Friday, December 17, 2010

Ethical clothing, the slow cloth movement, and fiber CSAs

chipped whorl
Unspun fiber, drop spindle, and finished yarn.

You've heard of slow food movement, right? You know, that whole grow-it-yourself, extreme locavore food sourcing thing. Well, there's also a slow cloth movement!

Slow cloth is all about ethical sourcing of clothing, a topic rarely on the forefront of people's minds. Aside from fur and sometimes leather, it's easy to forget where our clothing comes from. Let's look at a ten-dollar t-shirt from H&M. Someone (or a group of someones) had to grow, harvest, and process the cotton from plant, to thread, to cloth, and to garment. Was that someone paid a decent living wage? Was the cotton grown and processed in an environmentally-friendly manner? Good questions.

I knit. I really like knitting. I've made hats, scarves, sweaters, gloves, shawls, coffee cozies.... People often ask me if I'd be willing to sell these things, especially the coffee cozies. I answer them in the form of a question: "Would you pay twenty dollars for one?" This usually shuts them up. I explain that if I paid myself San Francisco minimum wage for the two hours that it takes me to knit a coffee cozy, the finished product would be worth twenty dollars of my time. Who would pay that for a coffee cozy?

I have also learned how to spin my own yarn. I have a much more intimate relationship with my yarn now. I'm slowly turning into a locavore fiber artist, keeping an eye out for nearby sheep farms and small fiber producers who treat their animals right.

Just as locavore foodies can buy into a CSA (community-supported agriculture, or the veggie box), now fiber artists can buy into fiber CSAs, just like this one, from Sheep Gal! The idea is that you chip in to a farm or a collective of farms and reserve a share of yarn and/or unspun fiber after shearing time. It's a great way to support your farmers to enjoy happy wool from happy sheep.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Power-tripping bishop wants hospital to admit they should have let a pregnant mother die.

Remember the Sister Margaret McBride, the Catholic nun who got excommunicated for allowing an abortion that saved the life of a mother of four (blogged here and here)?

Remember Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the insensitive bishop who excommunicated her?

Well, he's written a letter to Catholic Healthcare West, threatening to strip the Catholic status of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix unless CHW meets the bishop's demands on adhering to Catholic teaching, including admitting he was right!

From USA Today, via RNS blog:

The bishop wants the hospital to give him more oversight of its practices to ensure it complies with Catholic health-care rules, provide education on those rules to medical staff and acknowledge that the bishop is correct in a dispute over a procedure the diocese says was an abortion. [emphasis mine]

Power trip much?

This is so twisted. I can't believe that some childless bishop still thinks that it would have been more ethical to let a mother of four children die, rather than save her life by terminating her pregnancy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gene Robinson's take on homosexuality in the Bible

I know I've linked to this before, but Gene Robinson is just amazing.

Bishop Gene Robinson wrote a series of five articles for the Washington Post's On Faith blog on the topic of homosexuality in the Bible, specifically the seven "texts of terror" that fundamental Christian nutjobs like to quote in justification of their homophobic bigotry.

1. What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Reading "texts of terror"

2. Homosexuality in Leviticus

3. Homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah

4. What did Jesus say about homosexuality?

5. Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy

Take home message: CONTEXT MATTERS. Bishop Robinson's first article in this series summarizes my understanding of how to read the bible. Biblical texts were passed down orally and finally written down in a certain time, at a certain place, by some author, for a specific audience with certain cultural traditions and attitudes, not the least of which is a limited grasp of psychology from millennia ago. As our knowledge base advances, so too must advance our scriptural analyses.

For example, back in the day, it was probably a matter of public health to avoid pork and shellfish, what with trichinosis and red tide. Bring in some understanding of sanitation and microbiology, and what was once unclean can now be made clean!

Mmm, bacon-wrapped scallops....

Anyway, it wasn't that long ago that most people thought that sexual orientation was a choice. Well, I suppose I know people (*cough* name redacted *cough*) who still think sexual orientation is a choice. For those of us who actually grew up with gay people, we know that sexual orientation is as inborn as the color of one's skin. To act contrary to one's sexual orientation must be quite the burdensome lie, and I'm pretty sure God wouldn't be down with such dishonesty.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Get off my lawn! But stay for tea, James Franco!

Oh, James Franco, it's great when you just sit there and look pretty. In the meantime, I'll laugh at this imaginary phone interview with you and add to the mixed reviews of your book. (Image credit: Jezebel)

James Franco's debut anthology of short stories, Palo Alto, fell short of the high expectations I had set for this multi-faceted, well-read, and talented actor.

No resolution

Palo Alto is a collection of interconnected stories of bored, privileged, suburban teenage punks who get into all sorts of trouble and shenanigans because they're bored, privileged teenagers in the suburbs in the early-to-mid-90s. Parties, drinking, drugs, sex, violence. *yawn* So this is what my high school classmates did when I was at home doing my homework, right? Yeah, lovely. That might not be so bad, except that each story has a mere hint of a plot arc with no resolution. The static characters don't develop over the course of these story arcs to nowhere. For example, Franco wraps up the three-part story "Chinatown" with the line, "When we got older, I did things with my life and she did things with her life." Really, James Franco? Really?

Potential for thematic significance

Only a couple of stories contain just a pinch of thematic significance. The rarely present adults in the stories encourage the kids' bad behavior. In "Killing Animals," for example, the narrator reminisces about his younger days of wielding a slingshot and terrorizing the neighborhood fauna. The narrator gets nervous when his cat, Toby, comes within the sights of his friend's slingshot. The narrator juxtaposes this with a memory of animal control services shooting a mountain lion that wanders towards the neighborhood. In a rare moment of dramatic irony, the narrator claims the moral high ground that he has never actually killed any animals, although his near-misses damage public and private property. Furthermore, there are a couple less subtle instances of pedophile adults. The thematically significant moments don't happen often, but I see the potential for skillful use of dramatic irony with naive persona narrators.

Non-distinct narrative voices

James Franco's first-person narrators all have the same voice. They all speak with short sentences that simply list events and facts, with little reflection or emotional input. Between stories, there's no way to tell who is speaking until some other character addresses the narrator in dialogue. The three-part story "April" changes narrators, and I didn't even realize that until two to three pages into the third part. Have you heard teenagers speak? When they recount stories to each other, there's more melodrama and variety. I can say that because I, too, was a suburban teenager in the Bay Area the early-to-mid-90s.

Lack of authenticity

Besides the lack of plot, lack of theme, and lack of developed characters, the book suffers from the lack of authenticity in the narrators' homogenous voices. NO ONE around here says "the 101 freeway" or "the 280 freeway." We say "one-oh-one" and "two-eighty" as nouns with no definite article preceding them. Duh, James Franco. And there is not a single instance of the word "hella"! How does that happen? We hella say "hella" around here. That's hella inauthentic. James Franco, I hereby revoke your NorCal Card.

In summary, this isn't all that good, which is disappointing because James Franco is hot and cute and smart and all. This might be one to queue up at the library, so you don't shell out any money, of course. I don't think Palo Alto deserves the glowing praise splattered all over the back cover. However, I think James Franco has the potential to write much richer stories. After all, he can't get much worse, right?

And, um, if you're reading this, James Franco, naturally, I'd be thrilled to discuss all of this with you over coffee/tea/beer/wine/whiskey. You know, because I'm literary and mathy and artsy, too. Reinstating the NorCal Card will not be easy, after all. And my husband has already decided that you'd play him in a movie of his life, so it would be neat/creepy if you had a chance to get his character down.


Call me!

Friday, December 3, 2010

As if wackadoo doctrine weren't already enough.

If the shortest candle is adjacent to the pink one, you're doing it wrong.

Catholic News Service, as evidenced by your ill-lit Advent candles pictured above (see my recent post about which candle to light first), clearly you are unable to count backwards from three, which undermines the legitimacy of anything else you have to say.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

culinary cultural identity crisis, addendum

I found some nifty links about vegetarian food, Filipino food, and a vegan Filipino restaurant. Yes, it exists!

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman. A really thorough cookbook, great if you're starting out in the veggie world, with recipes and variations by ingredient or class of ingredients.

The World's Healthiest Foods, by George Mateljan. An amazing resource of just about any ingredient you want, nutritional information, and cooking techniques to optimize nutrient bioavailability.

No Worries Cuisine, a vegan Filipino restaurant in Oakland. It's a lot of fake meat, but I'm still curious to try it.

Burnt Lumpia, a Filipino-American food/culture blog. Check out the ube gnocchi. Trippy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

culinary cultural identity crisis

Lechon, a.k.a. Killing Me Softly

I'm having an identity crisis, one of those multi-cultural identity crises that you see in all those immigrant coming-of-age movies. You know the ones. In the first five minutes of these movies, the culturally confused teenager rejects his mother culture in order to fit in with the cultural homogeneity of his white friends. Later on, of course, the kid develops a new interest in his mother culture when said white friends realize that cultural variety is cool.

My relationship with Filipino food is hitting a rough patch. Things were going great for a really long time. I was quite happy for many years with chicken adobo as my signature dish. Then something hot and spicy came along, and it became a game to see how hot we could get. Filipino food was never like that. A part of me died that day, mostly tastebuds.

And then foodie culture led me further astray. Sharing recipes, cooking without aprons. Everyone seemed to be doing it and enjoying it, too. Interestingly, now there were grades of how vanilla you could get: French, organic, Tahitian. Who knew?

Naturally, I went through a veggie-curious phase, too. I gotta admit, though, I'm a lot better at it now than when I was in college. After all, I married a veggie--a foodie veggie--and it's great! I could easily subsist on Indian food and veggie burritos now. I'm not purely veggie, but I'm definitely a lot less carnivorous than I used to be.

My occasionally carnivorous stomach was in for a rude awakening a couple weeks ago when we went to Patio Filipino for a friend's birthday dinner. We had the Patio Platter (fried lumpia, fried chicharron bulaklak, fried calamari, fried shrimp), pancit canton, lechon, longanisa, beef mechado, and white rice. So that's an entire meal of deep-fry, mixed meats with noodles, crisped pork skin, pork sausage, beef stew, and carbs. I seriously needed a ginger tea to calm the storm swells of stomach acid. The next day I whipped together some saag aloo with lentils; spinach makes for a happy colon. I felt dirty for three or four days and all but vowed never to eat Filipino food again.

My parents would have loved Patio Filipino. They have had a hard time accommodating the vegetarianism. The day before Thanksgiving, just a few days after the fried meat onslaught, we went to their house for dinner. They cooked what they consider to pass as a satisfying vegetarian dish: take whatever vegetables and mushrooms they have in the fridge, turn them into a egg-white omelette cooked in a slick of oil, and serve it with sweet chili sauce and rice.

Ugh, I just felt barfy for a second there.

My parents can't keep feeding fat to my husband. Every time that they have eaten dinner at our house, I have demonstrated that there are things other than meat, soy sauce, and vinegar that contribute flavor to dishes. They come away from my meals feeling sated, and not feeling that something (i.e., meat) is missing. They almost had a veggie epiphany when they tasted my chanterelles à la crème. Almost, because although they said, "Wow, this tastes like meat!" they continued by saying, "We can make this into an omelette!"


It's time to stage an intervention. I'm going to hijack my parents' kitchen, armed with a bucket of lentils, a jar of Goan vindaloo masala, a jar of tamarind concentrate, and a baggie of kaffir lime leaves. Yes. I will hold their hands through the process of soaking lentils, frying the spices, and currying the vegetables. It's tasty, well-balanced, and healthful. If that weren't reason enough to go veggie-curious every once in a while, here's one reason that will go straight to my parents' flea-market-loving thrifty hearts: IT'S CHEAP.