as pigs fly

praying mantisOF FOODIES AND FOOLS

I’m on vacation and and have been exposed to more television than one would think possible but then there is the time factor (lots of it) and the the guilty pleasure factor (also lots of it). During the usual course of work and life it hardly makes sense to squander precious time sitting in front of the hypnotic eye. But here I am on vacation, and find myself triggered into watching one of the dozens of food based productions so readily available on TV. Back in the protozoan era of television programming, of say, the Galloping Gourmet or The French Chef, with Julia Child, the subject was cooking. Or good food. Or discovering what the French did with  food that made it so freaking amazing (spoiler alert: it’s the sauce, cherie). Now, however, it seems that it is a competition about which nasty character can win the prize for the least disgusting dish whichincidentallylookstheprettiest. A show in particular caught my eye because it was all about pork. Pork belly, pork shoulder, pork haunch, bacon. Pig, pig, pig! It made me wonder: what is it about our love affaire with all that is porcine?

So okay, full disclosure, I’m a theoretical vegetarian. This means I mostly don’t eat meat which, by the way, isn’t easy. And I don’t ever want to be that person…you know, the one who will force the entire office to redesign the annual picnic to accommodate their very special diet restrictions because goddess forbid they should just shut the hell up and eat macaroni salad and be grateful to be included. But I digress. Back to the issue of pork. Honestly, I prefer fish but will indulge in duck or lamb if it’s locally sourced and not the product of a factory farm.

DO YOU KNOW HOW YOUR OINKER MET ITS FATE?

I am pro-food. You’ll have to trust me on this. However, and increasingly, I am also pro-sustainability. Which factory farming is not. Just one hog produces 17.5 pounds of poo and pee per day.  A theoretical farm of 1,000 theoretical  hogs will produce 6 million theoretical pounds of waste per year. Most factory farms have more like 35,000 hogs…and honey, that’s a lot of poop to process. Factory farms keep pig waste in “lagoons” which sounds lovely, unless you live downwind or factor in oceans of antibiotics or gazillions of  gallons of growth hormones swimming around in there. Or course, this chemical stew  leaks and leeches into the local soil and eventually into the ground water, creating a bio-hazzard so so toxic on so many levels my heart spasms just to ponder it.

As animals go, pigs are clean, social, curious, and work  collaboratively to solve problems, which makes them more intellectually advanced than many producers of reality television and some members of congress. I’m not suggesting that we give up our BLT or prosciutto-wrapped melon, I’m just saying that the price we collectively pay for our food should factor in what it takes to bring it to market.

Bon appetit, baby!

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kiss a frog

Earth Day (2)Have you kissed a frog lately and thanked it? If not, this is your chance because May is National Wetlands Month.

“Wait…what?”you say. “What the heck is National Wetlands Month?”

Funny you should ask. You see, the federal government recognizes the beauty, the raw power, and the undeniable necessity of wetlands, not because of the commercial development value, but because of their intrinsic and strategic value in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Wetlands have three distinct parameters that earn them the title. First, they are water-saturated and can always be wet, like swamps, marshes, bogs and coastal wetlands, or seasonally wet, resulting from winter snow melt, and occurring in forested or wooded or open areas that collect standing water, and sometimes dry like ephemeral pools or streams which reemerge after a rain event and dry out with the sun until the next rain event. Second, their soils are hydric meaning that at least for some part of the year the soils will be immersed in water. Thirdly, they have more than less hydrophytic vegetation which simply means that this type of plant thrives in a water environment. Unless it’s an obvious wetland like a marsh or bog or coastal plain, a bit of scientific investigation is necessary to make a wetlands determination as it’s not always apparent to the naked eye. Permits are required to build in wetlands as well as avoidance and minimization of the planned disturbance and mitigation for whatever amount of wetlands are converted to uplands. It’s a bit of a complicated process, but with the federal government’s “no net loss”of wetlands policy, a crucial one.

Why, gosh darn it, are these mosquito-infested swamps so important? Well, wetlands act like a sponge. They control flooding, filter pollutants, and buffer storm surges like nobody’s business. The Mississippi Delta which is practically one huge wetland has over 40% of the wetlands in the lower 48 states and has lost over 1,900 square miles since the 1930’s. About two football fields worth of wetlands are lost every hour. It used to be that 50 miles of wetlands separated New Orleans from the next hurricane, but no more. Now storm surges and big winds have their way with her.

Philadelphia, was also a big wetland when the colonists first settled, but they ditched and drained their way to what is now known as Center City Philadelphia. The problem is not necessarily the conversion of wetlands. Many port towns around the coasts of our country were once inundated with wetlands and are now bustling metropolises rather than said mosquito-filled swamps, but overdevelopment, such as in the Florida Keyes and surrounding environs, has resulted in life out of balance. As coastal cities continue to build out, or develop their barrier islands beyond holding capacity, the 100-year storm which now seems to happen every five or ten years will continue to pound what used to be only shoreline, but is now littered with million dollar homes.

How many wetlands do we need to control flooding, keep pollutants out of our rivers and streams, and help blunt the surge of rising winds and tides? It’s a fact specific, case-by-case analysis, but as climate change forces sea levels to rise, I’d hazard a guess that we’re reaching critical mass in some of the more densely populated coastal areas, for example, the Jersey Shore. Maybe a few more acres of wetlands wouldn’t have stopped Hurricane Sandy, but they would have cut down way down on the property damage. As the sea levels rise, wetlands have become more important than ever. Insurance companies are keenly aware of this —pun intended —sea change, and have started charging more for policies on climate-threatened properties. Some are even suing municipalities to pay for the cost of global warming such as Farmers Insurance Co. did with some Chicago-area governments in a landmark class action suit filed on May 2, 2014 (Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. v. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago District, et al., Case No. 14CH06608, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois).

By the way, about the frog: they are extremely important to the balance of the ecosystem since they eat bugs, filter our drinking water (tadpoles), and are themselves a source of food for other species, as well as the source of many medical advances for humans. Plus they make the most rockin’music! Unfortunately, they’ve been on the decline for the last 50 years with fewer numbers and more mutations because of a variety of things, but degrading water quality, habitat loss and overuse of pesticides are a few of the major ones. Frogs are to the ecosystem like the canary is to the coal mine. Their death is the first indication that there’s a problem and where frogs go, humans will follow.

We can’t all have beach front property, not at great public and personal cost, but we can all enjoy the beach. What is it the Buddha said? Everything in moderation? So for National Wetlands Month, go ahead and build that dream vacation home, but build it on a upland so tomorrow our kids will still have a frog or two left to kiss.

 

Women Are Women, But Men Are People

we are collectively approaching a very important election and we can’t help wanting to jump into the conversation. you don’t mind, do you?

Of Means and Ends

photo via businessweek.com photo via businessweek.com

“I am not sure it’s wise. You want a ticket that represents men and women.”

Who said that about running two women on a presidential ticket? Mitt Romney? Mitch McConnell?

Oddly enough, it was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of two Democratic female senators from California. Feinstein didn’t explain if she felt like women had been unrepresented by almost every major party presidential ticket in history, but Ann Friedman nails the core issue:

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agua fresca

PopsiclesistockSummer has arrived in the valley of the vines and we’ve arrived at the corner of  99 degrees and dry as a bone. In a state that provides produce up the wazzoo for the rest of the country, this could be a problem down the road. Our Golden State grows almost half of the fruit, nuts, and vegetables Americans eat. . . and it can’t grow bupkis without agua fresca. That’s everything from avocados to zucchini, Zeke. And if you don’t think that meat producers need water, think again. All animals need water – whether we’re at the top of the food chain or the middle or the end. That Quarter Pounder you had for lunch? It took 800 gallons of water to produce (based on the estimated 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of hamburger). As water becomes more scarce,READ MORE HERE

Magnolia City

We love a good romance. And when you spice it up with high Texas culture,  low down dirty scoundrels and illegal hooch, well then you’ve got Magnolia City. Here’s a shout out to our friend, Duncan Alderson. Way to go, D!

READ THE REVIEW

mag citySupport the arts. Buy the book.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson is chock full of Hollywood A-listers in both cameo and substantial roles and with Anderson at the helm, the result is a film so quirky and brilliant that you’ll want to see it more than once. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s best film to date, a wry, exceptionally well-structured 5-act Shakespearean dramedy. If you liked any of Anderson’s prior movies, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Darjeeling Limited, to name a few, then The Grand Budapest Hotel will satisfy you in a way that these previous gems just narrowly missed.

First there’s the superb M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), impeccably dressed with such dizzying attention to detail that Coco Chanel would be jealous. Gustave runs the GBH, set amid a coniferous-lined mountainside, always gorgeously blanketed with a light dusting of snow, so breathtakingly beautiful it looks like CGI. Anderson used more than one locale for the filming to get just the right feel for the distinguished and sumptuous backdrop to the movie. At the GBH, Gustave not only runs a tight, elegantly appointed ship, he has a cadre of patrons, all older, almost all female, who return to the GBH to partake of the amenities that only M. Gustave can provide. The young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), so called, he says, because after losing his family and home in the war — the movie is sandwiched between the first and second World Wars — he is nothing and has no one. Zero is hired by M. Gustave to maintain a specific role at the hotel, the actual description of which is unclear for while Gustave has a list of “don’ts”, it seems the lobby boy’s biggest “do” is to be Gustave’s personal assistant. Throughout the movie, we see Zero’s allegiance to Gustave unfold and grow in a variety of wry and often hilarious ways.

The entire story is told in flashback by the enigmatic owner of the hotel, a much older Zero (F. Murray Abraham), to the Young Writer (Jude Law), who is a patron of the current GBH. With it’s halcyon days behind it, a skeleton crew running it, and very few guests, the GBH is still going, maybe not strong, but going. Abraham invites Law to join him for dinner and over many courses, unravels the beguiling history behind the hotel. After one of Gustave’s favored patrons, Madame D. (a sublime Tilda Swinton) is murdered, Gustave travels to Madame D’s side because, “she needs me,” meaning, he needs to make sure 1) she looks good and 2) to find out whether she left him a little something in her will. At the reading, the lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) announces to the family that Madame D. has left Gustave the priceless painting, “Boy With Apple” which, according to Gustave, they had admired together many times. Chaos ensues as the heirs, led by Madame D’s son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) along with his henchman, Jopling (Willem Dafoe), try to reclaim what they believe is rightfully the family’s. The film is full of fabulously quirky observations such as when Gustave views the dead body of Madame D, examines her nail polish and expresses approval for the new color because even in death, style and elegance are paramount.

My favorite line in the movie is Gustave’s, spoken during a moment when he and the Lobby Boy are trying to puzzle out the mystery behind the dilemma Gustave finds himself in:

“The plot thickens, as they say. Why, by the way? Is it a soup metaphor?”

I absolutely will not tell you what mess they are in as the film is all to methodical to spoil, but I will say that I frequently laughed out loud throughout the movie. Anderson’s usual themes of abandonment, trouble with authority, and overarching loyalty in the face of adversity are all present. The cast goes on and on: Harvey Keitel, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and a host of others makes this film feel like summer camp for A-Listers The Grand Budapest Hotel is not for everyone. My mother thought it was weird, but she’s 80 and subtle, facetious humor is often lost on her. Me, I thought it was brilliant.

Pam Lazos  5.6.14

finalmente

 

zeropointOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Eighty-Two

Four months later, Gil, Avery, Kori and Hart walked the perimeter of a building inside the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. After careful deliberation, Hart had decided not to use Akanabi’s existing plant, but to build fresh. Hart walked slowly, surveying the area, while the Tirabi children followed him like sheep behind the shepard.

“I’ve got the contractors lined up. We’ll start construction next week. We’ll have to sequester the blue prints. No one gets a full set. Just bits and pieces. Enough to keep them working on their part.”

“But we already have a patent,” Gil said.

“That we do,” Hart said. He winked at Avery who blushed. Avery’s endless hours at the library had paid off several days earlier with the arrival of the official seal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“We have affirmative rights,” Avery said to Gil. “but that doesn’t mean somebody couldn’t steal the idea, or maybe improve on it and get their own patent. Even if they incorporate it wholesale, we’d still have to sue them to get them to stop.”

Hart turned to Kori. “I’ll need Gil to take a little time off from school. He’ll have to be on the floor while we’re in the construction phase just to trouble shoot.”

Kori scowled at Hart, exuding denial.

“I’ll get him a tutor,” Hart said. He walked over and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “It’ll be alright. I promise.” Kori nodded and relaxed a bit.

“Can we have ice cream?” Gil asked.

Kori checked her watch. “It’s only 11:00 o’clock.”

“I know,” Gil said. “But I’m hungry.”

“Tell you what. Let’s go down to 9 th and Catherine. There’s a little deli called Sarcone’s . They make the best hoagies you ever ate. It’s all in the bread. They got a veggie one – spinach and roasted peppers.” Gil turned up his nose and looked the other way. “You gotta try it. If you don’t like it, we’ll go to Geno’s and get you a cheesesteak.”

“But I want ice cream,” Gil said.

“Ah, but you didn’t let me finish. Afterwards we’ll go to John’s and get the best water ice you ever tasted.”

“Like Rita’s Water Ice?

“Rita? Never heard of her. But I can assure you, Rita don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ when it comes to water ice. I’m tellin’ ya’. This is the stuff.”

“Okay, but I want half kiwi-strawberry, half mango.”

“You got four flavors. Chocolate, cherry, pineapple and lemon. They may have added one in the last twenty years, I don’t know, but if they did, it won’t be kiwi-strawberry,” Hart said.

Gil frowned. “Whatever. Can we go now? I’m starving.”

“Why am I not shocked,” Avery said, following Hart out.

Gil stole a last glance around the deserted floor and ran to catch up.

➣➣➣

Hart started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“Estimated time of arrival, sixteen minutes,” Hart said. Avery sat next to him in the front seat, Gil and Kori in the back.

“I don’t think I can wait sixteen minutes,” Gil said. “I’m so hungry, my stomach is soon going to eat the rest of me. I’m also thirsty.” Gil made notes in the blue folder on his lap, his head bowed in concentration.

“Why didn’t anyone remember to bring snacks and libations for this child?” Hart kidded Kori.

Kori rolled her eyes and rummaged around in her purse, coming up with an old, yet edible peppermint which she handed to Gil. Gil tried ripping the paper off, but it had melted on in sections and the job was too tedious. He handed the mint back to Kori who yanked it out of his hand.

“Can’t you do anything yourself?” she asked, picking lint and other sundries previously living in the bottom of her purse off the stale, hard candy. Gil shook his head. When the mint was wrapper-free, she handed it to Gil. He popped it in his mouth and crunched it to bits within seconds, then looked again at his sister.

“That was it. I don’t have anymore,” she said.

Gil went back to his notebook. Several minutes later, he raised his head, capped the pen and closed the folder. “Hey, Hart?” Gil said.

“Yo.”

“Did you ever hear about the Zero Point Field?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to fill me in,” Hart said. Gil smiled and looked at Avery before grabbing Kori’s purse.

“Hey, you little brat,” she said, but made no effort to retrieve it. Gil began routing around, looking for more candy.

“The Zero Point Field is a constant backdrop in all physics equations. The theory is well known,” Avery said, “but not in the way Gil is working on it. Because it’s a constant, it used to be something that physicists subtracted out of everything.”

Gil found another peppermint, this one more tattered than the first. He handed the peppermint to Kori and she peeled the plastic off in strips. He grabbed it from her outstretched hand, picked off the last few pieces of lint, and chomped it up as quickly as the first one.

“But for the last thirty or forty years, a few pioneers have been tinkering with the idea that there’s more to the Field than the need to remove it from a few equations,” Avery said. “Some of the brave ones have begun a series of experiments, mostly in isolation. Collectively, their work points to a phenomenal result. It turns out that the Zero Point Field, what used to be thought of as empty space, is this massive, cohesive unit of energy that runs through everything , not only on the planet, but in the entire universe.”

Gil licked the sticky peppermint off his fingers. “Anything can happen in the Field” he said. “That’s why sometimes they call it the Zero Point Field of All Possibility.”

“Sounds like science fiction,” Hart said.

“Yeah,” Gil said. “Did you ever see on Star Trek when they heal somebody without medicine and without surgery? They were tapping into the Field.” Hart laughed out loud and Gil blushed.

“He’s not kidding. The Field will make our ideas of modern medicine obsolete,” Avery said.

“If you get shot or a tiger bites your arm off and you want somebody to reattach it then you’ll still need a doctor,” Gil added.

“Yeah, but not for the stuff like cancer or arthritis or Alzheimer’s,” Avery said. “You won’t need to take drugs.”

“Yeah, because you can just go back in time to the “seed moment” and fix it before it gets to be a problem,” Gil said. He stuck his hand in Kori’s purse and fished around for more candy. She yanked it away.

“Enough,” she said.

“What’s a seed moment?” Hart asked.

“Well, these physicists who are studying the Field say it’s the time of the conception of a disease. Or actually, the exact moment before when all the pathways are coalescing to form what will become the disease.”

“And you’re saying you can go back in time and cure it even before it manifests itself just by accessing this mysterious Field,” Hart asked. Gil nodded.

Hart mulled this information over for a moment before speaking: “What if it wasn’t a disease, but an accident. Could you change it then?”

Avery looked at Gil who shrugged.

“Does it involve more than one person?” Gil asked.

“Yeah,” said Hart.

Gil thumbed through his folder and rubbed his chin just like his father used to do. After a minute he closed the folder. “Too many variables,” Gil said. “You can talk to God, but you can’t have his job.”

Hart’s expression sank as he exited the highway. Gil caught Hart’s eye in the rear view mirror and smiled, forcing Hart to do the same. Hart shrugged.

“Anyway….” Gil handed Kori the blue folder. On the cover, in large type it read: “Plans to Solve the World’s Health and Energy Problems Using the Zero Point Field, ” by Gil Tirabi. At the bottom of the page in smaller type it read: “ I give this five stars.”

Kori read the cover and turned to stare at her brother. “You – are kidding me. You never gave anything five stars.” Kori flipped through the folder. “What? Did you prove the existence of God or something?”

“Something,” Gil agreed. He fidgeted in his seat and made a goofy face, one that belied the intelligence lurking beneath.

Kori dropped the folder on the seat next to Hart who at present was maneuvering deftly around a car double-parked in the driving lane. He cast his eyes down to the folder lying next to him and read the title. He looked at Gil in the rearview mirror.

“Are you serious? Because if this is true, Gil, we better hire some better security, and pronto.”       

“Well,” Gil said, “maybe you should start interviewing.” 

THE END