March 29, 2011

Flipping The Invisible Bird

From the New York Times: Amber Waves to Ivory Bolls

We all need to eat, right? But we also all need to buy $6 t-shirts from H&M whenever we like. So instead of planting traditional food crops this year, American farmers are taking advantage of a global rise in cotton prices and ditching their corn, wheat, and soybeans. You, see:
“There’s a lot more money to be made in cotton right now,” said Ramon Vela, a farmer here in the Texas Panhandle, as he stood in a field where he grew wheat last year, its stubble now plowed under to make way for cotton. Around the first week of May, Mr. Vela, 37, will plant 1,100 acres of cotton, up from 210 acres a year ago. “The prices are the big thing,” he said. “That’s the driving force.”
Let me be clear: I'm not blaming the farmers. Everyone has to make a decent living somehow, especially with food prices rising because fewer people are growing food (!!!).

No, the culprit here is free market BS that assumes a disparate collection of farmers all around the globe, with no common organization or interest, will continue to grow the things we actually need to live out of their own self-interest. WRONG! They will grow what makes them rich out their own self-interest, because, hey, they're farmers: they can grow their own damn food.

So listen up, conservative free market BS peddlers: instead of trying to regulate social issues like sex ed and abortions, the result of which is larger populations and consequently a need for more food, put all your energy into regulating the global food supply so that there are always enough people growing enough things for everyone on the planet to eat. (While you're at it, why don't you regulate the evil pharmaceutical companies that make access to contraceptives so difficult? Their greedy self-interest is also not doing the planet any favours.)

Thank you. I expect a box of Shredded Wheat in my pantry when I get home tonight.

March 25, 2011

March 18, 2011

March 17, 2011

If The Shoe Fitz...

As you probably know, I find St Patrick's Day ridiculous. Mostly that's because I don't even remember being aware of its existence until I moved to America, but it also strikes me as weird to celebrate Irish culture by doing something as arbitrary as wearing green — which nobody actually does all that much in Ireland, to my knowledge.

So here are some alternative, more meaningful ways to celebrate Ireland this year:

•Run yourself into billions of dollars of debt by building more houses for yourself than you could ever possibly need.

•Play a bizarre and often violent sport whose rules and/or point seems to defy explanation.

•Be the twentieth-largest island in the world.

•Let a bunch of foreigners into your home to help do some renovations, then be unreasonably angry when you decide you don't want the renovations after all and the people won't leave without being fed.

•Walk around town enabling as many alcoholics as you can by claiming that excessive drinking is part of your cultural heritage.

I am a curmudgeon. And now I am going to a bar to drink excessively. HOWEVER, that is because I drink excessively EVERY Thursday.

And because, you know, I'm Scottish and that's part of my cultural heritage.

March 15, 2011

Whatever Happened To "Can I Buy You A Drink?"

I think AOL is trying out a sleazy pick-up line on me:

March 11, 2011

March 09, 2011

I Believe That's What They Call A Dubble Entender

From AOL The Boot: Trace Adkins Apologizes for 'Brown Chicken Brown Cow'
Trace Adkins has sold more than seven million albums and scored 22 Top 10 singles . . .

His previous hits run the spectrum from 'Hot Mama' to 'You're Gonna Miss This,' as well as comedic tunes including 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.' But it's his new single, 'Brown Chicken Brown Cow,' from his latest CD, 'Cowboy's Back in Town,' that has the burly singer red in the face. . . .

The song, [whose title] is actually the punch line to a sexual joke that dates back to porn movies in the 1970s, has caused quite a stir among formerly loyal fans.
Interesting side note: one of the song's writers is named Casey Beathard.

Also, though this story makes it sound as if Adkins wrote an innocent, heartwarming paean to his favourite barnyard animals, which only happened to be the punchline to a porn joke, that isn't even close to the truth.

To demonstrate my point, I will now provide a tongue-in-cheek Marxist cultural studies reading of the lyrics:
Bobby Joel and Betty got a real nice farm
Everybody knows that they work real hard
Bobby Joel sweatin' in the noonday sun
Betty right beside him 'til the work's all done
So far, so good, right? Here we see the classic configuration of the capitalist promise — hard work will get you a real nice farm — coupled with an irresistible heteronormalising narrative about a wife standing by her "sweatin' " (read: working; read: breadwinning) husband. Adkins is playing on a listener's expectations of the genre to disarm them, creating what looks like a "standard" country song, before introducing a twist that therefore becomes all the more shocking:
But every now and then they get a strong desire
To crawl up in the hay and set the barn on fire
This couplet is clearly an incitement to revolution, though there is some ambiguity as to whether Adkins is in favour of a more individual revolution — reading "strong desire" as a reassertion of species-being, i.e. our natural proclivities breaking free of their alienating capitalist fetters — or to a wider revolution based on destroying the very means of capitalist production, or "setting the barn on fire". Close reading of the following lines, however, suggests that Adkins gravitates more towards the former:
Now the hay needs haulin', the hogs need slop
The corn needs cuttin' but the tractor's stopped
They climbin' up the ladder, clear to the loft
Shuckin those dirty ol' work clothes off
Here our synecdochic proletariat's goal is less to destroy their capitalist "hog" oppressors than to ignore them, channelling their (re)productive energies away from "shuckin" "corn", and instead into "shuckin those dirty ol' work clothes" — yet another metaphor for the reclamation of their species-being. Like Orwell's Winston and Julia, who defy the strictures of their authoritarian society by having sexual intercourse in the "loft" of an antiques shop, Bobby Joel and Betty are here defying their capitalist strictures in equal measure — and the intent of the Orwellian allusion is confirmed by the song's chorus:
Singin' brown chicken brown cow
(Ain't nobody watchin' but the)
Brown chicken brown cow
And so, having successfully ignored the imperative to work — thus crippling, at least in part, the machinery of their oppression — "nobody is watchin' " anymore: not the implicit "Big Brother", nor the implicit, corrupt "hogs" of Orwell's other masterpiece, Animal Farm. Indeed, the only animals left watching are the brown chicken and the brown cow, who, as equally oppressed "workers" in the capitalist system — at least inasmuch as they also have profit extracted from them — serve as yet another stand-in for the (now liberated) proletariat.

In summary: Obamacare.

March 04, 2011