After I’d been in talk radio for a short time, my program manager took me aside and begged me to quit saying, “We’re back!” after every commercial break, and so I’ll simply observe that Arlo and Janis (AMS) are acknowledging the end of the holidays and so should we all.
I was struck for perhaps four or five minutes by the number of stores that closed for Christmas and wondered if perhaps the milk of human kindness had somehow found its way back into management, but then realized how short-staffed they were even on non-holidays. Of course they shut down.
Later, I spoke to a granddaughter who was putting in 14-hour shifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years, because, unlike retail stores, hospitals don’t have the option of sending everyone home for holidays.
As for hangovers, someone — Brendan Behan or Tommy Makem or somebody — once observed that it was hard enough to get by in Ireland, and to have enough left over to get drunk was a triumph. Which is funnier if you assume the other needs will be met first, but you get the idea.
We’re lucky anyone had a hangover this time around.
Joel Pett suggests that the high prices of groceries are mainly the fault of those at the top, and I don’t disagree with the premise so much as with the simplicity of it all. The bizarre disparity between executive and blue-collar pay is certainly worth our focus, mind you, as is the increasing size and non-competitive nature of agribusiness.
I remember when dairy farms were so separate that we knew where our milk came from, which was about an hour’s drive away, and we could tell when the girls were out of the barn and back in the green fields each spring. For that matter, we could tell when they’d gotten into some wild onions out there in the meadow.
I suppose city folk always got their milk as a mix from a variety of dairies, just as their chicken and pork came from giant factories, and, if their food isn’t Soylent Green, it’s at least pasteurized and homogenized and bowdlerized and unified to the point where it might as well be synthesized as well.
I’m just not sure who to blame. When I was born, fewer than two-thirds of the nation lived in the city and now it’s eight out of ten. It’s all well and good to have community gardens on vacant lots, but the people keeping chickens in urban centers seem prone to giving them names, which tends to also give them long lives. As Alice learned at the banquet, “it isn’t etiquette to cut any one you’ve been introduced to.”
Nor can you feed our teeming urban population on artisanal kale and candles from the local farmer’s market.
Mostly, you can’t separate the food industry from the other interconnected pieces of the system. The issue of CEO pay vs. worker pay is universal, and it’s nice that California’s minimum wage went up to $15.50 an hour, but the median price of a home there is $834,400, which makes the cost of bananas and corn flakes inconsequential.
Jen Sorensen notes that we can’t discuss any of this anyway, because that would be political and one can’t let politics get in the way of practical conversations. And we can’t let practicality be an excuse for politics.
If she’s right, we may have reached the point firefighters refer to as “surround and drown,” which is where you give up on trying to save the structure and focus, instead, on keeping neighboring buildings from catching fire.
Firefighters hate those old houses that began as two-room sheds and gradually added a second story and then an addition out the back and a finished attic and so forth, because they are a three-dimensional maze of false floors and double ceilings and you’ve no idea where the fire will suddenly break out next.
Meanwhile, we seem equally trapped in a game of “Paint it and make it new!” in which we make the smallest possible improvements in hopes of a complete reversal of issues.
I’m not suggesting a call for general revolution but, rather, a call to stop pretending the solutions won’t involve some pain. Maybe, for instance, people will need to learn to cook again, instead of having fast-food places dispatch delivery people to their doorsteps with a bag of Soylent Green.
And maybe the purveyors of Soylent Green will have to make do with only two houses and a single yacht.
Speaking of whom, John Deering did a nice commentary on Russia’s endangered oligarchs with this homage to Magritte’s Golconda. Not to be confused with the Weather Girls’ commentary on roughly the same issue.
I just finished reading “Dr. Zhivago,” which depicts the Russian Revolution is a series of arrests, exiles and executions, in which simply being middleclass was grounds for suspicion and arrest. Putin seems to be reversing that system, tossing oligarchs out the window while sending the proles off to die in Ukraine.
If he’s not careful, he’ll have nobody left but the middleclass and then god knows how anything will get done.
Juxtaposition of the Generations
I have a great deal of faith in Gen Z, and today’s Wallace the Brave makes a good argument for the future of our nation, and our world.
Calvin was a cynic, and his cynicism was both worthy and well-focused, but it was more disruptive than revolutionary. It’s possible that his talent for disruption led him to some wonderful adult venture, but if he managed to change the world, I haven’t seen the evidence.
Calvin’s father was always depicted as a conquered man, a Willie Loman trudging off to work in the morning and back home at night, and we can hope that Calvin took a better route as an adult.
Still, too many of the stories that purport to celebrate youth depict, instead, a Peter Pan who needs to grow up, with a Wendy who treasures that fleeting moment of youthful exuberance as an experience that must necessarily be left behind.
Others show a perpetual adolescent who never does grasp the reins of his own fate, but remains always a man-child with no goals and no consciousness beyond the moment.
Wallace offers an achievable world: An honest, hardworking lobsterman and his loving wife with a little boy who is not interested in making revolutionary statements but has, rather, a strong desire to put on his new Wellies and go racing away across a field shouting “Pew! Pew!” while his parents — and his teacher — smile or at least indulge and perhaps even occasionally join in.
It’s a kind of progress we could use, whether or not we deserve it.