i LOVE it.

that is all. more later, i hope.


since i’m currently spending about 10 hours a day writing and researching, my current pet peeve is finding the title of what seems like THE PERFECT article or study to help me frame my problem/explain an issue and then as i search for it, i find, it has no home on the world wide web. what’s worse, all of these were presented at conferences so it also means they don’t normally exist in a hard copy in my school library either. sigh.

back to writing. i’m way behind schedule for today.

most of my professional, academic, and even personal interests have something to do with the internet (or more broadly, technology). lately i’ve been working on my very official sounding “major research project”. this thing is supposed to earn me, to some extent, my master’s degree.

here is a selection of some of the research i’ve come across lately:

[pdf] Mobilizing the Mobiles: How Text Messaging Can Boost Youth Voter Turnout

text message recipients (all youth) were 3.1 to 4.2 percentage points more likely to vote in the 2006 U.S. mid-term election.

MoveOn Campaign moves voters

you might have trouble viewing the report (hint: search for the full title in google scholar, then click the “view in HTML option” to see a somewhat unsatisfactory html-ized version of the pdf). essentially, the MoveOn organized neighbourhood programs organized using online tools. people contacted were 7 percentage points more likely to vote.

while 4.2 and 7 percentage points may not seem like a huge impact (actually, it is pretty major in the grand scheme), just think about how few votes Bush won by in 2004 (in Ohio) and 2000 (in Florida). a couple percentage points in the battleground states can have a huge impact on results. not to mention the fact that those numbers are both nothing to sneer at in themselves but also that these are relatively cost-effective and affordable ways of mobilizing voters. a study (pdf) from the 2004 election showed it costs something like $22 per vote won by bilingual VOLUNTEER phone banks, $23 per vote won by a partisan door hanger, and $10.50 per vote won by professional phone banks. so if text messaging can have an effectiveness at $1.56/vote, that sure is important and will especially be important in mobilizing youth to vote.

(This is copied directly from the GoodReads review I wrote for this book. So please excuse any weird formatting.)

Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel

My review
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Saying: READ THIS BOOK! is the most logical place to begin this review. Seriously. Read it.

This is an incredibly nuanced look at the global food market. He addresses everything from rural poverty, failure, and farmer suicide (in the Global North and Global South) to the bottlenecks in our global food chain (mostly at the distributor and retailer level, where distributors are increasingly the same people as the retailers) to supermarkets to worker’s rights and movements to obesity to monoculture farming.

It sounds all pretty routine, but the way he addresses them are incredibly nuanced and compelling. For instance, he addresses the rise of supermarkets and megastores in the Global South. On the one hand, they spell ruin for local stores and markets. But on the other hand, in rural South Africa it means convenience for poor women who will no longer have the time-consuming (and apparently unpleasant) task of traditionally preparing corn by hand and instead can buy it. Given these two options, women opt for the supermarket when they really wish for the means to process (mill?) the corn with machinery available to them.

Also, for instance, in addressing obesity his analysis goes beyond what we popularly read about “poor food choices” and “lazy people”, etc. Instead, he takes aim at the ways in which the global food system is what reduces individual choice through a global system of low wages forcing people to work two jobs, double-shifts, overtime, etc. and rely on convenience foods, buy the cheapest foods, and the fact that supermarkets are less likely to locate in poor neighbourhoods and that when they do the food they stock are more likely to be those tied to obesity. I can’t explain his entire argument here but rest assured, this is not a fatphobic analysis. In fact, he takes aim at bulimia and anorexia and gives a nod to the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

He offers a range of examples for making change but is not blindly supportive of even the more positive choices we have. He criticizes the organic farming in so far as it’s a primarily corporate affair and leads to monoculture, conventional industrial, low-wage farming practices, and food still being transporting over long distances. He is critical of fair trade practices supporting all of the above and additionally possibly only have the effect of throwing a “few extra pennies” at fair trade farmers without changing the global food market system and principally only allows farmers to hang on “a little longer”. And he offers limited criticisms of Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSAs), the kind that typically deliver a “basket” of fruits and vegetables coming from local farms to those who subscribe to the service. He finds examples of CSAs (I think he uses a mostly Californian examples) that tragically underpay undocumented workers who have no job security and often unsafe or illegal work conditions such as 12 hour days with minimal breaks.

He doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t support organics, Fair Trade practices (he often purchases fair trade, himself) or CSAs (he’s a huge supporter of CSAs as a model for change throughout his book) but instead gives what I think is a fair critique of all of these things. And these things that need to be discussed or else the problems cannot be addressed.

The only critique I have about this book is that while he pays a great deal of attention to gender and women’s rights/women’s roles when it comes to production of food (and shows some amazing examples of how women can be further empowered through new farming practices and new food market models), I think he could stand to pay more attention in his discussion of the growing reliance on convenience foods to the fact that women primarily carry the multiple burdens of working, buying the food, preparing the food (in addition to caring for children) alone (or quite unequally). And for there to be a shift to more fresh ingredients, it will require more than “families” (a word that he uses frequently, without much discussion of what that means in practice) wanting to switch. It will require a shift in gender roles.

I have a secondary critique. He very briefly addresses industrial meat practices and the way they hurt individuals and the environment (never mind the animals) and he gives only a small mention and a footnote to the idea that perhaps vegetarianism (or greatly reduced consumption of meat) might also greatly improve our lot when it comes to global food markets, environmental resources, and food security. But given that he probably wants this book to remain accessible to the great number of people who cannot imagine being vegetarian (or don’t buy the arguments), I can understand (but not quite forgive) this omission.

I’ll end the same way I began this review. READ IT. Buy it. Visit the website (www.stuffedandstarved.org.

View all my reviews.

a friend sent me a link to the post on feministing where this clip was posted. this clip really fucking knocked me in the gut. check it out and send it to the right-wing pro-life asshole in your life.

spoken word by Sonya Renee. you can also check out connections and liking me by the same artist. seriously, she is fucking fierce!

on the weekend i had a fabulous bbq with my lovely friends N and M. my girlfriend and i concocted this lovely marinade for our tofu kebabs. i’m quite happy with how it turned out.

for kebabs:
1 package of extra firm tofu
selection of your favourite kebab vegetables cut to the appropriate size (i suggest red onion, red peppers, whole button mushrooms, and zucchini)

4 large cloves of garlic (chopped)
3-4 tbsp sesame seeds
4 tbsp soy sauce (next time I will use Braggs)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil (next time I think I sub out one tbsp for sesame oil)
2 tbsp lime juice (you can add a little more if you like)

the how-to
1. combine ingredients in a sealable container and shake it up to mix.
2. press all extra liquid out of your tofu and cut into a kebab appropriate shape/size (probably something in the neighbourhood of 2 inch squares)
3. add tofu to the marinade.
4. shake the container again to mix it thoroughly.
5. let sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, shaking at least once half way through to ensure it’s mixed up.
6. before you take the tofu out, once again shake to make sure it’s well covered.
7. place the tofu on kebabs, alternated with veggies of your choice.
8. grill them on the bbq at a medium heat until the tofu browns/grills and the veggies are soft.
9. use the extra marinade to coat the tofu and the veggies during the grill process. while doing this and especially just before you take them off the grill, make sure you get as much of the sesame and garlic on them as possible.

i think the marinade would also work quite well if one added some a tbsp or two of minced ginger… something for me to try for next time!