No, that’s gross, but I could if I wanted to, because Burger King has stepped up and negotiated with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay a 1.5 cent increase in the per-pound price of tomatoes they buy from Florida farms. I read it in the Herald, but I went to the CIW itself to confirm that this was the result they had hoped for. From the joint press release:

BKC has agreed to pay an additional net penny per pound for Florida tomatoes to increase wages for the Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes. To encourage grower participation in this increased wage program, BKC will also fund incremental payroll taxes and administrative costs incurred by the growers as a result of their farmworkers’ increased wages, or a total of 1.5 cents per pound of tomatoes.

It gets even better! John Chidsey, BK’s CEO says:

“We apologize for any negative statements about the CIW or its motives previously attributed to BKC or its employees and now realize that those statements were wrong. Today we turn a new page in our relationship and begin a new chapter of real progress for Florida farmworkers.

For more than 50 years, BKC has been a proud purchaser and supporter of the Florida tomato industry. However, if the Florida tomato industry is to be sustainable long-term, it must become more socially responsible. We, along with other industry leaders, recognize that the Florida tomato harvesters are in need of better wages, working conditions and respect for the hard work they do. And we look forward to working with the CIW in the pursuit of these necessary improvements. We also encourage other purchasers and growers of Florida tomatoes to engage in dialogue with the CIW in support of driving industry-wide socially responsible change.”

Damn straight. It’s about time. Onwards.



May 22, 2008

You know what I’m hearing? Thunder. You know what I’m seeing from my second floor outpost among the scanners in the digital library? Fast, slanting rain.

Rainy season!

I’m a strange Floridian, I’m actually happier when it’s raining. There’s a word for this kind of Floridian: San Franciscan CORRECTION: normal, storm-loving Flordian. I only lived in SF as a very small child, but I think rain is in my genetic code.

Thus, my favorite Florida time of year has just begun. The natural world of Florida is probably what I’ll miss most when I’m surrounded by cornfields. I never get tired of watching palm trees sway in the rain.

LCB informs us that her cousin, Ada Smith was on NPR yesterday talking about racism and the presidential primaries. Good stuff, listen here to the piece, titled by NPR as “Appalachia the Scapegoat for America’s Racism.”

That overly saracastic post title is an attempt to distance myself from a horrible reality that could have been my own (if I had been just a little more rich and a little less skeptical), the reality of owning a condo in the current completely frakked housing market (BSG is taking over my brain, but that’s another story…). The NYT covered it last week:

Four years ago, [Barbara Sanz] bought her first condo in a glassy new Miami tower when the building was filling up. Now nearly one in six residents in the 43-story building is battling foreclosure and their contributions to the building association are shrinking. Each of the remaining owners has had to chip in an extra $1,000 assessment and $50 more a month for cable and Internet. That is on top of Ms. Sanz’s $450 monthly maintenance fee.

So, in short, she’s 1) stuck losing value in a home she can’t sell, the kind of home that will be last to bounce back after everything is said and done, 2) forced to pay more for it than she originally agreed to, putting yet more pressure on her budget, 3) losing the services that she originally thought she was going to pay for and 4) quite possibly watching the value of her investment physically vanish before her eyes, bad in the long run and bad in the short run as living conditions get worse:

Even though she pays more, her building has broken washers and dryers and unusable exercise equipment, and her hallway is spotted with mold.

Mold is a word that strikes terror into my heart. Her building is less than five years old. To top off this suck sandwich, prospective buyers now are at least in a strong position to negotiate to avoid all of this pain, forcing more pain upon the first set of people:

His willingness to spend stopped short of $200,000 for the condo units, which once sold as high as $700,000, according to the broker, Peter Zalewski. Mr. Comoglio also wants a written guarantee that he would not have to pay more fees.

An investor like this is paying less than a third of what those first people did, and he won’t even do that unless he can get a promise that he will be exempt from the laws of physics, basically. Could this get less fair? It would certainly suck to be renting from a landlord who goes into foreclosure, but watching the home that you’ve paid for and continue to pay for, fair and square, be destroyed by others’ irreponsible behavior at the same time as hope dims for any kind of recovery for the kind of home you’re going to have to sell one day… I’m just really glad we didn’t listen to anyone who said that young people like us ought to be buying a studio somewhere as starter home, and I’m glad we didn’t have the money to listen even if we wanted to. That was bad advice, but not many people knew it yet.

Of course, people in these situations are just one group of the front line casualties, and the longer we ignore their suffering the more certainly we will suffer, no matter where we are living. I better go pet a cat, b/c this shit just makes me crazy.

The question: should I welcome caffeine addiction back into my life?

Ever since January, I’ve been living life sans regular coffee. I’ve had the very occasional latte (which doesn’t have the same physical downsides as regular coffee, b/c the caffeine goes through your system much more quickly) and a few cups of decaf. Other than that, it’s been all black tea, which has caffeine but not as much as coffee. Or if it does, it’s a much smoother up and down. As a result, I’ve been better rested and had no heart palpitations this semester. What’s not to love?

This past week, though, I’ve felt coffee sneaking insidiously back into my life. Well, I guess I can’t really call it insidious if I go into a Starbucks and order it, but I was splitting w/ D and he wanted iced coffee, and they don’t make that decaf, so… there is an increasing trend toward iced coffee in our household, plus, Starbucks just sent me a pound of espresso beans as an “I’m sorry” gift for the one day last month that my card didn’t work. Am I just supposed to let those go bad, unbrewed b/c I’m on a no caffeine kick? With a food shortage on?

Of course, using it would mean replacing my broken French press carafe, and once I’ve done that, I’m certainly going to want to get my money’s worth. Come to think of it, that broken carafe is the main reason I managed to get off the bean in the first place. That and a whole bottle of ibuprofen and a long term cold.

Then, Dunkin Donuts announced free iced coffee on Thursdays for the next month.

So now, I feel that I have a choice. I can either stay blissfully unaddicted, able to sleep and breathe without fear, or I can give in to that craving for delightfully bitter rollercoaster of being a coffee drinker.

The weird thing is, having been off it for so long, I can feel the difference every time I drink regular coffee. I get moodier and more distractable and have a harder time going to sleep at night. So, staying off seems like a no brainer, but it just tastes so good…

if any SoFla peeps reading this want a pound of S-bucks espresso beans, feel free to step in and save me from myself!

Image problems

May 13, 2008

This Salon review of Louis P. Masur’s The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America has been on my mind ever since I read it two weeks ago or so. I haven’t been able to get a hold of the book yet via library channels, but the review itself brought up an idea that I think any writer or student of literature needs to think about: the ability of an image to tell its own truth, which may or may not coincide with the actual truth (granting for a moment that there is one, or something closer to it than the image itself might be telling).

Old Glory cover

The gist of this book is to dig underneath the famous (apparently–although it was new to me) image that you see on the cover. As reviewer Louis Bayard points out, this picture appears to be telling a shocking story about the moment an anti-busing protester turned on a young black lawyer who happened to be walking through the area:

No more than 20 seconds had elapsed, but an enterprising cameraman named Stanley Forman had been there the whole time, snapping away. And the image he came away with, once seen, can never be forgotten. On the right: Landsmark, writhing in another man’s grip. On the left: a high-school student named Joseph Rakes, caught in the act of driving an American flag into Landsmark’s pinioned body.

Looking through the entire roll of film, though, reveals a much different story, a story that this image does not immediately suggest. Forman’s finger never stopped snapping new pictures:

And that same finger, which seemed to scratch out a moment of unvarnished truth, proves, on closer inspection, to be as fallible as any other recording instrument. Look at the complete roll from Forman’s camera, and a more complicated portrait emerges. Rakes, we now see, was not driving the flag at Landsmark but swinging it in his general direction. In reality, the flag never struck its intended victim. Landsmark’s nose had already been broken when he was knocked to the ground. (A black doctor took care to exaggerate those injuries by covering Landsmark’s face with tape.)

Even more surprising, the man who seems to be pinning Landsmark’s arms behind him — anti-busing organizer Jim Kelly — is actually helping him to his feet. In the image that follows, Kelly has interposed himself between the mob and its victim, creating a human shield that allows Landsmark to escape; Forman never once leaves his post.

So, in addition to witnessing racial violence, we are watching a white man come to the rescue of a black man.

Uh, whoah.

Of all those images, of all that story, the one that is famous is the one that tells a story almost completely opposite of the whole truth. It’s a famous image because, well, it’s a great image. Too bad it’s a lie. I mean, it can’t lie per se–just look at it. What you see is there, undeniably. What you see has a coherence and a truth that is appealing and compelling. It’s just that what you see distorts a much bigger picture to the extent that you might never see it.

I know I am not the first or the most eloquent person ever to question the role of an image in telling a story, but this example really hit home with me, probably because as I get ready to dig into my MFA thesis, I’m thinking really hard about the kind of poet I want to be and the kind of poetry I want to make. What is the first lesson taught in your average intro poetry workshop? Begin with an image. Well, what is the cost of that? What does an image reveal and what does it hide? To what extent does going for a great image limit the world? And when you are reading literature, how much time do you spend decoding images? How many times have you built an argument about an entire work based on a few of its images? (Of course, getting better at reading literature involves not basing your argument around hand-picked images and thinking of more nuanced approaches and ways of finding and addressing the complexity within seemingly clear images–but the pull of reading that image is nearly irresistable.) This photo, and this book, proves that these are not academic questions, these are questions that affect our way of living in and understanding the world. As a reader and a writer, I know I’ll be thinking about them a lot more.

This is exciting!

May 9, 2008

So, I’ve been waiting for something to break my finals induced non-blogging doldrums, and I think I just got it–the 2:30 re-air of the Colbert Report was just interupted for an emergency weather announcement! Rock on, National Weather Service! You can tell me all about your severe thunderstorm warnings any time! As you know, I am the last person to be cavalier about severe weather, but when I’m comfy cozy at home and looking for an excuse not to go running, I do enjoy me some thunder and lightning.

Now, in other news.

1) We now have a place to live for the next year in Iowa.

2) I say U-Haul, D says Penske.

3) I need to write an MFA thesis. Why do I have more fresh creative nonfiction and plain old fiction than poetry? To be rectified asap.

4) It’s kind of weird–since I accepted my new job offer, both the owner of my favorite wine store and the owner of my favorite pub have decided to move on out. I wonder if Florida–or all places, maybe– have epochs that people end up falling into. We got here in late 2004 and now we’re headed out in 2008. We’ve never been able to think about buying anything worth buying real estate-wise, but we never had trouble finding jobs when necessary. We were here for a whole string of hurricanes, none of them bad in an enormous way but all of them adding up to mass PTSD. We lived in a certain South Florida, and maybe that SoFla is giving way to a new one, the one that my sister will live in. Maybe the people who stay are the ones who don’t let these ups and downs get to them. But what makes it worth it to stay in a place? Will I ever be the kind of person who says, this is where I live, end of story? Is it just timing all along, and sooner or later the time comes you won’t or can’t or don’t want to move? These are the questions obsessing me as I start putting things back into boxes.

5) SJ = now obsessed by Battlestar Galactica.

Oh rats, the sun is coming out. NWS, you’re letting me down!