Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's the matter with Kansas?

As the anniversary of September 11 and the Fall elections get closer, we all have to fasten our spin goggles to wade through the ideological claptrap that will be spewed forth. Pandering has already started, with Cheney and Rumsfeld making speeches that demonstrate at best, that they have lost touch with reality, and at worst, that they are the incarnations of evil. You be the judge. (Check out this article on

One of the most convincing books to emerge about the 2004 elections was by Thomas Frank. His book, entitled "What's the Matter With Kansas?" answers the question, why would anyone go against her/his class and economic interests to vote with the party of the wealthy elite, namely the Republicans? The average working class or middle class American does not profit from the Bush tax cuts or corporate protection schemes. Instead, Frank contends, Republicans have waged class warfare, pitting themselves as "regular folks" against the liberal bi-costal "elites" who don't share their values. By choosing cultural "wedge" issues, scores of citizens have become single-issue voters who look past their declining financial status, lack of health care, lack of job protection, etc. to vote, say, against gay marriage or abortion.

The republicans have made sure that there is no immediate or optimistic answer to the question, where's the revolution? Until the working and middle classes start looking at the economic realities of life in our country, and until we all start voting those interests, change will not be forthcoming.

In keeping with this theme, Frank published an extraordinary editorial in the New York Times on Tuesday (8/29) entitled "Defunders of Liberty." Unfortunately, it is difficult to read this article on-line unless you are a subscriber to the NYTimes, but I urge you to try to get your hands on it. In it, Frank writes about infamous "lobbyist" Jack Abramoff as participating in the Republican party program of displacing and discrediting the left. As this quote by Abramoff shows, theirs has been a systematic program of removing leftist thought from the American discussion: "Our job is to remove them from power permanently." This is not about a fair debate and equal representation for all sides. Frank traces the way Abramoff and the College Republicans (and later the K Street Project) went about defunding the left, realizing that by taking funding away from organizations, their ability to contribute to the national debate would be vastly compromised. His lobbying career, until his arrest, was also about ensuring that sources of finance and capital were cut off from Democrats, so that working for Democrats or progressive causes on Capitol Hill would be less appealing.

What is the saddest about this all is that it has mainstream appeal, because Republicans have been very successful in couching their arguments in terms of 'fairness.' Everything from Intelligent Design and global warming ("it's only fair that both sides of this scientific debate should be heard!") to Social Security "reform" and school vouchers ("it's only fair that people should have a say about what happens to their own money/education!") falls under this mantle. But it's not fair. Pseudo-science has no place in the classroom (or anywhere for that matter). Social Security reform is really only about taking money away from the most vulnerable Americans and putting money in the coffers of Wall Street. School vouchers are simply a way to shirk governmental responsibility in improving the conditions of public schools.

If you know anyone who is that rare bird known as the UNDECIDED VOTER, please steer them towards the book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Perhaps it can help them see that unless they are billionaires, they will not benefit from voting Republican this Fall.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


Today, Daiku and I volunteered (with the Peace Council) at the second annual Syracuse VegFest. We were really excited, because last year's VegFest was one of the first things we did together after I moved here from California. I thought, any city with this kind of event is all right with me! Here is the website for the Community Animal Project which is the local animal rights organization. Last year, we got to see Howard Lyman (the mad cowboy) and Erik Marcus. We looked forward to a day of cute pets, interesting people, and yummny food.

However, there was just one tiny problem- the weather. Today did not feel like a summer day, rather, a grey, rainy, windy, cold day that could easily be an October or even November one. So, people were slow to show up, and there definitely weren't as many attendees as last year. The man next to us, whose table did not have a tent, gave up and went home rather than get any wetter.

Several times, the wind gusts were so strong, that we had to physically keep things from falling down or blowing into the harbor!

We even had to cover our buttons in plastic to make sure they didn't get wet...

But all in all, we were glad we were there, supporting the VegFest, the Community Animal Project, and the Syracuse Peace Council. We did see cute pets, and did meet interesting people, many of whom drove from afar to get here. It is fantastic that our community can include this event in its list of summer festivals. We saw organizations (such as PETA) as well as individuals all coming together and braving the weather.

So it was a great day, we can only hope for much better weather next year!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Is this everything that's wrong with America?

Here is a quote from Eating Well magazine: "We are a big, fat, lazy, wasteful, gullible culture. We'll swallow anything. We'll sell our parental pride for $2.89." (Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun columnist, on parents buying premade, frozen peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for their children.)

What is wrong with Uncrustables? Let us count the ways...

1. They had to get a PATENT. For peanut butter and jelly
sans crust. Here's the illustration for their application:
Apparently, their big innovation is using peanut butter and crustless bread to effectively entrap their world-famous jelly. (!)

2. Their...
Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size 1 Sandwich (58 g)
210 calories, 9 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat... (look for yourself)

You might be asking yourself how they crammed so many calories, fat, and salt into a tiny little sandwich, while leaving out so many nutrients... It might help to read their...


We all know that refined flour is bad, hydrogenated oils are bad, corn syrup is bad (and high fructose corn syrup is god-awful!), not to mention all the other unpronounceable ingredients.

But what is really bad is the economics:

Here is how much one would pay for an Uncrustable (~ $2.99/ 4-pack)= $0.75

Here is how much one would pay for a similar peanut butter and jelly sandwich: (~ $2.59/18 oz. for a jar of Jif peanut butter, with 16 servings, ~ $2.45/18 oz. for Smucker's grape jelly with 32 servings, and ~ $2.39/20 slices for a loaf of Wonder Bread with 10 servings)=~ $0.17

Here is how much one would pay for a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich (whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, organic jelly) (~ $3.89/18 oz. Crazy Richard's all-natural peanut butter, with 16 servings, ~ $3.49/10 oz. Cascadian Farms organic grape jelly with 1 servings, ~ $3.00/20 slices of fresh-baked whole wheat bread at my local grocery store with 10 servings) =~ $0.74

These are prices I found on the Internet, so I'm sure everyone can find even better prices at their local co-ops or grocers, not to mention the added savings of, say, buying in bulk, making your own jam, peanut butter, or baking your own bread. What this demonstrates is that parents are willing to pay a hefty premium to stuff their kids full of chemicals, artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils (of which you should eat none), refined white flour, GMO's, etc.

The great thing is, the convenience article doesn't really work here, because what is easier than making a PB & J, for crying out loud??

Start the revolution, folks! Refuse the junk being marketed to you and your kids. Reading an ingredient/nutrition label is one of the most enlightening and potentially empowering things you can do.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

a message from your friendly mom and pop meat conglomerate

Check out this Simpsons video... It would be funny if it weren't so tragically close to the truth!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

An ode: a personal TJ's

Trader Joe's wine store on 14th street in Manhattan.

I recently made a trip, a pilgrimage of sorts, that I had avoided for many months. I went to... the new Trader Joe's in New York City. Why was I so reluctant to make this trip? Well, there are issues of nostalgia, of jealousy, of control... let me explain.

Growing up in Northern California, Trader Joe's was a specialty store that my mom went to occasionally to get "treats," things that we didn't get to enjoy that often. Then, I moved to New York where I forgot about TJ's for a long time, until the late 90's, when a branch opened in Long Island, close to where I was going to college at the time. It reawakened so many memories in me, and of course, became indispensable for my student food budget. After college, I moved to New York City, where TJ's once again became a faint memory, a place I would visit every couple of months on visits to Long Island.

After a couple of years, I decided to move to Southern California to go to graduate school, a place that is pretty much awash in Trader Joe's stores. I would walk there at least a couple of times a week, all our parties would be stocked with food and wine from there, we would go there for hostess gifts, conference food, snacks, everything. Moving back to New York, to a part of the state without a TJ's in the 4-hour radius, TJ's once again became a luxury, a place I would visit on vacations and haul back a stash.

Over the holidays, I was in St. Louis, and upon my inevitable visit to TJ's a cashier told me and Daiku that a branch was opening up in... New York City. In Union Square. I took the news pretty hard. It was bad enough when Whole Foods opened, like, 8 branches in my former hometown, but TJ's?? In Union Square? As in, where I used to walk on my commute to work day after day? All these New Yorkers were getting MY store? Leading up to the grand opening, people were breathlessly discussing the impending curiosity, giving hints to the uninitiated as in this article on Or this one.. What would keep me unique, now that New Yorkers had all these west coast things like TJ's, Whole Foods, Jamba Juice, Forever 21... (ok, the list kind of becomes ridiculous here). I was no longer a New York City resident, I was no longer a California resident, I could just sit and sulk from my perch up north.

Or, I could swallow my pride and visit Trader Joes. In NYC. I did this on a weekend trip to the city this weekend. And I was satisfied.

If you don't live near a Trader Joe's, perhaps this fan site (yes, a supermarket that inspires a fan site) might make me seem a little less insane.

your humble blogster browsing the goods at TJ's.

I'm not the first to blog about this little mecca of unique food (and a good friend to a veggie person such as myself) and I will not be the last, but this was quite a personal journey for me.

Here are my top 10 Trader Joe's staples, in no particular order.

10. Black Truffle Oil
9. Sharon's Coconut Sorbet (so creamy, makes my vegan self weep) All of Sharon's sorbets are incredibly true to the fruit, organic, and not overly sweetened. A great combination is passion fruit and coconut, or lemon and coconut. Take it to your next potluck party and be a hero.
8. Curry powder. Daiku and I usually enjoy mixing and matching our own spices to make curry dishes, but when time is of the essence, this strikingly flavorful powder can not be beat.
7. Olive Oil. TJ's president's choice organic extra virgin olive oil is great. But the prices are so fantastic that you can try all kinds of olive oils- I have never been disappointed.
6. TJ's plain soymilk. One of my favorites.
5. Eggless egg salad. Enough said.
4. Parveggiano Reggiano. This is not vegan. However, it is Parmeggiano Reggiano made without the traditional animal rennet (it uses a plant enzyme instead) which makes it a better choice for our vegetarian friends. One of those things that makes you wonder, if this is possible, why can't the whole world just do it and leave unnecessary products like animal rennet behind?
3. Frozen vegetable gyoza. So quick, just bake, fry, or steam. With a side of broccoli rabe or spinach, it's pretty much a complete meal. Mmmmmm.
2. Refrigerated ready-to-use pizza dough. White or whole-wheat.
1. Organic Just Blueberry preserves. So full of blueberries. So low in sugar. It even qualifies as a superfood!

What's your favorite?...


Thursday, August 17, 2006

what makes a good yoga teacher?

I've been doing yoga for about 3.5 years now. I was a late-comer, I put it off for a long time until my roommate convinced me to give it a try. Now I'm hooked. However, in the last 3.5 years, I've had a number of different yoga teachers, and have found certain things that make the experience so much better. Do you agree?

1. Breathing is important! I once had a teacher who decided the whole hour should be devoted to breathing, because we weren't breathing very effectively. This was a luxury, because if all you get out of yoga is better breathing, you are in a very good place. Some yoga teachers just tell you to breathe, then leave you on your own.

2. Use real words! If you use terms like "Oujai breath" and then tell me it means "warrior breath" and then tell me how to do it, and then demonstrate it, you are awesome. If you just say "breathe deeply" I'll wonder...

3. Are you devoted to yogic practice, its spiritual, historic, meditative, and bodily aspects? Or did you just take a yoga/aerobics/kickboxing/pilates 30-hour distance-learning certification course? One of my favorite yoga teachers had trained in India for more than 15 years, and goes back to India every year to further her learning. This was really reflected in how she taught.

4. Does the teacher just lead the class without looking at the students, or does s/he walk around and adjust/fix individuals? If I'm doing a pose wrong, fix me!

5. Does the teacher take individual bodies into consideration? My favorite yoga class always started with the teacher asking if anyone had any specific aches/pains they wanted addressed. In the same vein, a good teacher will always offer you alternatives or adjustments to poses if you have an issue (like a bum knee) that prevents you from doing a pose.

6. This is more idiosyncratic, but I hate cheesy new-age music! Either non-intrusive music, or no music at all!

I would love to hear from other yoga lovers out there about what you all love/hate, what to look for, funny experiences, etc.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Feel Good Rx: Shop at Your Farmer's Market!

One of the joys of summer, especially in upstate New York where winters can be so brutal, is surely the local farmer's market. Today, Daiku and I visited the urban greenmarket in Clinton Square, in downtown Syracuse. I hope you enjoy some pictures we took of the gorgeous, local, fresh, never-seen-the-inside-of-a-refrigerator produce that we saw there. And in case you had a doubt about the revolutionary appeal of buying locally, chew on these two articles about the business practices of corporate supermarkets best (worst?) exemplified by Wal-Mart.

This article is from Businessweek Magazine, about the dangers to small-time farmers from Wal-Mart entering the organics game.

This article, from Fast Company, is about the downfalls of doing business with Wal-Mart, from the producer's point of view.

One of the surest ways to battle the Wal-Marts of the world is not just to boycott them, as we do, but to cast a vote for your friendly local farmer by shopping at the local market. The food is well-priced, and damn tasty.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

A luxurious vegan dinner

I eat a strictly vegetarian diet. Technically, I'm not a vegan since I will sometimes have honey but it's a convenient shorthand for describing the fact that I eat no animal flesh (hint! fish are animals!), and nothing that is obtained through the torture or exploitation of animals such as dairy, eggs, gelatin, etc. I also will not buy leather and try hard to avoid products and companies that test on animals or use animal derived ingredients such as lanolin.

I am also a foodie, I love food, eating, and the cultural activities such as cooking and dining with family and friends that go along with it. These two facts (veganism and foodie-ism) are not mutually incompatible. Your average vegetarian or vegan knows a lot more about food, cooking, nutrition and the origin of foods than the typical person. This is very important when trying to live a sustainable and revolutionary life-- the food choices you make are powerful votes you cast. Which companies do you want to support? What type of farming practices? Do you know where your food came from? How much energy it took to get to your plate? What toxins and contaminants might be on it?

I will revisit these themes often, but as a start, I want to show you the dinner that Daiku and I had last night.

We made the Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto from Vegan with A Vengence by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It had such an amazing depth of flavor- she calls for both dried and fresh mushrooms, along with fresh herbs, sun-dried tomatoes and other aromatic and yummy things.

We ate it with a salad, some ciabatta bread (yes, carb-loading), and some organic rose wine. The following things came from our own organic garden: cucumbers, yellow grape tomatoes, thyme, rosemary. 4 stars!

Oh, and here are some fresh figs. I only get to enjoy them in their non-dried form once a year, so I savor them.


Friday, August 11, 2006

two small thoughts

Yesterday morning, when the whole British terror plot foiling thing seemed like a bigger deal than it was, there was an interview on NPR with a representative from Homeland Security, discussing airport security. There was a question about how prepared the U.S. is to detect liquid explosives and the answer went something like this: Well, we are not as prepared as we should be, but we are taking strong measures. A few years ago, we caught a lot of flack for inspecting a woman who was carrying baby formula, but now you see how necessary that really was. This got me thinking that, whatever else this British terror plot foiling thing might be, it is a useful tool for the subtle re-writing of history and collective memory, the kind that this administration engages in all the time. Oh, did we say we are going into the war looking for weapons of mass destruction? We meant bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. Did you think that we were going overboard making mothers drink their own breast milk at airport security checkpoints instead of dealing with the deep global issues surrounding war and terrorism? Now you see how dangerous liquids are!

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary on the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I watched Deng Xiaoping declare marshal law and order the soldiers of the People's Liberation Army to shoot to kill students and fellow citizens. And I had a thought-killing hundreds or thousands of peaceful protestors didn't accomplish Deng's goals of clamping down on revolt nearly as well as his policy of opening the door to capitalism in China. Guns and tanks don't stop people protesting as much as being distracted by the latest cars and electronic goods you have to purchase, and having your belly full of mind-numbing McDonalds and Kentuky Fried Chicken. In other words, Deng's greatest accomplishment in rendering protesters impotent was to give them the goodies of capitalism, to make them more like us Americans. After all, when is the last time you saw 1.2 million Americans gathering together, demanding changes in our government and its policies? We have credit card bills to pay and new cell phones to shop for and crappy food to eat.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

1st Post: 61st Anniversary

"Another World is Possible"
Bazu: Welcome to our blog, where we hope to explore the possibilites for revolution and change in everyday life. In our contemporary world, with its wars, carnage, and greed, there is often a sense of hopelessness. Perhaps this blog, in its own small way, can show the little pockets of hope that exist.
Today, 9 August 2006, is the 61st anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki, three days after that of Hiroshima. It is fitting that we start with this note of remembrance.

Daiku: Where's the revolution? A blog devoted to the space between the conceptually impossible and the reality of the life we're caught up in, with its plusses and minuses, and all too real moments of recognition and possibility such as that of today, sixty-one years ago... could it have been? it certainly was, but how do you even say it, the deaths of 120,000 plus in the space of a couple days and a few instants, especially when, for example, walking down a central new york street on a bright, clear 75 degree day in well-fed 21st century America ...try all you want, it can't be said, the reality of what happened, but it nonetheless must, as it did... that might sound confusing, but the question is simple... why does such a thing even exist today? why is it even a question? what, on earth, are we thinking? So... where's the revolution? That's all.

Syracuse Peace Council March in Commemoration of the Atomic Bombings of Japan, 7 August 2006