense to connect the various peninsulas that make up Boston together with a tunnel system. Boston officials also had the luxury of time as the Expressway and the Callahan & Sumner tunnels were fine structurally and they did not have to be closed in order to build the tunnels.

Seattle does not have the luxury of time in this instance. If the Viaduct is damaged or destroyed in an earthquake, Seattle would grind to a halt. The Viaduct plan is ready to go, the funds are in place, and the construction can be implemented shortly. While it is not the most attractive option, it is the one that makes the most sense. All this debate about "opening up the waterfront" clouds the very serious public safety issue at stake. Action has to be taken immediately and delay would be fatal. We can worry about public transportation and open space later.

santo26 on 03.12.07 @ 05:57 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

More Art To Choke Hearts

Music: Frank Zappa
Mood: tired
maskman_dragonhippo1 (202k image)
Maskman Pursued By Dragonhippo, 2007 (#2 pencil on lined paper)

Once again, I am posting late in the day (11:29 pm Pacific Standard Time) but I've been drawing a lot lately and I want to share that with y'all. I haven't done as much drawing or painting as I have wanted to in the last few years. Actually, the Maskman is based on an actual carved wooden mask I made in Mr. Eliassen's shop class in 6th grade. I want to do more woodcarving. More masks.

"Doctor Who" was preempted last night by pledge drive bullshit but I am seriously considering sending some bread over to KBTC. Any PBS station that shows "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and "Doctor Who" back-to-back is worth supporting, youknowwhutimean, Vern?

It has been a long weekend in between work and Landmark. I'm going to kick back and watch Mike Judge's latest masterpiece, Idiocracy.

santo26 on 03.12.07 @ 02:39 AM PST [link] [3 Comments]

Sunday, March 11th

...And Now For Something Completely Different

Music: Frank Zappa
Mood: powerfully whimsical
fse_hippo1 (329k image)
The Fully Self-Expressed Hippo, 2007 (Magic Marker on Paper)

So it is 11:47 pm Pacific Standard Time and I thought I would switch it up a bit here. I said I would post something every day, I didn't say what I would post. So here is one of the many facets of my artistic genius.

I'd love to stay and chat, but Doctor Who is on in ten minutes on the local PBS station. I think they're showing either "The Brain Of Morbius" or "Pyramids Of Mars."

See ya tomorrow!

santo26 on 03.11.07 @ 03:46 AM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Friday, March 9th

It Was More Of A Quiet Revolution...

Music: Louis Armstrong
Mood: drinking cheap tea
So what was I saying? Ah, yes, the disengagement of younger people from the political process. Why aren't more young people engaged? It seems as if people are more interested in playing video games or watching TV than going to a city council meeting. And yes, as I wrote that last sentence I realized how boring it sounds. It doesn't have the instant gratification factor of saving the princess or watching Keanu in a trenchcoat kung-fu his way out of a hail of bullets. At least when you save the princess or shoot the zombie with the nail gun or kill the orc and get some hit points, it seems like you have accomplished something. It takes a long time and the development of some hand-eye coordination skills to actually win a video game. Why don't more people apply those same skills to writing their congressman about an issue that they feel passionate about?

Passion. That's it. It's OK to feel passionate about your favorite television show, musical group, or subculture you consider yourself affiliated with, but if you are passionate about politics, that's not so cool. Growing up, I heard all about the 1960s, and how people who were fed up with the way things were went out marching, protesting, and issuing manifestos until things began to change. Then all of a sudden, most of these people became "the man" themselves only this time they were called yuppies and those that still believed that things still needed to be changed were marginalized. The accomplishments of the '60s were still held up as the high water mark of American civilization, so much so that I got tired of hearing about it.

It is out of this blatant hypocrisy that the whole "Generation X/slacker" thing sprang. Here was a whole generation of people who grew up not only with the "beware the man" philopsophy but also saw the hypocrisy of most of those who espoused it. It seemed like the best thing to do was admit that the world sucked, but there was nothing that could reasonably be done, so why bother?

So where did all the crative evergies of these folks go? A lot of them took their fighting spirit and turned to computers and the internet. Others took the fight to achieving the widespread social equality that has spread into almost every aspect of American life. People now have a freedom of expression that did not really exist before. You won't necessairily be beaten up for having long hair or a mohawk or holding hands with someone of the same sex, and if you do, it will be a cause for concern. This is an incredible thing, something that wasn't possible even 20 years ago.

While great change has been made with computers, the internet, and social equality, what has been the downside? A lot of this change has been made on the individual level, but this same level of political expression is not currently available in politics or business. Large corporations control large portions of our lives, and politics offers us at best a choice between a puppet on the left and a puppet on the right. While it is possible to buy organic milk or a Fugazi album for $12 post paid from Dischord Records or vote for a third-party candidate, most people aren't aware of this, and if they are, don't think it makes a difference. Well, it does! If enough consumers demand a product, then these corporations will listen. When "Family Guy" was cancelled and released on DVD, so many people bought them that News Corp. brought it back to television. So many people are buying the Toyota Prius that automakers are competely rethinking the automobiles that they are offering. This is the power of the marketplace. So why don't we realize that we have this power when it comes to politics?

santo26 on 03.09.07 @ 06:07 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Thursday, March 8th

A Post A Day...For A Month?

Music: the Mothers of Invention
Mood: challenging myself
If I look back on my old posts, every few months I post something similar to the post I posted yesterday. Man there's something wrong with the world, something needs to be done, etc. etc. The post ends with me sounding like I'm all fired up, but then the next day...nothing. My readers get all excited about the prospect of regular posting, and new readers who drop in are ready to hear more, and then...nothing. Then I get bummed out that nobody reads this. Ummm...why would I read a blog that gets updated sporadically, if never?

Recently, Miss E introduced me to the music of Jonathan Coulton. While Coulton's music is pretty interesting, I was taken in by his releasing his songs in/for? Creative Commons and his Thing-A-Week project, which he actually completed. Fifty-two new songs. I bet he learned a lot about songwriting that year. Another inspiration has been Katie's webcomic As Seen In Vermont, which she updates every week (Hi, Katie!).

It's all well and good if I want to write more and think there's something wrong with the world and that its really neat that I have my little soapbox out here in the interweb, but if nothing moves forward, I'm just another "false slacker" (as opposed to someone who has true slack). I want to go out fighting, bow out knowing that I tried to and did change things. I want to be cause in the matter of my own life. So here I am, about to do whatever it is I'm going to do. Instead I'm going to just do whatever it is I'm going to do. I'm not scared anymore.

One of the things that I want to do is to challenge the whole concept of non-participation. It has taken an entire generation out of the political process. That is where I shall begin. Where you come in, dear readers, is to hold me acountable to this promise that I have made. See you tomorrow!

santo26 on 03.08.07 @ 02:16 PM PST [link] [2 Comments]

Wednesday, March 7th

Evolving Attitude

Mood: nostalgic, thoughtful, hopeful
It has been over a year since I returned to Hollywood from my sojourn in Humboldt County, and nearly six months since I moved to Seattle. Sometimes, like right now, I get nostalgic. As I write this, I am listening to the live internet feed from KHUM, a free-form station from Humboldt County. It reminded me when over New Year's 2005-6 there was this insane storm that caused a mudslide on the 101, knocking out the only way into Humboldt, and causing massive power outages. KHUM was on the air during this time, and folks would call in with on-the-scene reporting. It was a brief glimpse into the way a radio station (or any other media outlet) could work.

I was reminded of this by a similar anecdote shared by the Adbuster himself, Kalle Lasn in his book Culture Jam, the latest in a string of books I have been reading recently questioning our modern consumer culture. While I have always raised objections to certain aspects of it in the past, my recent travels have really brought this issue into sharp focus. For most of my life, I sympathized with the "slacker" ethos; you know, everything sucks but there's nothing you can do about it, so let's sit around and have a deep conversation about the hidden subtexts in old Saturday Morning cartoons. It is such an insidious idea you have to wonder if it wasn't dreamed up in a boardroom somewhere.

It certainly is not going to help matters to sit around mired in nostalgia or consumed with a nagging feeling that something is wrong. The question is: where do I start? Well, for one thing, I have bought a bike, I'm up to about 40 pages in the book, and coaching at Landmark Education. One outlet for this evolving philosophy that is brewing will of course be this space, but I want to get back into filmmaking as well.

santo26 on 03.07.07 @ 04:44 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

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