Letters for October 7 

Readers sound off on the slow-food movement, the BART connector, and Energy 92.7.

"Back to the Microwave," Feature, 9/23

Invite Michael Pollan

Every time I read an article or book by Michael Pollan, I find myself wishing he'd spend a month with working families and then write about what happens when the very good ideas of the slow food movement (which I aspire to follow) come up against the realities of modern life: work, then a forty-minute commute from San Francisco, a four-year-old melting down or at minimum demanding your attention (and in our case, a husband who's rarely able to get home from work before 7). Thanks to Sierra Fulucci for writing just the article I wanted to read. 

Kelly Evans Pfeifer, Berkeley

Slow Down Your Life

I was a bit disappointed by "Back to the Microwave" because although the piece ended with a nod toward slow/sustainable food, it was also a cop-out, and it skirted the main issue.    

The whole point of the slow food movement is that people's lives have become too busy to allow for healthy, home-cooked, sustainable meals that the author acknowledges are so important for family and community life, as well as the planet. A core value of Slow Food is being less busy — doing less individual activities so you can have more quality of life. If you are unwilling to be less busy, of course an experiment in slow food will not work for you.

I agree that gender issues need to be a part of this discussion, because women can't take on the whole burden of feeding the family and saving the planet. Women have only taken on MORE responsibilities over time. Many of us work, cook, clean, AND care for the kids. 

I don't agree that things were equally bad in the '50s or the '80s. People in this country have only grown more busy and more consumed by work and jobs over time. The "happy housewife" of the 1950s definitely had time to garden and cook fresh meals, if she had wanted to. But post-war consumer culture was exploding, and corporations were selling everything from time-saving appliances like microwaves to value-added, quick-and-easy processed foods, with the promise of "liberating" women from what was branded as so much drudgery. This marketing strategy had the added bonus of keeping women in their "place," in the home, for a bit longer. How could women complain with so much convenience in the modern kitchen? I believe the post-WWII era is where the devaluing of slow cooking in American pop culture began. After all, McDonald's was founded in 1955.

The author brings up important points about the stress level and workload, and exhaustion experienced by today's parents trying to raise a family. Many people literally cannot be less busy. That has to change.

The uncomfortable truth is that we have to change the whole way our economy is structured. Our relationship to work and jobs makes it almost impossible for many people to eat in a way that nurtures bodies/communities/Earth. People working less and/or differently will allow eating practices to change. At the same time, sustainable food IS the pathway to a sane economic system. That may sound circular, but it's not. The process of disengaging from/transforming our current economy goes hand-in-hand with eating locally produced, whole foods. There are so many people moving in this direction — shopping the farmers' market, planting some vegetables, going to community cooking classes to learn how to make healthy, quick meals. I believe it will catch on soon enough, or be forced upon us all as oil supplies dwindle and all this processing and trucking and shipping becomes unfeasible.

It is mostly a middle-class luxury to even have time to cook at all, to have money or access to healthy food, or to even have every family member home at the same time to eat together at night. This is a social justice issue with TOP priority in anti-poverty and public health campaigns.

If it's hard to make yourself cook without a microwave, imagine how hard it is to work in a factory that processes your food. Imagine how hard it is to work as a garbage collector, dragging all that plastic to the landfill. Imagine how hard it is to be a farm worker poisoned by pesticides. Imagine a long-haul trucker living on No-Doze and developing back problems while spouting exhaust, to bring stuff to the grocery store.

You don't have to cook a five-star gourmet meal. You don't have to grow everything yourself. You just need to make meals from fresh, local ingredients. If you are in a place to choose, and you forego the luxurious choice you have to eat healthy and to live your ideals, it's on you, because it really IS attainable. The question is, how much do you want it?

Bethany Lourie, Berkeley

"A Solution to Parking in Oakland?," Full Disclosure, 9/2

Parking Fines Are Green

I find it ironic that the Oakland City Council may be backing down on the extension of metered parking to 8 p.m. Here, in the environmentally friendly Bay Area, we should be a leader in progressive green policies. People are accustomed (addicted?) to cheap or free parking. That needs to change.Driving is of course convenient, and easy parking is important for neighborhood businesses. But driving has many negative impacts and "externalities," from global climate change all the way down to injured pedestrians, pollution from tires and oil, the encouragement of sprawl, etc.Slowly but steadily increasing the cost of driving may be difficult politically, but it is the right thing to do (and not just because the city needs the money).

Stephen Knight, Oakland

"An Amplified American Idiot," Theater, 9/9

Heroine on Heroin?

Rachel, I guess you've never listened to the Velvet Underground. If you had, you might understand the difference between "heroin" and "heroine," which was misused twice in your review.

Kevin Walsh, Emeryville

"Beginning or End," Music, 9/9

I Heard It Was Great, Man

Poor Poor old codger Ed Ward, complaining forty years later about a concert he missed! Like Ed, I also didn't attend, but had friends from Texas who hitched a ride, bought tickets, and didn't whine about the gate crashers. Their returning stories were not at all like Ward's students. One woman friend smiled in remembrance of Jimi Hendrix, "I sacrificed my ears to him."I think you can't review Woodstock without mentioning the year 1969 — a fierce year for Vietnam and Black Power, and in the wake of assassinations of many of our heroes. Peace and Love in 1969??? C'mon now! It was in 1969 that my own father reversed his patriotic views on Vietnam and the youth as well ... and my next door neighbor, a Marine, told me to apply for a CO.Ed Ward is right about following attempts at replication. We live in a capitalist world and you can't simply declare a socialist world. The demand for free music is akin to the demand for free food and shelter; and even under socialism, someone must pay.But there was something about Woodstock! Santana's blistering set was absolutely astonishing ... what? Mixing BB King and Tito Puente? Can it be done? Country Joe's antiwar anthem was sung to a choir of 500,000 voices in unison. Janis. Grace. Richie Havens, folk, rock, and blues ... the whole of Woodstock was greater than the sum of its parts.Ed Ward has been a prominent blues and pop music critic for many years. It's important to not over-romanticize about any music event ... but I think he and George Clinton both missed something about Woodstock.

Ted Michaels, Albany

"A Slippery Slope into Oblivion," Letters, 9/9

Know Your History

In Greg Sullivan's letter of September 9, he opposes gay marriage on the grounds that it contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. He's entitled to his anti-homosexual sentiments, bigoted as they are, but I suggest that he actually familiarize himself with the history of the empire (at least through Gibbon et al, if not primary sources), rather than blithely repeating some nonsense he picked up somewhere.Laws against consensual homosexuality were first made in the post-Constantinian empire; Constantine, as I'm sure Mr. Sullivan is aware, was the emperor who "normalized" (to borrow a term beloved by anti-gay bigots) Christianity in the empire, starting the Roman Empire down its path into morphing into the Roman Catholic Church, which was of course the period of the empire's great decline.

Mike Andrews, San Francisco

"The Inside Scoop," Dining Review, 9/9

Psst ... It's in Oakland

I think that the BEST gelato is NOT in Berkeley but in (are you sitting down?) Oakland!  LUSH GELATO is just off Piedmont Avenue across from the theater. They don't have a gazillion flavors, but what they have is to die for! My favorite is chocolate hazelnut.

Pat Parker, Oakland

Advertisement, 9/16

Purposely Misleading

The "petition" on page 19 of the September 16-22, 2009 issue is purposely misleading. The Berkeley Daily Planet has been publishing letters from many sides of the issue of Israel's actions towards Palestinians, as any good newspaper should. The Israel Action Committee, however, cannot tolerate any criticism of Israel's policy and labels it anti-Semitic, similarly to the way the Bush conservatives labeled any criticism of the Iraq war as unpatriotic. In their attempt to silence the Daily Planet, this group has even been conducting a campaign of harassment against the Planet's advertisers.

Lest they label me as anti-Semitic also, let me say that both my parents are holocaust survivors who managed to flee to Palestine, where I was born. Many other family members, including my maternal grandparents, were killed by the Nazis. The consequences of this horrific anti-Semitism have greatly impacted my life. Because of this I cannot stand to see ANY ethnic group subjected to systematic abuse. I went to school in Israel as a child, and as an adult, worked there. My experiences have led me to conclude that anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism is rampant in Israel. It pains me that a people which has been oppressed in the recent past is now the oppressor, and therefore I support the Daily Planet, which has the courage to continue publishing the truth some people don't want to hear.

Naomi Rosenthal, Berkeley

Miscellaneous

Privatize Now! Ask Questions Later

Like so many other faculty, staff, and students of the University of California, we are extremely concerned by the pending privatization of the world's premiere public university. Yet, unlike the thousands of faculty, staff, and students whining over the direction in which certain elites are steering the UC, we at the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) are deeply troubled by the snail's pace at which this inevitable transformation is proceeding.

While UCMeP continues to maintain 110 percent confidence in the magisterial abilities of President Yudof and the UC Board of Regents, we wholeheartedly believe that the privatization of the University of California can and should occur more efficiently and swiftly. Rather than a forward-looking "Commission on the Future," which has already been set up by Regent Russell Gould and President Yudof to facilitate the privatization of the UC, we propose a "Commission on the Now!" After all, why wait for tomorrow, when you can act today?

Our enduring belief in the maxim "time is money" has made our decision an easy one: UCMeP will take direct and immediate action to privatize now.

UCMeP's campaign is already well underway. In recent weeks, we have mobilized members of the UC community who share our conviction that the University of California has fallen dreadfully behind the times by pursuing a goal of excellence in public education. We believe that groups such as GSOC, SAVE, SWAT, AFSCME have declared war on the wrong enemies. President Yudof, UCOP, the UC Regents, and the California State Legislature are not responsible for the crisis we are now facing. These people are working tirelessly and getting paid top dollar to fix the University of California. They are developing innovative plans for transforming the UC from the best public university in the world to one that actually matters in society. We must recognize that the real enemies here are not our despotic leaders, but rather fiscally reckless priorities like student diversity and small faculty-to-student ratios. In response, then, to the demands demanded by our acronym-bearing brethren, UCMeP posits the following three demands of our own:

1.  We demand the end to all organizing, troublemaking, and general hullabaloo by UC faculty, staff, and students against the privatization of the University of California. In times of crisis democracy, shared governance, and public debate are only obstacles in the way of efficient privatization and must not be tolerated.

2. We demand that all demands for greater transparency of the University of California budget cease immediately. Transparency will only lead to further outrage and lend support to criticisms of President Yudof and the Regents, thus slowing the process of privatization.

3. We demand that the proposed impermanence of furloughs, layoffs, and "graduated" wage reductions be seriously reconsidered. Such "cost-saving" measures should be extended and expanded. UCOP was 110 percent correct in declaring that: "Suggesting that the families of the 3,600 people making over $200,000 per year should be affected exclusively and even more disproportionately that they are already to be affected is counterproductive." And only a 32 percent increase in tuition next year? Come on. Can't we do better than that? 

The State of California and UC leaders are working hard to maximize profits by selling off the reputation of the UC. Together we can make everyone's dream of privatizing the nation's best public university a reality.

Shane Boyle, Oakland

The UC Movement for Efficient Privatization

UC Budget Crisis Is a Community Issue

The UC Berkeley campus was quiet Thursday morning, the day of the UC campus-wide walkout. Not empty, but strikingly silent relative to the usual chaotic hustle and bustle between classes (as anyone who has ever tried to drive through campus at that hour well knows). Bike racks where coveted spaces are devoured by early morning lay half full at midday, with holes like missing teeth.

Picketers stood at each of the main entrances to campus with signs reading "Chop from the Top!" and "Public Education, Not Corporation," and trucks careening down the hill on Hearst Avenue honked enthusiastically responding to "Honk if you support public education!"

It's possible that most of the remaining buzz on campus had much to do with the commitment upheld by many professors to not only "walk out," but also "teach in," giving classes on the budget crises and opening up space for conversation and debate. Whichever the case, when the rally began at noon on Sproul Plaza, no class had any hope of competing over the cheers, the chants, and the excitement exploding in all directions. The sizable crowd — made up of students, faculty, university workers, and community members — packed into every inch of space on Sproul Plaza. Not a foot's width of space remained on any bench, fountain, tree limb, or stair.

In an age where the economy and the business model is leaving us disillusioned, we're looking to turn the institutions of higher education into corporations, where profit is key, quality is not priority, and we reward managers, not educators, for their efforts. Across the UC system, furloughs and pay cuts are rampant, and fees are increasing astronomically, to the extent that we'll very soon begin to see a drastic reduction in the diversity of the student body.  

In California, this is a major problem not just for students, future students, and parents. This is an issue for the entire state. If we head down this slippery slope we're looking down on now, we'll have universities that serve merely as a path to jobs that will pay off loans, no longer education to create informed citizens able to contribute their knowledge to our state. This is about the education of the people who in the future will be running this state, its government, its NGOs, its hospitals, the next generation of innovators. This is about the quality of education that Californians will receive, and who among us will even have the opportunity. 

We, the campus communities of the University of California, need to be reaching out to our respective communities beyond the campus, engaging with each other on this issue that will invariably affect all of our futures in large ways. We need to put pressure on the UC Regents and President Yudof to appropriately and transparently manage the UC budget, and perhaps rethinking Yudof's $900,000 salary up against the layoffs of workers making less than a 20th of that and the $30,000 it costs to keep the (now closed) UC Berkeley library open on the weekends. The fight to keep public education public is not a new one, but it's a fight worth fighting and a fight that will affect us all and will require unflinching effort, attention, and engagement across the state.

Maggie Q. Karoff, Oakland

We Love You, Too

We love EB. It's one of the few papers left that does real investigative reporting. Free EB, the true Free Press!

Ross Dudrick, Alameda

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