Archive for December, 2009

Whole Foods towed my car…

…does this mean I should boycott?

Okay, so I parked in a Whole Foods parking lot in Brighton a few weeks ago on a Friday night to stop by a friend’s party. 45 minutes later my car was towed. I get it…it was past closing hours and I wasn’t a customer at the moment. Still…really? Sometimes I think I should be able to get a permit that marks me as poor and helpless. Needless to say, I’m happy to be leaving my car behind when I move to DC (whose public transportation, I’ve heard, is much better than Boston’s awful awful Green Line).

Anyway, this article is really interesting and made me think a whole lot about Whole Foods and my relationship with it as a consumer. Frankly, I’m totally seduced by Whole Foods. As Nick Paumgarten writes in the New Yorker, that’s not a coincidence. It uses the new genre of “supermarket pastoral” (aptly termed by Michael Pollan) to sell you stories about the food you’re buying. And the visuals are set up so you want to buy more:

This store, like most, led with produce. “Nothing more whole foods than produce,” Robb said. “Look at all the colors.” There were thirty varieties of apples. “Most markets say, Let’s throw the food out there and stick it in your bodies. No, it’s a beautiful, stimulating experience. It’s a visual experience.” Sometimes the store deploys “dummies,” wooden or cardboard devices hidden under mounds of produce, to create an illusion of greater supply—supermarket Wonderbras.

Whole Foods, even if it is corporate and kind of a green-washer, is doing some good. Even though it has less than one percent of the American market on groceries, it has changed the way we all think about food and food distribution. Sometimes, the Whole Foods ethos seems like total bullshit when you see the shelves full of ice cream and potato chips (ooh, they’re organic).

The New Yorker piece mostly profiles John Mackey, the CEO. He’s a libertarian with some ideas I really disagree with—anti-unionism, for instance. But he’s a vegan and likes to go backpacking. That combination is kind of refreshing and made me stop to think a little bit about what his message is. His views on responsibility for your own self really strikes a chord with me. Sometimes, like when I think about the costs of higher education in our country, I totally support the idea of a Scandinavia-esque welfare state. Other times, like when I think about how much other people’s obesity will end up costing me (kind of a health nut), this viewpoint makes total sense.

In the end, I can’t even afford Whole Foods. The last time I was there I spotted some almond butter—something I’ve wanted to try. Too bad a jar of it cost like 20 bucks. Interestingly, the growth of Whole Foods has spurred even bigger and badder corporations like WalMart to include organics (Wal-Mart is now the biggest retailer of organic groceries, weird huh?). Maybe I’ll shop there instead.

Whole Foods wasn’t really created for me. I don’t like spending a lot of money on food and I tend to live on bags of trail mix from the drugstore until I get so sick of it I go on a bi-weekly fresh produce binge. If Whole Foods catered to a customer like me, it would probably go out of business. And hey, it looks like Whole Foods doesn’t really like me either. Or why would it tow my car?


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I feel old

The end of the decade…

There are tons of decade retrospectives out there (one on On Point today). Few are even remotely positive. Last night, some friends and I tried to think of good things that happened in the past ten years. The best we could think of involved our own sex lives and not the rest of humanity. Eek. I guess things are better if you’re Chinese?

Anyway, I find this past decade significant because it’s the first one I can fully remember, because it started off with my Bat Mitzvah and ended with me moving into my own apartment.

But this decade is significant to other people. Like the people who were born in 2000. It seems weird, but they’re actual people. This video is my favorite decade retrospective out there. It definitely beats looking at photos of the towers falling…again.

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I almost never, ever wish I was older. I’m terrified of growing old and losing the vitality and sense of possibility that come with youth. However, sometimes, I think my generation (and by my generation, I mean me) could use a bit of perspective.

It’s hard for me to grasp just how momentous this week–this moment–is, in terms of health care legislation and the Copenhagen climate summit. This is it. And it’s so hard to see what “it” is.

The health care bill is the first bill I’ve ever really followed on its path into law (fingers crossed). The committees—whoever thought I’d be perversely nostalgic for those days when Max Baucus and his committee was what mattered and not Joe Lieberman and the Connecticut for Joe Lieberman political party. Remember when it felt like a victory because Olympia Snowe voted “yay” for…something?

But seriously, they’re calling it one of the most important pieces of legislation of our lifetime! And it’s only the first one I’ve ever paid much attention to.

But my greater frustration this week lies in Mopenhagen. Seriously? The whole thing seems to be dependent on the US conceding to something, anything. Check out this graph:

Most of the world, most of the US would give something up to tackle climate change. So why not? Because the whole process is hijacked by the inability of Congress to push something through. Congress, in turn, is hijacked by the crazies.

And all I can think about is getting a “real” job. Yes, that is incredibly important. But this is the fate of the world here (polar bears will be extinct within our lifetime, people) and we really need our elected representatives to stop farting around.

I can’t say it any better than Al Gore. This is from a few weeks ago, but we need to get out-crazy the crazies:

[clearspring_widget title=”Update: Al Gore” wid=”4727a250e66f9723″ pid=”4b2aff75c2839245″ width=”384″ height=”283″ domain=”widgets.nbc.com”]

I’m going to go tape some toy guns to trees.

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I visited two of my best friends up in Portland, Maine this weekend. The weird thing about graduating college is that you’re suddenly not surrounded by your best friends, who are more than people you hang out with–they balance you, give you perspective, make you whole.

These two friends are probably among the crunchiest of my friends (in the best way possible). One just got back from four months of organic farming in Colorado, Oregon and California. The other is living in Portland, reading, writing, playing music, just being. We went out for a delicious Maine diner breakfast and over French toast with blueberries, I told them about my networking efforts (neither had really heard of LinkedIn). I felt kind of crazy.

Yesterday, my commentary piece came out in the Chicago Tribune. I know I should be proud to be published like that…instead I feel weirdly embarrassed. Did I just pimp myself—my story– out for some weird sort of fame? Am I coming across as some spoiled and sheltered little ignoramus? I don’t know.

This is the first time in years that I haven’t felt like I’ve been helping and participatory in my community. I’ve always volunteered and all that jazz, but in college and high school, I was able to engage in my community. Last year, for example, when there were some issues with multicultural dialogue at Colby, I threw myself into understanding the issue, trying to explain it in the Echo, and then doing my part to alleviate the situation–participating in Campus Conversations on Race, for example.

Now? Yes, I know things like NPR do a lot of good, but I still feel wracked by selfishness. Journalism is so important to a functioning society. But is this–updating LinkedIn, reading Twitter, posting things about myself on Facebook–really what I wanted to do when I saw All the President’s Men as a 14-year-old and decided that I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein?

I don’t think the solution is totally changing my path. At least, not right now. Because I do have it really, really good. I think I need more balance. I need to go for a hike and read something that’s not on my computer screen or on the Foreign Service Officer Exam reading list. I need to learn how to cook.

I need to close my laptop and go to bed.

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Luddite ranting

I’m treating myself to a rental of Julie and Julia tonight. After all, who can’t use a good dose of Meryl Streep/Nora Ephron chick-flickiness?

I’m only a few minutes into the movie, but I’m kind of jealous of Julie’s blogging mission. I need a mission. I’ve invented some new goals for myself recently (including 1. more singing in the shower, 2. practicing mindfulness, 3. learn how to embrace domesticity), and the foremost one among them is unplugging myself a bit more. In a radical departure from my summer of doing yoga, singing repeat-after-me songs, hiking, and living in a cabin on the beach without internet access, I feel tethered to my laptop and Blackberry. It’s getting uncomfortable.

Could I blog about that????

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I told you there’d be some weird stuff on this blog…

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Back in the day, I made fun of Twitter, scoffed at the idea of cold-call networking, and felt silly about the idea of having my own blog. Back in the day, I was a college student with all the resources of a first class institution of higher education at my feet and the desire to reach out and grab everything.

Now, things are a bit different.

I’ve decided to start taking better advantage of the aforementioned institution of higher education and make use of the Colby Alumni Network. I ended up connecting with Betsy Morgan, the former CEO of the HuffPo and a Colby alumna. We chatted today and she had some good insight on blogging.

One: you [meaning, me, the aspirational journalist] should blog.

Two: you should blog often [whoops].

Three: it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The third point is hardest for me. Perhaps it comes from the days of being the Echo’s Opinions editor, when I had to write a weekly column. I sometimes agonized over it. “I’m 19! What the hell do I know!” I tried to write honestly. I ended up with a confessional poetry-type style of opinion-editorials. Usually, my columns went like this:

XYZ is something I believe in. But what the hell do I know? I’m 19! And I’m white and privileged and live a cushy existence at Colby College. But I still believe in XYZ. Also, I love the environment.

To my own credit, my columns were usually more engaging than that. And I think I was pretty successful…I got a lot of good feedback.

But thoughts (and blogs) don’t have to be perfect…or even good…to be worth sharing. So here’s to the end of trying too hard. Instead, I’m going to try to express interesting things I’ve learned or weird thoughts I’ve had or whatever strikes me as worth telling the world about.

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