I’ve been thinking a lot about why people feel the need to be nice. I think a lot of times it’s counterintuitive. It’s so important to be intelligent that when we strive for niceness at all times, we lose that intellectual sharpness. I don’t really understand this need to be nice all the time in retail environments and elsewhere. Niceness does not equal kindness in a lot of cases and it defintely doesn’t equal support a lot either. I feel that it stems from mental health issues in this country and the lack of understanding of those issues and also school shootings and the deteriorating school system.

I personally try so hard to be authentic and kind and I feel that it’s misunderstood a lot of the time. There’s a Michael Moore documentary that came out about 5 years ago called, “Where to Invade Next” about countries around the world that have better policies in some areas then the US. One prevalent issue in a lot of countries is education and how school prices in the US go up all the time and no one pays attention while free education is considered a right in places like Canada, some European countries, and elsewhere. I get so scared for this country, USA, especially these days with mass protests, an unstable government, a neglected health care system that is certainly distressed these days, and racism, just to name a few. But I always try to fight for my mental health, even if it means feeling unconfortable.

I feel that because of the many issues the USA has, we get so scared, that we lose some of our intellect and our only recourse is to be nice. If that’s all we have, our niceness, which more often than not, acts like meanness too, than what’s the point in living? We need to fight for our right to think clearly and intellectually, not be defeneseless when we might seem like we’re losing our battles with our mind and thus the world.

I think also, that we have a severe lack of empathy in this country, replaced by niceness. I read a sign at a Women’s March a couple years ago, saying, “Legalize Empathy.” That really spoke to home. We don’t know how to be empathetic anymore. It’s too scary now. I used to be a regular contributor on Facebook up until 6 months ago, and sometimes I think we use Facebook to get our all our frustrations (I did that) because it’s too scary to do it in real life.

I have some mental health problems, (as some of you might have deduced) and I try to so hard to work around them and use them to my advantage, both intellectually and authentically. I read an article in a mental health magazine years ago saying that the reason this country has so many mentally ill people so to speak is because they have a certain type of personality that makes many of us susceptible to mental health issues.

We need to realize the need to be educated about mental health, because in some ways, we already know a lot more about these issues than we’ll ever admit to. Some might say that we don’t need to change the mental health system, but I say, in the name speaking your mind against “niceness” and being more kind and authentic, we need to know our mental health needs come before this niceness destroys all that we hold dear and precious about being human!!

I went to a college in Maryland in the late 90s where I was reintroduced to crab and also a monthly dinner of “Adventures in Dining” where we had everything from pumpkin soup to ostrich, venison, alligator, and truffles.  The food offered at the cafeteria was pretty awesome (at least to me) in that they had lots of different stations (like getting wraps, ice cream station, sandwiches, etc…  They also had theme nights where they had special food.

But my favorite was the pub and the club sandwiches and chicken tenders they offered.  Also, one of my college friends was South Korean and she was super involved in cultural things on campus.  She was kind to invite me to all these gourmet get togethers.  I also went to a soul food night where I was introduced to African American food.  My friends and I would go out to restaurants like Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Indian etc…  I had no idea at the time how lucky I was to get invited to these dinners.  It literally felt like I was going to other countries.  I was so ignorant of that kind of thing, that looking back, it feels like I was discovering what it meant to be cultural.

Now, that I am kind of poor, I look back on those college years as a very rich time in my life.  I feel the food and people I encountered had a huge effect on my diet today and how open minded I try to be.   I’m not saying I had bad food in my childhood, (my parents did try to cook well) but prepared meals in grocery stores and take out and whatnot have certainly improved and it makes me feel cosmopolitan when I compare the semi-gourmet food I sometimes cook to the vastly improved prepared meals from these places.

Looking back on those college years, it kind of feels like the equivalent to a cruise ship, where I hear people are offered food all the time.  It might not have been the same quality, but it was everywhere and you simply had to be in the right place at the right time to experience all Western Maryland College had to offer.

I often think about how other people eat, especially those without access and money for healthy food, say in the inner city or middle of nowhere.  I wonder how much the current food revolution has hurt or helped people.   My Mom and I have a bigger garden (ie farm) this year, partly because of the virus crisis and everything went really well.  It’s because we have so much more time now to make it right and see that things are planted right.  If everyone had time to and unlimited resources to spend on food, would they do it?

I saw an eye- opening food documentary a couple years ago called, “A Place at the Table” about how people just don’t have access to proper food because trucks don’t stop at little stores, only big grocery stores like Walmart.  Another food doc I liked was about the organic movement which came about some 40 years ago about some kind of hippie people who started this new type of farming and weren’t really expected to be mainstream, but sure enough, here we are now with “organic” everything.

With the corona virus changing how we get food and afford food, we should all be focusing on cooking more since I bet most of us have more time.  Do these massive changes in how we eat mean the food revolution is put on pause indefinitely??  Do people really even care about eating healthy right now or is it really a new comfort zone of eating??

I tend to think of Americans as pretty outdoorsy. But apparently I’m wrong when you look at the statistics as to which countries are the most outdoorsy. The Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden win that contest. Now which matter more in this contest? Protecting the environment or actually going out and experiencing nature? Maybe liberals in America would say both, but Republicans might say liberals are hypocrites because they don’t protect the environment.

I don’t think of myself as a truly outdoorsy person because I live in the suburbs and don’t go camping that often, don’t garden, don’t exercise outdoors as much as I could, and don’t go hiking as much as I used to. But I don’t feel too envious of these people because I think a lot of outdoorsy people do not truly care about the environment. I’m not saying I’m the most ecological person out there, but it makes me kind of weary when I see people proclaim to love the outdoors when they’re really just all attitude.

It’s a lot of work to reduce, reuse, recycle. I compost, hang my clothes outside or inside to dry, try to walk to do my errands as much as possible, cook local and vegetarian food, mow with a hand powered mower, don’t buy much, etc…

But a lot of people think I’m outdoorsy because of this eco-friendly attitude. I’m somewhat of an environmental activist, and love, or try to love nature, and am really easygoing about that kind of thing.

I wonder how Americans continue to be stigmatized for polluting the Earth with cars and material possessions and also love nature. Because we have so much nature in this country, it seems that if you’re an American, you must do something that speaks to your love for the outdoors.

When I was hiking in China, in 2001, I couldn’t help but notice, Chinese people hiking in high heels, skirts, and nice clothes! You would never find anyone in America doing that, no matter, how rich they were. Granted, the hiking paths in China were paved, or at least the ones in the park we went to, so maybe it’s a different frame of mind there.

I feel that here in America, it’s our outdoorsy attitude that binds us together, no matter how divided we are. I mean how could you not be even a little outdoorsy with all the national parks we have and environmental activism we have? I mean, look how many people flock to the shore every summer?

It’s funny how extreme the divides are though. People can do the craziest outdoorsy stuff in America and then other people barely do anything. I like to think that in Scandinavian countries, there’s more of a happy medium between being ecological and outdoorsy because maybe they’re far less people to worry about.

The Romantic Farmer…

August 25, 2020

I don’t consider myself a farmer by any means, but I’m a great helper, picker, and weeder and I’ve done my share of volunteer work on CSA farms and co-op farms, among other things.  I often romanticize farming, especially today, when we have so many CSA’s, hobby farms, and other farms that defy the big comglomerates of past decades.

Now when you compare American farming to say European farming, South American, or Chinese or Indian farming, I would think we would fall far behind, but am I right about that?  We’re not known as a farming country anymore, but I’m always hearing about under the radar farms like CSA’s and hobby farms with great connections that give me hope that farming will one day find itself at the forefront of the American economy.

I think of farming in other countries as sometimes more romantic than here in America.  For example, farming in France, Italy, Spain, and parts of South America just seems so loved and part of the culture.  And I’ve heard some things about China and how farmers use their small patch of land to grow several crops and it just sounds like something Americans and other countries could learn from!

I know farming has somewhat changed in America from big comglomerate, commerical farming to smaller farms and you’ll hear of people growing gardens more than they used to.  I sometimes hear how farming is in trouble in America, but is it really? I hear, read, or see how people off the beaten path are putting in serious time to make soil farmable, or use non-GMO seeds, or make a farm habitable again (like the amazing doc “The Biggest Little Farm”).

And with this pandemic making us all enjoy the outdoors more, I think about regular people turning to small scale farming for relief, therapy, and just better healthy living.  I think of Americans as pretty outdoorsy (but not compared to some Europeans), and I would like to think that our evolving farming speaks to that.

 

I am somewhat of a music buff.  I used to play piano and trombone, but not anymore, so I think I vicariously listen to all kinds of music and imagine what it would be like to be so talented.  I attended a contra dance (folk music) pretty regularly for almost 10 years and that was my entertainment because I was so poor so at this point I have a pretty good idea what good music is.  Also, one of my good friends is a professional musician on the side and I have tagged along with her pretty much anywhere I could to this day so I do really love music.

Comparing the American traditional music (roots music) to say Indian or Chinese traditional music is pretty off putting. My musician friend and I went to the Philly Folk Festival last year and they had a Korean traditional folk(?) music performance with the other folk music and we really tried to enjoy it, but ultimately left as I think it was an acquired taste.  I also love some Russian folk music (like on Riverdance) and since my Dad is a big music person (he sings and plays guitar) that has likewise rubbed off on me.  For as long as I can remember, he has had a collection of Putumayo music from around the world.  I really love that stuff.  It just is so authentic.  I can’t stand American pop music much anymore (or whatever genre it is today).  One music documentary that I highly recommend if you like music (or docs!) is “This Ain’t No Mouse Music” about a man who grew up in Germany but was displaced because of WWII and came to the USA where he was introduced to African American music and roots music too.  It changed his life and he started a record label based on it.  Very well done and easy to watch.

Now, I haven’t been to that many countries, but I have been to concerts of traditional classical Indian music, Brazilian music, Bolivian, Latino, Andes music, and any variety of American roots music.  I will probably never be able to afford to go to a big name concert again and you know what, I don’t really care to because I know what real music sounds like.  Why pay 300 dollars for noise when you can have the real thing for next to nothing?!?!?

I watched Ken Burns’ documentary series on country music last year and it was just so eye opening to me because I really hate most pop country music today, but love bluegrass and folk music.  It was just so incredible to see how it evolved from the 1800s to present day.

I also tried to watch some of Burns’ Jazz series, but I couldn’t relate to it nearly as much, despite having some jazz CDs and playing trombone for 10 years.  I do however, like hip hop, reggae, R/B and rap some.

I have never been to India, but I’ve seen just about every non-Bollywood Indian movie I see advertised, have read a couple India themed books, and of course, love Indian food.  I don’t know exactly what it is that makes me happy thinking and dreaming of India.  The people seem so happy or at least cool, especially those living in slums (from the movies I see that is).  It just seems like another fairy tale planet in a way that offers what I imagine must be one of the most indepth and fascinating cultures in the world.

Maybe I’ll never go there, but in a way, I’ve already been there through watching their films and eating their food.  I guess what I think I like most about India is that I truly believe they take joy in their culture and in living life in a simple way.  I may not do that as fully as them but I like to think the people of India are a kindred spirit of mine.

If I ever do visit India, I hope it’s a prolonged amount of time so I get to know people there, do volunteer work maybe, and see the beautiful nature, culture, and arts that I imagine surrounds the country.

I think it’s ridiculous how some kids are taught how to bake growing up (maybe this has to do more with science then food), and then when they’re on their own, what do they do?  They eat out.  Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but really it seems that those kids who are brought up in a culture of cooking meals and vegetables, meats, grains, etc… are more well suited to actually cooking as an adult and passing that tradition on to their children.  Hence, why we have family owned restaurants.

Women used to be responsible for cooking meals for families, but as most of us know, women are now working more than ever, or busier than ever, so who has the time to cook right?  Maybe with the social norms gradually changing and men being stay at home parents, they should be cooking the meals.  And since the consensus is that men are better cooks (although I think that’s an outright lie in a lot of cases) maybe they could pass cooking traditions onto their children.  But I’m just daydreaming, yet again, so this really doesn’t seem like reality.

We are a baking country, and a lot of America’s great historical dishes are baking related, like New York cheesecake, Boston cream pie, Washington cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake, and Kentuckty bourbon cake.  Who really wants to say our national cooking recipes revolves around fast food when in reality we have so many splendid baked dishes?

I also think if you are on the poor side, you are forced to cook your way out of poverty.  Just look at China, India, and South American countries.  These countries are, or were in living memory, developing countries, and tend to focus more on family than American or European people.  I mean I cook because I’m poor and can’t afford to eat out that much.  And I’m part of a cooking family kind of.  I also cook because it’s therapeutic and makes me feel rustic and homey.

I’m always envious when I see movies of Indian or Chinese families cooking big meals from cultural recipes.  I wish America had some fantastic cultural heritage of cooking say, pioneer meals, because our basic nationality is farming based, but it seems to be not what ancient cultures possess.  Maybe with CSA’s making their way into our American conscienceness, we will one day be able to say we are a farming country to our core once again.

I often think about the arts in America, and why they are so strong.  When you compare them to other art centric countries like Italy, France, Europe in general, Japan, India, they just seem so drastically different.  I don’t think of America as having a strong food culture, but a lot of different cultures that have different cuisines.  Does this mean that our art culture is like our food culture?  Lots of different kinds of art sometimes mixing together to make an incredibly strong art culture? I like to think so…

Now, speaking of cooking, American citizens are not known to cook, but instead go to restaurants or pick up convenient food.  Whenever I think of European cooking, I think of a simple meal, like pasta with a quick sauce, or something in which one part of the dish is done with a lot of care and the rest is easy.  American cooking seems like a baking community.  When we cook, we bake.  Now I’ve visited my local Barnes and Noble bookstore and when I look at the cookbooks, they all seem to be in the so called European mode of simple yet elegant.  Since we are now the wealthiest country in the world (or at least we recently were) we seem to be rediscovering the land to some degree and experimenting with different ingredients.  Maybe this is why whenever I watch the newest food doc I am just so impressed and fascinated with what people are doing out there in nature!!

But back to the arts.  When I think of artists I love, like painters, I do not think of modern American painters.  I think of 20th century painters, but I wouldn’t call them modern.  Whenever I’m at an art museum and I go to the modern art section with high hopes that I’ll be inspired, it’s usually a letdown because I never understand modern art.  It just seems like a psychological experiment gone awry.  I’d much rather look at crafts people at art shows and friends of mine have done because they actually seem like work.  Modern art just seems so crazy.  It makes me nervous for the future of art…

 

Every time I see the media or politicians spin climate change, it makes me grimace because I really wonder how many people work to stop climate change and change their day to day habits and how many just want to get in with the protest hype.  Now, there’s probably lots of different ways to show your love of the Earth, but in this modern age we live in, I can’t help wondering how many hypocrites there are out there?!?  That being said, I don’t think anybody purposely goes out to trash the Earth, but it’s just our society that says it’s ok to trash and not have Earth as priority number one.

I’m not saying that I’m the most green person around, but every time I’m asked if I still live at home, I want to say, “Yes and I’m saving heating costs, and doing lots of green living too!”  It just makes me crazy when mothers or families or whatever are proponents of being progressive, and then don’t seem to know what they’re supporting!  I try to walk around my town to do errands, I used to bike all over the place, and I take the train whenever I can.  It just scares me how people are blaming Trump (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but…) and don’t ever turn the tables on themselves and change themselves.  I mean, it starts with you and me.  If you act with more than just words and coolness, you should change yourself and influence your friends and family with your rhetoric into change.

Another thing, I know we live in this increasingly modern world, but isn’t what makes our world so modern kind of good for the environment in some way?  We need to use less paper so we have computers and cell phones.  I know there’s kind of this “slow” movement to do things like olden times, so hopefully that’ll catch on, especially now that the coronavirus is changing both the Earth and maybe even the people on it for the best…

I sometimes wonder if being outdoorsy is a way for people to say they support climate change.  Just think, the top outdoorsy countries include the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Switzerland, so when these countries are listed as environmentally friendly too, I have to applaud that too.  I think I’m kind of outdoorsy with walking as much as I can and living a green kind of life.

I think of myself and as pretty pro environment.  I do try to eat as much vegetarian food as I can (even though I do buy packaged veggie food sometimes), and I compost, recycle, reuse, cook, bike, don’t travel extensively, and reduce my consumption of materials as much as my mental health can stand.

Another thing, why does climate change evoke such negativity?!?  My Mom and I tried to watch a documentary called “The Plastic Problem” about plastic endangering the oceans and it was so depressing (like a lot of problems these days).  Aren’t more and more people changing their homes into plastic free?  There should be more documentaries about the positives of climate change, so to speak.  There are lots of events going on and things to do with positivity in the climate change world and it may be hard to focus on the positive sometimes, but it’s so worth it!!!