Farms and Food

From the Daily Yonder, bits about the Farm Bill, which may be hidden in the deficit reduction and renewed for 5 years without any hearing or debate, and competitive markets for agriculture,  and from New America, some thoughts on obesity – the majority of the US is now overweight. And there’s another salmonella recall.

Whether we live in the country or the city, a farm state or not, we all have to eat.  The industrial food system is part of the corporate takeover of our society and government, and another way our system is not working for our health and happiness; we need to pay attention.

Private Streetlights?

Every day I have more than one smart-aleck remark on the news, and occasionally a deep thought.  Sometimes I can even tell the difference.  Rather than continue to pepper my friend’s Facebook news and email boxes with them, I’m going to start posting a link page, with comments.  Here’s the first.

Mayor’s last-ditch effort to save Detroit would privatize 88,000 streetlights

I think this really mean out-source – tax money to a for-profit contractor.  It reminded me of a report I’d seen last week on an energy-saving streetlight system being installed in Spain

New System of Intelligent Management of Street Lighting Enables 80% Savings in Energy

This works by having sensors to determine whether there are people or cars on the street, and dimming the lights if there are not.  It is also networked.

Seems to me Detroit could truly privatize its streetlights by using EZPass – turning lights on for only those walkers and drivers who have paid for the privilege.  After all, why should those of us who seldom go out at night pay for lights for those who do?

On the other hand, maybe making things nicer for each other helps us all – cleaning up vacant lots has reduced gun violence, vandalism, and stress in Philadelphia neighborhoods, and people are getting more exercise. And people in Manchester and Sheffield, England, say they would pay more in taxes for public landscaping with natural areas and trees.

Especially for those who think Solyndra was just another example of US government corruption and waste – Scientific American reports that perhaps Solyndra failed because Chinese subsidies for its solar industry were bigger than ours.

And especially for my Texas friends:

Mr. Perry said Monday night that “I’m the first to admit I’m not the most polished candidate out there.”

Well, what is that on his hair, then?

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

I go to a Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA.  The program is a supplemental Medicare benefit, for which I won’t qualify for years, but it’s at a good time, combines strength, stretching, balance, and cardio, has nice people and great oldies music, including You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, one of the few disco-era songs I like.  (Red-Headed Stranger came out about then, and it was Willie and the boys for me after that.) I also started doing a Nautilus circuit at the Y, after watching Robert for about 6 months.

This morning I ran across a release on a research report headlined Fountain of Youth in Your Muscles? , on the mechanism by which endurance exercise (hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, jogging, housework, mowing the lawn) builds muscle – and can “rejuvenate” old muscle.

Presumably what applies to rats applies to people:

Endurance exercise also improved the levels of “spontaneous locomotion” — the feeling that tells our bodies to just get up and dance — of old rats. Aging is typically associated with a reduced level of spontaneous locomotion.

The combination of aging and a sedentary lifestyle significantly contributes to the development of diseases such as osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as a decline in cognitive abilities. If researchers can discover a method to “boost” satellite cells in our muscles, that could simulate the performance of young and healthy muscles — and hold our aging bones in place.

The astonishing conclusion?

With this advance, we can let ourselves dream about creating a new drug for humans — one that could increase muscle mass and ameliorate the negative effects of aging.

I’d rather dance…

Isn’t This Just a Performing Art?

The current Thing of the Day on Jellypress (a beautiful blog on old recipes, art, and ideas) is not a thing at all, but a performance.  Nancy discusses a NY Times piece on Tino Sehgal who  “shows objectless, undocumented live pieces in museums and galleries.”

Apparently art critics are agog at (oh, all right, maybe not agog, but taking seriously as a new concept), the idea of an artist making objectless and unrecorded art. Nancy makes a parallel with cooking, which is equally ephemeral.  But surely much art, for most of time, has been ephemeral – song, dance, poetry, storytelling, drama. The work was carried only in memory – of the performers and of the audience.

The Times piece says “working only with human clay, he can call forth thoughtful and visceral responses from people who remain unmoved by more conventional paintings and sculptures.”  Playwrights and bards have done this for millennia. And on the other hand, there are those who remain unmoved by mime or speech or song who are moved by sight. Some people are more moved by music, or speech, or sculpture, painting, or the movement of light and water in nature. A comparison across media owes as much to the audience as the artist.

Again “Sehgal is adamant that he is producing a work of art, not theater: unlike a performance, a Sehgal is on display for the entire time the institution is open, and the human actors are identified no more precisely than as if they were bronze or marble.” I fail to see how the duration or interval changes a piece from a performance to a work,  nor the anonymity or not of the actors. Is a film shown once a day a performance, but a film loop a work? In many times and places, the individual identities of the actors (and indeed characteristics we find essential, like gender) were irrelevant.

Perhaps most of my impatience with high culture is its belief that elaborate conceptual frames, rather than content, create meaning and value.

Yet Another Miracle Cure

We have another study that shows that “calorie restriction” (scientific for eating less) lengthens life.

They found that the normal cells lived longer, and many of the precancerous cells died, when given less glucose.

So, the recommendation is that we eat less to live longer and prevent cancer, right? Well, not exactly.

“Western science is on the cusp of developing a pharmaceutical fountain of youth” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “This study confirms that we are on the path to persuading human cells to let us to live longer, and perhaps cancer-free, lives.”

From Calorie Restriction: Scientists Take Important Step Toward ‘Fountain of Youth’

Apparently, instead of just eating less, we will all be able to continue pigging out, and also take a drug to counteract the effects. And no doubt covered by our health insurance.

But, hey, selling the food and selling the drug will raise the GDP, right? I have another idea: if we could just train all drivers to always drive with the emergency brake on, we would increase employment for mechanics, brake manufacturers, and income for the oil companies, another big rise for the GDP.

Have you heard the one about selling freezers to Eskimos?

I was feeling sorry for the huge number of people in southern West Virginia who are without power after the snow storm, some of them for several days.  Then I read this – name and place removed – from a WV MetroNews report:

“Our freezer and our refrigerator, we’re losing everything we’ve got. Nothing you can do about it.”

Have we become so dependent on technology and detached from nature that it no longer occurs to us that you don’t need electricity to keep food frozen if it is below freezing outside? Apparently the reporter and editor didn’t get it, either.

Then there is the off-duty police officer who drew his gun in a snowball fight.