Saturday, October 30, 2010

The silent pie

Weight Log: 218Photo0030lbs

Exhibit A: Sunrise Berry Farms Saskatoon Pie







Exhibit B: Farmer’s Market Blueberry Pie






Both of these products speak but in substantially different ways. The first one clearly has less information displayed than the second one does. The first one appears to be more silent than the second one. Exhibit B: Lists the flavour, the weight, the price, the fact that the berries used are wild, a notification of an ‘egg wash’ process, that the pie was baked in the store, that the pie is intended to emulate a ‘country-style’ aesthetic, – and it does so in both official languages. Exhibit A lists, the flavour, the business logo – and that’s it. Both pies do not tell you where the berries were picked. It does not tell you who made the pie (in fact exhibit A actually identifies the company while the apparent logo in the Exhibit B is actually a pseudo in house brand of the store which misdirects the consumer as to the identity of the producer).

The first pie as many of you know is one that I sell every weekend – its a small 4” Saskatoon Pie – perfect for coffee break. It is one of the most popular pies that we sell every week at the Lethbridge Farmers Market. The second pie is one that I saw while shopping at one of the local big grocery chains this afternoon. It is ironic that the second pie is called a Farmers Market Pie because it is clearly not sold either in the physical context of the Farmers Market or by a person who could legitimately qualify as a vendor at a Farmer’s Market (in fact it is not really sold by a person at all). The taste of either pie is sort of irrelevant yet I have a pretty good idea which one would win in a taste test (although I have not tasted Exhibit B:)

In the last few classes of our course part of what our discussions have led to is questions like: how do we determine what is authentic? and how does the constant onslaught of new consumer goods cause a type of cultural amnesia? All these questions have led me to another question which is closely tied to the first two: in what ways do the politics of our economic system silence certain voices while privileging others?

It has always seemed strange to me that older ladies will come to buy our pies at the market. These are women who likely have acquired the skill of making pie/pastry as a part of a fairly patriarchal social framework. These ‘grandmas’ know how to make pie. So what are they doing when they come to the market to buy our pie? One of the things they are doing is giving up the ability to claim the pie as their own product (this must be a fairly calculated move reasons their own energy level and their desire to produce something that their children/friends enjoy.) They are still retaining the ability to govern the discursive field of what type of pie is seen as worthy of eating. This is the pie that Grandma serves and as a result it must be good because she serves it. Grandma and the production of pie are synonymous with quality. Would Grandma ever bring an Exhibit B: pie home – not likely? The connection to Grandma and pie is deeper than that. Grandma after all is the repository for the idea of ‘homemade’. Homemade isn’t just about where the product is made it is about how the product is made. What is the recipe? This means that a pie can hold some very strong sentiments about what things are supposed to be like. They might also be a repository for how things used to be…

When pies get made in batches instead of 1, 2, or 3 at a time something important happens. They stop being ‘homemade’. As soon as you sell more than 1, 2, or 3 pies at a time (let’s say at a bake sale) the authenticity of the recipe can be called into question. There is a uniqueness to a homemade pie – its a one-off – like a Picasso or Monet. No two pies of grandmas will taste exactly the same. Yet when we talk about something being homemade we don’t connote the idea of variability but rather of a consistently similar product that is reproduced in the same way every time – just like Grandma used to make it. But what the artisan pie baker can do is capitalize on this idea by producing a product that is consistent every time (or at least very close to the same product). A strict adherence to recipe and method produces the same product. What is interesting is what I have come to notice at the market over the years and was said numerous times to me today as costumers scrambled to pick up their products at the last market of the Fall. - “This pie tastes just like homemade.” or its corollary “This pie tastes like nothing like those cardboardy grocery store pies – this is the real thing!” Of course that gives a guy like me the fuzzies but what is going there. Me, the pie seller is commodifying an idea which becomes the product that I can sell effectively in this context. I am selling the real thing. But in reality I am selling a product that is as un-unique as a lithograph of the Mona Lisa in your favourite poster shop.

From that perspective the pie that I sell is not that different than the one I found on the shelf of the big grocery story. That company is engaging in reproduction of something more authentic. Yet clearly their pie is not held in as high esteem as the one I get to deal. But that is not for a lack of trying. Look again at the way the packaging begs to be identified as authentic. This authenticity is not however back to the idea of homemade or to grandma but to the place that has come to take grandmas place in the social consciousness. Their pie may in fact be just as tasty as our pie is but it clearly cannot produce the same aesthetic representation in the minds of its consumers. So the grocery store pie blares out its message that it is authentic and holds all the qualities a consumer might look for in a pie. My pie just sits there and waits to be picked up.

But here is the advantage that my pie has over the one on the shelf of the food pimping giant. My pie can answer your questions. Well not directly – but through me. I have been asked all manner of questions about pies and I have at times invented things to navigate an easier sale. But that has only been because the questions have just been completely bizarre and outlandish. Did you bake this pie? When was it baked? Do you add a softening agent to make the skins of the berries softer? Is it alright if I buy this pie and say that I made it myself? (to which I answered - - yes) Why does the sugar make polka dots on the crust? Will you sell this pie for less money? Do I get a deal? Could you make a raspberry pie? The fact is that if the customer has any question at all about the product they can and often will ask me. And I will to the best of my ability deliver an accurate answer. YOU JUST CAN’T ASK THE GROCERY STORE PIE A DARN THING! You have to depend on what the box tells you.

But you can depend on one other thing as well. You can depend on the political position of the monstrous sustenance peddler. You see the giant super store has positioned itself well. It is the fount of variety, the guardian of safety in food storage, the regulator against prohibitive food pricing. As such it has come to represent reliability in a significant way. Reliability – when is the last time you went to the grocery store and found that they did not have milk? So from that position the store can make a pie and wrap it in a box that is screaming its identity like so many of the bothersome toddlers that get dragged up and down the aisle in those stores. And the consumer will pick up that pie – i tell you – the consumer will pick up that pie because it is even more reliable than the farmers market pie. The farmers market pie after all could be contaminated by the farm. If the farmers wife is doing this in her kitchen (which by the way would never pass the food inspection standards that each vendor must meet) are we going to get the farmers greasy fingers mixing the dough? This is all desperately ironic since after all we know that grandma’s pie often had mistakes built right into it. Pies were made right after slaughtering chickens and sometime grandpa got his fingers in the pie filling before it was baked. Other times grandma would run out of a certain ingredient and then you’d get a surprise chokecherry or two in your Saskatoon pie. But we sure loved grandma’s pie – and still do. But now we can dismiss all the inconsistency that made her pie awesome and we can buy the cardboard pie because it is reliable.

The consumer gives up the right to ask the pie questions and must depend on the box to do the talking. So now the pie that says the least actually holds the strongest voice. The pie that can answer any question you ask of it (through me) has a much weaker voice. And grandma still isn’t making her own pies anymore.

IMG_0510 A number of years ago my grandmother passed away. With her died a whole set of ideas, methods, and products which to this day have strong associations in my mind with her character. My mother made a concerted effort to record some of the families favourite recipes in a cookbook. It’s the closest thing we have left to the original work of art that was the product of my grandmother’s hands for many years. Raisin chicken, butter tarts, leaf lettuce salad, jam jams, and King George Cake. There in her own hand writing is the tell tale notion of her own inconsistencies that set her kitchen – set her apart as the master artist. Now she lies silent and we stare back at her masterpieces like novices at an art gallery. We smell her, we taste her – and she in not there.

But the greater silence is that in the consumer mentality that is common to our social fabric we have traded the beauty of inconsistency for the reliability of consistent and convenient. As Paul Connerton suggests, “A handmade world, in which all things were made one by one was a slow world.” Mechanical reproduction transforms society into one that is in constant progress toward the new latest product and into a perpetual forgetting. This forgetting is not as straight-forward as I have just described but it is an important place for us investigate the influences on our consumption of food.

Jason Laurendeau wrote an article with Carly Adams on the topic of Women’s Ski Jumping in the Olympics. The authors address these silences ( or we might even be able to say at this point – the memory losses). Certain voices get to speak louder than others and as a result certain aspects of the topic get privileged and others get forgotten, “…a given discourse appears with regularity across a range of texts (broadly defined) and practices to regulate what may be said ‘within the true’ about a given subject in a particular socio-historical moment. Not only, then, does a discourse constrain what can meaningfully be said about a particular topic at a particular time, but it also works to authorize particular voices and silence others.” p. 433

From this vantage point we see our willingness to disengage with the messiness of the authentic in order to gratify and satisfy other political voices that perhaps keep us from engaging social reality that is more connected to each other. When you buy an Exhibit B: pie you don’t have to hear about the relative that passed away suddenly. You don’t have to engage with people. Perhaps food after all is the one place where we might be able to restore ourselves to each other……………

…from there let the pie speak!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mirrors of Fat

“(This) is about how fat in any society is never just about weight or health or looks. Instead, fat is a symbol, a mirror we can gaze into to glimpse the things society tells us are the fairest of them all-and the things society tells us are the grossest, least fair of them all. Looking closely at how people think about fat tells us a lot about how they think about the world in which they live.” – Don Kulick and Thais Machado-Borges in Leaky in Fat: the Anthropology of an Obsession

“…left to itself, stuff tends to modesty. There is a natural humility to things, in that they work best as the frame that guides our sense of what is appropriate, rather than as things we pay regard to in their own right. This tendency can make stuff quite powerful when put into the service of ideology. when someone tells us we should do this or be that, we bridle and feel put upon. When this message is carried, not by a hectoring voice, but well hidden with the mere substance of apparently silent stuff, we are less likely to sense our disempowerment.” – Daniel Miller in Stuff

“In that tradition (of Marxist analysis), ideology stood for paradox; that as a process of objectification people may well understand themselves in the mirror of the world they live within. but what happens when that world is created by others, rather than by themselves? If they see themselves in that world, then it would follow that they now misunderstand themselves” - Daniel Miller in Stuff

Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant Weight log: 222 lb

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


thx to jenivere for the inspiration…

Weight log: 219 lbs

Food Sovereignty, Women, and Peace

IMG_0496 Mennonite Central Committee has come out with a nifty little button to wear instead of a poppy. The idea is that a poppy might convey the type of solidarity with war that is completely contrary to the religious ideology of the MCC. I understand that position but I am somewhat ambivalent to the use of this other symbol as a form of subtle protest. In fact there is a dull irony at work here if one considers it a little longer. It seems ironic that an agency that is ‘working toward peace’ might choose this coy-ish protest. Perhaps it is evidence that when we plead to ‘give peace a chance’ we intuitively know that that peace is not the natural state of being for humanity-that it takes a form of aggressiveness to procure peace of injustice. Please don’t misunderstand me to be unsupportive of MCC’s agenda – its just interesting how we frame what we say…

To that end La Via Campesina has come out with a statement about how food sovereignty is connected to ending all forms of injustice against women.
Women united for food sovereignty and against violence towards women

Raj Patel expands on this in his book The Value of Nothing

'”At their conference in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2008, La Via Campesina cam up with a new slogan and series of strategies around food sovereignty in which they’re explicitly targeting transnational corporations, in a move that focuses and unifies its various branches. the new slogan is the most revealing, because it put’s society's most pervasive inequality of power front and center “Food sovereignty is about an end to all forms of violence against women.”

…their latest declaration shows an understanding of hunger as the most recent manifestation of millennia of exploitation, and of the distortion of relationships around how value is set. they diagnose the problem of hunger and poverty not as a shortage of food but as a lack of power…La Via Campesina (is) organizing their countermovement in response to the spread of capitalism that not only turns land work into commodities, but turned workers themselves into private property.” (p. 124, 125)

So then I suspect that the work that MCC is doing will actually be framed with a good deal of what might legitimately be called violence as it works proactively to address the injustices of places like Nepal.

I (heart) Alberta Beef

Weight Log: 222 lb

Look I am not a conspiracy theorist – let’s just get that out of the way! I know and love many farmers and related industry workers. I would never suggest that the public was conspired against to ease the effects of mad cow disease (especially on Alberta farmers where over 40% of Canadian cattle reside). With that disclaimer out of the way let me suggest something interesting in the coincidence of recent history. Notice if you will what seemed like a largely uncorrelated coincidence at the time – namely the popularity of an old weight loss diet developed by Dr. Robert Atkins and the height of the mad cow crisis in North America. Both of these phenomenon occurred concurrently in 2003.

At its height, the Atkins diet controversial as it may have been, had 1 in every 11 Americans using its prescriptions in order to lose weight. Popularly understood to be the meat diet – this program based its low-carb. plan on science that supported a protein rich nutritional intake that would inevitably reduce weight. It is more than a little interesting that mad cow disease reared its ugly head during this time as well.

Mad cow disease arrived largely due to the practice of feeding beef to beef. In other words, left over bits of animal (especially the nervous system tissues) were incorporated into the feed that other beef animals were given to eat. Since the original flesh was contaminated with the disease – the feed was also contaminated and then so were the animals that ate the feed. As a result whole herds of animals were exterminated in order to insure the safety of North American food supply. Borders between countries were closed to exports and imports of beef products. And there arose a substantial protest movement in Alberta and other places that sought to support the crashing beef industry. The ubiquitous I (heart) Alberta Beef signs seemed to spread like chicken pox on a toddler. In the end a number of beef producers were forced into a position of bankruptcy despite the rallies and barbeques and prayer meetings.

It is more than a little ironic that a diet plan advocating meat/protein thrived in a period in recent history when a major source of meat in North America was experiencing turmoil. The question is not about whether the beef industry orchestrated this coincidence of history – I will leave that to other more pedantic speculators…

What appears as interesting is when you ask a question like: Was choosing the Atkins diet in ‘03/’04 a political act of support for the beef industry or a desire on the part of individuals to lose weight? In other words, were individuals choosing to go on the Atkins diet because they wanted to show solidarity with the beef industry or was a it an attempt to configure their lives and body images toward the conventions of society? A fairly cursory survey of the research suggest that no such study has ever been conducted so we are only left with speculation. But the actual result of such a study are not critical to be able to ask some significant questions about the collision of these two phenomenon on the socio-political scene.

In what ways can our choice of food resist the impending peril that is understood to be available in that type of food? If one in every 11 Americans were on that diet we can surmise that a substantial number of Americans were either completely oblivious to the potential dangers in the food they were eating or were willing to accept the risk associated with eating this type of food. In either case one might wonder what it was about the power of the Atkins diet that could produce such a great affinity for its weight loss plan. What narrative explanation was at work in allowing both protest rallies and diet adherents to forgo the warnings of substantial regulatory bodies in eating meat? The answer here might give us a clue about the ways in which resistance is meaningfully constructed on a social basis. This might allow us to unravel other ways that social resistance is constructed and maintained.

Daniel Miller in “Stuff” talks about the idea of resistance.

“When someone tell us we should do this or that, we bridle and feel put upon. When this message is carried, not by a hectoring voice, but well hidden within the mere substance of apparently hidden stuff, we are less likely to sense our disempowerment.” – p.82


  Weight Log: 223 lbs

How do the big shots in Hollywood predict which movie is going to be the next big blockbuster? Well the simple answer is that they really cant predict which movie will be the next big deal. Jonah Lehrer, a contributing editor for WIRED magazine, recently wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about how buzz works. (read article here) The interesting thing is that the idea of buzz is not only associated with movies but also with any other product available to the potential consumer. That’s what peaked my interest. Lehrer talks about some research on buzz that Northwestern University sociologist, Brian Uzzi, has helped pioneer. In this study he used a huge sample group to analyze how their responses to current movies btwn 1999 and 2001.

Here’s what he found…

The question, of course, is what generates buzz in the first place. Mr. Uzzi's answer should strike fear into studio executives' hearts: He found virtually no relationship between levels of pre-release buzz and the ad budget of the movie or the presence of highly paid actors, even if millions of dollars were spent. The data suggest that pre-release buzz is mostly unpredictable, driven by intangible factors like the originality of the premise, the title of the film, or even a throwaway line in the trailer.”

So basically none of the conventional methods of generating attractiveness to a product necessarily work very well. In fact one could conclude that being intentional about making your product attractive or desirable may not actually have much affect at all.

“The new buzz research has important implications for marketing. While the old model of advertising is all about reaching individual consumers - Mr. Uzzi argues that future strategies should focus on getting consumers to spread the message themselves. At the moment, the science is short on practical recommendations. As Mr. Uzzi notes, the most cost-effective way to generate buzz is to make an exciting product, to create something that people want to talk about.”

Make something that excites people’s imagination and they will spread the news and reproduce engagement on the part of their friends and acquaintances. This means that while there continues to be a persistent cult of individualism in society – it is clear that basically we like what everyone else likes and we adopt their preferences as our own.

“The new buzz research demonstrates that we're much less autonomous than we imagine. Everything we do is shaped by everyone else.”

Conformity persists.

This idea gets really greasy when it is applied to food – especially to diets or food products that claim to be healthy or reduce weight or whatever. If we are as intertwined as this study suggests then the idea of something being actually healthy or slimming may quickly disappear as meaningful since we are influenced so strongly by the opinions of others. Whether one food item is actually healthy is not as important as whether our social networks are excited about that food product. They may indeed be excited about it because of the perception that it is healthy but it needn’t be healthy at all. Pick any one of the recently marked super foods as a prime example.

Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes. In fact, we may be missing out on important nutrients if we don’t eat them. But whether or not they actually are healthier makes little difference when you are sitting down at your local post event restaurant for a delicious plate of deep fried sweet potato fries with that tangy chipotle mayo dipping sauce. So why did you pick those fries, because they are healthy, because they taste good, or because under the influence of your peers you have come to regard them as the latest greatest choice to show off your engagement with what is hip? Or some combination thereof?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

leaving marx on my shirt

dad workin out 014

Karl Marx was one of the first dudes to describe the idea of alienated labour. This idea of alienation stemmed from what he saw as a problem with the emerging system of production in the burgeoning industrial revolution. He look at the factories of the day and saw that the only thing that an individual actually owned was the effort or work that he could put into making a product. Whereas before if a farmer milked a cow – the milk that he got would belong to him through his effort in getting it. Now since he was working for the multi-national dairy industry (he-he) all he had to show for his effort was the wage that his employer paid him for the effort he had expended in getting the milk. The worker then is alienated or disconnected from his labour/effort.

Alienation is something I think about a lot while I am walking on the treadmill. In some ways, the effort that I expend on that thing makes me very connected to the product of my labour. I see/feel my body getting thinner and more energetic. In another way I am completely alienated from the product of my labour. There is no actual product after an hour of walking and lifting weight –except for the sweat on my shirt (which would be there no matter what kind of work I would do).

I got to thinking that these two hours a day end up being a great place to think about work, weight loss and alienation. I realized one day that this same energy I spend everyday ‘getting fit’ could possibly be used to say…work on a house for someone who doesn’t have one. I could also be using that same effort to earn money for my family. All these things might still leave me alienated from the product of my labour but at least it would be something of value in this social context.

Instead, I have decided to spend 1.5 to 2 hours everyday shaping my body according to some arbitrary standard of body image that I am willingly subjecting myself to. What does that say about how we see our bodies? What does that say about society? What does that say about me?

Watch this – but be warned its not pretty and I’m not really all that proud of it!

leaving marx on my shirt

Monday, October 25, 2010

conciliatory music

weight log: 221lbs

All of you to whom I can extend solidarity – a conciliatory anthem as a proactive apology for any potential offense…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ode to the disappearing vegetarian

Dearest vegetarian

I admire your enthusiasm

no foul fowl, no bad beef, or dumb duck, or ludicrous lamb

no head cheese and No ham

really no ham – really?

“take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them”

imagine a world in which meat is not eaten

imagine that meat is for the rebels the cretin

imagine all the people living life that way

some might say that you’re a dreamer

but you’re not the only one

imagine if everyone

didn’t eat meat

who would be the dreamer when everyone dreams the same dream

it’s easy if you try

Dear vegetarian,

please don’t win this war on flesh

what a shame to lose the honour of your rebellion

and have it given over to those who might fight for the right to eat meat

and then my glorious resistance friend

you’d meet your vegetarian end…


So here is the question that bears asking after a stupid little tongue in cheek ditty like this…”When is resistance meaningful?”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Market Vignettes

Weight Log:

Shortly after 6 am on Saturday for the last few years, I have ceased sleeping to get myself to the Lethbridge Farmers Market. Those who know will realize that this is no small feat. I love my job. I mostly love meeting so many different types of people. The farmer’s market seems to be an interesting place to investigate ideas about food and consumption. This morning I was preoccupied by a fairly singular focus – I wanted to buy an eggplant. Even if I had consulted the venerable vegetable availability chart, I would not have been forewarned that there were not going to be any eggplant available. Just last week there had been two vendors who had carried the beautiful little beasties. I got this wicked Eggplant Curry recipe from a Guyanese Canadian vendor who operates a world renowned hot sauce company producing one of my favourite condiments Basil's Fire and Brimstone. I usually get a few moments just before the market opens to wander around to the other vendors tables and check things out. This morning my ‘pre-game’ stroll left me empty handed. I really wanted an eggplant so that I could make that curry tonight. That’s when I bumped into a honey vendor whose honey we use in some of our products. We got to talking about food and this sociology course I was taking.

“I’ve stopped shopping at Wal-mart.” she confessed after we had talked for a while. Having already complained to her about the lack of egg-plant I quipped, “Yup, I try to avoid going there as much as I can but you know that if I go there this afternoon they are gonna have egg-plant.” Sure enough later this afternoon I did some grocery shopping for my family at Superstore (a no less attractive grocery giant) and they had eggplant! I didn’t pick any up mostly because they were not that nice and a little too large for just me and Char to share since the boys won’t eat it. It got me thinking about stuff again…

I am proud to work for Sunrise Berry Farms and get to sell their pies to eager customers. My bosses are some of the hardest working individuals I know and they have worked hard to produce products that exceed all the standards of value, quality and amazing taste. Sometimes I get to help work on some advertising for the company which is just way more fun for me. One of the things we often say about our products is that our pies may not be the cheapest but we are convinced they are the best you have ever tasted. I often tell the my customers that I have a money back guarantee – if they eat the whole pie and find it unsatisfactory – they should bring it back for a full refund. We’ve had no refunds. Photo0022 One of the curious things that happens from time to time is that people will be drawn to our attractive booth and see the even more attractive pies for sale. But when they ask about the price of the pies they either turn away or even more interestingly make a distinct frown – put the pie back on the shelf and walk away. I always wonder about these people. Frankly there are many people out there who are more than willing to pony up their cash for some Saskatoon heaven. But when I first started this phenomenon kinda bothered me – in fact I have to admit that I was inclined to offer these people a deal just to try to convince of how good this pie really is.

This morning, it happened again. After the frown-y faced lady walked away, I wondered what might have caused her to walk away. Why did the price of the pie seem to make such a difference to her? Maybe she is a lady who usually makes her own pies but this one time was considering buying one – but when she realized that she could make one for much less she thought better of her indulgence. Perhaps she usually buys pies for deserts in her family but she usually gets them at a department store where she can get them for a much cheaper price and expecting the same sort of price range she was caught off guard by the price of this pie. Or perhaps there was something else going on that couldn’t be so easily imagined.

Why do people go to farmer’s markets? It can’t be for selection since clearly the department store chains have better selection. It can’t be for price since again department stores can be substantially cheaper. It can’t be for convenience – again there are way more accessible options for getting your produce and other such things. These would be the way that a market economy approach might try to evaluate their choices. I wonder if the reason that people come to farmers markets to buy stuff (esp. food) is because they can construct themselves in a particular way as a part of society. They can use the food they buy at the market to accomplish some function of their social situation. Maybe what is going on is that individuals are able to translate the products they buy into a form of cultural capital with their friends. This might be to reinforce a notion about their ability to buy good quality products for at a more expensive rate as evidence of their social status. They might also be able to reinforce the idea of their commitment to personal health – since clearly these products are better for you. (Almost every food booth at the market is either organic this or non-hormone that) They can do this without even sharing the food they purchase with their friends. Just being able to be known to be at the market sets them apart. Growing their own gardens could accomplish some of the same things – but for these people it is important to have the farmer take at least a little bit of the farm out of the product (civilize it). I talked to the butcher in the booth beside me and he says nobody ever comes out to his farm to pick up products from there. Maybe people can get the same product that they would normally buy at any other location – but because this is the farmers market they can accomplish something socially that they could not otherwise.

Photo0017 This puts an interesting spin on the idea of price. Going back to that frown-y lady…can we say that her response is a form of resistance to the aesthetics that the farmer’s market can produce? Or is she like so many other people who (even though they often know better) persistently ask me for a deal on the pies? Is it really a deal they want or do they want this potential negotiation in price to also somehow construct their identity? Is a deal a way for them to demonstrate their superior status over the vendor and then also in other social space a competent customer. Imagine this…

“Sally, do you know those pies I always bring to bridge? Well, this week I told that cookie to give me a deal cause I was gonna order a bunch of them and do you know what he took a whole dollar off the price. You know Sally you just have to know how to talk to those guys…”

Of course I am not trying to leave a negative impression of these people even though you might suspect a more than sceptical tone. I think it is fascinating that people might be using this venue as a significant part of their social identity. Its almost like the market is a sort of mirror within which they can see themselves…And I should be quick to point out as you will already be suspecting that I find myself caught up in that same trap – after all here I am getting rather perturbed at not finding an eggplant at the end of October in a Southern Alberta farmer’s market.

One more thing if you would like to construct yourself as fabulously decadent individual I would love to recommend you visit our store and pick up one of the best pies in the world. In fact why don’t you pick up a frozen un-baked pie that you can bake yourself invite your friends over and tell them you baked it yourself? – I don’t mind if you lie about it even though I was a former minister – I’ll this one go this time…

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fat is the new thin

My mom brought up a really good point in response to one of my other postings (via facebook). She remarked that perhaps one of the reasons why we consider some food as healthy and others as un-healthy may actually have something to do with the way food has been thought of historically. Which made me think of…

Back when worked as a youth pastor I remember several older people getting quite upset when they discovered that I used food as props for games that I would play with the kids. That was when Fear Factor and other such shows had just emerged and youth ministry was riffing on that theme – incorporating gross food challenges –etc. I remember this one very sincere older woman giving me quite the lecture about how what I was doing could be considered as wasting food. This was perfect unacceptable for her since she reminded me that there were many people around the world who were lacking food and that from her perspective food was too precious a commodity to waste. I can remember scoffing under my breath at her old-fashioned and narrow minded view point. There was no opportunity to talk to her about the kids of food we used – that I was pretty sure were really not that nutritious. But for her this was a big deal. There was an aura around food – it was revered almost. It was like the way I used food was contravening not just ethics of world hunger crisis but also that there was something intrinsically ‘holy’ about food. It occurs to me in retrospect that I had actually sinned in the way I had behaved. Her regard for food was obviously something deeply entrenched into the essence of her morality – what she thought was appropriate.

That brings me back to last night’s class. Dr. Ramp pointed out that somewhere around the 15th century a significant change occurred in people’s consumption of food. That was because society moved from a position of regular and imminent famine to a situation where famine in the western world was large not an issue. It was possible before this to demonstrate your power and prestige by throwing lavish feast were the object would be to gorge yourself as evidence of your great wealth. Actually Thorstein Veblen sort of talks about that when he talks about conspicuous consumption. (earlier post describing Veblen’s ideas) But Veblen basically goes on to suggest that conspicuous consumption may change in form (i.e. what is consumed to display your elite status) but it still remains a persistent characteristic of the way society seems to work.

So then the question must be asked: Could there be a way that food is used today that might be able to convey status? Obviously, with the $35 bottle of wine (in the earlier post) as opposed to the the $10 bottle one could display status. But that seems like a fairly insignificant distinction because unless the people you serve the expensive wine to can really appreciate the better stuff they might not have any clue that you spent more money on it. Or worse yet they might see your spending as foolish and your social status would therefore decrease. Its just too fragile a way to make that distinction. But what if you proclaim your status in more reliable ways, more conspicuous ways?

Given that food is relatively abundant (I mean in western cultures) and we are able to purchase almost any variety and quality of food we want at our local grocery store, how can we demonstrate our superior class? How about through thinner bodies? What if the size of your body ( how fat or thin it is) can somehow demonstrate your class? If feasts were the way in ancient days today that kind of gorging is seen as despicable (watch some of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution click on this link to see the video and fast forward to 6:00). It is possible then to have certain foods come to stand for ways of eating that are considered to be horrible and reproduce the idea of a lower class ‘the term white trash’ comes to mind. So the difference between chicken nuggets and chicken noodle soup may be about how these foods are imagined to pertain to one’s ability to gorge oneself and thereby lower their status. Since chicken nuggets are quick and the soup takes a while to produce there can be some easy distinctions made. So its almost like we are proving and disproving Veblen’s theory all at once. Can we say that the way to show your higher status is by demonstrating your willingness to avoid the fast foods and engage with the slow foods? Is it possible to say that our status can hang on our ability to reduce our intake of food? Is it possible that a thin body image might be the evidence of one’s ability to achieve higher status – through restraint? Does restraint become conspicuous? Is it any wonder that fat has come to mean all things negative? I mean a fat person then must be someone who can’t restrain him'/herself, right?

But then what about my friend who eats so much food everyday that almost my entire family could eat from what he digests daily – and he is still thin as a rail?

Invitation to a Weight Loss Party

Post work out Weight Log: 222 ( that means I have official lost 90lbs as of the end of my workout this afternoon)

I hereby invite you to celebrate my projected loss of 100lb at a special party:

The LESS of ME Party

It will occur before Christmas I suspect but there is no official date that I want to set because I have not reached the goal yet. But here is the plan: – Bring any and all pictures that you have of your truly to this party for a sort of show and tell. Also bring your cameras as I will be posing in my new 100lb lighter body with anyone who would like me to. I will be signing autographs and kissing babies. I will prepare something for you to eat and drink but feel free to bring your appy’s or other food and beverages…

So what do you bring to weight loss party?

All this talk about ‘healthy’ is really making me ‘sick’?

Weight log:223lbs

Let me begin by asking a few questions…

What makes one item of food healthy and another one unhealthy? Why do some people find chicken nuggets gross and unhealthy while the same meat (parts of the chicken) used in your mom’s chicken soup are actually used to treat colds (sort of)? How can the same material object be both terrible for your health and also able to relieve the symptoms of your illness? What are the criteria that make certain foods healthy and others not so? Is it just what ingredients are used, how they are mixed together, what sort of tools are used to make them, or could it be that the idea of what is health is actual rather an arbitrary thing? Is it possible that the idea of ‘healthy’ might actually be something we have created to make some kind of political statement? By saying something is healthy or unhealthy are we actually engaging in a sort of revolutionary project? And while being revolutionary might give us a certain swagger, what is it that we might be trying to revolt against? Is it possible that food itself becomes a sort of play thing that we use to talk about how we feel about certain forces of power in our world? Is it possible that food provides us with a foil that we use to determine our rank in comparison to each other? (For instance: “I cannot stand drinking Folgers coffee!” Is that because it tastes bad or because I am trying to make a statement about who I am in comparison to all those other hopeless addicts. Am I actually exercising what Pierre Bourdieu would call cultural capital?)

Here is another example: Friends of mine own a vineyard in Kelowna. The grapes from their vineyard are a distinct variety that produces one of the most flavourful wines I have tasted. Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s Baco Noir sells for between $25 and $35 per bottle. It seems that when Mr. Eides began growing the grapes on contract for this winery the expectation was that this wine would likely range in the $10/bottle price range. But after substantial test and showing at various wine tasting events (I’m not really even sure what that all entails) this wine received substantial acclaim which translated into the significant increase in price. So the question is: what is the real worth of this bottle of wine? The actual material contents of the wine have not changed but it seems that due to the interact of experts and a willingness on the part of the public to sustain this price the wine has increased in value. Of course it does not hurt that the narrative around the wine is a classic “Little Engine that Could” Story. But you can see how this related to the question of health? Why can we apply labels of healthy and unhealthy to foods?

Wanna have some fun with this? Check out this little quiz that I have made up to see what you think about certain foods

Take the Survey (click here)

But while you are pondering that let me take this a step further and ask you to push a little bit further into the reasons for why we might be constructing ideas about health that are not necessarily related to the actual material matter. But that I will save till next time…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

soneto por veinte años de amor (en estilo Góngora)

Men, deposit your appreciation, this
I will hold secure until death do us part
that more dangerous lips are not yours to kiss
or more fiendish arms have locked away your heart
Your willing martyr, I lie in fire’s embrace
no less in chains than when I did shackled start
on a platter she still wants my head no less
but no sweeter image tears this love apart

I chose to Sampson this Delilah for you
I fell asleep d’aquel licor sagrado
awoke still blind chained to this love mill I lean

(hapless friends…) to you the conquest of amor bajado
and to love your chosen as the love you choose
My grave inscribed with this, “Victim of Charlene”
I have always been lost to the wonderful woman without whose love I would be otherwise completely lost. There are not enough words to tell you what I feel but I am sure of this – a greater and more fantastic love I am positive does not exist save the one she gives to me everyday. So for as much as the rest of you “hapless” friends who think you might have found true love – forget it. I found it you can stop looking now!

Jamie Oliver - Nugget experiment FAIL -

I mean here you go this is the real deal baby. Food Revolution indeed. Wow if this isn't literally grist for the mill than what is?
Jamie Oliver - Nugget experiment FAIL -

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A relatively larger first year student who lives in residence at the university to her relatively thinner first year classmate (who seem to incessantly have a predisposition to high-fiving each other over the most meaningless trivialities), “university student breakfast” = one half of a bagel and a whole Roma tomato.
“In both philosophy and everyday life we imagine that there is a real or true self which lies deep within us. On the surface is  found the clothing which may represent us and may reveal a truth about ourselves, but it may also lie. It is as though if we peeled off the outer layers we would finally get to the real self within. But what was revealed by the absence of clothes was not the Emperor’s (of the infamous fairytale) inner self but his outward conceit. Actually, as Ibsen’s Peer Gynt observed, we are all onions. If you keep peeling off our layers you find – absolutely nothing left. there is not true inner self. We are not Emperors represented by clothes, because if we remove the clothes there isn’t an inner core. The clothes were not superficial, they actually were what made us what we think we are.” – Daniel Miller in STUFF
The point Miller is trying to make is that the illusion of an inner self might actually be illusory especially in the sense that it might somehow be distinct from its external representation. I believe another wise ONE said something like, “By their fruit you will recognize them”. This concept is not easily reconciled with the modern conception of the self where we talk about finding ourselves and seeing ourselves in a new light. But really when you think of it those ideas are actually quite odd since they clearly suggest that we somehow live outside of ourselves almost like two people. What Miller is saying about clothing – we can surely say about food especially if we follow Barthes ideas in the previous post.
So my classmate is not just trying to produce an identity the food itself is identifying her or rather it is constituting her – both physiologically and socially…
The interesting thing might be to see how indeed those food item speak. I have been known as a coffee expert – a moniker that although I treasure it somewhat I feel uncomfortable wearing – it is restrictive in many situations where people find it necessary to justify their apparently inferior coffee when serving it to me. I always say, “Listen, I seriously don’t mind drinking any coffee at all – as long as it is black and caffeinated.” Of course this is not actually true since there clearly are some coffees that I refuse to drink. But saying allows me to negotiate what might otherwise be regarded a peculiar arrogance. Or is it my way of reinforcing my social construction as connoisseur by granting a certain ‘grace’ to my hosts in drinking their beverage? And what might happen if after losing all this weight I can no longer lay claim to the that same status?

Weight log:227lb

Monday, October 18, 2010

Food as language…

Weight log: 225lbs (best possible result of the day – I only weighed myself four times today – silly scale)
“When he buys an item of food, consumes it, or serves it, modern man does not manipulate a simple object in a purely transitive fashion; this item of food sums up and transmits a situation; it constitutes and information; it signifies.” –Roland Barthes in FOOD AND CULTURE: A Reader
Barthes is suggesting that food is a language that communicates. From this perspective we can draw out Althusser’s idea of interpellation. Here is the result of all that theory we are made to be the individuals (selves) that we are through the food that is a part of our existence. Obviously this is more than just from a physiological sense – the more interesting stuff is how food shapes what we have come to call our personality, our identity, and our social position…
If food is a language and it is calling us what might it be saying to us. To that end here are some interesting videos:
or check out any of these…
or even this…
or what do you suppose this website/product is ‘saying’: ?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Everything is new again…

I studied New Testament in seminary with Johan Christian Becker, who was both a seminal Pauline scholar and a riveting classroom lecturer. I'll never forget Becker's lecture on the doctrine of the incarnation. He was merciless in his ridicule of what he named, in his Dutch accent, "da svoop down teory." The swoop-down theory was, to Becker, any notion that this material world of ours is normatively void of God and that only in the years of Jesus' life among us does God "swoop down" to inhabit, for but a while, our usually godless materiality. What Becker argued for, and what I believe scripture witnesses to, is a theology that understands the incarnation as the definitive sign, in one time and place, of the ever-presence of the Living God within God's good material creation.

This leads me to the most pregnant of ironies I have come to embrace about materiality. The problem, I think, is not so much that we like stuff too much; rather it's that we don't like it enough. Before you cry heresy, let me explain. We acquire things, but then quickly tire of the things that seemed so important when first obtained. We replace rather than repair because we have such fickle and passing romances with our things. The real soul danger is not exactly in liking things too much, nor in owning them, nor in caring for them well. In fact, there can be great virtue in such a caring relationship with physical things.

The soul danger lies in the insatiable longing to acquire new things one after another, more and more things, as if the getting of them somehow proves our worth in comparison with others, as if the having of them can fill the emptiness. It's this insatiable drive to acquire stuff rather than the stuff itself that's the problem.

found here

what do you think? is this good theology or just so much dismissive realignment of problematic greed? or is it the actual source problem behind the monster of Mamon?

Why put a sociologist on a diet?

Weight log: 228lb (that is what I was on Monday so…)
I’m not claiming to be a sociologist (I believe a certain secret handshake must be learned before that is the case) but the title is another way of asking why we should look at the issue of weight loss, food and diet from a sociological perspective. While I’m sure it requires little thought to imagine why sociological investigation might be useful in this field, it is also plainly obvious that this field has been managed almost every other field and discipline. Beardsworth and Keil lay out a pretty good basis for investigation. Sociologists may have overlooked (and this is likely overstated since people like Levi-Strauss have been engaged in this type of investigation for a while) this field since the focus has been largely on posing social questions that resist natural phenomenon as being able to explain social nuances (p.171). They also affirm that the field has belonged to other ‘disciplines’
much of the writing about dieting, fat and body image appears in popular magazines and other media out put. Where these images emerge in the academic literature, they are discussed by nutritionists, medical researchers, psychologists… (p. 175)
I think this is an important distinction because I am interested in uncovering a discursive analysis of the objects in this field of study – so knowing who owns the right to talk about this topic is an important starting point. The authors suggest four puzzles that might be useful to investigate for sociologists…
the first is the knowledge that, as food supplies become both more secure and more plentiful, a substantial proportion of the population is on a diet with the aim of achieving weight loss and so are trying to avoid eating the range and variety of foods now available…
This makes me think of one of my regular customers who I had a conversation with this morning at market. She told me that she was dieting and was using our Saskatoon juice as a vital supplement to her dieting strategy. She was using a protein powder of some expense apparently and was adding our juice to it – for flavour but also because she believed that the juice was nutritionally beneficial. Our juice is not exactly cheap. I couldn’t help thinking that while there could be many options she could choose from to construct a weight loss diet she was using especially expensive products to achieve her goals. I couldn’t help thinking for the same amount of money that she was spending monthly on supplements and our juice – my wife and I were sponsoring four children through World Vision. We walk through supermarkets and turn down slightly bruised apples because we can while other people in the world would find that produce perfectly fine. But not only that we CAN choose rare and exotic (okay so Saskatoon juice is not exactly exotic (but then again watch this (35:00)…)) food products but we can use them to make ourselves less obese. There is something peculiar about that and worth investigation.
As I pulled through the McDick’s drive through sucking with all my might on my milkshake, I grew incredibly disappointed. That milkshake consisted of 1/3 of my caloric intake for the day. I spent 16 minutes in line waiting for what proved to be a lot less satisfying than I would have wanted. But then I reflected on how unconventional my weight loss program has been. I certainly have eaten a lot less than I used to but I have not really anything exotic – except perhaps for that little banned pill I am taking…
the second is the awareness that, as the average body weight increases in the general population, the preferred (perhaps even ‘ideal’) body image (or shape)…emphasizes the slim, the slender and the underweight.
Could there be some valuable class analysis lurking behind this – hmmmm?
the third is the fact that the second half of the twentieth century is associated with a rise in eating ‘disorders’…The fourth puzzle is highlighted by the data which show that most if not all. of those involved in dieting…are women, that is, the people who are normally responsible…for the selection, preparation and serving of food. (p.174)
So this is a gender issue. Of course it is. I should be so lucky as to have chosen an issue that is after all a women’s issue. Right? I mean come on. Do you think it is easy exploring this femininity? I mean I thought I would become more of a man by losing weight? Now I find out that taking over the cooking/shopping duties and losing weight at the same time is actually a woman’s problem. Well what’s next – hot flashes….I’m jesting okay…

Friday, October 15, 2010

Decreasing Returns…

I know you have all been just about passing out with anticipatory breath-holding – waiting to see what might become of the social experiment (link to an earlier post) aspect of my weight loss journey. Wait no longer…here it is.
As a part of my term paper I am working toward a proposal that will include an auto-ethnography of my experiences in around weight loss. Since the course is focused on objects it will be goal to explore the topic through the lens of some groups of objects. One of the main groups will be food objects. Another will be the body itself. Another might include several ‘accessory’ objects including clothing, weighing devices, medicine, exercise equipment. My goal will be to use these objects as “good to think with” (to riff on Levi-Strauss’ discussion of totemism). Not my dear friend (he says blathering on into the ether) in order to come up with some sort of definitive position on the weight loss is perceived in society or what potential function it serves. Rather I am interested in reflecting on the questions that arise out of my own experience along side some interesting readings I am and will be doing as I journey through it.
Now as you might already know – I have already lost a fair amount of weight so it might seem odd that I start so late into the process. I think that my tardy arrival might actually be legitimate for the following reasons: 1. I have no clue when I started this thing back in June whether I would actually lose any substantial weight at all 2. It hasn’t been until recently that the social distinctions have become apparent to me 3. This is when it fit into my studying schedule.
Let me go back to that first reason for a while…I suppose it might have been interesting to writing this autoethnography from the perspective of someone wanting to lose weight. In fact that narrative might have yielded a fascinating observation of how the imperceptible evidences might have begun to shape a new identity for me. At the same time, I get the sense that it is not until something significant has occurred with regard to weight that there really is any recognizable evidence to think with. So in a really odd way it is the very non-existence of a significant amount of the former mass of my body which no longer resides on my person that I am able to think about weight loss at all. It’s almost like the object that I am using to think with is no longer a material object – ooooh that has potential Bat Man!
So here is what you are going to get…
a fairly daily posting of some of my thoughts for the day – I will warn you that I will be referring to texts and readings that I am doing that might not be easily digestible – where I can I will cite their online sources but if you have further questions feel free to ask…or comment…
you will also get a daily weigh in. That’s right I will update you on my weight that day. I am working down toward 100lbs and I am roughly 15lb away from that target.

Feel free to comment – I will especially appreciate your own reflections and questions about this topic – and as always (as I am sure many of you do anyway) feel free to not pay attention to this at all. I say that because in this world of endless facebook photo albums and other monotonous collections I would hate to be reason for any more of your time being wasted on this triviality…

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recovery or revolution?

I admit that I admire a professor who places a provocative text into my hands as a requirement of the course he is teaching. I especially admire a professor who has the theoretical fortitude to force the reading of material that does not necessarily support, as so much propaganda, his own inestimable positions. Such is the case with Bill Ramp’s choice of Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford. It would be easy to write off this book as just another luddite tome advocating a resistance against the encroachment of ‘technology’ and its contingent value system – namely the alienating predisposition of capitalist schema. Crawford is far more ambitious than that and to that end the work is commendable indeed.

Like Dwight Garner’s NYT review describes,

Many of the ideas in “Shop Class as Soul Craft” are deeply resonant. Mr. Crawford mourns that shop classes were largely eliminated from American high schools in the 1990s because they are expensive to run, and sometimes dangerous. He takes this as a symptom of a larger problem: We have, as a people, lost our fundamental manual competence. We can no longer fix our own stuff, and we are increasingly steering our kids “toward the most ghostly kinds of work.”

His book, he writes, “advances a nestled set of arguments on behalf of work that is meaningful because it is genuinely useful. It also explores what we might call the ethics of maintenance and repair.”

What Crawford successfully argues is a recovery of the devalued nature of skilled manual labour in western society which, according to his convincing rhetoric serves to dehumanize individuals into ghostly work that is reduced to insignificance. His argument is immediately amenable to all the common luddite advocacy against advancing technology and the all-too-common-place theoretical position that postulates that capitalism with a human face might be possible. On the face of it one can easily get succumb to his throttle twisting rhetoric that seems to reject the way the blinkered pursuit of all things ‘technologically advanced’. He certainly advocates a return to the idea that we should be able to lay our hands on the stuff that we interact with daily.

It was exactly this type of mentality that led me to attempt to build my own computer a few years ago. I was frustrated by the fact that my machines seemed to invariably breakdown (whether to the onslaught of viruses or hardware dysfunction) I resolved to crack open the box that gave source to my frustration and learn how to build one for myself. I learned a lot of stuff about how a computer works. In the process of building my first three or four units I encountered numerous problems whose solution gave a great deal of satisfaction. But I think that the only thing that this venture really gave me was a mediation for the anger that frequented by disposition when something would go wrong. It put me in direct connection and control over a piece of machinery that seemed to have mystical power over my very existence. I would love to report to you that from that time on computers have ceased to be a source of pain and concern in my life. I am sad to report that a recent bout of spyware saw me returning not once but twice to some eager lip-licking ‘technicians’ who gladly exorcized the demonic rascals from my hard drive. It was not that I was powerless in my own ability – it was just that even with my advanced detailed knowledge of the machinery and its essential working structures. And even with the deductive (rudimentary as it is) skill in diagnosing the diseases which help my machine captive I chose to give over my advanced cognitive skills in order to save myself the drudgery of fixing it myself.

In the same way Crawford seems to all too conveniently avoids the idea that while he IS the one who fixes rare bikes with cunning and skill –there are many who for a myriad of reasons have abandoned that as a notion worth engaging in. In so doing he also missed an important point about his argument. It does not go far enough.

Sure he can recover out of the ghostly shadows the value of manual labour but only to the point of fetishsizing these other forms of work within the current system of operation. Its true that skilled manual labour needs to be revived as valued. --That the old ways of doing things are important and necessary…

it is not uncommon to see people abandon the conventional methods of face to face interaction – lets say by telephone – in favour of cryptic facebook messages or ominous text messages open to whimsy of pluralistic emoti-lante-ism (emotion + vigilante + ism --- to borrow a Shrute-ism).

BUT… what we need to realize is that somewhere buried in this hog-riding rhetoric is a certain longing to see past values restored to their proper position within a system that once gave it honour. It’s the system that requires adjustment/fixing/repair not the ‘mechanics’ of some yesteryear nostalgic repertoire of frames that might only serve to reinforce the perpetually problematic ethos of our current free market ideology. We need a different way to imagine the idea of value. We need a different way to image the idea of significance.

Why is it for instance that the poverty-stricken Haitian boy slapping an old bike tire down the dusty road lives with a peculiar sense of joy, generosity and gratitude that is blaringly lacking in the youth of our ‘more advanced’ society? His engagement with a less technologically advanced world and his enjoyment of more simple pleasures is evidence of the need to reconsider our ideas about value – our ideas about worth and work… But we are wise not to think that if we could merely get our own children to play marbles in the dust or carve their tops that this would be enough. We must be driven beyond these superficialities toward the type of revolution that reframes our world toward ideological positions that refuse to accept that individual worth can be evaluated, reduced, or judged according to the ability of the individual to produce products or labour that meets the vacuous arbitrariness of our modern world of work. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am an immigrant…

I am an immigrant

I am here to take your job away from you

I will sponge off your tax dollars

I will soak up your pension

I will crowd the hallways of your hospital

I will force you to accept my outlandish religious views

I am an immigrant

I came here to screw you over

I want to take over your culture

I want to run your political institutions

I want to make your country as much like my own as possible.


The country I came from was perfect

no war

no poverty

no bigotry

no sexism

no religious restrictions

I could wear whatever I wanted to wear

I could pray to whomever I want to pray to

I could talk openly about my beliefs without anyone threatening to put me in jail

I was never persecuted because of my dialect or color of skin

I never saw my entire village wiped out by genocidal maniacs

I never had to worry about my family starving

I never watched my children running naked through the streets.

My country was perfect

I am an immigrant

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

plain brown plain

Is this dream responsible?

Does the bird fly because it can or because it is supposed to soar?

Does a worm crawl because wings are the whores

of lofty decadence? Does the lion kill because it has found the best meat?

Does the zebra find it a patriotic feat

to stand against the plain brown plain - Black and white and eat’n

Is this dream virtuous?

Does the fish swim in schools

like conformity’s fools

deciding the tools

of individuality are less appealing than keeping the rules?

And do the stubborn mules

find compliance to suit their nature best