Coverage of me and other train wrecks: my mama, subway nut jobs, sex and the environment.


Genetically Modified Crap

And the great business cycle goes on.

If you study the history of goods, you notice a sinister trend. Take clothing for example. The shirts I inherited from my uncles (who last wore them in the 1980's) are in perfect condition, while the shirts I purchased as a young adult in the late 1990's long ago fell apart. Clothes I've purchased in recent years lasts about 2-3 years before seams come apart, buttons fly off and the fabric itself wears thin. This is perfectly planned by businessmen and businesswomen. The idea is that if you design products to break people will have to buy more of those products. We've seen this happen with cars, computers, cell phones,

The way in which it happens with food, however, is a little more notorious. As my boyfriend recently explained after having read Bittman's In Defense of Food, the only way to get people to buy more food is to make the food less nutritious ("broken," in a sense; incomplete). This creates two lucrative, self-perpetuating cycles: 1) the food you eat fills you up less and your body, ever wiser than your mind, says "eat more so we can get all our nutrients" so you buy more food and 2)this makes it possible for a host of vitamin and supplement industries to fill the nutrition gap not just by selling vitamins, but also by putting vitamins into our food (usually these products are labeled "fortified"). So you buy cereal and it's fortified with vitamin D and B12, but you still won't feel full because the cereal is devoid of most other nutrients, so you buy more food. You eat more. We eat more.

It's no surprise, then, that the businesspeople responsible for genetically modified (GM) foods like corn, soy beans, (and on and on) are in fact providing a substandard food while spending millions convincing the world that GM crops are superior.

Recently, one of the "benefits" of GM crops--that they increase food productivity and can therefore help end world hunger--has been proven untrue. GM soy is less productive than conventional soy. In one recent study conventional soy produced more than GM soy. That's the bottom line, so why do we need GM crops? Well, we consumers don't, but the men and women at the top of companies like Monsanto want to be as rich as possible. Making GM soy that's resistant to Monsanto's weed killer, RoundUp, is a smart business strategy. They make the chemicals AND design the plants that depend on those chemicals.

Still, it becomes more and more clear that conventional crops are better (and less expensive in the long-run). In the study the GM crops needed way more fertilizer. Apparently, when you make a soy plant resistant to a weed killer, it becomes less able to draw nutrients from the ground. Over the course of many years, GM crops cost farmers more money than conventional crops...and who finally pays for the added expenses? Consumers.

Companies like Monsanto are spending millions to convince farmers and consumers that GM crops are better. In fact, GM crops decrease harvest yields and make farmers dependent on a specific brand of weed killer and/or pesticide AND force farmers to spend more on fertilizers. Hmmm.

In light of this study (which Monsanto tried to bury): The study shows that rats fed GM food developed smaller kidneys and variations to the composition of their blood (problems that rats eating non-GM food did not develop). What benefit is there to supporting the GM industry?

What to do? You could buy organic products, for starters, and you can NOT buy GM fruits and veggies. Although the US does not require GM food to be labeled as such, there's a way to tell if your fruits (and some veggies) are genetically modified by looking at the numbers on the stickers (known as the PLU code):

Conventional Fruits (those grown with pesticides and fertilizers) have a 4 digit code.

Genetically Modified Fruits: have a 5 digit code, starting with the number 8

Organic Fruits: have a 5 digit code, starting with the number 9

Conventional Apple: 4283
Genetically Modified Apple: 84283
Organic Apple: 94283

Know what you eat.


Food Shortages, Local Economies, and Trains

In case you haven't heard, there are food shortages all over the world. The most dire effects of this year's rice and wheat shortages have barely begun to make their mark in the US, but (as you'd expect) have been wreaking havock in smaller nations. In poor countries food riots are already underway. But even in wealthy ones, trouble has begun.

In Japan, there's no butter
or rice, and when they're available, they're terribly expensive. In New York City and the West Coast of America, major retailers have begun to run out of rice, oil and flour, and they have put restrictions on how much flour and oil each customer can purchase. And yes, people all over the planet are hoarding. Most major rice exporters such as Vietnam have STOPPED EXPORTING the grain in order to secure their domestic supplies. Consumers who can afford it are buying up grains and oil in vast amounts in preparation for the onslaught of shortages.

But rather than speculate about what's to come, let me just brief you on what's already here and why, in case you're wondering:

The umbrella issue is oil. We have reached peak oil. I'm not being alarmist here--the CEO of Shell and other experts both liberal- and conservative-minded agree. Google it and you'll find tons of info. Demand has outstripped supply--that's peak oil. We're in it. The price of all petroleum products WILL continue to rise (with maybe a lull here or there as little oil fields are discovered and used up). Petroleum products include pesticides, fertilizers, gasoline, heating oil, diesel, plastics, foams, vinyl, and jet fuel--bye bye Miss American Flights. Shipping costs have risen and this affects EVERYTHING we consume in America. Why? "Made in China" is printed on most every non-edible object in our lives. And we want oranges in places where oranges don't grow, so those have to be shipped. And we want spinach in New York City when it's not spinach season, so we get it shipped from warmer climates. And we want to add fertilizer and pesticides to our crops...oil oil oil.

Now let's look at the more specific problems that are exacerbated by the rising costs of shipping and petroleum products:

There's one big issue going on with Rice: Water. Too many droughts in too many countries. Rice needs water, ergo--no rice crops. And so we've got shortages and whatever rice there IS now costs a bundle. It's only gonna get worse. India, to use another example, is ONLY exporting Basmati (already a premium rice with a premium price, and set to get more expensive as supplies dwindle). There have been rice riots all over Asia.

The wheat problem has to do with two major issues: droughts and Ethanol. Since oil has peaked, we're beginning to use ethanol. Ethanol production has already diverted wheat to the making of fuel for our cars. That's wheat that won't be made into bread or other food. Do you wanna drive your hybrid to the mall, or to eat a bagel for breakfast? Ethanol production is causing major problems. The loss of wheat crops to drought, plus the diversion of wheat grains to making ethanol, plus extra shipping costs is making baked goods expensive. And yes, major wheat exporting countries have stopped selling their supplies so they can have enough grain to feed their OWN citizens.

And what about cooking oil? Blame ethanol (all that corn is now going into the tiny fleet of hybrids in the West). There's less corn available for making oil, so, oil becomes expensive. Just like gold. Gold is expensive because it's rare. Make cooking oil rare and it becomes expensive.

And what about butter in Japan? Why is there no butter in Japan? Most butter comes from cow's milk. Most cows eat feed. Feed is made of corn and wheat (and pumped full of vitamins and hormones that are byproducts of the petroleum industry--see how it's all linked?) Corn and wheat are in short supply and what little there is has become very expensive. So, cows aren't getting enough feed to produce enough milk to make enough butter to supply Japan. Oh, and beef is more expensive now, too.

So what's the solution to all this crazy talk, Alex? Localized economies. You eat what you grow in your own town. When there's no spinach, then you don't eat spinach. In short, we need to learn to live under the motto: you can't always have what you want. We need to invest in local farms (something that's already taking root! yay!), stop investing in Agribusiness alltogether, AND we need to invest in our railways. Bring the railroads back to life so we can ship things across America AND so we can travel without spending a bundle on gasoline or diesel or jet fuel.

Many of our grandparents lived in a time when food was local and railroads were reliable and affordable. They remember. So it's not outside of Americans' reach to make sure Americans have enough to eat in the coming decades of global scarcity. Demand this. It's our land, our country, and it could feed us and support us if we took care of it. Now is a great time to learn to garden, or hell, to buy some land and start up a little organic farm of your own.



For several months I hadn't had any coffee. Then for the last two months I started drinking this dark Sumatran blend every morning. Whatta way to live--I mean that's luxury right there.

Then today I didn't have any caffeine at all.

Do you ever wanna rub your wrists against a cheese grater? That was today for me. All day. I was salivating at the appliance section of Bed Bath and Beyond: so many ways to chop myself into indistinguishable bits.

Or I could just have some fucking tea.

Where are all the public service announcements warning people about caffeine? There should be some.


Papa Donkey

The F train back to Manhattan is empty. I’ve got an entire album of music nagging my head, although my earbuds are not in my ears. The Music won’t stop. I give up. I won’t try to make it stop, I’ll just let it play.

What a busy head I’m in. Brain racing, train clanking, heart pounding—thoughts are an ailment. A wall between me and what the world around. I can’t se or experience properly with thoughts. I’m too smart, that’s the problem. Too conceited about being too smart. Too smart and conceited to stop thinking, so I think on and on—connecting dots, reliving the day, killing my enemies in fantasies, killing myself in fantasies, apocalypse apocalypse APOCALYPSE!


I decide, the best way to deal with this racing mind of mine is to pay attention.

The man across from me is wearing a denim jacket over a black shirt. The black shirt’s too short so his bulbous belly spills out over his lap. Im afraid to stare at his bellybutton. What if he catches me? I often stared at my father’s round belly moving slightly rising slightly with each shallow breath as his body sunk into the couch. His posture has always been atrocious. Mamá called him maletudo—which sounds like maleta—so in my mind I imagined my dad carrying a bundle of luggage on his back like a mule.

When I was 9, my friend Sebastián was over for lunch. My dad joined us for the meal, after which Sebastián chortled, “your dad eats like a mule.”

My mom had a talk with his mom and I don’t remember hanging out with him again. Even though I agreed; dad did chew with his mouth open and made smacking noises with his lips.

My father the mule.