Archive for the 'a.w.' Category

how to go green without becoming a self-righteous douchebag

One of the things that annoys me about living in the co-op community (and in Northern California in general) is the vast number of people I have to deal with who shop exclusively at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, scoff at non-organic and non-local products, shell out shit tons of money for Dr. Bronner’s (and perhaps console me with “It’s totally okay” if you can’t afford to be good to the environment), spend their summers Flying Out to Third-World Countries to Help Poor People, bitch you out for leaving the lights on, and carry themselves with a smug holier-than-thou air for being so goddamn good. The superbaby progeny of doting soccer moms have evolved into a generation of everything-conscious neo-hippies who embody American whitebreadism. While the vast majority of them are harmless and mean well, some of them can be as stereotypical and annoying as the extremist factions of GreenPeace and PETA.

I’m vegetarian for ethical reasons, and I try not to bitch about it. For lack of money I can’t do the all-organic all-local thing, but I’m also wary of all that shit– those labels sometimes don’t mean anything, just as kosher sometimes doesn’t equal humane practices; small-time farmers with excellent farming ethics don’t always get those expensive cage-free and organic labels, and “certified organic” companies aren’t always what you think. Also, I use lots of jet fuel and electricity, and it’s not even to volunteer to help poor people.

Do I feel guilty about my T-Rex-sized carbon footprint? No, because I’m trying to reduce it, and I’ve learned that guilt over climate change, like guilt over third-world countries, gets you nowhere. (I’ll probably write more about guilt later.)

So the question is: Can you “go green” without turning into a rabid environmentalist? Sure, but it might take conscious effort to both 1) start becoming aware of your products and practices so you can change them, and 2) prevent yourself from proselytizing once you do become aware.

I approach green/Fair Trade/socially responsible/”conscious” living as I would religion: you’ll probably mess up sometimes (or all the time), but try your best. I’d say focus on changing your habits. Use less toilet paper. Turn the lights off. Slow your faucet use to a trickle. Read magazines online. Bike instead of drive. Carpool. Start a compost heap. Dispose of batteries properly. Bundle up instead of turning up heat. Don’t use plastic grocery bags. Buy used. Freecycle. Eat less meat. Drink tap. Cook. Blah blah blah. (It helps that most of these tips also save money.)

Like religion, the whole point shouldn’t be about consumerism, about splurging on rosaries blessed with water from Lourdes or being able to afford fancy bikes, solar panels, organic cotton and Dr. Bronner’s soap. It’s about believing in the gist of things and having your actions speak louder than words.

So yeah, I do think going green is like trying to be a good person– and to me, a good person isn’t self-important or judgmental (I’m obviously still working on this one, given this bitchy post). They would generally be ready to talk about or defend their beliefs if they were addressed directly, but otherwise wouldn’t turn their nose up at people who “aren’t trying hard enough”.

In short, my advice on saving the world is try your best, but shut up and get over yourselves. The end!

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fifteen sites that have affected my life and this blog

There’s a list of some of my favorite and most often used links on the sidebar to your right, but they don’t always reflect what I’ve been seeing lately on the Internet (such as Super Lamb Banana which I love, but… What? Exactly). I read the news as a form of procrastination and stress relief; however, there are only a certain number of times a day that you can refresh The New York Times page. As a result, over the past year I’ve amassed a collection of news sites and notable blogs to draw on for inspiration, nostalgia and brain candy. You may have come across some of their articles and posts through links in my own blog posts.

The news sites are international and opinionated, the blogs all have a personal voice and touch, and the “mix of everything” sites (blending Webs 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) are just a dead giveaway that I live in the Bay Area.

News and opinions

BBC News – Other international news sources claim that they report with a broad scope and without bias, but the BBC is the only one that comes close to actually doing so. 

Salon.com – Super-liberal SF-based online magazine full of people who care about things. I can only handle it in small doses, but I do enjoy reading the Ask the Pilot column.

San Francisco Chronicle – Like the NYT, but obviously with a Bay Area twist. It was between this or the L.A. Times, and the latter’s front page really sucks– it’s very generic and has little area-specific personality. (The LAT fashion blog, however, has better commentary than NYT’s.)

Mainichi Daily News – The English-language version of the Mainichi Shimbun got in serious shit last year for this one editor and his translated WaiWai column (basically a tabloid full of sick sex-related articles) which got into the “Most Popular This Week” box all the time, but they seemed to have fixed that problem. (Japan Times is probably more comprehensive, but I guess I’ve got brand loyalty– when I was in Japan I read the Mainichi Shimbun’s English version daily in my high school’s library as basically my only link to the U.S…)

Le Monde – I like this French newspaper better than the Sartre-founded (but now much less left-wing) Libération and conservative Le Figaro. It’s very much like the NYT in that it’s internationally popular and Paris-centric, and its editorial-full Opinions section is very strong.

People and their blogs

Charles Bremner – He is a Times (UK) correspondent in France and blogs thoughtfully (sometimes British tongue-in-cheek style) about French culture, politics and famous personalities. As a plus, his Anglo-French commenters are some of the most civil on the Internet. Well, that or he knows how to screen them.

Carmen Van Kerckhove – I don’t really think about being a minority in Stanford’s co-op community, but I have to sometimes: in some situations, even with friends, I get caught off-guard or feel uncomfortable. This blog helps me parse those unspoken issues. Racialicious is often a little intense for me, but Van Kerckhove’s own well-written blog concerns racism and discrimination in the primarily American workforce. She’s also got good interviews from diverse people in all kinds of careers.

Lisa Katayama (TokyoMango) – Like Peter Payne‘s blog about Japanese culture, with a less-otaku stance and from a Japanese-American point of view. By day, she’s a magazine writer who covers Japanese culture and Japan/U.S. tech crossover news; on this blog she shares fun trends in Japan that’ve caught her eye.

Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) – Ever since I got back from Paris I freely admit I’ve been super into admiring fashion and stylish people. This blog is just a bunch of quality street-level photos of people in world clock cities (Paris, Milan and New York) who have interesting looks. Possibly the simplest blog I read regularly, and also the most chic.

Trent Vanegas (Pink is the New Blog) – Reading this celeb gossip blog is my guilty pleasure. (See above. I like looking at good-looking people and am sometimes a voyeuse. There, I said it.) I like Trent because his blog’s got a warm personal touch: his posts are usually polite and supportive of their subjects (unlike his nastier counterpart Perez Hilton) and the photo collages he compiles are always adorned with pink stars and fun speech bubbles.

Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist) – She writes about young people and their careers (or lack thereof) while I’m about to become a recent college graduate in a recession. Her advice-giving style is easy to read, full of numbered lists and anecdotes, a style I’d like to use myself. She’s got strange relationships with feminism and Internet privacy that I can relate to. And her posts on blogging got me to keep working on this site.

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics) – The blog of the authors of the most enjoyable and memorable academic-related book I’ve ever read. They’ve got the NYT behind them and a host of interesting people they’ve interviewed using readers’ questions. Most of their posts follow in the vein of the book– which is great, since Freakonomics II is long overdue.

A mix of everything

Wired – I still remember getting the very first issue of Wired as a supplement to Time when I was little. It looked so futuretech-cool. It still does, but now it’s got thirty times more thirtysomething geek factor; the magazine is easier to read for laypeople than the site proper. Some of the aforementioned bloggers write for it. (Unsurprisingly, the blogs section thrives online.)

Discover – Basically Wired for science and math geeks. The site could use a better layout designer (their site reads like a goddamn RSS feed), their articles are sometimes sloppily posted, and the fact that their “Blogs” are listed with the same treatment as “Articles” and “Departments” on the main page irks me. Otherwise the content is solid and the articles are easy to read.

Culinate – A 21st century member-oriented food site. Their recipes look mouthwatering; their articles and blogs cover a wide range of food topics both practical and enlightening. By the pleasing layout you can tell the site is Web-savvy, and by the farm imagery, “farmer’s markets” search box on the right, “Local Flavors” column and mentions of CSA boxes you can tell it’s committed to local organic food. All in all, a very NorCal site.

N.B.: A year ago I would’ve had more food-related blogs up here, but I soon realized I’m vegetarian and most of them involve meat. Chocolate & Zucchini is a beautiful French food blog but I only used its desserts; Vegan Lunch Box is long defunct thanks to the author’s son growing up (Lunch in a Box is a worthy bento-making successor, too bad she’s omnivorous); Wasted Food is great but sounds a bit too much like a textbook example of Stuff White People Like, and most vegetarian/vegan food blogs are a little too militantly activist for my taste.

Just doing link checks on these sites while preparing this post made me stumble across like ten different articles I’d like to write about. But they’ll have to wait until after finals. Holy shit, I am swamped. With life.

american whitebreadism: a double standard in political correctness

It’s only been on the Interwebs for like, not even two full months, but it’s gonna hit your nearest word-of-mouth source of awesome real soon.

Let me direct you to a fellow WordPress blog called Stuff White People Like. It’s a blog written like a handbook for foreigners to “white” (i.e. American liberal yuppie/hippie) culture, and handily pounces on the American double standard of using political correctness towards minorities while subjecting the majority “white” population to all forms of ridicule.

Why do you think this double standard exists? Well, this American whitebread culture has our world by the balls, and if people who have to be PC couldn’t make fun of it either, there’d be a public outcry against whitebread cultural dictatorship.

(In this blog, I am coining the term “American whitebread (A.W.)” to loosely refer to an ethnic and cultural group that consists of the mostly-Caucasian, monocultural, monolingual majority in the United States. According to Wikipedia, whitebread has already been used in the past by the Soviets to derogatorily refer to Americans, but the generic term can also refer to certain portions of the Canadian population. Anti-whitebreadism would refer to derogatory remarks towards this group.)

My favorite post was #19 Traveling. (For people who have read this blog, you can see how it’s a no-brainer for me and my dislike of sketchy old white guys.) Here’s an excerpt:

Every white person takes at least one trip to Europe between the ages of 17-29. During this time they are likely to wear a back pack, stay at a hostel, meet someone from Ireland/Sweden/Italy with whom they have a memorable experience, get drunk, see some old churches and ride a train.

What’s amazing is that all white people have pretty much the same experience, but all of them believe theirs to be the first of its kind. So much so that they return to North America with ideas of writing novels and screenplays about their experience.

Upon returning home, they will also find an affinity for a particular beer or liquor from a country they visited. They use this as an excuse to mention their travels when at a bar. “Oh, I’ll have a Czechznlishiyush Pilsner. You see, that was my favorite beer when I was travelling through Slovenia and the Czech republic.”

And it gets even better from there. (My second favorite post would be #75 Threatening to Move to Canada.)

I love this blog because I’ve done this same scrutiny of the French, Japanese and Filipinos, but I’ve never done it for the culture I’ve been immersed in for most of my life. (Okay, mostly just the past four years– living in Jersey City doesn’t count.) And it’s sort of like one of those “You Know You’re ______ When…” lists. You nod in agreement or laugh out loud or go “Hmm!” when something rings totally true… or applies to you.

My count so far? 26…ish. Not completely whitewashed, but oh-so-very liberal hippie.


What?

This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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